MANILA -- In nearly three decades in show business, actress Angelu de Leon has managed to live an open-book to the public. From her previous romances to the fathers of her kids, she never hid anything from her fans.
“The press has seen, heard and known first-hand information about my life,” De Leon told ABS-CBN News. “To put it in a nut shell, my life, right now, is plain and simple, full of contentment. I cannot begin to imagine that with the so many things I did before, this is the kind of life I will have now.”
De Leon has been happily married for a decade now to Lorenzo Rivera. “By God’s grace, I have a good husband and I have [three] beautiful children,” she said. “I’m really happy because my children are really flourishing with their studies.”
With the personal comes De Leon’s steadily thriving career. Recently, she was signed up anew by Viva Artists Agency (VAA), which will manage her professional endeavors.
It will be remembered that back in the '90s, De Leon joined the Viva stable from the time she started appearing in the youth-oriented weekly program, “TGIS (Thank God, It’s Sabado),” where her successful partnership with Bobby Andrews started.
“In spite of all the things happening around, I am still grateful that I still have a career that I love to do,” De Leon said. “In a sense, there’s still that feeling that you are still wanted and I’m really so grateful with that for Viva. Sometimes, I just ask, ‘What did I do to deserve all these good gifts?’ I know I really have to be thankful.”
De Leon is apparently strongly identified with her perennial love team partner then, Andrews. Aside from a couple of TV series, they starred in a succession of hit movies. Yet, surprisingly, they were never romantically involved.
“Bobby and I, we’re more like friends, but less of lovers,” she explained. “Kaya naming basahin ang isa’t isa. Kapag inis kami sa isa’t-isa, kaya naming itago ang emotions namin kahit gusto na naming magsabunutan.
“We went beyond friendship. But we never reached the romantic level. We just couldn’t understand the chemistry that we had. It was just there. Then and now.”
She is looking forward to doing a lot of projects now that she signed up with Viva again. “I want to do a teleserye. I want to do out-of-the-box roles. We can do a Bobby-Angelu project, too.”
Seeing the young love teams now, De Leon observes they are totally different from her time then. “Today, they are really reel-to-real. They fall in love with each other. I know how it feels like to be working with someone every day of your life.”
Returning to Viva makes it “full circle” for De Leon this 2021. As early as 1993, she joined Viva when she did Joel Lamangan’s “Kadenang Bulaklak,” where she starred with Vina Morales, Ana Roces and Donna Cruz.
“I’m back at Viva. All things work out for the good,” De Leon said.
Not a few noticed De Leon’s blooming personality of late and also her significant weight loss. “After the fourth month of the lockdown, around June, nawala na ‘yung anxiety and nag-creep in na ‘yung reality that it’s the new normal, I told myself, I have to be more conscious of my body and my health,” she allowed.
“Mentally and physically. In a sense, that was the good part that COVID did to me. I became more aware about my health.”
Doing director Al Tantay’s “Pakboys Takusa” for the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) last December, jumpstarted De Leon’s return to Viva. She played the wife of Janno Gibbs in the comedy entry.
“I don’t think anyone retires from showbiz,” De Leon insisted. “Once it’s in your system, hahanapin at hahanapin siya ng katawan mo. Kasi mahirap ‘yung ako lang ang may gusto.
“What I can really sense in this full circle, I’m grateful that people still want to watch me. People still have projects for me. Doon talaga ako nakakampante. Mahirap iwanan ang isang bagay na mahal mo talaga.”
Among the films she did in the past, De Leon is most proud about Lamangan’s “Bulaklak ng Maynila” (1999), where she won best supporting actress in the MMFF. She co-starred with Christopher de Leon, Elizabeth Oropesa, Jomari Yllana and Bembol Roco.
“’Bulaklak ng Maynila’ was really out of my comfort zone,” De Leon said. “Imagine, from ‘TGIS,’ pa-tweetums, then you were asked to do a love scene at may rape pa with Jomari. All sorts of different flavors.
