Gabby Concepcion is back home. And after 13 long years of living a relatively normal life in the United States, the former matinee idol is undoubtedly still a hot copy.
Arriving last March 30, at 3:27 in the morning, Gabby amiably granted his first interview in Philippine soil to ABS-CBN.
"It's nice to be back after thirteen years," said the former actor. "Well, masarap talaga dahil masarap umuwi sa pamilya," he added, describing the euphoric feeling of returning to his roots after living in a foreign country for more than a decade.
ESCAPING THE SPOTLIGHT. Hours after his arrival, Gabby made his first official television appearance on The Buzz where he was interviewed by host Boy Abunda.
Hurt and disillusioned with the state of his career in 1995, Gabby revealed that turning his back on show business was a decision he resolutely made back then after a thorough self-examination.
"Well, nung umalis ako noong ‘95, nilagay ko na sa likod ko ‘yon," confided Gabby, referring to show business. "Sabi ko, ‘I think I need to move on.' Hindi naman lahat ng tao magiging successful sa showbiz and I felt na I had my time. Thirteen years was enough sabi ko and I should move on, so nung umalis ako nag-decide na ko."
Like anyone who escaped the country to start a new life in a foreign territory, Gabby had to work extremely hard to earn a living and survive in his new environment.
"Mahirap, mabigat, masakit," Gabby said of his first few years in America.
The still goodlooking actor was not broke when he arrived in the U.S., but he knew that his savings would not be enough to sustain him especially since he already made a decision to stay indefinitely.
"Maghihirap tayo talaga because ang naipon natin sa show business, hindi naman puwedeng tumagal ‘yon. So ang mangyayari no'n, just like anybody else, maghahanap ka ng income."
To equip himself, Gabby enrolled himself at Lincoln University to strengthen his chances in landing a good job. For the former actor, it was a necessary step.
"Kailangan meron kang natapos, pero kanya-kanya ‘yon and nasa isip ko kailangan mag-aral muna ako. Wala na akong ibang paraan e, ‘yon ang naturo sa ‘kin, kailangan mag-aral ka para maging successful."
Living in America was a trying time for Gabby and he admitted feeling lonely at times. As they say, living independently, especially abroad, is a good way to develop a person's character.
"Siyempre, gagawin mo lahat ng paraan para sumaya ka," stressed Gabby to Boy Abunda. "At saka 'pag meron kang mga success stories behind you because of your achievements... Achievements ko dun hindi sa showbiz, it makes you happy it makes you stronger."
BALIKBAYAN JITTERS. Time and certain reasons ultimately weakened Gabby's resolve to leave his country for good.
The biggest catalyst that paved the way for his return was his father's health condition and not because of a movie project.
"Dumami ang dahilang kung bakit ako kailangang umuwi, Boy, at isa na dun ay dahil sa ama ko, dahil may sakit sa puso ang ama ko," revealed Gabby thoughtfully."
He added: "Hindi ko naman puwedeng sabihin sa sarili ko na ‘ang ganda ng buhay, idadasal ko na lang.' 'Pag may nangyari sa kanya, hindi ko mapapatawad ang sarili ko."
Months before his homecoming, rumors started circulating that Gabby will do a movie together with young actress-TV host Jolina Magdangal for GMA Films. After weeks of anxious anticipation for a formal announcement, Gabby backed out from the project. According to reports, Gabby was not happy with the significance and exposure of his character in the film.
"Well, sana matuloy pa rin yon," Gabby said. "'Yon naman ang hinangad ko, na sana matuloy ‘yon. Of course, meron konting conflict na hindi naman maiiwasan. Pero hindi ko tinatanggihan na gumawa ng commitment na pinasukan ko, so hinihintay ko na lang na sana matuloy 'yon."
He did admit that the problem was on his end. For a good actor who had been away for so long, Gabby's reason or demand somehow makes sense.
"Kung ito nga ay magiging comeback, it has to be a comeback," he explained with emphasis. "Kasi kung hindi ko magiging comeback, bakit ko gagawin?"
Fortunately, all is still not lost and Gabby gave his word to the producers that he's bent on doing the project perhaps provided that adjustments on the script are made. "Oh, definitely I already told the executive that I am honoring," clarified Gabby.
SHARON, KC, AND MOVIES. Speaking of movies, Boy asked Gabby if he has a particular leading lady in mind. The answer it turned was a no-brainer: ex-wife Sharon Cuneta is sitting on top of Gabby's list.
"Sharon has been part of my life. Of course, I'd love to do a movie with her. I'd love to do a movie with KC, she's my daughter. Sharon is the mother of my daughter it would be nice if we could do something together."
He shares Sharon's concern, however, about the impending media circus such event would generate.
"But of course, maraming intrigang papasok diyan. Katulad nga ng sabi ni Sharon, paglalaruan lang," he knowingly admitted.
But on the contrary, Gabby knows it is part and parcel of the entire trade. Just for the sake of giving the people what they truly wanted, he is wiling to take the blows.
"Pero kung maiiwasan natin ‘yon [intrigues], ako why not? Gumawa tayo, pakita natin sa tao tutal ‘yon ang gusto nila. Handa ako, wala naman akong itinatago, Boy e, ang buhay ko is bukas sa tao. Lahat ng intriga, heto nakadikit sa buntot ko. Kasama ako sa showbiz, kasama ang intriga sa buhay ko kaya kung tirahin ako, I'm very open to it."
As for his personal relationship with former love team then ex-wife Sharon, Gabby said that everything's well between them although they never had the chance to talk face to face. Most of their past conversations have been solely on the phone.
"Hindi pa kami nag-uusap nang one-on-one," shared Gabby. "In other words, hindi pa kami nagkikita; umupo tayo sa isang restaurant, kumain tayo, mag-usap tayo.
"Nag-usap na kami sa telepono nung dumadalaw sa ‘kin si KC, specially when I was in America. Nag-usap kami sa telepono and we've settled it. Okay na kami maganda ‘yong usapan namin."
Now that he's here in Manila, Gabby is not disregarding the possibility of meeting up with the Megastar formally. But he's not vouching for it either.
"For us to sit down, hindi na siguro mangyayari ‘yon dahil nag-usap na kami. There's no need. Marami na kaming napag-usapan. But if we want to talk further, we can do that pero siguro there's no more need for it."
Years after the bitter separation, Gabby is hoping that everything's water under the bridge now—and that includes whatever animosity the falling out spawned in its wake.
"Well, siguro sa mga naririnig natin noon, may galit siya sa ‘kin," he acknowledged, "but that's all in the past."
He continued with deep humility: "Kung ano mang kasalan ang nagawa ko sa kanya o kahit na kanino, nandito ako para humingi ng pagpapatawad. So, let's put all the issues behind us now. I'm not here para mang-intriga. Nandidito ako to start a new life."
MENDING FENCES WITH MANAY LOLIT. When Gabby left for the U.S. in 1995, his relationship with longtime manager Lolit Solis was in shambles. The formidable talent-manager tandem was caught in the middle of the 1994 Manila Film Festival alleged fraud during the awarding ceremonies.
"Wala na kaming tampuhan ni Lolit," revealed Gabby happily.
The reunion and eventual reconciliation took place in Las Vegas during a Manny Pacquiao bout.
Recounting the moment, Gabby shared, "Lumapit siya sa ‘kin, nag-usap kami, na-settle namin ‘yon on the spot. Nagkita kami ni Lolit, di nag-usap kami. Nag-settle kami. Sabi niya, ‘O sige bati na tayo, pahingi ng $100!'" laughed Gabby.
For his comeback, Gabby simply enthused with great affirmation: "I'm open to anything."