At 12 noon, the Villarroel-Legaspi household is still. The sun slips in through the glass windows, bathing the ground floor with natural light am showcasing the contemporary decor. Moments later, Carmina comes down the stairs, rubbing her still-damp hair with the face towel in her hand, her unmade-up face clear and beautiful, and her sweet smile shifting in seconds to concern. She quickly greets the YES! team, taking note of everyone's names. "Kanina pa kayo?" she asks. "Gusto na ba ninyo mag-shoot?"
Before we can answer, she continues, her sentences rippling one after the other: "Ayaw ninyo ba maupo or something? Nag-shoot na ba kayo? Bilin ko sa kanila na 'wag mag-start. Antayin dapat ako! Gusto ko makita! Every month, I buy your issue. That's why I know how you do houses!"
With ease and grace, the host leads us to the den where she will have her makeup done.
Zoren arrives a few minutes later with daughter Cassy, followed by a man lugging a big box. Zoren says he has just bought a new television set and engages in casual chitchat, before excusing himself to go upstairs to set up his new gadget.
Cassy scans the room and shyly retreats upstairs, too.
Mavy also takes a peek at the hubbub in the den, flashes us a smile, and decides to go to his room to play chess on his computer.
Meanwhile, Carmina proceeds to tell us the history of the Pasig home.
"For the longest time, we were renting- renting in Valle Verde and White Plains," she begins in her characteristic chirpy tone.
They were still in the renting stage when they bought a 300-square-meter lot in Pasig. Sometime in 2004, Carmina recalls, she told Zoren: "Honey, tara na. Sige na, patayo na tayo."
Zoren was game, and work on the house finally began. While the house was under construction, a friend of theirs who owned the adjoining 200-square-meter lot offered to sell it to them.
"Sabi ko, 'Teka, baka di namin kayanin.'" So nagdasal-dasal kami ni Zoren: 'Sige, pagdasal natin. Kung kakayanin, e, di, go!'"
Carmina can't remember exactly how they got the money to complete the house and still have enough to buy the neighboring lot.
"Hindi namin alam kung si Zoren ba or ako 'yong nagkaroon ng extra money. Basta 'pinagdasal namin, kasi ayaw talaga namin ng utang. Ayaw namin ng loan. Ang lagging sinasabi ni Zoren, 'Hon, ayoko ng mag-aaway tayo dahil sa pera. 'Yong hindi na tayo makatulog sa gabi kasi iniisip ang pera. Gusto namin 'yong puwede pa ring mag-out-of-town, kaya pa rin 'yong mga ganyan..."
It was, Carmina says, "really the perfect time" to build a house. Today, with Zoren and their twins Cassy and Mavy, she lives in the home that love, hard work, and "perfect timing" built.
UNDERAGE, TOO. Twenty years ago, in 1988, the 13-year-old Maria Carmina Muñiz Villarroel was tapped to appear in a television commercial that introduced Jollibee's new ad I campaign, "It's Jollibee good!" It was in this commercial that Carmina caught the attention of Regal Films matriarch Lily Monteverde and talent manager Douglas Quijano.
Carmina-who's Mina to family and friends-was then determined to become an actress. She managed to convince i her parents that she had the discipline to balance her studies and a career in show business.
The fresh-faced mestiza teener had already appeared as a child star in small roles. Now she found herself in the new batch of Regal Babies, along with Ruffa Gutierrez and Aiko Melendez. The very first batch of Regal Babies-Maricel Soriano, Snooky, and Dina Bonnevie-were already taking on more adult roles, and the film-production company was perennially on the lookout for new teen stars to launch. This time around, it was also looking for three eligible young men to become the onscreen partners of Ruffa, Aiko, and Carmina.
At that time, the 18-year-old Peter Zoren Garcia Legaspi- second son of actor Lito Legaspi and wife Hershey-was based in the U.S. and was looking to have a career in local show business.
"Kasi, nasa bad neighborhood kami ng Chicago," Zoren recalls. "Napansin ko, pati ako nagkakaroon na ng gangster attitude. Pati school ko, hindi ko gusto, dahil binabato ang mga teacher ng mga siga, e... Sabi ko, 'Ma, walang mangyayari sa akin dito. Uuwi na lang ako sa Pilipinas.' Ano naman gagawin ko pag-uwi ko? Parang gusto kong mag-artista noong napanood ko ang Top Gun-man! Mag-aartista ako!"
Given his father's contacts as an actor in Tinseltown Philippines, the tall hunk was able to easily meet influential people in the biz.
"Alam mo, ang buhay ko is always on the right track, always right timing," Zoren muses. "Noong umuwi ako dito, right timing!"
It was 1990, and Regal was set to launch Carmina, Ruffa, and Aiko in Last Two Minutes. The company already had two young male Regal Babies as love-team partners-Aljon Jimenez and Jeffrey Santos.
"May butas pa na isa," Zoren says. "Kulang pa ng isang lalaki. Naghahanap ang Regal ng partner ni Aiko. Wala silang mahanap. Noong dumating ako, nakita nila ako. 'Puwede na ito, puwede.' Pine-pair agad ako kay Aiko."
Zoren was initially teamed up with Aiko, then later paired with Ruffa in movies such as Island of Desire (1990) and Shotgun Banjo (1992). Among the three girls, however, it was Carmina whom Zoren had a crush on.
"Siya yata 'yong una kong niligawan," Zoren happily recalls. "Binigyan ko pa nga siya ng mga stuffed toys dati, e!"
"I was only 13 or 14 at that time," Carmina tells YES! in a separate interview. "So ako, parang 'Ewww!' pa ako sa boys dati. Si Zoren, pumupunta-punta na sa bahay, pero ayoko talaga! Hanggang sa naging partner na siya ni Ruffa, ni Aiko. Kami long 'yong never nag-partner."
Remembering those early days, Zoren says of the three Regal girls: "Masusungit lahat 'yan! Hindi ko sila naging friends, kasi... hindi sila friendly!"
