Angelica Panganiban on heartbreaks: "Hindi mo dapat bugbugin ang sarili mo sa pain kasi tama yung lahat na ginawa mong desisyon. Kasi naging proud ako sa lahat ng taong minahal ko."
Angelica Panganiban remains at the top of her game.
After more than two decades in the industry, Angelica is still one of the most sought-after stars in both television and film.
Just look at her year so far:
Fans currently watch her on ABS-CBN’s newest daytime series Playhouse, where she is paired up with good friend Zanjoe Marudo for the first time.
She is also on television every Sunday afternoon, cracking jokes and delivering comedy sketches on the weekly gag show Banana Sundae.
The Kapamilya star showcased her comedic chemistry with Judy Ann Santos in the Jun Robles Lana-helmed film Ang Dalawang Mrs. Reyes early this year.
And for this month, Angelica tackles hugot romance once again in the film Exes Baggage.
The film directed by Dan Villegas is a dream come true for her long-time fans as it reunites her with former love-team partner and ex-flame, Carlo Aquino.
With all these blessings and successes, it's hard to imagine that just two years ago, Angelica was ready to bid showbiz goodbye.
"Gusto ko lang siya iwan nang biglaan," she said, revealing that she wanted to leave as quietly as possible."
"Talagang ayoko na talaga mag-artista two years ago... Aalis na ako, gusto ko na tumira sa ibang bansa."
Showbiz has been Angelica's world since she was five years old, but it didn't take long for the industry to realize her talent as an actress.
People who lived through the '90s would often remember her in youth-oriented shows such as Ang TV, G-Mik, and Sarah... Ang Munting Princesa.
Older audiences best recall her as Jenny in the 1995 film, Separada.
This heavy drama film top-billed by Maricel Soriano gave Angelica her first-ever set of acting accolades from FAMAS Awards and PMPC Star Awards.
She was eight years old then.
Looking back on her formative years in the business, Angelica likes to think that her early experiences have given her wisdom, especially now that she gets to work with a new generation of child stars.
"Siguro may natutulong yung pagiging child star ko dahil may nakakatrabaho akong bata dito sa show," she said, referring to her Playhouse co-star, child actor Justin James Quilantang.
Justin James plays her godson on the daytime series.
"Nakakapagbigay ako ng advice sa kanya, kinikuwentuhan ko siya kung paano kami noon.
"Nung ganung age ako, nag-aartista na din ako... Nakukuwentuhan ko ng mga experiences ko, nakikining naman siya.
"Tinuturuan ko siya kung paano ba dapat makipagsama, dapat nakikinig siya lagi.
"Iba yung laro, iba yung taping.
"Feeling ko naman may tulong ako..."
Ten years after Separada, Angelica got her next acting recognition and first Best Actress nomination for her work in the 2004 film, Santa Santita.
The film placed Angelica in a different light, successfully shedding off her teeny-bopper image and reintroducing her as a serious actress.
Her change of image allowed Angelica to sink her teeth into meatier dramatic roles on film and television.
Later on, the drama actress made a jump to comedy and delighted fans in the 2010 comedy hit, Here Comes the Bride. Her performance earned her the Comedy Actress of the Year trophy from the 42nd Guillermo Mendoza Memorial Scholarship Foundation Awards.
Angelica was surprised herself as she never thought of comedy to be her strength.
"Seryoso akong tao, e, 'tapos yung pagiging masayahin ko, likod lang talaga ng camera," the 31-year-old Kapamilya talent pointed out.
"'Tapos hindi pa ako gaanong ka-confident mag-joke noon kasi hindi naman ako sanay.
"Pero medyo may pagka-funny na talaga ako bata pa lang ako...
"Pa [comedy] na rin naman yung path. Hindi ko lang inexpect na magiging profession ko siya dahil nga mas kilala ako na drama, kontrabida."
With two decades worth of acting recognitions under her belt, does Angelica still feel any kind of pressure to live up to her work as an actress?
"Lagi naman. Dapat siguro hindi nawawalan ng pressure.
"Parang kung nawala yon, nawala yung fire, nawala yung passion," Angelica mused.
"Always, gusto kong may challenge, gusto kong mapaisip.
"Gusto kong kabahan sa ginagawa ko...
"Hindi kasi puwedeng hindi ka kabahan sa ginagawa mo kasi kapag hindi ka na kinabahan, di ba, hindi mo na gusto yon?
"So laging may kaba bawat eksena, bawat spiels, bawat opening number sa Banana Sundae, bawat sketch na bibitawan, bawat eksenang iyakan.
It's an understatement to say that Angelica has been through a lot.
Apart from her career as an actress, her life as a celebrity has allowed the public to witness her struggles.
Case in point: Angelica's breakup with John Lloyd Cruz.
Breaking up with a boyfriend is hard enough, but to do so with the public watching your every move and giving unsolicited advice is a tough mountain to climb.
At the height of it all, Angelica deemed it best not to hide her pain and resentment.
While she never dropped any names, she said her piece whenever people let her and she did so by wearing her heart on her sleeve.
