Sharon Cuneta: The Happy Homemaker!

Aug 1, 2011
For YES! Magazine's 10th-anniversary issue, Sharon Cuneta opens up her lovely home in upscale Wack Wack, Mandaluyong, and talks about being a homebody, cooking up a storm, being a hopeless bookworm—and how, in fact, she is happiest when she is with family. (YES! April 2010 issue)

Sharon is in the dining room, in a comfortable long-sleeved purple top, her face without make-up, after wrapping up her cover pictorial for YES! Magazine. She's talking about her daughters—the 10-year-old Simone Francesca Emmanuelle, better known as Frankie, and the 5-year-old Mariel Daniella Sophia, better known as Miel.

"Both of them are very malambing," she says, her hands busy clasping and unclasping a hair clip. "Frankie is the one who made mana the singing, and Miel is the dancer, a graceful dancer."

As if on cue, the doors of the dining room open, and Frankie and Miel rush in. Sharon's mouth widens into a smile. "Hi, honey!" she exclaims. She receives the kids in a tight hug and peppers them with kisses, asking how their day went and if they went swimming with their Pangilinan cousins.

A few moments earlier, Sharon stood up from her seat, went into the kitchen, and took out a wet towel with which she removed a stain on Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan's T-shirt. We wish the cameras captured those moments for us, if only to reveal a side of the Megastar that is reserved only for her three daughters and her husband.

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Sharon admits that she has more time for her family now. That wasn't the case when family meant only KC and her. At that time, Sharon was doing three movies a year. Now, she spends most of her free days with the kids. And even if this takes its toll on her, sapping her of energy, she doesn't mind. "Mas masaya ngayon," she says. "Kasi there's more than one child. Pero para silang sampu! Pero I love it talaga."

It comes as no surprise that Frankie and Miel are attached to their mom, maybe even more so than regular kids are to their mothers. But Sharon is not complaining.

"I'm very proud of it, but more than the pride, I'm really, really blessed and really grateful that it's the way it is, that we're really all attached to each other. Miel says, 'Mama, I can't sleep without you.' So I sleep in their rooms. I put them to sleep—Miel first, because she falls asleep faster, and then Frankie. I really put them to sleep like babies.

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"After that, I spend time with Kiko. And then Kiko and I ask, 'Do we sleepat?' That means we lipat them in their own rooms since they're already asleep.

"So it's usually me, Miel, Kiko, and Frankie. Sometimes, Frankie will say, 'Miel naman! Mama's also my mom too.' So it's nice naman, they're fighting over you!"

It won't be long before Frankie and Miel will have more competition for their mom's affection. The family recently welcomed an addition to their brood—a three-month-old baby boy named Miguel.

"Sa kanya lang ako hindi tumaba!" Sharon laughs as she introduces us to the handsome and smiling baby that she and Kiko have decided to adopt.

The plan to adopt wasn't a decision made in a rush. Sharon says there have always been offers for her to take in a baby. This was even before she got married to Kiko. And now that she already has three girls, it only seemed logical to adopt a boy.

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"In the beginning, it wouldn't have mattered," she says. "But after my three girls, parang I was thinking how nice it would be to adopt a boy. And Kiko and I were saying maybe when they're bigger."

But when Sharon got a call from someone about Miguel, something inside her made her come to a quick decision, even if she hadn't seen the baby. "Wala ni MMS, wala pa 'kong nakikita. I really said, 'Akin 'yan! Wait, wait, gagawan ko ng paraan.'"

She talked to her husband next. "I just said, 'There's a baby,' ganyan-ganyan. 'Can I borrow him first just to play with him?' Hahaha! Ayaw ko nang ibalik! He asked, 'Up to when is the baby staying, sweetheart?' 'Forever? Can we have him forever?' Pero nai-in-love-in-love na siya. After that, he said he wants to make the lives of Filipinos better, and this one baby is given to us, di ba?"

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The couple then decided to talk to the little girls about the latest member of the family. "Kinausap namin, because that was one of the concerns, parang baka magselos. But you know what, oddly enough, I think it will balance out the rivalry between the two pa, e. Because there's rivalry whether they admit it or not, e, di ba? Actually that's what happened. Miguel balanced it out."

Sharon says everyone is enamored with Miguel, even Frankie and Miel.