Still, he found himself becoming closer to Ruffa, the only daughter of former matinee idol Eddie Gutierrez and talent manager Annabelle Rama. "Mas older kasi si Ruffa, e, so parang mas dumikit sa age ko. Mas nagkaroon kami ng communication. Ang pinakabata 'ata diyan si Aiko, e. Kaya may show sila [on TV, entitled] 13,14,15."
He gives out a hearty laugh. "Mga bata pa 'yon noon, kaya delikado!"
The Zoren-Ruffa love team blossomed into an offscreen romance. Ruffa became Zoren's first serious girlfriend.
"We fell in love naman," says Zoren, but he gropes for words when he tries to describe this teenage romance. "Kaso, hindi pa ano 'yon, e... It was too early pa sa stage ng buhay namin, but 'yong love... Sa tingin ko naman, we fell in love, 'tsaka 'yong concern naman namin sa isa't isa, 'tsaka 'yong gusto mo siyang makita, ganoon..."
At that time, Annabelle was very vocal in her opposition to Zoren and Ruffa's relationship.
"Si Tita Annabelle, marami 'gang sinabi sa akin on TV and off-cam," Zoren reveals. "But hindi ako naapektuhan noon. Wala, because I was honest with my feelings. Wala naman akong planong lokohin ang sinuman, e. For me, hindi naman career move 'yon, e. Di ba, 'yong iba, nakipagligawan long dahil ano...?Sa akin, it wasn't a career move, you know. Kaya ako, wala akong guilt feelings."
At one time, Annabelle even angrily scolded Zoren on Inday Badiday's talk show, then one of the top-rated showbiz programs on television. But Annabelle did not close the doors of the Gutierrez house to Zoren.
"Nakakapunta pa rin ako sa bahay niya, kasi alam niyang harmless ako, e. Alam naman niyang harmless ako. Hindi ako natakot sa kanya kasi wala naman akong masamang intention, e."
Zoren and Ruffa were an item for three years, but eventually the relationship came to an end. Zoren says he had an inkling it wouldn't last.
"Nasa stage ng age na it was too early," he says in retrospect. "Pati, alam ko na career-oriented siya. Ako rin naman, e, kaya very careful ako noon. Kung ite-trace n'yo 'yong background ko, hindi ako nagkaroon ng issue, na malalaking nakakatakot na issue. Never. Kasi maingat ako sa buhay ko. Ayoko ng problema. Takot akong makabuntis ng hindi ko gusto, takot akong makulong, takot akong mag-drugs... Basta ayoko kasi ng problema. Kaya very careful ako sa options ko sa buhay. Talagang pinag-aaralan ko."
Ruffa went on to marry Turkish businessman Yilmaz Bektas in 2003, and the union would produce two beautiful daughters. But early last year, the couple separated amid allegations of spousal abuse and battery.
Ironically, Zoren is now on very friendly terms with Annabelle.
"The funny thing about Tita Annabelle is, sabi niya one time, 'Ikaw, Zoren, kung alam ko lang magiging ganyan ka, dapat sa yo na lang si Ruffa.' Sinabi niya sa akin 'yan, recently lang yan. Nagtawanan lang kami. Sabi ko kay Tita, 'Ikaw kasi, e. Kontra-kontra ka pa noon, el'"
TOGETHER AGAIN.When the Nineties came along. Zoren and Carmina were going their separate ways in showbiz.
In 1991, Carmina joined the popular sitcom Palibhasa Lalake, which boasted a star-studded cast headed by Richan Gomez, Joey Marquez, and John Estrada. Playing Richard's maarte younger sister showcase Carmina's comedic timing, and one year later, she found herself cast in the hit gag show Tropagn Trumpo, which also starred sure bankable talents as Ogie Alcasid Gelli de Belen, and Michael V.
In 1994, Carmina was 19 years old and ready to portray more mature roles. She was launched as leading lady in Ishmael Bernal's action-drama flick Wating, opposite Richard Gomez, her erstwhile TV kuya. For this role, the prestigious organization of film critics, the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino, honored Carmina with a Gawad Urian nomination for best actress in a lead role. A succession of follow-up films-including Maruja, Ipaglaban Mo: The Movie Part 2, and Bayarang Puso-would further establish Carmina Villarroel as an A-list star.
The Nineties also saw Zoren's career taking off as an action star. In one year alone, 1997, he topbilled five movies- Bandido; Baril sa Baril; Kung Marunong Kang Magdasal, Umpisahan Mo Na; Matang Agila; and Daniel Eskultor.
By this time, Carmina and Zoren had already lost touch, and were playing new roles in their personal lives. The year that Wating came out, Carmina had become wife to actor Rustom Padilla, though this was kept secret from the public. As for Zoren, he was very much involved with his second girlfriend, Claudine Trillo, a model and restaurateur.
Right timing, once again, brought Carmina and Zoren together.
"Kanya-kanya na kami ng lives," Carmina says. "And then, we did a movie together, pero pareho pa kaming may ibang relationship. So, kuwentuhan. 'O, so how is your relationship?' Ganyan-ganyan."
The movie that brought the two together was Kahit Mabuhay Kang Muli, which started filming in 1997. It was their first-ever teamup as onscreen partners.
"E, ang tagal matapos no'ng movie," Carmina continues. "Umabot na sa point na nagkahiwalay-hiwalay na kami sa kanya-kanyang mga partners!"
By the end of the year, Carmina had gone to court to ask for the annulment of her marriage. She left the conjugal home and opted to rent a townhouse in Dona Juana II, Pasig City.
"Hindi ko alam na malapit pala si Zoren doon nakatira," says Carmina. "So, I didn't know. He asked, 'So where are you staying now?' Sabi ko, 'Diyan sa Pasig, sa Dona Juana."Ah, really? I also stay in Dona Juana. Saan?'
