MANILA — After enduring what she now describes as “rollercoaster” months, actress Heaven Peralejo is committed to finding and loving herself, while also learning what it truly means to be a public figure whose life is scrutinized by fans and critics alike.
Peralejo, who entered showbiz via “Pinoy Big Brother” in 2016, admittedly was not prepared for the intrigues that come with a career in the limelight. Five years since, Peralejo is only now experiencing firsthand what it’s like to be at the center of a controversy.
“In every aspect of life, hindi ka naman talaga magiging ready, kahit sabihin mong ready ka. Hindi mo naman makikita kung gaano ‘yung gravity ng isang bagay, especially, kunyari, when it comes to bashing, and kung paano pala makaka-affect iyon sa ‘yo and sa family mo,” she told ABS-CBN News.
“Ako, I’ll say na hindi ako ready talaga. Though alam ko na meron, hindi ako ready,” she said, referring to mudslinging targeted at her online. “Ngayon, I’m getting used to it. Naga-adapt ako slowly.”
Peralejo has been the frequent subject of headlines in the past half year, for scoring her first lead role in a series via ABS-CBN’s “Bagong Umaga,” surviving COVID-19, and most recently, being accused of causing the breakup of fellow actors Kiko Estrada and Devon Seron.
In late August, Peralejo and Estrada revealed being a couple, but only a week later drew fresh speculation when he appeared to sever their connection on social media.
Peralejo declined to address rumors surrounding her current ties with Estrada, but did say this of the past several months: “I guess it was a rollercoaster.”
“Right now, I’m in the phase of loving myself. No joke. Every morning and every night, nandoon ako sa mga affirmations. They say, ‘di ba, na ‘pag sinasabi mo ‘yan sa sarili mo, parang magnet iyon, so iyon ‘yung magiging buhay mo. Alam mo, ‘yung mga things na hindi ko alam na kaya kong gawin, nagagawa ko pala, in a good way,” she said.
“There’s more to it,” she said of a life well-lived, mentioning recently becoming a “fur mom” to two pet dogs, and spending more time with her family.
‘ALAM KO ‘YUNG TOTOO’
In this journey, Peralejo is also processing her personal life being in the public eye, saying she did not expect, as a 16-year-old “Pinoy Big Brother” housemate, that one day her romance would be at the center of an online firestorm.
Many hurtful words were and continue to be hurled at Peralejo. Picking one that stung the most, she said, would be impossible. What’s clear to her, however, is that none of them define her.
“Kasi alam ko naman ‘yung totoo. My family knows the truth. Iyon lang naman ‘yung pinanghahawakan ko. Basta walang guilty conscience,” Peralejo said.
While the “bashing” once weighed heavily on her, Peralejo has since managed to re-focus her energy on enriching and taking care of herself, she explained.
“I guess for me, hindi ko na lang ipapa-affect ‘yung criticisms sa akin. More like, I’m going to find myself and I’m going to know more about myself and I’m going to love myself,” she said.
Part of that pursuit is living with gratitude, according to Peralejo. Aside from her health and her family’s, she is most thankful to her loyal fans, “for protecting me and loving me”; and for an upcoming series, “Pasabuy,” which she felt came at the right time to help her through a challenging chapter.
“Sawi sa pag-ibig, parang ako!” Peralejo said of her character, Anna, in the WeTV original co-starring Gino Roque as her leading man, with Xian Lim as writer and director.
“It was just meant to be. Everything was just meant to be. It’s hard to explain, but meeting the people in ‘Pasabuy’ helped me a lot. I’m thankful for all the love and all the learnings,” she said.
The project also marks a career milestone for the dramatic actress, as it’s her first lead role in a romcom since she exited “Pinoy Big Brother” as a teen poised for stardom.
Asked what she would tell her 16-year-old self, having gone through the “rollercoaster” and with a career in bloom, Peralejo turned pensive and paused before answering:
“Don’t be scared. Find yourself. Love yourself, before anything else.”