"The girls love him so much, they sleep nga in his room. Sabi ko naman, buti 'yon, tipid sa aircon, hahaha! Happy sila diyan. I put them to sleep. I'm hugging Miel and holding Miguel's hand, and then Frankie's in the other bed. Paggising ko, I ask for coffee, and then I'll ask yaya to bring him in the room, or I go to his room. Miguel comes in with the yaya, and if Miel hasn't gone to school yet, she comes with Miguel. Because Frankie leaves early for school, e. We're just there, together."

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The addition of baby Miguel has apparently added another dose of happiness to Sharon's already fulfilled life. Even her friends have noticed that she wears a brighter smile these days. We witness this during our shoot, when Sharon often looks for Miguel in between takes, and melts into a puddle as she talks to her son, telling him how much she loves him.

She tells us: "You know, my smiles that are really from my heart of hearts, they're the ones reserved for my kids, 'cause they're the only ones that can bring them out. That's a kind of smile only they can bring out. You know, if I had my way, I would only work so I can save enough, so we can travel and then we can shop, di ba?"

IN THE KITCHEN. Many things Sharon loves doing with her kids today are the very things that she has loved doing since her own childhood, like cooking and baking, which are again the very things she never tires of talking about. Sharon's vibrant laughter fills the room as she recalls the many creations she whipped up that were all, it turns out, a hit with family and friends.

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"I made my first cake when I was seven years old," Sharon recalls. "I still have the recipe in my head. It was butter cake. My mother's friend, Tita Mary de Guzman, and her daughter Teressa came to our house once. Ate Teressa taught me how to bake it, and it just stuck. I taught it to Frankie, and she's made it already, and it's still the same! Nakakatuwa lang, di ba?"

Sharon also learned to cook at about the same age that she learned to bake. After all, she grew up in a family that loves food and happens to be good at making it. "My mommy would cook, all my titas would cook. When they came to the house, we'd cook. When we go to my lola's house, we'd cook! It was always about the doing the little things."

One of the people whom Sharon has always aimed to please with her cooking is her Kuya Chet. "My brother is pihikan," she says. "Parang all this time, my goal has always been to please his palate. So when he says, 'Grabe, ang sarap nito!,' then you know it's really yummy. Like my roast beef, he'll say: 'Ano 'yan, what are you putting?' The guy lived in England, ha, so he knows roast beef. And when he ate what I cooked, he said, 'Oh, my God, it's better than at any hotel and ganyan.' So I know na. Wala naman siyang hininging favor no'n, hahaha!"

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Sharon actually compares cooking a delicious dish to making a good movie. "When you make something and people appreciate it, para kang may box-office hit. Ang cute, di ba? Food is really big in our home. Saka, I always tweak according to my taste, because we're Pinoy, e. We don't like bland. Katakawan, that helps, hahaha!"

The Megastar, who also shines in the kitchen, lists carrot cake, banana bread, red velvet cake, pineapple upside-down cake, and chocolate strawberry cake among her specialties. When she was still pregnant with Miel, there was a time Sharon baked up to seven cakes a day!

"It was in our house in Sta. Rosa, Laguna," she recalls. "I was making recipes that were 20-25 years old. Sabi ko, parang, teka, hindi ko pa 'ata nagagawa ito. E, wala akong magawa. I had all the time in the world!

"So I pulled out my own recipe box, and my God, it was at night, I think I was writing down what recipes I'd do the next day. The next day, I'd wake up early automatically at seven in the morning. At seven-thirty, magbe‑bake na 'ko."

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Whenever she is in a baking mood, Sharon admittedly goes all out with the ingredients, and produces sumptuous treats that are enough for everyone.

"For everyone talaga. Enough for all the household help, the boys, the security guards and the bodyguards and drivers. So when they know, magti-tip na sila [sa iba], so they're all waiting for me to finish baking. It's so cute. I love it when the house smells of that, and then you mix pa the smell of coffee-baked goods and coffee! That's the best, the most comforting blend of aromas."

Sharon turns out to be an adventurous cook as well, concocting her own recipes, and even taking pictures of dishes she'd experiment with at home. She says cooking gives her an unexplainable satisfaction.