That's probably why some people admire her and let her speak her mind.
Maybe that's why people are rooting for her to find true love because she has been so honest about her journey.
But with such pain in her heart then, it's understandable for the mouth to say something before the brain can process it.
Were there times that Angelica regret letting some hurtful words slip out?
Without referring to any specific instances, she remarked:
"May mga panahon na bakit ko ba sinabi yun? Bakit ba pinatulan ko yun? Bakit ako nagpadala sa mainit na ulo? Pero wala na, nasabi mo na, e, di ba, so kailangan mo matututo sa ganon."
She then added, "Ngayon nag-iisip na ako, e. Alam ko na gagawin ko.
"Kailangan ko lang pa kalma sarili ko, palipasin... lilipas din naman."
When the dust settled, it seems Angelica emerged with a greater sense of self-worth.
Her recent appearance at the Sunday late-night show Gandang Gabi Vice can be proof of this, and fans will tell you why.
During the show, Angelica spoke candidly about the process of letting go and moving on.
Referring to all of her experiences in love, Angelica said, "Hindi mo dapat bugbugin ang sarili mo sa pain kasi tama yung lahat na ginawa mong desisyon.
"Kasi naging proud ako sa lahat ng taong minahal ko.
"Ngayon, natututo ako na wala akong pinagsisihan, lahat yun dapat kong i-embrace."
"Nasaktan nila ako, nasaktan ko sila. May pagkukulang sila, I'm sure ako meron kaya nangyari lahat yun sa akin."
"So ngayon na okey na ako, yun pala yung sinasabi ng mga tao na hintayin mo lang.
"Kailangan buo ka na. Kailangan alam mo na, e.
"So, ba't ako magagalit, di ba?
"Dapat maging thankful ako sa kanila kasi binuo nila ako."
Fans were moved by her sentiments, thanking her on social media for being an "inspiration" and labeling her as "the real definition of a strong independent woman."
In truth, despite immense heartbreak, Angelica's perception of love has remained unfazed.
She told us, "Dapat tuloy ang buhay. Magmahal tayo nang magmahal!
"Hangga't may buhay, masarap magmahal.
"Masakit masaktan, pero kapag nagmahal ka na ulit what a feeling, di ba?"
At this point in her career, we won't question Angelica if she plans to leave showbiz behind.
Showbiz has been her way of life for so long, and life in the spotlight will eventually take its toll.
For someone who pours her heart out to the world, you can't blame the person for yearning a less complicated, less prying, and less demanding kind of life.
While Angelica has toyed with the idea of quitting showbiz many times before, it was only in 2016 when a decisive plan was set in motion.
"Tinatapos ko na lang yung isang show na nakabitin. Siyempre hindi naman puwede mang-iwan ng trabaho basta-basta.
"'Tapos ko lang sana siya and then alis na ako," Angelica revealed.
"Umabot ako sa nakikipag-usap na ako sa network, sa managers na ayoko na nga.
"Aalis na ako, gusto ko na tumira sa ibang bansa.
"Mukha naman siyang seryoso noon dahil inaayos na namin yung mga puwede kong tirahan doon, kung saan ako puwede magtrabaho.
"Naghahanap na ako ng apartment na puwedeng tirahan sa New York.
"Actually, may mga nakausap na ako na makikitira doon... May kausap na akong titirahan doon na mga Pinoy."
But soon it became clear that showbiz wasn't ready to let go of Angelica yet.
"Hindi pa siguro time kasi may dumating na opportunities na 'Sige, last bago ako [umalis].'
"'Tapos nawala na. Bumalik naman yung drive, bumalik yung passion.
"Parang nawala na yung frustration."
Reflecting on her years as a celebrity, what has the industry taught Angelica?
"Siguro habang tumatanda ka at tumatagal ka, mas nagiging humbling lang yung experiences mo kasi siyempre nag-iiba na yung pag-iisip mo. Nagu-grow ka," she said.
"Nakakakita ka ng mas batang henerasyon na nakikita mo ang sarili mo. Dati ganon mga ginagawa mo.
"Nakikita mo sila kung paano mapagod, nakikita mo yung sarili mo na ganun ka dati.
"Marami-rami namang learnings. Lahat yun humbling experiences."
What else does Angelica want to achieve?
In an instant, she answered, "Wala!
"Motto ng ko buhay ngayon 'Tara! Kung anong mangyayari, tara!'"
SHOOT PRODUCER: Nikko Tuazon
PHOTOGRAPHER: Shaira Luna
ART DIRECTOR: Jeremiah Idanan
ANGELICA'S STYLIST: Myrrh Lao To
ASSISTED BY: Carvey Samonte and Zia dela Rosa
MAKEUP ARTIST: Monica Reyes
HAIRSTYLIST: Raven Dizon
VIDEO TEAM: Rommel Llanes, Sam Navalta, Zoe del Rosario
Special thanks to GMO Entertainment Unit and Rafa Casimiro of ABS-CBN's AdProm