Francine Prieto was six years old when she joined Eat...Bulaga!’s “Little Miss Philippines” in 1988. She entered the contest under her real name: Anna Marie Falcon. She was winner for a day but didn’t make it in the weekly selection.
Fast-forward to the year 2003. The little girl, now all grown up and endowed with a voluptuous body and a strikingly beautiful face, joined the Binibining Pilipinas beauty pageant. This time, she ended up among the top 12 finalists.
Seiko Films producer Robbie Tan, who had helped catapult the careers of sexy stars Rosanna Roces and Gretchen Barretto, took notice of the 5-foot-10 beauty. He signed her up to a four-year, eight-picture exclusive contract.
That same year, 2003, Robbie launched the newly renamed Francine Prieto in Liberated. The movie, co-starring another sexy newbie at the time, Diana Zubiri, quickly earned Francine the title “Sensuality Queen.” Other skin-baring films—Liberated: Part 2, Bridal Shower, Bikini Open—followed in quick succession.
It is no secret that Seiko’s hottest property is single and unattached. With her drop-dead looks and to-die-for body, you would think that guys are lining up at her doorstep and scrambling to win her. But she swears nobody is courting her right now.
“In-announce ko na nga sa TV,” she says. “Ewan ko. Hindi ko nga alam kung bakit wala, e. Ang daming nagrereto sa ’kin, ’pinapakilala ako. Sabi ko nga, ‘Ano ba, binubugaw n’yo naman ako kung kani-kanino.’”
Could it be that guys are intimidated by her? “Siguro. Kasi mukha akong suplada, kahit na sa totoo lang, hindi naman.”
Looks can indeed be deceiving. She may look like a woman of the world, but she’s really an innocent when it comes to matters of the heart. In fact, she has had only one boyfriend, and theirs was a short-lived relationship. That was back in 2001.
“Six years ang tanda niya sa akin, and he belongs to a traditional Chinese family,” she says. Being that traditional was the reason for the split-up. “’Yong parents niya, meron na silang napiling babae para sa kanya.”
Francine stresses she’s not out looking for a guy. “Kung me darating, okey lang sa akin. I’ve had suitors din naman before, pero pag tipong wala naman talagang pag-asa, dinidiretso ko na: ‘Hanggang kaibigan na lang tayo.’ Ayoko kasing paasahin pa.”
One friend has expressed his intention of courting her before—Keempee de Leon, her co-star in GMA-7’s Bahay Mo Ba ’To? In the sitcom, Francine’s character, Jingle, is chasing Keempee’s gay character, Harold.
At the time of this shoot, Francine was being linked to Keempee, she said then: “Sabi niya, may gusto siya sa ’kin. Pero ayaw niyang manligaw kasi pinagtatawanan ko raw siya, hindi ko raw siya siniseryoso. Tinanong niya na ako, e, kung may pag-asa daw ba siya sa akin. Sabi ko, ‘Hindi ko alam, e. Mahirap sitwasyon ko. Baka hindi pumayag ang Mommy ko,’ ganyan-ganyan. Ang dami kong ’dinahilan. Pero para sa akin, kung talagang gusto ka ng lalaki, gagawa at gagawa siya ng paraan.”
And if Keempee did get dead serious about courting her?
“Bibigyan ko siya ng listahan ng mga ayoko sa ugali niya!” she replies with a hearty laugh. “Kasi ano siya, e, selosong tao. Gusto niya ’yong nilalambing-lambing siya. Saka ayaw niya ng mga babaeng maiigsi ang palda. Saka gusto raw niya, lagi lang nasa bahay ’yong babae.”
Given Keempee’s likes and dislikes, she already foresaw problems if and when they do end up together. “Pag naging kami, mababago lahat ’yon!”
For now, Francine doesn’t include having a boyfriend among her priorities. That’s because she’s the breadwinner who provides for a widowed mother and four siblings. She willingly took on this responsibility when her dad died of colon cancer in 2003.
(Actually, the late Charles Falcon was her stepdad, but he practically raised her since she was barely two years old. Her mom Amy separated from her biological father, a Norwegian, when Francine was just a year and a half.)
Francine needs to work extra hard now that she has to pay the monthly amortization on the townhouse she bought in September 2005.
“’Yong thirty percent pa lang ang bayad. ’Yong balance na seventy percent, payable in six years na loan sa bangko. Kaya I won’t be enrolling muna next school year, kasi we will be accepting more projects.”
“We” refers to herself and her manager, Hi! magazine editor-in-chief Cesar Evangelista.
Francine knows it will take a long time for her to finish the A.B. Psychology course she’s taking up at Adamson University. But she’s bent on finishing this course even if—because of her hectic schedule and showbiz commitments—she can carry an academic load of only nine units per semester.
The “Sensuality Queen” tag may have put her in the public consciousness, especially in the fantasies of the male populace. But Francine has since played Jingle in Bahay Mo Ba ’To?, Reyna Avria in Etheria: Ang Ikalimang Kaharian ng Encantadia, and a host of zany characters in Bubble Gang, and she feels that the roles she plays on TV have brought her closer to a wider, younger audience.
“Nakilala na ’ko ng tao, at ang tingin nila sa ’kin, hindi lang basta sexy star. Ultimo mga bata, nagpapa-picture at nagpapa-autograph na rin sa ’kin.”
Away from the klieg lights, the “Sensuality Queen” is a down-to-earth woman who goes around in casual clothes and beaded flip-flops. But in her new townhouse, even without a Prince Charming, she’s the queen of her own castle.