"It really takes away so much stress. You're physically tired when it's a very long day and you made so much, but I think it's a reward you can't quantify. I'm like that. It's really the simple joys that make me happy."

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AROUND HER BOOKS. One of those simple joys that Sharon has turned into a passion is reading and collecting books. The Megastar has such an insatiable love for books that she is slowly running out of storage for the thousands of titles she has amassed over the years.

"There are books stored in the attic," she says. "We have a library, but it's really tiny. My bedroom has walls with cabinets, Miguel's room has cabinets, the hallway has cabinets—that's all my books. I also bring some to our house in Laguna. They always have to remind me, 'Madam, five days lang po tayo do'n,' kasi ang dami kong dala. Parang hindi ako mabubuhay na wala ang mga libro ko."

Sharon has now hired an assistant who catalogues her books, but the assistant is having a hard time finishing the task, what with the arrival every two weeks of at least 50 new titles, which Sharon orders herself from the Internet. "I'm on Amazon several times a week," she says, referring to the online retailer of books, songs, and DVDs, among other products.

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"You know, sometimes I have to wean myself off the computer, because when there's a new cookbook and you're trying to get it, it leads you to other cookbooks and so on! That's my biggest expense. And I'm fine with it because I'm building together a library that maybe even my grandchildren will be proud of."

What, we ask, is the kind of library she dreams of?

"The one in the movie Beauty and the Beast!" she says with a laugh. In the animated Disney movie Beauty and the Beast, the character of the Beast lives in a castle and has a huge library with bookshelves reaching several stories high, accessed via winding staircases. "Sobra naman, hindi naman," Sharon qualifies. "A tiny version lang, hahaha!"

But Sharon adds that the perfect storage for all her books, without exaggeration, would be something like the bookstore Fully Booked, particularly the branch that's located in The Fort, Taguig City. Yes, all three floors of it.

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The self-confessed bookworm says she has a fetish for pristine books, which is why she will not write on their margins, use highlighters, or fold their edges. "I did it once, and I felt bad after. I highlighted most of the pages, so I had to get another copy. Now I just put Post-It's. I also don't dog-ear my books. I'm very neat when it comes to that. Even some magazines, the ones for keeps, I make balot."

Sharon has passed on her love of reading to her kids, to whom she reads bedtime stories before she puts them to sleep. Even baby Miguel, she swears to us, has picked up on his mom's passion. "My God, 'yon ang minana," she gushes. "Three months old, ha, when you put a book in front of him, he would really look at the book. 'Tapos, try mo tanggalin, iiyak! Oh, my God, even my son got it. Hahaha!"

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Aside from cooking and reading books, Sharon and her girls also share the same interest in arts and crafts. "I'm really a paper person. Ever since I was little. More than dolls, I liked paper dolls, hehe. When my girls and I are together, we're all about pens and paper—and stickers!"

The dining table is big enough for Sharon and the kids to do all of their art stuff, but they often work on it right on Sharon's bed.

"I have several lap desks with pillows underneath. There's a wide one but it's lightweight. And then another one with light-I use it very much. I have a collection of different-colored pens and paper. The pen doesn't have to be expensive for me to love it. Sabi ko nga, wala kaming third party ni Kiko. Ang third party namin, 'yong mga papel ko, magazines at libro!"

FAMILY TIES. Indeed, Sharon and Kiko's marriage looks able to weather all rumor and skepticism, which seem to hound any marriage of showbiz and politics.

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They celebrated their 14th wedding anniversary last April 26, 2010. Although both busy with their own careers, the Megastar and the senator make sure to do one very important thing: spend time with each other and bond with their kids. The family often stays in on weekends to watch a movie.

Sharon also confesses that, although she's the best-selling recording artist, her husband is the real singer in the family. "The moment you give him the mic in any party, sorry na lang, i-accept mo na, na concert niya 'yon. Di na niya ibabalik. Tapos na ang party, ayaw pang umuwi. Hahaha!"

But what's keeping Senator Kiko busy these days is the electoral campaign. He's not a candidate himself, but he's a member of the Liberal Party, and he's actively campaigning for Senators Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III and Mar Roxas, his party's candidates for president and vice-president.