"Wala akong kakilala sa area na 'to. As in, sobrang wala akong kakilala! So parang na-rekindle 'yong friendship. Parang, siguro naawa siya sa akin, na parang, kasi, wala.akong friends dito, so in-introduce niya ako sa non-showbiz friends niya. 'Tapos, we played tennis na together, lumalabas kami together, as a group, palaging as a group."
In 1998, Zoren also saw the end of his four-year relationship with Claudine. It was, he says, a clean and cordial breakup.
"Sa lahat ng ex-girlfriends ko,"he adds, "kaya kong humarap nang harap-harapan, 'cause they know wala akong kasalanan sa kanila. They know na hindi ko sila niloko. Alam nila 'yon. That's why I am still friends with them."
Zoren insists that, though he had reestablished contact with Carmina, his childhood crush, what they had this second time around was strictly friendship.
"Actually, natutulog ako sa bahay niya nang magkatabi kami sa kama, pero walang nangyayari," he says.
Then, apparently realizing the implications of what he has just said, he gives out a hearty laugh and hastens to explain: "Kasi, ganoon talaga kalakas ang control ko. Walang bantay doon, a! Kuwarto niya 'yon. Siya, mag-isa, pero walang nangyayari."
It was during his friendly visits to his beautiful new neighbor that he began noticing Carmina's good qualities.
"Nakita ko na maasikaso siya. Ganyan ba talaga siya? Maasikaso? So 'yon 'yong isa sa nagustuhan ko."
Zoren (who, along with his younger brother Kier, was named after the Danish existentialist philosopher Soren Kierkegaard) tries to give a philosophical spin to the attraction that he felt.
"Di ba 'yong mga girls mahilig sa shoes, 'yong mga lalaki sa kotse? Pag may nakita kang kotse o shoes, gusto mo siya, e. Hindi mo ma-explain kung bakit. Basta gusto mo siya. Minsan ang mura lang, e, pero gusto mo siya. Minsan mahal, pero gusto mo siya. Pag tinanong sa 'yo, 'Bakit gusto mo siya?'-'Basta gusto ko siya!' Kasi feeling mo, bagay sa 'yo, swak sa 'yo. So, parang ganoon 'yong kay Carmina. I cannot really pinpoint kung anong characteristic, basta gusto ko siya. Kumbaga, parang swak siya para sa akin."
Carmina, for her part, was seeing traits in Zoren that reminded her of her father, Reynaldo Villarroel-whom she affectionately calls "Daddy Groovy," because of his youthful demeanor.
"Meron akong mga moods, e, na kung kakaiba ka, papatulan mo ako," she says. "Zoren is such a dedma guy. He's like my dad. 'Tsaka, prayer ko rin 'yon dati. Sabi ko sa dad ko, 'You know what, Dad, sana I can find somebody like you.' Kasi my dad is also like that, 'yong sobrang relaxed."
The two friends soon started going out on dates, just the two of them.
"Wala kaming ligawan stage," Carmina recalls. "Hindi nga siya naniniwala sa ligaw-ligaw stage. 'Yong parang, 'Basta, this is me.' Wala siyang porma-porma. Wala siyang pa-cute-pa-cute. Wala siyang mga ganyan."
Still, Zoren says, he wasn't sure if Carmina was ready for a serious relationship. It seemed that she was just starting to enjoy being single again.
"At that time, na-experience niya 'yong buhay-dalaga. Nagde-date kami, pero marami ding parang nanliligaw diyan. Matagal na siyang hiwalay din, mga taon na 'yon, e. Sabi ko, 'Hindi pa ito sawa. Kakasimula pa lang nito. Sabi ko, 'Sige, bahala ka sa buhay mo. Kung gusto mong mag-party all night, sige, bahala ka diyan.'
"So, nagkanya-kanya kami. Matagal-tagal din, mga months. Sabi niya, 'pinagdasal niya na sana nga bumalik daw ako. Hanggang sa for some reason... Paano ba naging kami ulit? Hindi ko na matandaan, e. Basta one time, nag-dinner ulit kami, 'tapos, ayun... Umusbong ulit. Yon lang 'yong nangyari sa 'rain."
Getting re-acquainted with Carmina, Zoren reiterates, was one of the things in his life that happened at the right time. "Parang inayos nang mabuti, e. Kasi, bakit naman siya nalipat doon sa may amin, e, taga-Parahaque 'yan? Bakit siya napunta sa lugar namin? 'Tapos, gumagawa pa kami ng movie..."
With events seemingly conspiring to bring them together, Carmina surmises:
"Sobrang I really found my match. Sobra!"
AGAINST THE WORLD. Having found her match, Carmina soon found herself in a not unforeseen predicament. In 2000, she learned that she was in the family way.
The first person she informed of the pregnancy was her sister April. Then she told Zoren. He has always been a level-headed guy, and he says he handled the situation seriously and calmly.
"Hindi naman ako natakot. Hindi naman ako nabigla. Naisip ko lang, 'Ano dapat nating gawin?' Kasi, at that time, hindi pa siya annulled, e. So 'yon lang ang iniiwasan ko, kaya hindi kami ganoon naging katotoo sa press. Kasi may problema noong time na yon, e. Yon lang. Pero wala akong naramdaman na takot o pagsisisi...
"Siguro, nasa right age ako noon, e. 'Tsaka, hindi ako yong tatakbuhing lalaki, e. I face my problems, kahit ano pang problema 'yan. Hindi ako 'yong katulad ng mga lalaking kunyari biglang nagkaroon ng obligasyon, tumatakbo. Hindi ako ganoong klaseng lalaki. Haharapin ko 'yon. Mahirap o hindi mahirap, haharapin ko. Kaya 'yong sa amin, walang problema."
With her annulment case still hanging in court, Carmina decided to go to the U.S. to give birth.
"It was her decision," Zoren says. "Ang sa 'kin, okey na rin. Normally naman, ang mga artista, gustong manganak sa America. Ayun, at that time, mas gusto niya doon. Sabi ko, 'Sige, kung 'yan ang gusto mo, doon na lang.'
