Fans of GMA-7’s drama series Kirara: Ano Ang Kulay ng Pag-ibig? would remember the child actress Erika Ann Luna, the lead star who portrayed the title role.
The series tackled the story of Kirara, an Aeta who endured hardships as she made her way to success. It also starred Sandy Andolong, Aya Medel, and Amy Austria,
Produced by TAPE Inc., the show ran in the Kapuso network's daytime slot from 1999 to 2001.
However, Erika, who was discovered through Eat Bulaga’s “Little Miss Philippines” in 1996, was never again seen in teleseryes after Kirara ended its two-year run.
Forward to 20 years later, Erika surprised the fans of the show when she suddenly surfaced as a guest of Eat Bulaga’s “Bawal Judgmental" segment last March 6, 2021.
That particular episode featured former actors who are no longer active in showbiz.
Erika Ann Luna
During the interview portion of the segment, Erika described her lead role in Kirara as “iyong talagang break na masasabi ko.”
As she was recalling her time in the series, a photo of Erika in her Kirara look—curly hair, dark skin—was shown on screen.
She narrated, “I was eight when I did that role. Almost three years din kasi ang tagal noong parang naging prep noong show ‘tapos sobrang tagal din noong naging samahan din namin sa show na iyon.
“Hindi rin namin akalain na magre-rate ng ganoon kalala iyong show na iyon, so sobrang thankful din ako of course, forever thankful sa TAPE Inc., di ba?
“Kasi iyong chance na iyon, kumbaga, magkaroon ka ng impact sa buhay ng mga tao.
"Kahit sabihin mong lagi kang inaapi, lagi kang umiiyak in the show. For the people, go lang tayo.”
Erika continued her schooling while doing Kirara, and she remembered being taunted by other kids because of how she looked in the show.
She revealed, “Ang alam nila si Kirara talagang… iyon nga, inaasar ako dahil iyong buhok ko kasi doon totoo, kinukulot talaga for the show. Hindi ako naka-wig.
“’Tapos ayon, basta kapag may maitim, tatawagin nila ng mga kung anu-ano like baluga, ganyan. Siyempre, at first, masakit. bakit ganun?
“Pero kumbaga na-realize ko na hindi ako dapat masyadong magpaapekto sa sinasabi ng iba kasi alam ko namang make-up lang iyon.
“At saka kumbaga, wala naman sa kulay ng tao iyon, kahit ano pang kulay mo basta maayos kang tao, maganda iyong kalooban mo, iyon iyong importante doon.”
"LITTLE MISS PHILIPPINES" STINT
Erika’s stepping stone in show business was Eat Bulaga!, where she became a grand finalist in its iconic segment “Little Miss Philippines” in 1996.
Erika recalled, “Grabe, tuwing nananalo ako lagi akong umiiyak as in! From daily hanggang grand finals, lagi akong umiiyak.
“Dati kasi, para siyang prestigious na pageant para sa mga bata so meron din kaming mga field trips, basta ang daming nangyayari.”
Until now, Erika hasn't forgotten how she responded to the question of host Wally Bayola during the question-and-answer portion of the “Little Miss Philippines” grand finals.
She recalled during her "Bawal Judgmental" appearance, “Hindi ko makakalimutan iyong tanong noong grand finals, iba iyon, e: ‘Bakit ka sumali sa ‘Little Miss Philippines?'
“Hindi ko alam kung sasagutin ko kasi nahiya ako, charot!”
Erica smiled as she continued with her story, “Kaya po ako sumali sa ‘Little Miss Philippines…’ pause. Pause iyon… ‘Dahil gusto ko pong makita ka sa TV!’
“So iyon iyong sagot ko, pero, in fairness, um-okay pa rin iyong sagot ko. Na-blackout ako sa sobrang excitement, so hindi ako nakapaghanda sa tanong na iyon.
“Pero okay lang, pure fun!”
Erika lost the title to Jenny Briones, but three years later, she would bag the title role in the teleserye Kirara.
After Kirara, Erika decided to quit acting so she could focus on her studies.
She said, “Isang factor why I stopped sa showbiz kasi talagang nag-focus ako sa pag-aaral kasi noong nag-a-artista rin ako, hindi ako tumigil sa school.
“Talagang buong bag ko, dinadala ko sa taping ko ‘tapos never ako nag-home school.
“E, noong time na iyon, wala pang masyadong provisions na until 12 midnight lang kapag minors.
"So kahit umabot ako ng four or five a.m., so diretso ako ng bahay para maligo ‘tapos school.
“’Tapos nakita nila, napansin nilang nagbago iyong buhok ko, di ba? Talagang school pa rin iyong naging priority ko.”
Erika Ann finished Mass Communications, where she majored in Advertising and Public Relations.
In 2007, Erika had a short comeback via the Cinemalaya movie Donsol. It would be her last official showbiz project.
Currently, Erika is a marketing manager in a food-retail business.
Describing the nature of her work, the former actress related, "I handle a couple of brands.
“In marketing, you have to have brand awareness; siyempre, medyo challenging lang ngayon kasi pandemic.
"Kailangan at kailangan mong mag-isip ng ways on how to promote a brand na di ka naman magmumukhang hard sell.”
What if an opportunity for a showbiz comeback knocks at her door?
She candidly answered, “Kapag kunyari may talk show na puwede kasi siyempre, gusto nating i-practice iyong nakasanayan.
“Mahilig kasi ako magsalita. Madaldal ako, obviously! So, kunyari parang may training or personal development, ganun.”