Star Diva Carol Banawa is back.
She is the voice in the theme song of the family-oriented movie Tanging Yaman. Shelulled hopelessly romantic listeners with Stay, which she composed, among other ballads rendered in a clear angelic voice that the local music industry knew to be pure talent.
Some of her popular songs include Iingatan Ka (composed by Marizen Yaneza), Muntik na Kitang Minahal (by Babsie Molina), Sana ay Ikaw na Nga, and her rendition of Ocean Deep and Get Here.
For her very first album Carol garnered a Gold. Her three succeeding albums—Carol Repackaged, Transition, and Follow your Heart—are all Platinum holders.
Now the Star Diva—as she was called in her heyday—is back, if only for a limited time.
Last Friday, September 24, at the 14th Floor of the ELJ Bldg in the ABS-CBN complex in Quezon City, she signed a contract with Star Records. (CLICK HERE to watch Carol singing a portion of the song Stay)
Present were Malou Santos, ABS-CBN Senior Vice President and Head of Star Cinema and Star Records; Annabelle Regalado Borja, Vice President and Managing Director of Star Records; and Biboy Arboleda, Carol's manager.
Carol is set to record an album of songs that "would somehow connect to (her) experiences," as she puts it, two of which are original songs.
Her career was at its peak in the early years of this decade. But she left the music scene in 2003 to accompany her father, formerly an engineer in Saudi Arabia, for his medical treatment.
Tragically, he met an accident while on vacation here in the Philippines and suffered disabling injuries. Her elder and only brother died in that accident.
She returned to the country for a two-month visit with her ailing father, and thought of doing an album during her stay here.
"Tinawagan ko lang si Ate Annabelle [Regalado], ako yung nag-suggest. Na-miss ko kasi na kumanta, mag-record, ganyan.
"Yung reason kasi ng pag-uwi ko, nag-visit ako, yung papa ko kasi nandito pa din sila ng mama ko, and you know he is not really well. Matagal din siyang may sakit.
"So gusto ko ma-meet niya yung apo niya. Yung anak ko, hindi pa kasi niya name-meet. Si mama kasi, you know, she's flying back and forth.
"Kaya gusto kong iuwi para ma-meet niya, tapos nung nandito na ako, naisip ko, kasi puwede naman ako mag-stay ng one or two months, bakit hindi gumawa ng album para makapagsaya. Tinawagan ko si Ate Annabelle, natuwa naman sila sa idea."
CAROL'S FAMILY. She tells PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) and other members of the press on the afternoon of the presscon that her comeback has her husband's blessing.
His only request, she says, is that she and their daughter return to the U.S. in time for his birthday.
Carol is married to Ryan Crisostomo, who serves in the U.S. military. They were wed last January 25, 2006 at the St. Francis of Assisi Church here in the Philippines. They have one child, Chelsea, who is three years old.
Carol says, "Request lang niya na makabalik kami dun for his birthday, kasi two years in a row na hindi namin siya nakasama for his birthday.
"Two years ago, he was in Iraq. A year before that, nasa Arizona ako kasi dun ako nag-school. So this year, yun lang."
Carol lights up when asked about her daughter's first experience here in Manila. The moment they got out of the plane, she recounts, "Comedy 'yung anak ko. Mapapaaway ako sa mga comments ng anak ko, kasi pagbaba na pagbaba niya sa eroplano, 'Mom, what's that smell?'"
Her daughter Chelsea, who is turning four in January next year, knows only a little Pilipino. "Konti lang kasi tinuturuan ko siya yung basic, 'banyo, opo, hindi po', yung mga basics lang pero hindi talaga siya yung...
"Natuwa nga siya nung napanood niya yung Dora sa Channel 2. Sabi niya, 'Dora and Spongebob', e, nag-Tagalog si Dora, Sabi niya, 'Mama, what is she saying?'
"Sabi ko, 'Okay 'yan anak, mag-aral ka mag-Tagalog'. Maya-maya, sumasabay na siya, 'Sumagwan, sumagwan'. Mabilis naman yung pick-up, e. Trina-try niya."
This is the first time that her father is meeting Chelsea. "Trina-try ko nga na hindi siya [Chelsea] masyado matakot. Kasi si papa, hindi nga siya masyado nakakagalaw. Minsan awkward yung mga facial expressions niya.
"Pero si papa, kahit na alam mo na hindi siya medyo nandun, nakikita mo na nagre-react siya, na naiiyak siya.
"At least nakakapanatag ng loob na alam kong na-meet niya si Chelsea. Okay naman, lagi ko siya pinapa-greet, 'Say, Good morning, Lolo.'"