"Minsan, nagtatampo ako sa kanya," Sharon says. "Kasi sobrang busy sa kampanya. I ask him, 'Where are you going?' 'To meet with the lawyers.' 'Di ba, you already met with the lawyers kagabi?' Ewan ko ba, feeling ko minsan kasi, mag-boyfriend lang kami, hahaha! When Kiko said he wasn't running for the 2010 elections, kulang na lang magtata-tumbling ako sa tuwa!"

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Still, no matter how busy Sharon and Kiko's schedules get, they make sure to set aside a time to travel. Sharon admits that they and their kids get to bond more whenever on a trip out of the country. "We do it every year," Sharon says. "Ako, I work hard to save up for vacation. Kiko also sets aside a budget. We help each other."

The latest trip saw the whole family playing with snow in Saporo, Japan. "All of us, it was our first time in Saporo. It was a snow festival. In the plane, you can see from a window, it was all white. And you just say a prayer, 'Lord, thank you for snow. Please make us memories in this place.' And we did. We were pretty active. There was snowball fighting, running left and right. We took walks, not long walks, but a few blocks, all together as a family. We ate every meal together and we shopped together. We had so much fun!"

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Sharon's longtime friend and make-up artist, Fanny Serrano, says that it is really abroad that Sharon gets to pamper her family. "Very hands-on siya," TF (short for Tita Fanny) says. "Mahilig siyang karga-kargahin ang mga bata. May isang picture sa memory ko na ang ganda-ganda. Sa abroad 'yon, iyong tatlong batang babae ang nakaikot sa kanya. Ang sayang tingnan."

When traveling, Sharon brings no househelp along, except for the yayas of the two girls. "When it's just me and Kiko, I do everything myself. I don't know why people are surprised when I tell them that. Oo, gamit ko iyon, e. Siyempre, alam ko mag-pack. Ako nagturo sa kanila! Hahaha!"

And it's not like the yayas have their hands full with the kids. Sharon is proud that Frankie and Miel have never caused trouble. "When we're on the plane, parang walang bata. They're very well-behaved. We've gotten so many compliments from strangers. They're really like that. They'll sit and ask, 'Mama, how long?' 'Yes, baby, time to sleep.' Minsan naman, 'Mama, how short?' 'You won't even finish one movie.'"

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The girls bring their own iPods, and watch cooking shows to pass the time. "Cooking shows talaga ang gusto nila! And I put cartoons, ha, and they still watch the cooking shows. You put na in their iPods and you give them the iPods, and they'll borrow pa your iPod para they can watch the show. Naku, it's useless. I better just put the cooking shows in their iPods as well. We enjoy the cooking shows of Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver, and Ina Garten."

All three chefs Sharon mentions have their own cooking shows in the U.S.A.'s Food Network channel and have also authored several books on cooking. In the Philippines, their shows are aired over the cable channel Lifestyle Network.

RAISING THE GIRLS. If Frankie and Miel are turning out to be well-mannered girls, Sharon and Kiko get the credit for bringing them up right. They make sure the girls don't get a false sense of entitlement, thinking of themselves as showbiz royalty.

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"We constantly remind them that it doesn't make them better people, just because they come out in commercials," Sharon says. "You try to keep them in line, and make sure their heads are not bigger than their hats."

Her friend TF adds: "Si Sharon, ibang mag-nurture sa mga bata. Pag kausap mo sina Miel, sina Kakie [Frankie], nakakatakot. Parang matanda—'yong alam mong may kausap kang matalino at matured na tao, pero bata?"

Sharon and Kiko also share duties when it comes to disciplining the kids, although Kiko is more strict in implementing the rules.

"I get awa to Frankie when she gets grounded," Sharon says. "Minsan lang, maraming distractions, sasabihin niya nag‑study na siya. Okey naman grades niya, pero alam namin minsan pag nadi-distract, pag 'yong may moments na pinapayagan sila mag-TV. Mayroon talagang schedule on the weekends, and she can do a couple of hours every day. Pero minsan, pag sumosobra—'yong gano'n ba? Kiko is very strict about that. Ako minsan 'yong partner-in-crime, e, devil's advocate. Parang, 'I'll let you watch TV today, kawawa ka naman.' 'No, Mama. Dad will find out.'"

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Sharon says she and Kiko are also not above spanking their children.

