The clamor for Gabby Concepcion has not ceased.
Twenty years ago, colegialas would go gaga over him. Fast forward to 2009, the same colegialas, plus their daughters, would still find him irresistible.
Even the business, which he left 13 years ago, has not lost its appreciation for his star value. Aside from his television and movie contracts with ABS-CBN and Star Cinema, respectively, he also snagged a recording deal.
And while his contemporaries have started assuming dad roles, the 45-year-old actor has maintained his leading man status.
Actually, if you ask him about the actresses he would want to have a project with, he would drop the names of mostly young stars.
"At random...Anne Curtis, si Bea Alonzo, Kristine Hermosa, si Judy Ann Santos...lahat ng princesses. Of course, si Claudine Barretto, it would be nice to work with her," he told PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) in an exclusive interview.
"Puro ABS-CBN, e, di ba?" he added in jest. "Banggitin ko ba yung kabila?"
Gabby did not mean to be overweening. He was just excited at the prospect of being teamed up with the brightest stars of today. Plus, he felt he had lost so many opportunities when he went into self-exile in the U.S.
He said, "I left show business about 13 years ago. Feeling ko, na-encapsulate ako. Tama ba yun? My mind is still back there.
"Sabi nila, go with the tides...E, yung gap na yun, 13 years na yun, e. Nawala ako, e. So hindi ko alam kung anong takbo. Yung utak ko, parang nandudun pa rin sa '94, '95. Maybe it's just my nature..."
As a matinee idol in the ‘80s, his life was an open book. Even when he was leading a private life as a real estate broker in California, showbiz media and press still managed to get small updates about him. When he made his comeback last year, Gabby became a staple in entertainment news, what with the issues that surrounded him.
For a change, we decided to ask him about the most trivial things in his life—his favorites and wants—and some details would really have you at hello.
Books: "What I really enjoy reading is yung mga National Geographic books, mga science books. In fact, hindi lang books, pati yung mga DVD about arthritis, about the heart, about the joints, stuff like that. Even before, interested ako sa mga science books and all that.
When he mentioned arthritis, heart, and joints, we remarked, "Gabby, you could've been a doctor."
"Well I wanted to be a dentist," he replied. "But my first love was, I wanted to fly. Dentistry became second, and then third itong real estate."
Speaking of real estate, does he miss the job?
"Well nami-miss ko because mas relaxed ako sa States, kaso nga lang U.S. is going through...actually the whole world, may crisis, buti na lang I decided to go back. Even Japan was affected...The whole world, ano? Even Australia, kasi meron kaming mga shows, plans to go to Australia, Canada, and the United States. And lahat ng naririnig ko sa producers, hirap daw ang mga nanonood, especially the producers kasi they have to go with what the market dictates, that's why nagkakaroon ng adjustments."
Music: Sa CD ko, it's number 6, "Ako Pa Ba," because it is original and that "Ako Pa Ba" is...maraming gustong patamaan nun, e."
We teased him, "Like sino?"
He laughed. "Actually, magandang tanong iyan sa pagbalik ko, e, yun bang ‘Ako Pa Ba' ang mahal ninyo, di ba? Pag-uwi ko dito, ako pa ba ang mahal niyo? Pero it could be interpreted in different ways, kasi most of the songs I sang there, if you noticed, most of them are love songs.
Food: I eat almost anything, e, pero on top of the list, monggo. Any vegetable...I also like fish. I love fish, Bakalaw.
He related that when he appeared on Janice de Belen's show Spoon, he cooked monggo.
Leading lady: Of course, there's Vilma Santos, Lorna Tolentino."
He shared an interesting anecdote about one of his film projects with LT, "Meron kaming ginawa ni Lorna, e, with Ishmael Bernal, what's the title of that movie?"
Gabby could not remember the title, "I'll let you know ‘pag naalala ko."
He resumed, "Meron kaming eksena na yung light, nasa likod, so, makikita mo yung highlight ng buhok namin, yung balahibo...So makikita mo yung highlight ng buhok, di ba? Dalawa kami ni Lorna she was at the bottom and I was on the top, we did a kissing scene and then, we released slowly, naiwan yung ano yung string of saliva and then it was such a close-up na parang alam mong walang daya. And everybody noticed that sa movie. Napag-usapan yan, wait lang...late 80's pa yata yun. I cannot ever forget that scene."