"Prinedict ko na na kung titira kami doon for at least three months, dapat 'yong perang dala ko, good for three months na hindi ako nagtatrabaho. So, bago ako pumunta doon, nag-ipon ako nang nag-ipon. 'Buti naman, sunod-sunod 'yong pelikula ko noon, kaya nakapag-ipon ako. Kaya noong nandoon kami for almost six months-si Carmina, almost eight months 'ata 'yon doon, e-hindi talaga kami nagtrabaho doon."
Carmina lived with her older sister Bambi in San Francisco, California, during her first two months in the U.S. After saving enough money to sustain them during their stay in the States, and Zoren followed. The two moved in with Zoren's younger brother, Jupiter, in Los Angeles, California. Carmina says she believes that difficult time in the U.S. made their relationship stronger.
"Kami lang ni Zoren 'yon, e. So, it was, parang, 'You and me against the world!' First time ko away from my family. Yong talagang ako lang ito at saka si Zoren, 'yong parang ganoon.
"Sa America, pansin mo, no driver, no yaya. Although kaya naman namin, ibig sabihin parang wala kaming mga luho, na parang may sarili kang driver. 'Anong kotse gusto mo? Pasundo ka sa driver...'Yong hindi lahat ng perks ng pagiging artista puwede. Doon, wala 'yong, Ah, excuse me...' Hindi mo puwedeng i-charming. 'Sino ka ba?'
"We're thankful. Parang sinasabi namin, 'Siguro, honey, kaya ganito tayo ka-bonded, dahil sa nangyari doon.' Thankful din kami because na-experience din namin maging normal, na hindi kami kilala ng mga tao-puwera lang 'yong mga Pinoy doon. Pero ibig sabihin. walang special treatment...
"So, masaya. Sobrang iba. It's a different world, pero we're thankful na na-experience namin 'yon."
On January 6,2001, Carmina gave birth, by cesarian operation, to fraternal twins-Maverick Peter Villarroel Legaspi and Maria Cassandra Villarroel Legaspi. The couple nicknamed their two blessings Mavy and Cassi. Both enjoy dual citizenship, Filipino and American.
"Unang nakita ko si Maverick," proud dad Zoren recalls. "Ang unang napansin ko agad, 'yong dimple niya. Baby pa lang, meron na! Sabi ko, 'Shit! Ang lalim ng dimple no'n, a!' 'Tapos, sumunod ito, si Cassy. Yon pala 'yong nararamdaman ng parents, 'yong lukso ng dugo. Yon ang mararamdaman mo sa kanila.
After giving birth, Carm was toying with the idea of living in the States for good and leave everything in the Philippines behind-including show business.
"Siyempre, natatakot si Carmina na baka wala na siyang balikan dito," says Zoren. "Sabi ko, 'Hon, we have to go back. Bihira naman yong mga artistang nag-migrate na hindi bumalik. Eventually, babalik at babalik ka.'Ayaw niya. Sabi ko, 'Hindi, kailangan bumalik tayo, because this is what you know, this is what you're good at- 'yong pag-aartista.'
'"Buti naman, may tumawag. Tumawag noon 'yong ABS-CBN para kunin siya doon sa show na Recuerdo de Amor. Doon long siya naniwala sa 'kin na meron pa siyang babalikan dito. Kaya, ayun, bumalik na kami dito."
Was he also afraid that fatherhood would affect his career as a matinee idol and an action star?
"Hindi pumasok sa isip ko 'yong mga ganoong bagay,"he says. "Pero kung alam kong wala namang career, puwedepa rin naman kaming dito pa rin sa Pilipinas, but doing something else. Sa America kasi, ma-establish mo yong sarili mo, pero mababaon ka naman sa utang."
Two months after Carmina gave birth, she and Zoren, together with their precious twins, headed home to the Philippines. The homecoming was at the same time a return to their old life as a celebrity couple-a life under the prying eyes of the public.
Of the public scrutiny that awaited them at the time, Zoren says: "Ma smaluwag na sagutin 'yong mga tanong, 'tsaka andiyan na 'yan, e. Hindi mo na matatago 'yan, so sasagutin mo na lang nang diretso. Pero 'yong mga press, hindi naman nangulit. Naiintindihan naman nila 'yong pangyayari, 'tsaka sigi nakita nila na totoo naman kami sa isa't isa, kaya hindi na nila nilagyan ng intriga."
In July that same year, after four years of court proceedings, the Court of Appeals declared Carmina's marriage to Rustom null and void
SMART PARENTING. While on a break from the photo shoot, the YES! team asks Mavy if he is interested in becoming an actor like his parents when he grows up.
"Yes," Mavy answers politely.
Zoren, listening in on the conversation, immediately interjects: "What do you mean you want to be an actor? You said you want to be an athlete!"
Mavy replies, "Yeah, also actor."
Zoren-who prefers to have his kids call him Tatay because this is, he says, "more Filipino"-asks again: "What about being a doctor?"
The seven-year-old responds with a simple "Yes."
Looking relieved, Zoren tells his son, "See, you want a lot of things..."
Later, when he and Carmina are interviewed together, Zoren expresses his hesitation in allowing his kids to enter show business.
"Nililihis namin sila doon, e, pero hindi rin naiiwasan. There was a time na talagang busy si Carmina, walang time sa kids, so ako naman, pag wala na siyang time, dinadala ko 'yong kids sa kanya para makita niya, para magkaroon sila ng bonding. As much as possible, ayokong dinadala sa set 'yong twins. Kasi ayoko 'yong masanay sila. Kasi pag nasanay 'yan, hahanapin talaga nila 'yon, e at hindi mo maiiwasan kung nasa dugo na nila 'yon. But you have to give them options. Kailangan mag-introduce ka sa kanila ng ibang puwedeng maging trabaho. Hindi lang kunyari artista, artista lang ang ipapa-introduce sa kanila. Tine-train ko sila sa lahat ng bagay. So, if mature na sila to choose for themselves, makakapili na sila ng talagang gusto nila, kung saan sila mage-excel."