“So right now, I’m looking forward to those kinds of work. Usong-uso ngayon ang mga indie films with out of the box characters. For an actress, it is always challenging to do something out of your comfort zone.”
De Leon does have any regret embarking on an acting career. That has always been something that she wanted to do. Back when she was a child, she successfully auditioned for a TV commercial even without the knowledge of her dad.
At 12, she joined “Ang TV” and never became idle through the years. She will always be thankful for the good breaks she received. “You will only have regret if you think that what you have now, is not the life you have and not the life you want,” De Leon explained.
“But I can’t say that with what I have now. I can’t say na, ‘Sana, hindi ko na lang ginawa ‘yun.’ Kasi, if I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t have my life now. It would have been a totally different life. I can’t imagine my life any different.”
Previously, De Leon admitted how she was thinking about only herself when she was younger. “Others were telling me, ‘Alam mo, sayang. Sana may ganito ka na.’ But because I didn’t know it then, it didn’t affect me.
“Before, my thinking was, ‘My life, my choice.’ With that kind of thinking, I know marami din akong natapakan na tao. Marami din akong decisions na hindi kanais-nais. Marami din akong nasaktan na tao. With that on that part, siguro marami akong gustong itama.
“There were times when I apologized to so many people already because of the things I’ve done before because it was selfish. ‘Yung regret kasi, hindi talaga pumapasok, because I know I needed to go through that.
“To even be with you guys now, ano pa ba ang magiging regret ko? Maybe when I was younger. Loka-loka ako. Pero wala pang cellphone, so hindi ako nagba-viral noon.”
Now that she is older, De Leon got to realize there are really people who have more wisdom than her. “If you really love your craft, have respect for it,” she said. “Everyone that you have in your life right now, in show business, they see something in you that you don’t see yourself. So, it’s best to listen. Take everything in consideration. They know more than you.”
At 41, De Leon does not discount the possibility that she might be paired with younger male stars in the future, perhaps in a May-December affair. “I think pwede naman,” she said. “But out of respect to my husband, I have to get his nod to that kind of project. Even my kids now, they are 22 and 19. I guess it has to have my kids’ and my husband’s approval.”
She noted that her two elder kids are not inclined towards show business and opt to finish college instead. “My eldest even wants to finish law school,” she said. “Show business, there’s a window, if not a door, open for them. But I want them to have a different craft.”
It will be an exciting career again for De Leon, now that she was recently welcomed back to the Viva camp. She sighs that her children didn’t see the prime of her career in the ‘90s.
“My kids, hindi naman nila nakita ang peak ko,” she said. “Even my husband, nagugulat 'pag minsan we were in the mall and there were people who approached me asking to have their picture taken.”
With her new contract with Viva, De Leon is simply excited about the many possibilities that will happen again with her career.
“I don’t expect anything grand,” she reasoned out. “Expectation is an underrated word. Gusto ko lang namnamin that Viva opened its doors again for me. Gusto kong damahin ‘yun ng buong buo. I’m home. Expectation sometimes kills. You are expecting so many things. Then kapag hindi ka inalagaan, you’re blind-sided by that expectation.
“The fact that they wanted me back home, that’s just a great opportunity for me. Whatever their plans are, I know we would be able to talk to each other and find good ground with the projects they will present to me.”
At this point in her career, De Leon is aware that “professionalism” is stll very important to remain in the business. “Without that, kahit gaano ka kagaling, hindi ka tatagal sa industriya. Lalo na ngayon. ‘Yung pagiging unprofessional mo will affect a lot of other people, from the producer down to the production. Just because you wanted to be selfish.
“I think if I can pass on something to the younger ones, maybe that’s professionalism. Your acting skills, it will grow, as time goes on. Lalalim at lalalim ka niyan. Your relationship with other people, that’s very important. I consider myself blessed that after 29 years, I’m still doing a craft that I love.”