Diana Zubiri was only eight years old when her father left her and her elder sister in the sole care of her mother. They were then living in Olongapo City, where her mother maintained a sari-sari store to make ends meet. The family later relocated to a rented home in a poorer section of Fairview, Quezon City, where Diana spent the rest of her young life. Soon enough, her mother found them a stepfather. But his presence did not make much of a difference in the family's standard of living.
"Ang buhay namin noon, may time na kinakapos, may time na okey," Diana recalls with a hint of sadness. "Nangungupahan lang kami. Bago ako mag-showbiz, 'yon 'yong time talaga na pinakakapos-na-kapos.
"Kasi magka-college na ako noon. Kaga-graduate ko lang ng high school. Siyempre, hindi ko ine-expect na mapag-aral ako noong time na 'yon. Ate ko din, e, college na din siya. 'Tapos, may kapatid pa akong isa na nagi-start na ring mag-kinder."
Even before all these problems cropped up, the young Diana, like many pretty teenage girls, was already nurturing a dream—to make it in show business.
"Hindi naman po sa feeling maganda," she smiles. "Oo, sabihin na po natin na sabi ng nanay ko, maganda ako. 'Tapos, marami naman pong nanliligaw
sa akin. Inisip ko lang, baka puwede."
The simple dream later became a need. Somehow, she knew, showbiz could be her ticket to a better life—or, at the very least, her ticket to a college education. That was when she went to ABS-CBN's Talent Center to audition. But fate was unkind to her at that time.
"Ipinila ko talaga 'yan," she says. "Tatlong beses ako na-reject! May isang beses, akala ko makukuha na ako. 'Tapos, ako lang pala sa hilera namin ang hindi nakuha. Parang doon na ako nawalan ng pag-asa talaga."
That was when she decided to give up her showbiz dream. "Ang wala kasi sa akin, talent," she says, laughing at the memory. "Ngayon po, na-improve na lang. Nag-ano ako, voice lessons, 'tapos tinray ko din mag-dance-lessons. Sobrang hirap. Hindi ko kinaya."
She still wanted to go to college, but that seemed like an elusive goal.
"Gusto kong mag-aral, hindi naman puwede. At saka hindi na rin ako umaasa, dahil kung meron man silang unang pag-aaralin, ate ko, hindi ako. Kasi panganay siya, e. 'Tapos, mas matalino siya. Saka mas may tiwala sila kay Ate kesa sa akin. At saka litong-lito ako, kung ano'ng course kukunin ko, kung ano ba'ng gusto kong mangyari sa buhay ko. 'Yong ganoon?"
She found an answer one day. "Naisip kong mag-Japan. Pero ang hirap din. Natatakot ako. Kung saka-sakali, first time kong aalis."
She was 16 when things took a sudden turn. She had decided to go to Japan as an entertainer, despite the hardships she had to go through to train for the job, and despite her fear of traveling alone on her first trip abroad. She had passed the required government tests and was about to get her ARB, or Artist's Record Book.
"Nakapasa 'ko—pasang-awa. May test 'yon, e. Kanta-kantahan. 'Pag nakapasa doon, puwede nang umalis." Then showbiz beckoned once more. She met Jimmy Mercado, a Seiko Films employee who was working part-time as an interviewer for wannabe performers for Japan.
"Narinig ko nga sa agency namin na may naghahanap daw ng talent for showbiz. Sabi ko, nako, tapos na ako sa audi-audition na 'yan. Noong nakita ako ni Jimmy, pinagbabago niya 'yong isip ko. Kung gusto ko daw magpa-sexy."
This was around the time when Assunta de Rossi had just done the sexy film Sisid. "Hindi ko talaga alam ang gagawin ko," Diana recalls. "Parang ayoko tanggapin 'yong offer. Noong time na 'yon kasi, feeling ko hindi ko kaya. Kasi, hilig ko ngang mag-showbiz, pero hindi ko inisip na dito mapupunta sa pagpapa-sexy."
She went on with it anyway. She signed her Seiko contract in 2001 and was launched in 2002 in the sexy film Itlog, opposite Rodel Velayo. She was only 17.
Three years have passed since then. At this point in her career, Diana is no longer categorized as a sexy star, but is seen as a TV-movie celebrity capable of taking on a variety of roles. All this, thanks to a change in manager (she's now being handled by movie writer Jojo Gabinete) and a series of image-
changing projects—two films by the award-winning director Jeffrey Jeturian (Liberated 1 and 2); good exposure in Eat... Bulaga!; inclusion in the consistently high-rating TV fantasy series Encantadia, as a fairy princess named Danaya; and a regular stint in the equally high-rating gag show Bubble Gang.
"Masaya ako sa nangyari sa akin," she smiles. "Masaya ako na dumating ang Encantadia, 'yong character ko doon. Importante po ngayon, may regular show. Sakto, dalawa 'yon. Kaya po inaalagaan ko. Sa Eat... Bulaga!, medyo pahinga ako kasi hindi na kaya ng schedule."
She is, needless to say, the family breadwinner now. But the family she's breadwinning for is only the one on her mother's side. And we can't blame her. Of her father, she says, pointedly: "Nasaan ba siya noong lumalaki ako?"
The father, however, is now staking a claim on Diana, and disturbing her peace of mind in the process.
One time, he showed up unannounced in a studio where Diana was working. Another time, in a more brazen move, he made an appearance in a TV talk show. Each time, he asked for one thing—financial aid.
In the beginning, Diana gave in to his every demand. But these days, she won't hear any of it. She has left the matter in the hands of her Tito Jojo Gabinete and her mother.
"Kasi ako, ayoko na rin makibalita. Like kasi kung minsan, sa isang linggo, suwerte na 'yong may isang araw akong pahinga. Lagi akong pagod. Parang ayaw na nila 'kong dagdagan ng iisipin."
Whatever this nice and pretty girl enjoys now, she truly deserves.