OLD FRIENDS. Carol also says that she and her other showbiz friends Nikki Valdez, Rica Peralejo, Kaye Abad, and Camille Pratts want a reunion.
"Puro text lang. Alam na nila na nandito na ako—si Kaye, si Rica, si Nikki, si Camille, alam na nila na andito na ako. Gusto nga nila mag-reunion kasi, siyempre, marami may asawa na, may mga babies na.
"So, 'play date, play date,' para may kalaro yung mga bata. We are planning on doing that. Especially yung Ang TV [their ABS-CBN show they were just kids], kami malaki na, tapos may mga bagets na.
"Si Rica na lang walang anak sa barkada, pero sabi niya project pa niya yun. School muna siya, sabi ko, 'Okay 'yan, keri mo 'yan.'
"We are planning it. Lalo na 'yung mga nanay magkikita-kita, so lola na sila ngayon. Tapos kami na yung mommies, tapos may mga babies na."
SHOWBIZ INTRIGUES. Is she ready for the intrigues that may surface about her comeback? Of the press possibly saying she got bored in America?
"Ine-expect ko yun, pero alam ko naman kung ano yung totoo. Hindi naman ako na-bored actually, kasi nag-school ako dun.
"Ang pinaka-goal ko talaga is maging nurse, so I'm still going for my school. So pagkatapos ko dito, maghahanap pa ako ng trabaho as a nurse pagbalik ko dun. Kasi fresh grad pa lang ako.
"Yung reason lang talaga kaya ako umuwi is for my dad, kasi nga may sakit siya, para ma-meet niya yung apo niya. And, eto, para makapag-record ulit since love ko naman talaga yung pagkanta," says the singer and former teen actress.
Asked if she can stay longer if opportunities for acting come around, Carol says she still has to decide one way or the other.
"Umm, tingnan na lang natin," Carol answers, smiling. "It's too early pa to decide na ganun, siyempre. Hindi na lang ako mag-isa nagdi-decide, may asawa na ako, siyempre yung anak ko, nandito din. So tingnan natin. We'll see."
The singer gives in to requests from the press to hear her voice again. She sings the mellow Stay. (CLICK here).
WORKING WITH AIZA. Her childhood friend, Aiza Seguerra, will produce her yet untitled album.
"Excited ako kasi huli kong nakasama si Aiza, 2004 pa. Nag-show kami sa Canada. Pero ito yung first time na ganitong klaseng trabaho," Carol recalls.
Carol says teaming up with Aiza was a cynch after she requested her recording company to give the comeback album an acoustic feel.
"Kasi sabi ko kay Ate Annabel, yung concept ng album, gusto ko acoustic yung dating. Kasi I've never done an album na ganun yung dating. Siyempre, sino maiisip mo? Acoustic, di ba? Aiza!"
CHARICE AND SARAH. PEP asked Carol what she thinks about Filipino international singer Charice Pempengco and her performance on the U.S. show Glee.
Carol is all praises for the 18-year-old Filipino star. "Ay, bonggang-bongga in a major way. Kanina nga pinapanood namin, kaya napapaganun ako [mimicking Charice's gestures] sa pagkanta niya."
Turning to the TV cameras present, she adds, "Charice, kung nanonood ka, we are so proud of you. Sobrang nakakakilabot, nakaka-proud lang as a Filipino."
Of the young performers on the scene today, singer-actress Sarah Geronimo, 22, is Carol's pick as the singer getting the kind of breaks she used to get.
"Yung nakikita ko na medyo familiar, na the way na nabigyan ng mga projects—the way Sarah is right now.
"Kasi yung album muna, kanta-kanta, then nag-teleserye, then kantaserye, di ba? Parehong-pareho, so parang nakakarelate ako."
However, Carol concedes, "Pero, si Sarah, parang bonggang-bongga na si Sarah ngayon!"
Can she see herself working with Sarah and doing a cameo on ABS-CBN's Idol?
Without batting an eyelash, she answers, "Why not?" She pauses, then remarks with a laugh, "Pero, parang, ano kaya ang role ko dun?"
Carol reveals that she is scheduled to guest in ABS-CBN's Sunday noontime show ASAP XV, which is directed by Johnny Manahan and features nearly all the big stars of the network, plus its newbies, too.
"Oo nga, nakaka-excite, makikita ko na sina Zsa Zsa [Padilla], si Vina [Morales]. Nami-miss ko yung ASAP days na may number kami nila Kuya Martin [Nievera].
"Si Tito Gary [Valenciano], hindi ko nakasama sa ASAP, pero it would be nice kung makasama ko sila Zsa Zsa ulit!"