"Si KC, I spanked her when she was four, iyong peke lang. Mas psychological iyong kanya. Si Frankie, iyong quota ko sa ate niya, noong three years old siya, ubos na. Now it's Kiko that does it. Parang I lost na my nerve after Frankie.

"And you know, parang kaming mag-asawa, alam na namin pag di na magwo-work iyong palo, so talk na ang kailangan. Pero hindi nawawala 'yong 'Face the wall, no looking, no talking to anybody, no watching TV from the side.' They're scared of Kiko, kasi sobrang loving sa kanila din ang daddy nila, e. So, pag may disciplinary action, tanggap nila."

Sharon also constantly gives advice to her eldest daughter, 24-year-old KC Concepcion (she turned 25 on April 7,2010), to help the latter cope better with the ins and outs of showbiz, an industry whose workings Sharon knows only too well.

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When KC once let out steam in her personal blog about reporters who had a negative reaction to her meeting with her father, actor Gabby Concepcion, Sharon was there to put out the fire before it even started.

"I told her, 'You choose your battles. You can't make patol everything that comes out, because that's the least of it. There's more coming, and you will have to face even worse fabricated stories and lots of lies and paninira.' You just have to distinguish between the ones that are very constructive or the ones that are just destructive. You cannot allow yourself to be affected by everything."

KC has certainly come a long way since then, and Sharon says she still feels thankful that even though they both have busy schedules, she and KC still get to spend quality time together.

"Kuwentuhan lang kami, or we eat lang together. Minsan, hihiga 'yan sa tabi ko. Kinikilig naman ako, kasi para siyang baby pa. She asks for my advice, gano'n. She opens up, and I'm grateful. She's a good kid."

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Sharon adds that KC has inherited her love for show business.

"She works hard. She works like a horse. Sometimes I get upset, and she says, 'You were like this naman before.' Now I have a comeback. 'I had you to feed. You have no one to feed.' Hahaha!"

SEASONED PRO. Sharon can't blame KC if the girl works as hard as the mom does. After all, the Megastar has set a precedent that's hard to match. It's no mean feat to last 31 years in a business where each star has an expiration date.

But Sharon truly seems driven to work not by the need to stay relevant or because of a love for the trappings of stardom, but because of genuine passion for her work.

"I need to work to express my creativity," she says. "So I can have an outlet for my artistic inclinations. But also, I work to get paid to fulfill my other dreams. I have many utang, which is good for me. That has always been my drive, kasi at this stage in my life, it's so tempting to just stop working. Parang okey na, I have everything I need, di ba? But my dreams, wala pa, e."

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These dreams include building her own boutique hotel and possibly a beach resort in the future.

"Just a small boutique hotel. One that offers relatively reasonable prices and not too intimidating. Maybe with a good restaurant or a pastry shop downstairs. I would love to bake myself, but I can't keep it up every day. Then a beach resort with white sand, not too tiny but also not too big that it's scary."

The Megastar tells us that these dreams stem from her own travels with her family when she was still a child.

"We would travel before. My parents would bring us to Europe. We never knew if we were going to be put in the front with them in the airplane or in coach, my brother and I. So whatever it was, you couldn't demand. Same with hotels.

"Sometimes we stayed in five-star hotels or pension houses. I don't know if they made it sadya, e. I used to look forward to the pension houses, or the time we'd stay in three-star hotels.

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"Especially when we went to the countryside—kunwari in England, or France in Lourdes—you would see the tiny ones. I always dreamed of having my own. That's the influence of my traveling and staying in many, many places when I was small, grade school pa.

"So I said, 'Someday I'm gonna have my own boutique hotel with the little restaurant, one that's not too big so that it can be personalized.'"

Obviously, Sharon is generally a happy person with bright plans, but she does have her off days.

"I'm really nice, but on the other end also of the spectrum, I can have a really bad temper. But I'm not somebody to get physical. What happens is, I become so emotional, it affects me physically.

"Parang I lose my voice, I almost come down with the high fever, 'yong gano'n ba. I get so affected and I palpitate, it's not good for me. So when I'm pushed to the extreme already and I scream my head off again, it puts me in a place that I'm not really happy to be in, so that makes me wanna take a step back."

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Whether Sharon is having a bad day or not, one thing is for sure—her fans will not be treated to a half-baked performance.

