Gabby Concepcion FAN Site 2012

YES Magazine Interview

Gabby's Message



Nine years after he left showbiz and the country, nothing seems to have changed. Gabby Concepcion, all of 41 years on November 5, still looks every bit the matinee idol.


He has on a neatly pressed, solid-blue long-sleeved shirt tucked flat into dark pants, its waistline marked by a slim belt. The whole look of him is crisp and clean and fresh. His hair is slicked back, just right for the slightly thinning head of hair, besides providing the perfect frame for what remains a movie-star profile.


          The man stands at 5 feet 9 inches, with 160 pounds of good muscle and no visible fat—a bonus from his beloved sailing, scuba diving, water skiing, not to mention squash, racquetball, and golf. Amazingly, despite the punishing exposure to sun and wind, his skin today is still—for lack of better word—flawless.


          The man, of course, has always had excellent skin. Showbiz regulars say his is a face blessed with an even pink sheen, with cheeks that turn a fine blush-red after yet another sojourn to the beach—an abiding passion with him to this day.


          But stardom has been known to confer a strange attractiveness even to the most ordinary, so I reserve some skepticism. But nine years after last being touched by fame, or makeup, Gabby’s skin remains exactly that: luminous.


          On this particular day, with his back straight, his movements in tune with a quiet and a decorum bordering on elegance, his speaking voice polite but self-assured, Gabby Concepcion stands out, even in a crowd where no one knows his name.

          Believe it, this is one beautiful guy.


          It is early August of this year when, under perfect California weather, I finally catch sight of Gabby at the Macaroni Grill in the city of Pleasanton, in the San Francisco Bay Area. The day, restaurant, and city are of his choosing.


          He comes in early--12:30 for a 1 p.m. appointment--from his base in Stockton, a half hour's distance away. He is at the wheel of a silver S520 Mercedez Benz.


          I come in at 11 myself, so I catch sight of him before he knows I’ve seen him, and my first thought is: No wonder this fellow was once one of the top three matinee idols in the country, a rarefield list that once included only Aga Muhlach and Richard Gomez.


          Why, the guy—is it possible?—is better looking in person!

Just days before, I had gone to a Union City video store—which turned out to be owned by Roselle Monteverde, heir-apparent to the Regal Films fortune—to rent a DVD of the Gabby Concepcion-Sharon Cuneta starrer, Bakit Ikaw Pa Rin? I do this, I admit, to remind myself of exactly what he looks like.


          But on the day I see him up close, I realize that nothing in the film—or apparently, in any of the roughly 44 films he has made—does justice to his looks.


          The movie camera chisels Gabby’s face into a set of non-malleable planes, taking away some of its animation and much of its softness. It also makes his body seem shorter and stockier, and as a consequence, less nimble.


What’s more, it freezes the better part of him in a mestizo mold that makes him possibly more arresting but certainly less charming.


          In person, it’s a whole new ball game. The face is grades gentler and kinder-looking; the body, that of a regular fellow beaming with health and confidence; the aura, almost charismatic. Gabby is a natural magnet for attention, even at a table where everyone is an equal stranger and no one is a fan. Then, as the smile comes to those eyes and lips, lighting up his face, the whole business of why so many smart and beautiful women have fallen for him Suddenly becomes easier to understand.


          Even the few pictures I eventually take home—such as his solo shot appearing on the cover, taken at the end of our lunch—don’t do anything for the guy. They make him look broader than he actually is, and they hardly capture the arresting figure he cuts on the floor.


          Add to that, they don’t capture that face. It’s a face that has been called pretty many times, maybe because it’s always been more photogenic than the faces of all the pretty women he’s been linked to, except maybe for Jenny Syquia, The American-raised stunner he married after megastar Sharon Cuneta.


          Yet today, here it is: Gabby’s face may no longer be called pretty, because, in the years since, it has been made better looking by—as I shall discover in the next hours—something called character.


          There is one more surprise. Through 1980, when he appeared in Regal’s Katorse, till 1995, when he bid local movies a forced goodbye, Gabby was never given to speaking much or long in public. Therefore, only a few outside the entertainment scene ever really saw the side of him that was quick on the uptake and the asides.


          Yet those who know him well guarantee that Gabby is one very articulate fellow. And that he reads a lot, so that even while his academic grades—elementary at the Ateneo, high school at Aquinas, college at Maryknoll—registered at middling level, the fellow has always had something to say.


          And when he does say it, his words are often a direct expression of his thoughts, the way they’re strung together good enough to rival a movie scipt’s.


          Why, one little tale about Gabby says that he won Jenny Syquia’s nod, in a whirlwind courtship of not even a week, after impressing her with the words: “Marry me now and I’ll court you forever.”


          Another known tale is that Gabby consciously shifts to Tagalog whenever in the company of movie people. Very few in the movies, therefore, know about his fluency in English and Spanish. But Lolit Solis, Gabby’s talent manager in his 13 years in the business, swears the fellow has a gift.


          Kahit si Kris Aquino na-insecure dyan, a,” says the “Startalk” host who is now on friendly terms with her former star-client, notwithstanding their very public falling-out in 1994. “Ang galling mag-Ingles ni Kris, di ba? O nakita niya nang personal na ang galling din mag-Ingles ni Gabby, ‘Tapos, nang may kumausap ke Gaby sa Espanol, aba, ang galling din niya sa Spanish! Sabi ni Kris, ‘Why me, I’m only good in English?’ E kasi nga yang English at Spanish e natural na salita nila Gaby sa bahay sa San Juan.”