The movie's title was Nagbabagang Luha, with Alice Dixson and Richard Gomez.
Challenging roles: "In the ‘90s, ang role ko was villain. That was where I won most of my awards...I played a different role na hindi yung goody-goody, boy-next-door. I shifted, nag-experiment ako. It's very draining pala, very draining kasi huhugutin mo, e, sa ilalim.
"We don't want to be violent, pero if [a scene] asked for you to become violent, you have to parang you have to put yourself in a situation that makes you violent, that makes you go out of your mind, di ba? And it's difficult kasi yung energy nun, your heart starts to pump, your energy goes up, maybe your adrenaline pulls you there, I don't know. But it's strenuous, emotionally, mentally, physically.
"‘So yun, you try to snap back right away. Just relax, take it easy. You don't think of anything, it's like meditating. That's how I do it, e, I just keep quiet, reflect, sit down...Just relax, basically that's what it is, and just get grounded again.
"Ngayon, pag emotional naman at hindi anger, yung parang iiyak ka, namatayan ka, that's another angle kaya ang hirap. Drama is hard. Mas madali pa mag-action, comedy is difficult also because you have to be creative, pero ang drama, it comes from the gut, from the heart, from the chest so, di ba, sisikip yung dibdib mo.
"Marami, e, yung mga bagay na ‘tinago mo sa drawer mo na ayaw mo nang kalkalin, hahanapin mo na ngayon. Yung mga bagay na ayaw talagang mawala sa utak mo, hahanapin mo yun, bubuhayin mo ulit. Mahirap..."
Hollywood movie: Scarface of Al Pacino. I admire yung si Dustin Hoffman, andami niyang ginawa. Ang dami, e...Yung mga movies ni Robert de Niro..."
Old songs: He wants to revive songs of yesteryears. "A lot of songs made by Dean Martin. You know the old ones? Sina Frank Sinatra...
He explained, "I like it mellow, e. I like old-fashioned life. Maganda nga, e, to live back the '50s no, go back to that era. Humphrey Bogart, di ba magaling siya? Pero iba ang acting noong araw. Pag napapanood mo si Humphrey Bogart, iba yung roles nila, e. Some are really funny. Pero maganda yung stature nila. Siya, si Frank Sinatra...Pero yung grupo nila, yung Rat Pack, that is the unique combination."
(The Rat Pack was a popular group of entertainers back in the ‘60s. Its members included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, to name a few.)
Places: I like Barcelona, Spain. Italy is nice. Puwede ka lang ma-reborn...Yung mga architecture nila na Gothic, parang ang sarap bumalik sa era na yun.
"Pero isipin mo din, teka muna, ang daming sakit nung araw, yung plague baka siguro isa pa ko sa nakakuha nun, di ba. Pero ang ganda kasi siguro ng buhay nun ‘no?
"Pero I like the States, diverse kasi andaming cultures, e. California and New York...Midwest kasi is a different story, andami pa ring mga extremists doon."
Wishes: "I wanted to settle my unsettled relationships, sila Sharon Cuneta, the people that I hurt, I want to clear that out. The cases that I left behind which I'm already handling now. If I hurt anybody in whatever way, I want to settle that.
"I want to leave show business with a good name. Yun ang gusto kong mangyari kasi, when I left, I did not have an opportunity to leave with my name untainted..."
Dream commercial: "Ever since bata pa ‘ko, San Miguel, especially Pale Pilsen. Kasi I grew up with Pale Pilsen, e. Ang daming ibang lumalabas na bote pero, you know, Pale Pilsen pa rin, e. Yun ang original, parang ganun."
On the spot, he came up with a tagline: "Marami nang dumating pero nandito pa rin."
He added, "I'm telling you, sometimes nagiging creative ako sa mga lines, dialogues...And that's the magic of show business. The magic happens when you're shooting or on the set. That's the mystery of being in this industry. Ako, I don't even know what's going to happen next. The whole thing is a mystery to me."
He surely had his ups and downs, breaks and mistakes, but there's nothing he would want to change in his life. He realized that even the bad mistakes and choices he made in the past turned out to be blessings in disguise.
We asked him: "What will make you quit showbiz?"
The dad of KC Concepcion paused for a few minutes, then answered, "Overwhelming stress? Or siguro, if it's no longer working out."
But that's not looming over the horizon yet. Gabby still has the public's support—for one, he's still swoon-worthy; another thing, the man has both depth and maturity.