Tita Fanny Serrano says Sharon does not mix her personal problems with work: "Isa sa bilib na bilib ako sa kanya ay 'yong pagha-handle niya ng problema. Kumbaga, hindi niya 'dinadamay ang trabaho. Kahit anong tindi ng iyak niyan, pag sumigaw ka ng 'Lights, camera, action!' wala na 'yon.

"Minsan, may concert kami abroad, iyak siya nang iyak backstage, punas ako nang punas. Sabi ko, 'O, ikaw na.' Pag-akyat sa stage, parang walang nangyari. Sabi ko nga, 'yan ang pinakamagandang klase ng kaplastikan, 'yong pro ka pa rin sa trabaho."

Anna Dasig, a Sharonian for 15 years who has developed a close friendship with the Megastar for close to 10 years, adds: "Si Sharon kasi, di naman siya nandadamay ng taong wala namang kinalaman sa problema niya. Kaya nga palaging happy ang atmosphere niya, kasi di niya dinadala sa trabaho ang problema niya."

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Cathy Perez, business unit head for the weekly talk and variety show Sharon, has worked with the Megastar since 1988, when the star was still hosting the variety show The Sharon Cuneta Show (TSCS).

She says Sharon always has her fans in mind, which is why she sets aside whatever is bothering her for that day in order to give her audience a good show.

"Minsan para siyang loka-loka," Cathy says. "Pag nasa dressing room, malungkot, bagsak ang katawan, kasi pagod. Pero pag kausap na niya ang audience niya, okey na siya. Kasi, siyempre, iniisip niya, ang tagal naghintay no'ng mga taong iyon para makita at makausap siya. Alam niya iyong responsibilidad niya sa viewers. No'ng minsan, may concert, 'tapos malungkot siya. Sinabihan ko lang siya sa backstage ng 'Inay, smile! Life is beautiful!' Ayun, ngumiti na, tumawa na siya."

Cathy, who was still a production assistant when she started working with Sharon, adds that the Megastar has also learned to handle her emotions better over the years: "Dati, no'ng mga TSCS days, halatang-halata mo pag may problema, kasi closing song pa lang, umiiyak na siya. Pati kami, umiiyak na rin. Pero ngayon, kering-keri na niya. Nag-mature na rin siya sa pagdadala ng problema."

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Tita Fanny, who has worked with Sharon as a make-up artist for more than two decades now, reveals that Sharon has never demanded special treatment from him. She's aware that, as a professional, TF also has other clients to attend to.

"Ang respeto sa akin ni Sharon, grabe," says TF. "Kapag alam niyang may nauna sa kanya sa schedule ko, hindi niya ipipilit. Hindi 'yan magdi-diva. Ayaw na ayaw niya noon. Hindi sa ipinagyayabang ko—maraming beses na, na nag-adjust siya sa schedule ko, kasi gusto niya, ako ang kasama niya. Kaya pag may trabaho 'yan, ang unang sasabihin niya, 'Paki-check ang sked ni TF.'"

SHARON'S GIVING HEART. It's those little considerations for others that has endeared Sharon to her co-workers and has not only lengthened their professional relationships but has nurtured personal friendships as well.

Cathy tells us that, long after she was assigned as an executive producer for another show, she still continued to work for TSCS without pay, all because of Sharon. "Maganda kasi ang naging relasyon namin," Cathy says. "Lately na nga lang niya nalaman iyon, e. Pero sabi ko sa kanya, gano'n talaga. Pag mahal mo ang isang tao, magagawa mo iyong gano'n."

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Crissy Baluyot, executive producer for Sharon, says every member of the staff gets a Christmas gift from the Megastar, even those that are no longer working for her. Cathy adds: "Hindi lang basta nagbibigay ng regalo. Alam niya ang laman ng regalo. Sasabihin niya, 'Cathy, maputi ka kasi, kaya red ang pinili kong kulay. Bagay sa 'yo.'"

