Long ago, Kapamilya star Pokwang was a hardworking girl named Marietta Subong. With her siblings, she was a diyaryo-bote girl pushing a kariton in Antipolo subdivision and she was also a sampaguita vendor in front of Antipolo Church. She was extremely poor and showbiz fame was the farthest thing from her mind.
At the age of 17, Marietta was already eking out a living for her big family as an entertainer in Japan.
According to Filipino Musica's website, she also worked in Abu Dhabi as a dancer and cheoregrapher.
It was at that time that she experienced her "greatest tragedy," she said.
In an interview with a broadsheet and in later television features on her life, she related that when her six-year-old son was dying of a brain tumor, she was not allowed to end her six-month contract in Abu Dhabi. She also had no personal money to fly home to his side.
When she returned home for good, she worked as a singer/stand up comedienne at the comedy bar, Music Box (now closed), on Quezon Avenue in Quezon City.
People generally think that the job of a stand-up comic was easy money. Pokwang says no.
"Noong nasa Music Box pa lang ako, kapag rumaraket kami, minsan nararaket din ang pera namin. Hindi kami binabayaran kesyo wala raw kasi kaming customer. Kasalanan namin walang customer?
"'Tapos magba-bus ka lang sa madaling araw, nakakatulog ka na sa bus. Gigisingin na lang kami ng driver, nandoon na pala kami sa istasyon.
"Eksakto lang ang pera mo. Ang dami ko na ngang utang doon sa may carinderia sa tapat ng Music Box, e. Buti na lang nabayaran ko bago kami lumayas!" she says with a laugh.
And if Pokwang did not become the comedienne she is today, she says, still laughing, "Siguro ano ako, karpentero or kusinera sa canteen."
FROM COMEDY BAR TO SHOWBIZ. Pokwang still clearly remembers the day in 2004 when she almost missed her stepping stone to fame.
ABS-CBN had its talent-search segment, "Clown in a Million," in the defunct gag show Yes Yes Show in 2004. She did not intend to join the contest until she was convinced by a talent coordinator to try it out. Even then, her self-confidence was so low that she almost backed out.
Pokwang recalled, "Alam mo ba, noong nandoon na ako sa audience entrance, uuwi na dapat ako dahil natatakot ako, e. Pumapara na ako ng sidecar, ayaw ko na.
"'Tapos dumating na 'yong taong susundo, 'Ikaw ba si Pokwang?' Sabi ko, 'Ako nga.'
"[Sabi niya], 'Halika na, akyat na tayo.'
"Ayan na 'yong sidecar [sa tabi]. Siguro kung na-late siya ng mga ten to fifteen seconds, nakasakay ako doon sa sidecar, hindi na niya ako makikita. Aalis na ako. So, wala nang Pokwang, di ba? "
In the first place, even learning about "Clown in a Million"was a trick of fate. She was working nights at the Music Box and sleeping by day. She wasn't the kind to know what was on TV.
"Ano 'yan, e, aksidente lang 'yon," she relates. "Wala talaga akong alam na may contest na gano'n sa ABS-CBN. Bilang panggabi ang trabaho ko sa Music Box, hindi ako masyadong nakakapanood ng TV, sa araw tulog ako.
"'Yon lang, may nagpuntang talent coordinator sa Music Box. Nagtanung-tanong sila ng mga babaeng puwedeng mag-join sa contest na 'Clown in a Million.' May nagbigay ng number ko, 'yon pala papa-join-in ako sa contest. Tinawagan ako.
"Ang iniisip ko, ano 'yon? Magko-costume ako ng clown na parang Boyoyong? Pero, sige, trinay ko na rin."
Pokwang went to ABS-CBN a few times for a series of challenges. In the end, she was named the grand winner of "Clown in Million."
Right after winning "Clown in a Million," Pokwang landed a bit role in the comedy series Maid in Heaven. That same year, she allowed Maalaala Mo Kaya to relate her life story to the public.
The following years came with more blessings for Pokwang. These included comedy programs like Quizon Avene (2005) Aalog-Alog (2006) and Banana Split (2009), which showed her knack for delivering jokes.
Pokwang also proved to be a good comedy actress in several movies, like D' Lucky Ones (2006), Agent X44 (2007), Apat Dapat, Dapat Apat (2008). She also managed to get her brand of humor in the horror movie Cinco (2010). And in I Do (2010), she played the role of a caring but still funny mom to Erich Gonzales.
Her comic touch in the defunct Wowowee and now in Pilipinas Win na Win includes her eye-catching wardrobe. She no longer wears her outrageous Wowowee headdresses and attire, but her bright-colored fashion always reflects her jolly disposition.
In six years, the former singer-impersonator has become the princess of comedy in showbiz.
"Talagang kapag destiny mo, destiny mo. Kahit ano'ng gawing pigil sa'yo, kapag talagang doon ang punta mo, doon ang punta mo," Pokwang muses.
LOVE YOUR CRAFT. In all these years of giving fun and entertainment to the public, Pokwang says she never felt tired about her job.
"Masaya kasi ang trabaho ko, tawa ka lang nang tawa. Magsasawa ka ba nun, di ba? Masaya lang ang trabaho," adds Pokwang.
Pokwang is aware, of course, that her audience may lose interest if she keeps repeating her jokes. So she makes it her job to offer new comic twists.
"Nag-o-obserba ako sa mga paligid, sa tao, ganyan. Actually, paglabas ko pa lang ng bahay, tinitingnan ko 'yong mga kapitbahay ko, ano ba ang mga nakakatawang nakikita ko sa kalsada. May makikita kang nakakatawa, e. So, mas totoo, mas nakaka-relate ang mga tao," Pokwang says about how she improves her comedy skills.
Aside from taking care of one's talent, Pokwang advises aspiring comedians:
"Mahalin mo ang trabaho mo. Mahalin mo ang trabaho mo lalo na kung ang trabaho mo ay sa ganitong nasasakop ka ng industriya. Kasi, hindi ka palaging mainit, e, so mag-ipon ka.
"Mahalin mo ang mga makakatrabaho mo. Hindi ako nakaranas ng minaliit ako ng mga artista na nakatrabaho ko. In fairness, lahat ng mga malalaking artistang nakatrabaho ko, alam niyo na kung sino kayo, never akong nakaramdam ng out of place ako or nahiya because sobrang ina-appreciate nila ako. Tinanggap nila ako ng ganun, kahit na nag-uumpisa pa lang ako.
"Kaya 'yong mga baguhan na katulad ko rin, na dumaan sa parang ako dati, pinakikisamahan ko sila. Kasi naman, di ba, nakaranas ako ng ganun sa mga big stars so, sino ba naman ako para tarayan ang mga ito."
Words of wisdom indeed from a celebrity who well deserves the admiration of her fans for her humility and upbeat view on life.
Today, the celebrity comedian says, "Wala na akong mahihiling pa," and says she's grateful to all those who helped her climb from her diyaryo-bote days to the limelight.