Carmina, who started acting at an early age, agrees with Zoren's concerns: "Ako kasi dati, I know myself, e, so kaya kong pagsabayin 'yong studies ko 'tsaka 'yongpag-aartista ko. Parang hindi ko masabi kung kakayanin ba ng mga anak ko. Ako kasi, kaya ko kasi gusto ko. Hindi ko alam kung gusto ba nila o hindi, 'tsaka wala naman silang sinasabi kung gusto ba nila..."
Zoren adds: "Kasi kung titignan mo 'yong mga opportunity nang ganito kaaga, na merong umaalok sa kanila ng, you know, a good-paying job as early as their age now-they are seven years old-kung iisipin mo, 'Aba, suwerte, dahil ngayon pa lang puwede na silang kumita.' Kung susumahin mo, you know, school is always there, so puwedeng pumasok habang nagtatrabaho, 'tapos pag dumating sa certain age, doon mo puwedeng i-cut, doon mo i-concentrate sa school. At least, kahit papaano, may pera na sila sa bangko. Puwede mo nang isipin ng ganoong way. Ang nakakatakot nga lang, 'yong discipline na baka along the way, mawalan na ng interest sa school."
As Carmina also sees it, school should always come first. "Basta may compromise kami, kung gusto mo mag-artista ka, mag-artista ka, pero kailangan, tapusin mo 'yong pag-aaral mo. Pero kung puwedeng ilihis namin sila, mas gusto namin."
Coming from the third generation in a family of actors, Mavy and Cassy do have the potential to become good artists, Zoren says.
"Si Cassy kasi, may patience 'yan. 'Wag lang mauunahan ng hiya. Pero may patience siya sa hintayan, sa tagal ng setup... Kumakanta siya, but nahihiya nga, e.
"Itong lalaki, si Maverick, walang patience, pero kapag gusto niya, isang instruction mo lang sa kanya, nakukuha niyaagad. 'Tapos, ang hilig sumayaw, ang hilig kumanta. So, may mga strong points. Si Maverick, ang nakikita ko diyan, in the future, parang 'yan ang magiging Elvis Presley ng Pilipinas. Sa totoo lang. Kasi 'yong look niya, e-di ba si Elvis 'yong look?"
Even though they recognize their kids' talents as parents and as artists, for now, Carmina and Zoren are only allowing their twins to do commercials-no acting jobs on television or in the movies.
"May nag-alok na isang TV show," Carmina reveals. "Ayoko, kasi baka rin biglang pumunta sa ulo nila na, 'Ay, artista kami!' Okey lang 'yong commercials, kasi kasama kami, 'tsaka one day, two days lang. Sa ngayon, kahit nakikita nila 'yong sarili nila sa TV or sasabihin sa kanila na, 'Oh! I saw you on TV!' or 'Oh! I saw you in that Colgate commercial,' hindi pa nagsi-sink-in na mga modelo sila or whatever."
"Nagkakaroon kami ng guilt feelings," Zoren admits. 'Mas madali ang commercial kaysa sa movies or TV shows, pero pag nandoon ka na, 'tapos nakikita mo na pressured na 'yong dalawa dahilpaulit-ulit yong takes, doon mo mararamdaman na nagtatrabaho din sila. Doon sumisipa 'yong guilt feeling na, 'Shit! Bakit ba kami pumayag dito na pinagtratrabaho naming 'yong dalawa?'"
"But don't get us wrong, ha?"Carmina interjects. "We ask them first. We want to make that clear. Before we do any commercial or anything, we ask them. Kunyari, 'There's an offer. Do you want to do this? Ganito yong gagawin natin.' 'Tapos, sasabihin namin 'yong product. 'Oh, yeah!' So we ask them first, kasi may ganoong guilt factor nga kami, di ba? At the same time, it's our bonding time also. Kasi nga, one-day, two-day shoot, may bonding kaming apat. Kasi, laging kasama si Zoren sa shoot. He has to be there talaga."
Carmina points out that, even though they want to makethe experience of appearing in commercials as fun as possible for the kids, it is also a way for them to teach their kids the value of hard work: "Para at least, ngayon pa lang, at an early age, alam nila ang ibig sabihin ng hard work, 'tsaka alam nila na may pera sila."
"Sila ang nag-open ng account nila sa bangko," Zoren says. "Kunyari, may pumasok na pera. Sila mismo ang pumipirma ng deposit slip. Kasama lang kami sa bangko. Iniiwasan kasi namin 'yong may masabi 'yong ibang tao na kinuha namin 'yong pera. Marami kasing nangyayaring ganoon sa show business, di ba? At least ako, may witness sa bangko na sila mismo talaga ang naghuhulog ng pera."
Carmina seconds Zoren's statement, exclaiming, "Naka-account yan lahat! Basta 'yong amin, amin. 'Yong kanila, kanila."
The twins, along with their mom, are currently endorsing Colgate toothpaste and Lactum milk. Carmina and Cassy are also endorsing Pink Box, a hair-accessories brand.
"Sa ngayon, hindi pa nila nafi-feel," says Carmina. "Pero pagdating nila ng eighteen or twenty-one, 'Ayl May pera pala ako.' So puwede kong sabihin na, "Yan iyong ginawa nating commercial noon.' Ngayon, alam nila na meron silang pera, pero kung magkano, siyempre hindi namin sinasabi. Baka pumunta sa ulo nila. Although hindi naman sila 'yong matanong na, 'How much do we make?' Wala namang ganoon. Alam lang nila, merong silang pera sa bangko."
Currently, the twins are classmates in first grade at the Brightsparks International School in Libis, Quezon City. Zoren says the school takes in a limited number of students and has only one class per grade level.