TF has also witnessed Sharon's generosity many times. "Iba talaga si Sharon pagdating sa thoughtfulness," he says. "Noong bago pa kaming magkaibigan, magugulat ako, biglang magreregalo. 'Ano okasyon?' 'Wala. I saw it, naisip kita.' Minsan naman, nasa abroad kami. Nasa labas ako, pumasok siya sa Louis Vuitton. Tinawag niya ako. Nag-ask ng opinion ko kung alin ang maganda sa display. Kunwari daw, kung ako ang bibili, alin daw bibilhin ko. 'Tinuro ko, binili niya. Pagdating namin sa hotel, 'binigay sa akin. Sa akin pala talaga 'yon!"

Sharon's generosity extends to her co-workers' loved ones. When Cathy's daughter, who's also Mega's goddaughter, celebrated her fifth birthday, Sharon sent goodie bags for the party. "Sabi ko sa kanya, maliit na birthday party lang. 'Tapos, nagpadala siya sa bahay ng mga bags na ang laman ay Bench products. E, di ba, puwede na sa mga bata iyong mga candy, chocolate? Iyon, ang laman-suklay, pabango!"

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When Cathy's husband died in October last 2009, Sharon again extended her help. "Pinasabi niya sa EP namin na siya na ang sasagot ng lahat ng gastos sa ospital," Cathy says. "May health card naman iyong asawa ko, so hindi na kailangan. Pero just the thought na gagawin niya iyon, di ba?"

This love that Sharon gives to her friends and co-workers is also the same reason why they have remained loyal to her all these years.

Anna Dasig adds: "Hindi lang siya generous sa pagtulong sa kapwa. Generous din siyang magbigay ng pagmamahal at importansiya sa isang kaibigan."

As showbiz reporters note, some of the people Sharon doesn't fail to give importance to are her fans. Every year, she holds a free birthday concert at the Araneta Coliseum, which gets packed to the rafters with loyal Sharonians from all over the globe. Around 70 of her fans are also privileged to get personal Christmas gifts from her every year. And of course, Sharon perennially obliges fans' requests for photo ops.

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"I don't understand ang mga artista na 'yong all of a sudden it's such a big deal for them to have their picture taken with a fan," Sharon laments. "When someone approaches you in a decent way, parang ang kapal mo naman para tumanggi. It's so much easier to smile. Ang dali-daling ngumiti. Bakit nagpapasungit 'tong mga 'to? It doesn't make you a better person pag nagsungit ka.

"In fact, ang bastos mo, di ba? Hindi ka naman binabastos, humihingi lang ng konting ano sa 'yo. Wala ka namang kotseng ganyan kung hindi dahil sa mga 'yon. I don't get it. Parang when we think about it, it's so simple, e. Parang ang daming taong nagpapakomplika sa buhay nila."

Sharon knows that a simple gesture from a star can have a huge impact on the fan.

"Let's say you're a celebrity, you smile at your fan, you just say hi, or you signed something. I don't know if others have sat down and thought about it, but do you know how long that smile will stay with them? And how they'll carry it in the sense that when they get home, they're going to relay the story to their family, and the whole family will feel good for this person, and the friends—it's a domino effect. And what did you do? You smiled!"

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Sharon adds that she is not beyond surprising a fan or going the extra mile just to return the favor of the admiring public that has made her into who she is today: "When they think you're giving them something, they don't know that they're really the ones giving you something to take home with you, di ba?"

Hers are natural people skills, and the Megastar credits her parents for these.

"It's never taken much effort on my part to be nice to the fans," she says. "I think also because Daddy was a politician, and Mommy was a stickler for manners. So siguro, sanayan lang. My brother and I, we'll be able to adapt to any situation.

"I think that's the advantage of having had a politician for a father, and a mother who was a good politician's wife who watched her kids and made sure they acted correctly, wherever they were placed. Usually I'm Ms. Congeniality, e. It's okay with me. Mas mabo-bother siguro ako pag walang pumansin sa akin. As long as they're nice, they're decent, and nobody makes you bastos. And besides, I'm maldita if someone tries to make me bastos."

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THE JITTERS. It's hard to imagine that a seasoned performer like Sharon still gets the jitters when she's about to perform in front of a crowd. But she does. And what does Sharon do to calm her nerves? She watches horror movies!

For some strange reason, it's always comedian Candy Pangilinan, Senator Kiko's cousin, who catches Sharon calming her nerves in this unusual way.

"Si Candy lagi ang nakakakita," Sharon guffaws."Once, she guested in my show in Canada. She entered my dressing room. 'Ate, iyan ang pang-relax mo just before the show? The Eye?' 'Oo! Yeah, it's comforting.'

