Ai-Ai delas Alas laughs easily. Whether talking about her sosyal house, or about the prospect of putting up a rolling store in the exclusive subdivision where she lives, the 43-year-old comedienne punctuates her sentences with chuckles and guffaws, along with gay lingo.
She gives off happy vibes even when she's talking about her not-so-happy childhood. "Adopted ako," she casually reveals. "Seven kaming magkakapatid. Ang nanay at tatay ko, nasa probinsiya. Yong auntie ko na nag-ampon sa akin—nakapag-aral siya dito sa Manila. Geodetic engineer siya."
The auntie, Justa delas Alas, is the spinster sister of Ai-Ai's biological father. Ai-Ai calls her Nanay.
The kind-hearted aunt also took in some of Ai-Ai's other siblings. "Ang tatay ko, parati niyang 'binibigay sa kanya 'yong mga anak niya. Mga kapatid ko, do'n sa kanya pinapalaki, kasi siya nga 'yong nandito sa Manila."
Ai-Ai was seven when she learned that she was adopted. She blames her mother's officemates—"mga atrebidang kaopisina ng nanay ko.
"One day, they asked the little girl, addressing her by her name at birth: "Aileen, sino'ng nanay mo?" Naturally, Ai-Ai pointed to her Nanay Justa. The officemates shot back: "E, hindi 'yan ang nanay mo! Ampon ka lang. Hindi 'yan ang nanay mo."
The seven-year-old's reaction to the cruel truth was to be expected. "Siyempre, cry," Ai-Ai recalls. Her Nanay Justa subsequently told her who her real mother was.
Still, among the delas Alas siblings, Ai-Ai is the most special: she was the only one legally adopted by Justa delas Alas. Her aunt did this to stop Ai-Ai's biological father from engaging in his favorite "hobby."
"Ang tatay ko, pag nakrung-krung, pinapag-asawa ang mga kapatid ko. Nag-freak-out 'yong Auntie ko. Kaya in-adopt ako legally. So, ako lang 'yong may papers talaga na anak niya akong totoo. Nasa papel. Kasi, baka getching naman ako ni Fader. '0, mag-asawa na 'yan, churva.'"
SPOILED KID. Because she was the only one legally adopted among the children that her Nanay Justa cared for, Ai-Ai got special treatment. An older sister once told her: "Ikaw, sa private school. Kami, sa public lang. Ikaw, may debut. Kami, wala."
Says Ai-Ai: "In fairness naman, inano ako ng Nanay ko—inispoiled niya ako."
In spite of the spoiling, there were moments of loneliness for Ai-Ai.
"May certain sadness talaga ako pag umuulan, pag Pasko. Kasi ang Nanay ko, busy rin siya—so iniiwan niya ako sa kapitbahay na pinsan ko. So, parati na lang, pag nagigising ako na umuulan, naaalala ko Nanay ko, umiiyak ako. Kasi, kung minsan, pag Pasko nakadestino ang Nanay ko. Wala akong kasama. Nalulungkot ako pag Christmas. Umiiyak ako parati."
Apparently making up for her past loneliness, Ai-Ai now takes pains to make her own household happier, especially during Christmas. "Pag Pasko, pinakamasaya nang araw sa mga anak ko, kasi ginagawa ko talagang masaya."
She also makes sure that her Nanay Justa is with her on Christmas Day. "Dito siya nagkri-Christmas. Inaaway ko siya pag hindi, pag nagii-enarts."
Ai-Ai holds no grudges against her biological parents, Rosendo delas Alas and Gloria Hernandez. She even gives them financial support. "Oo, supported by the masses 'yan. Oo, meron silang support by the daughter. Mader, Fader, sisterlet, slightly ang mga brothers."
What she claims to be a little pissed about is that she looks like the man she refers to as "Fader."
"Ang haba ng mukha ng tatay ko!" she groans. "Pero kung kamukha ko nanay ko, bold star ako ngayon. Ang Hit ng mukha ng nanay ko, e. Bilugan na mestisa. Ang mga kuya ko ang kahawig ko, kasi para akong lalaki."