Explaining why they decided to enroll the twins in that exclusive school, Zoren says: "Hindi ako in favor sa big schools, e. Maraming factors. Unang-una, hindi mo maalis na may kanya-kanyang grupo. Kawawa naman 'yong isang bata kapag na-out-of-place doon sa malaking grupo. 'Tsaka 'yong teacher minsan, wala nang time talaga sa sobrang darning students. Kung minsan, you have thirty students in one class. Nahihirapan nang alagaan ng teacher yong estudyante."
At Brightsparks, Zoren says, "mas natututukan talaga, kayapag nagtanong kami kung ano'ng diperensiya, nasasagot talaga ng teacher."
Carmina is proud to say that her kids are very disciplined and focused when it comes to academics. The twins are only allowed to play computer games on weekends.
"Homework talaga after school," she says. '"Tsaka kunyari, kung wala naman silang homework, o kunyari, long vacation, meron silang Zoren's workbook na makapal na mayroong English, language, may math, may ganyan. So, kahit na vacation-kunyari, noong Christmas, mayroon silang two to three weeks off-at least, hindi nila nakakalimutan. Although hindi lang puro aral-aral din. Bina-balance naming na parang, 'Honey, mukhang nag-eenjoy na sila masyado [sa bakasyon}. Balikan na natin sila.' Yong para hindi lang makalimutan 'yong math problems. E, nage-enjoy rin naman sila [sa workbook]."
Apart from encouraging the twins to excel in academics, Zoren, a sports buff, is also teaching them how to play various sports-tennis, soccer, basketball, badminton, and swimming.
"Kapag nandito sila sa bahay, may exercise kami rito na routine na," says Zoren, "Kasi gusto kong lumaki silang athletic. Ayoko 'yong mga lampa. At napansin ko, kapag sports-minded 'yong bata, malayo sa mga bisyo. Kaya, bata pa lang, sinisimulan na maging sports-minded na sila. So far, gusto naman nila. Wala naman kaming 'pinagawa sa kambal na napilitan sila."
PARENTAL GUIDANCE. Carmina and Zoren also believe in instilling values in their little ones and teaching them good behavior. The couple practiced the traditional Filipino way of disciplining children-spanking.
"Napalo ko na 'yong kambal," Zoren admits.
"Pero not using his hands," Carmina clarifies. "Baka sabihin ng ibang magulang, 'My gosh!' Meron kaming spanking rod. Para hindi kamay. Kasi yong iba, sabi nila, nako-confuse daw 'yong kids when you use your hands. Kasi nga, supposedly 'yong hands mo for caressing, for comfort, so parang nako-confuse 'yong kids na, Para saan ba talaga yong kamay mo? Pang-palo ba 'yan o ano?'"
Besides, Carmina goes on, Zoren explains the reason for the spanking: "Kinakausap naman niya kung bakit mali 'yong ginawa, 'tsaka may warnings naman siya pag medyo sumosobra na."
Carmina herself is incapable of administering a spanking: "Ako, hindi ko kaya! I will cry a river!"
"Ayokong maging senyorito 'yan," Zoren stresses. "Bawal mag-utos. Hindi puvedeng sumigaw 'yan ng Yaya from the second floor. Bawal 'yon sa bahay na, 'Yaya! I need this...'Ay, hindi. You have to do it yourself. Ayokong lumaking senyorito 'yan."
Carmina adds, giggling: "May mga times na nagdidilig sila ng halaman! Naglilinis ng kotse, ganoon! Para alam nila 'yong hard work."
Though the twins are undeniably adorable, Zoren says he cannot be swayed into allowing his kids to be let off the hook, especially when they've clearly violated his rules.
'"Yong nonay, nakukuha sa lambing. Ako, hindi. 'Tsaka natutunan na nila na pag hindi puwede, hindi na sila maglalambing dahil alam nila, final say na 'yong sinabi ko.
"Pero I'm not strict to the point na parang wala na silang freedom. Malaya 'yang mga 'yan. Minsan nga, naghahabulan 'yan dito, sasabihin ko, 'Hon, let them play. Bata 'yan, e, talagang maiingay 'yan.'Maluivag ako sa ganyan. Sa mall, pinatatakbo ko 'yan. Bahala kayo! Pero kunyari nasa tindahan na maraming babasagin: 'Dapat relax lang kayo, dahil baka makabasag kayo.'Depende lagi sa sitwasyon."
Also, Mommy and Tatay do not believe in giving "bribes" to make the kids abide by the rules.
"Ayokong isipin nila na pag may ginawa, e, laging may sukli," Zoren explains. "Sometimes you do it kasi you have to. It's an obligation. Katulad, kunyari, kapag may commercial. Ayoko 'yong, 'O, you smile, ha! We'll give you a toy, hal'Ang sinasabi ko, 'You better do your job, kas ipumayag kang mag-commercial' Hindi 'yong uutuin mo. Hindi ako ganoon."
Carmina agrees: "Let's say, kunyari, after shooting a commercial or whatever, kung feeling naman namin na deserved naman talaga, kung minsan we give them kahit na notebook lang na pagkamura-mura, para lang ma-feel nila na naa-appreciate namin sila. Gusto ko kasi, ma-feel rin nila, kahit na in small things lang, na naa-appreciate namin 'yong pagiging masunurin nila. Mas gusto kong gamitin 'yong term na 'reward' than 'bribe.'"
At seven years old, Mavy and Cassy already have their own rooms, equipped with their own television sets, filled with their own toys, and decorated with their favorite colors. But the two still prefer to sleep in their parents' room-and their parents aren't complaining.
"Ako nga, high school, nakadikit pa rin ako sa kilikili ng nanay ko, e," Carmina laughs. "I'm not joking!"
Zoren rationalizes: "Sa gabi, hindi mo masabi. Kunyari may mga emergencies. Marami nang nangyayaring ganyan, you know, nakahiwalay kayo... In case of emergency sa gabi, magkakasama kami. Mabilis ko silang makuha. Nasa akin kaagad."