"Pagdating namin sa Araneta [Coliseum]during my birthday concert, nito lang, pasok na naman si Candy. 'O, Exorcist naman!'

"That's my favorite horror movie! I think it's because I have to remind myself that there are scarier things out there than what I'm about to do. Hahaha! 'Yon ang sabi ko. Mas nakakatakot naman ang The Eye kaysa sa kakanta ako sa harap ng 15 thousand people. Hahahaha! Mas nakakatakot naman 'yong The Eye, mas nakakatakot naman 'yong napo-possess.

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"And then, once I'm on the stage, I don't know why I got nervous in the first place. After one or two songs, I'm all free. It's like, 'Let's stay here till tomorrow!' Hahaha! Parang it reminds me, 'Oh, yeah, I love this.'

"I think it's worrying about the possibility of disappointing your audience somehow. But then, you know what, there's no secret to it, e. I think the key is when you're so in love with what you do, it just really comes through. You know it, you admit it. So everybody else is absorbed.

"And then you absorb all this energy, all those people are there to see you, so all that love that they're emitting is directed at you, and that's what you're getting. So, you know, I wish everyone could experience it, but I'm just grateful that I can. You can't name it, e. You can't put a label on it."

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To add to Sharon's list of achievements through the years, there is her role as product endorser. Her credibility, coupled with her natural charm, have made her one of the most trusted and highest-paid celebrity endorsers in the country today. This is a feat that she doesn't take lightly. And it also gives her the jitters.

"Diyan ako takot," she says of endorsing a product that is not true to what it's saying. "You're in a position, and it's a huge responsibility. Especially kami, kunwari me, I'm paid to endorse a certain product and company. Kunwari kahit corned beef noon, sana I need to know how they're doing in the market.

"Can they send me a sample? They have to send me walang label, I have to cook it, I have to eat it. It's really basic like that. It's a product that I really have to be familiar with. Iyong parang, 'Oh, my God, yes! I've always wanted to do that.' 'Yong gano'n ba?

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"Even Super Ferry before, we had to have a meeting, and I had to ask about their safety guidelines. Baka sabihin, 'E, gagawa ka lang naman ng commercial.' Kasi feeling ko, pag nagkalintik-lintik diyan, gusto kong malaman na act of God naman. Hindi dahil may neglect, kasi sasabihin ko sa tao, 'Sakay na kayo dito!' 'Yon pala, super ano 'yong record nila. So parang you do your best, what's humanly possible."

Sharon is very aware that her name can immediately give a sense of assurance to consumers to buy the product she's endorsing. So she makes it a point, she stresses, to make it worth their money and peace of mind.

"I'm very careful with my endorsements. You know that you're being hired to endorse companies and products because you have a certain degree of influence because of your position. And if you misuse it, can you imagine, parang it's also making a fool out of your supporters, fooling even yourself, and knowing that you just made a nice buck out of something you didn't believe in. I can't live with that. I'm not perfect, but that's something I cannot live with."

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That is of a piece with another dictum Sharon lives by: she will not be paid to endorse a political candidate.

"I'm not gonna sell that one thing so important to me: that's my credibility. If the candidate loses, at least I stood by him. Kasi ito iyong paniwala ko. Maybe I'm just being naive, and I'm not in the position others are in, because I'm blessed to be where I am and I don't have to make patol any offers like that. But personally, it would leave a bad taste in my mouth."

Sharon has worked hard most of her life to get to where she is today. Despite the fairly wealthy background, she has. This hard work has allowed her many privileges, many of which she clearly chooses not to abuse or take advantage of.

But it wasn't an easy climb to the top, which is why she continues to give credit where credit is due: her co-workers, her fans, her friends, and her family.

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It's not hard to see why Sharon Cuneta has lasted 31 years in the business. And why this lady, genuinely happy to be a homemaker, is absolutely a star with no expiration date.

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For YES! Magazine's 10th-anniversary issue, Sharon Cuneta opens up her lovely home in upscale Wack Wack, Mandaluyong, and talks about being a homebody, cooking up a storm, being a hopeless bookworm—and how, in fact, she is happiest when she is with family. (YES! April 2010 issue)
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