"May isang night, si Mavy natulog sa sofa bed," Carmina relates. "Shucks! Nalungkot talaga ako. Andoon lang naman siya, same room. Sobra talaga akong affected. Sobra akong nalungkot. Sabi ko, 'Honey, bakit doon siya natulog? May nangyari ba?'
"'Tapos, tinatanong ko si Mavy: 'Are you sure you want to sleep there?' Nakita ko naman sa kanya na wala siyang tampo o kung anuman. 'Yes.' 'But why?' 'I just like, so that in the morning it's easier for me to get out of the room.'
"Hindi ako makatulog. Tinitignan-tignan ko siya. Sabi ko, 'Honey, please. Can you carry him? Puwedeng lipatin mo siya?' Sobrang hindi ako sanay. 'Tapos, noong umaga lumipat din siya sa may paanan namin."
For now, Carmina is more than happy and contented with their sleeping arrangement.
"Darating din naman doon sa point na, 'I want to sleep in my own room na.' Dadating 'yon, e. Kahit ano pa'ng mangyari. So aantayin na lang namin 'yon. Gusto muna naming i-cherish ito."
CARMINA ON ZOREN.When she's interviewed separately, Carmina talks other current relationship with Zoren.
"Nagko-complement kami sa isa't isa," she says. "Kasi ako, ma-panic ako na tao, O.C. [obsessive-compulsive], worrier. Siya naman, 'Okey long 'yan.' 'Yong sobrang relaxed, sobrang walang ka-tensiyon-tensiyon sa katawan."
She cheerfully narrates what happened just the previous night: "Sobrang ulan, sabi ko, 'Oh, my God! What's happening?' Siya, automatic, tayo agad, kinuha 'yong flashlight, kinuha 'yong ganito, kinuha 'yong ganyan, lumabas kaagad... Imaginin mo, ulan long, akala mo giyera na... Nakakatawa talaga siya!"
Turning a bit serious, she adds, "When he's here, I feel so safe. Hindi ko na kailangan mag-isip. 'Ay, nako. Zoren is here.'"
Also, while Carmina expresses her frustrations freely, Zoren chooses silence when he is starting to get irritated. But she has somehow learned how to gauge Zoren's temper.
"Bihira magalit yan. Pag nagkakaganoon na 'yan, hindi na nagsasalita, matatakot na talaga ako. Pero hanggat nagsasalita pa siya, hindi pa siya galit."
Between the two of them, Carmina admits, Zoren is the more practical when it comes to purchasing items-whether it is one of his techie gadgets or something as simple as a DVD.
"Meron siyang binibilihan ng DVD sa Podium. Inaantay niya talaga mag-sale. Inaabangan niya. Ang galing niya, kasi he can wait. Ako, I cannot. Kunyari, if I want to buy something, I can't wait. Hindi ko puwedeng sabihin na hintayin ko na long mag-sale. Kailangan mabili ko na siya! Siya, hindi. He's a very patient, very wise spender."
Aside from having a dependable and levelheaded partner, Carmina admits that she is lucky that her "Honey" pampers her.
"Puwede akong mag-baby sa kanya na, 'O, honey, I'm so tired. Can you please massage my feet?' Alam mo ba, from his computer-kahit na sobrang busy niya, kasi nga he edits and kasi nga nagdidirek siya at nag-aaral-pupunta pa 'yon sa bed para masahiin 'yong paa ko. Hindi long 'yong masahe na ganoon-ganoon long. As in, 'yong masahe talaga. Every nighttime 'yan, walang mintis!"
Zoren, Carmina proudly reveals, is not like other guys. He likes staying home with the kids.
"Mahilig siya sa bata. Kahit na sa mgapamangkin ko. Pag nandito nga lahat ng pamangkin ko, nakadikit sa kanya. 'Tapos, lahat kaming magkakapatid, Asan si Zoren?' Andoon, may babysitter tayo kasi sobrang hilig niya sa mga bata."
What's more, Zoren does not drink or go out to parties. Giggling, Carmina recounts a particular incident when he was persuaded to go clubbing.
"Minsan, kasama niya sina Beth Tamayo 'tsaka 'yong asawa niya [Johnny Wong]. Nagpunta sila sa Embassy! E, ako nga, hindi pa ako nakakapunta ng Embassy ever! Siya, nagpunta na! Nahiya daw kasi siya sa husband ni Beth, kasi ang bait daw. Sabi niya, 'Honey, is it okay...' 'Go! Umalis ka!' Kasi medyo slight anti-social siya, e... Minsan ako na 'yong, 'Honey, can you please go out!'"
Carmina says simply: "Wala akong problema sa kanya."
The couple have been together for over seven years now. Their strong foundation as good friends, Carmina says, is one of the keys to their lasting relationship.
"Hindi lang siya partner, he's also my friend. Kunyari, uuwi ako from work. 'O, how was your day?' Nagkuwe-kuwentuhan kami na parang hindi kami nagkikita... Kahit ano, pinag-uusapan namin. Minsan, hanggang three o'clock ng umaga, nagkuwe-kuwentuhan kami! 'My gosh! May life pa ako, honey!'"
She's referring to her program on GMA-7, Sis, which airs every morning from 10:40 to 11:40, Monday to Friday. And when the program goes on the air "live" rather than taped, she has to be in the studio early.
For Carmina, things couldn't be more blissful nowadays.
"When he asked me 'What do you want for your birthday?', I couldn't answer. Wala akong maisip na material or hindi material. As in, wala! Siguro, kasi nga sinasabi ni Zoren na, 'Siguro nga kasi, honey, kontento ka na.' Kontento na ako. I'm just super happy. Hindi siguro yong happiness kundi 'yong joy, 'yong inner joy. This is the real thing. Forever na siya... Parang na-feel ko na he's the one. Tapos, binigyan pa ako nitong dalawa [twins]."
Breaking the thoughtful mood, she ends with a shriek: "I love it!"
ZOREN ON CARMINA. Besides Sis, Carmina has two other regular shows on television, GMA-7's Nuts Entertainment and QTV-11's Day Off. She has a full weekday schedule and allots Saturdays for commercial tapings and pictorials. At night, after a whole day of work and household concerns, she cleans the house.
In a separate interview, Zoren says of Carmina's obsessive-compulsive (O.C.) behavior: "Sometimes she'll go home mga one or two a.m., hindi pa matutulog 'yan. May aayusin pang ganoon. I worry for her. Sabi ko, 'Hon, imbes na'pinapahinga mo na, nag-aayos kapa.'Pero doon daw siya nare-relax."
Unlike Carmina, Zoren is no neatness freak.
"Minsan mahilig lang akong magkalat ng gamit ko, but I know exactly where my things are. Pag tinignan mo, parang ang gulo-gulo, pero alam ko kung nasaan 'yan, at alam ko kung saan 'yang nandiyan. Pag nakita ko talaga na "obvious 'yong dumi, 'yon, pinapalinis ko na. Pero hindi ako 'yong I'll waste my time just cleaning the house or the car. Ang darning puwedeng gawin sa buhay, e. Hindi ko iti-trade 'yong playing with my kids just to fix the room. Kahit bumantot ang room ko, okey lang! Basta nakakalaro ko 'yong kambal."
Carmina's O.C. tendencies were annoying at first, Zoren admits, smiling. But he has learned how to deal with them. "Yong pagiging O.C. niya, I took advantage of it already na. 'Ay! Si Carmina naman ang mag-aayos niyan.'"
He credits his resilience to Carmina's quirks.
"Ako kasi, madali akong mag-adapt sa situation. Kunyari, sa banyo-two hours 'yan sa banyo, e!" He gives out a hearty laugh and reveals: "Nagko-computer siya doon! Sabi niya, doon daw siya nakaka-relax."
He has found a way to deal with this particular situation.
"Kunyari, gusto ko na gumamit ng banyo. Gumagawa ako ng solusyon. Yong mga ibang gamit ko, 'nilagay ko na sa banyo ni Mavy, para pag andoon siya [Carmina] sa banyo namin, doon na ako maliligo sa kuwarto ni Mavy. Kasi, pag pinatulan mo 'yon, mag-aaway kayo na, 'Ang tagal-tagal mo lagi! Laging ikaw ang nandiyan!' Kung iisipin mo, it's not a big deal. Ano ngayon kung two hours siya diyan? So ako na lang ang mag-aadjust."
Zoren says he and Carmina do not fight-at all.
"Walang reason para mag-away, e," he points out. "Kung mag-aaway kayo, meron kasi kayong pag-aawayan. Hindi nangyayari sa akin 'yon.
"Tatawagan niya ako, Asan ka? 'Sasabihin ko nasa bahay, minsan nasa tennis court, or nasa mall, kasama ko 'yong kambal. Tatlo lang 'yong nangyayari sa 'kin. 'Tapos, trabaho 'yong pang-apat. Kaya ako, hindi ako nagpapaalam diyan kung saan akopupunta. Uuwi ako kung kailan ko gusto umuwi, kasi na-earn ko na 'yong trust from her.
"Pag ako naman sa kanya, minsan lumalabas siya, pag napansin kong madalas na 'yong paglalabas niya, 'tsaka ko siya pagbabawalan: 'O, tatlong beses ka na ngayong linggo, a.'Makikinig naman siya."
He sums up: "Kaya siguro this relationship is working is because of 'yong harmony. Walang nagte-take-advantage. Give and take lang. Tsaka, 'yon nga, swak kasi kami, e."
Zoren, the self-confessed go-wifh-the-flow guy, says his patience does have its limits and some things do push him over the edge.
"Wag ka lang kokontra doon sa major rules ko."
One of the rules he tries to impose on Carmina is no kissing scenes.
"Sensitive ako sa mga ganoon, even though I am a director and I should understand. I do understand. Ang problema, hindi ko siya artista, e. Kung artista ko 'yan, sige! But she's not my actress.
"Minsan, nakakalusot siya. Hindi niya 'pinapaalam sa akin. Basta alam niya na ayaw ko 'yon. So, nasa konsensiya mo kung gagawin mo. Kunyari, ipapaalam ito sa 'yo: 'Ito, ayaw ko.'Ngayon, kung gawin mo 'yan, konsensiya mo. Bahala ka. Basta pag ginawa mo 'yan, masasaktan ako. Nasa konsensiya mo na 'yon."
Zoren confesses to being conscious with his actions as well, especially when he is in public.
"Especially now na nagdidirek ako, 'yong temptation mas grabe. That's why I'm very careful with my actresses. Kunyari, if they're going down the stairs, I call someone else to help them. Kasi mapiktyuran lang ako na hawak ko 'yong babae, iba na ang meaning.
"I'm not being malicious. I am just being careful. Ayoko lang na may masabi. Ang paniwala ko kasi, you should always make the right decisions. Lalo na ngayon, seven years na kami. Bakit mo pa sisirain?Pag nasira ito, ano? Bubuo ka ulit ng bago?E, di 'wag mo na sirain itong inumpisahan mo. Wag ka nang bumuo ng bago. Wag ka nang mag-create ng problema para gumanda itong inumpisahan mo."
Like Carmina, Zoren is exacdy where he wants to be and is content with whatever he has.
With his trademark smile, he says, "Wala akong insecurities sa buhay. Satisfied ako with whatever I have. Kahit sa kubo lang kami nakatira, basta magkakasama kami, okey na ako."
Seconds after Zoren says this, from another part of the house Carmina comes walking in with pizza for us. "O, ang tagal-tagal n'yo na riyan," she says. "Bino-bore na ba kayo niyan? May pizza dito, o, kain kayo!" The lovely lady of the house is all smiles, and so is the handsome man of the house.