          Lolit says that even back then, language was a gift Gabby had. She recalls how she, Gabby, and a whole entourage would go to Japan, Italy and everywhere else to mount shows for Filipinos. And always, it took very little for Gabby to pick up the local language.


          Aba, punta kaming Japan, para mag-show,” Lolit goes on, admiration in her voice for the boy whose movie career she began to chart when he was a mere 15. “Konting usap-usap lang na ganyan ni Gabby sa mga tao, pagdating sa show ang haba-haba na nang sinasabi sa Hapon! Gano’n din sa Italy!”


          She tells, too, of the time in 1981 when a group of them traveled through Europe by land and Gabby served as their driver.


“Biro mo, para magawa ni Gabby na i-drive kami sa Europe, at 18 lang siya noon, dapat learned siya, dib a?”


          In the present, at a West Coast restaurant serving good vegetable salads, which is the first thing Gabby goes for, I get the full measure of what she means.


Gabby’s English just flows. And it bears, none of the Pinoy sing-song we’ve added to the King’s accent. Expectedly, he has a more American cadence now, and he is clearly versed in American idiom and expression. But not for him the broad American twang which grates on local ears, especially when spoken by balikbayans. His just rolls off in a quick, easy rhythm, as though he was to the language born.


          But beyond language, Gabby has focus. He listens. He also knows how to pick up from the tail end of other people’s sentences and come up with just the right rejoinders, sending our table of four—including my friend Gemma Nemenzo, associate publisher of the U.S. based Filipinas magazine, and Gabby’s friend Fred Valdez, whom he calls in the late hours, as in “Oh, Fred’s always awake. Let me call him”—into periodic bursts of laughter throughout our more than two-hour lunch. When I think about it, I’m surprised I’m enjoying the fellow. Our lunch didn’t start out too well, honestly. Fact is, it nearly didn’t happen.


          Everyone warned me that Gabby Concepcion would be a rough assignment. From 1995, when he left the Philippines, up to today, nearly every commercial media institution has tried to get him do an interview. All to no avail.


          About five years ago, a Filipino TV crew was already snucked in the West Coast, doing nothing but waiting for an interview with him. But despite involved arrangements coursed through his father Rolly Concepcion, and no matter the big expense and hassle, he did not show up.


          The only good news to come from the period was that he and his manager Lolit Solis mended their friendship at that time.


          For him: “To me, its all gotten over with, and, ah, I’ve forgiven her. Yeah, it’s all behind me now. I don’t want anybody to have grudges against me. If they do, please tell them to talk to me so that we can settle it.”


          For her: “Nagpaliwanagan na kami, nagsisihan. He’s a good person talaga. Mabait. I would not have lasted as his manager for 13 years kung di siya mabait. Nakaka-miss nga siya. Siya ‘yong artistang walang reklamo, kahit papuntahin mo sa dalawang set nang halos sabay. At ni minsan, di nagtanong tungkol sa pera. Perfect talent talaga.”


          They talked, and although they did not managed to recapture the closeness they had—a relationship akin to mother and son—they parted well.


          Panahon iyon ni Erap [President Joseph Estrada],” she says, “at sina Jinggoy [Estrada, now a senator], kinakausap siya tungkol sa pagbabalik ditto. May sasalubong na PSG [Presidential Security Group], eeskortan siya sa NBI [National Bureau of Investigation] para mag-post ng bail, at ibabalik sa kanya ang passport niya.”


          He could come home. But as it turned out, Gabby could not give his trust. He refused the offer. As Lolit muses: “Baka akala niya, trap. Wala siyang mapagkatiwalaan . I think na-traumatize siya sa nangyari. Sa naging treatment sa kanya dito, sa airport, nang kinuha ang passport niya. Sa harapan pa naman ng maraming pasahero. Nang ikinuwento niya sa akin ang feeling niya noon ng Humiliation, naiyak ako.”


          For months, we at YES! Had been trying to get hold of this star—hot property in every way in local filmdom, from his reel-life men roles to his real-life liaisons—who last faced the press in ’95. That was a number of months after he and his manager had roused the nation into an uproar over the 1994 Metro Manila Film Festival awards night, when a different set of winners emerged, Gabby being one of them.


          After that, he plumb disappeared into the vastness of America. Getting word that he had gotten married this year, we stepped up our calls, to his father, to his former film producers, to his showbiz friends. Nothing.

           Then last July, at about the same time Sharon Cuneta and her husband, Senator Francis Pangilinan, were close to resolving their legal bid to have Francis legally adopt KC—Sharon’s only child by Gabby, and truly a Gabby lookalike—I was set to make a trip to Califonia. Gabby was based in California! I decided to give the interview one more push.


          It took another three weeks of renegotiating old deals and burning new lines—so exhausting, it temporarily frustrated any sweet thoughts I might have harbored about humankind—before I finally got a number: 1-209-430-6533.


          This is a number, by the way, that Gabby wants anyone interested in American real estate to have. “Call me,” he says with a smile. “Maybe I can help.”


          By then, I had just a few days left in the U.S. I called the number. At the other end, a voice said: “Hi, this is Gabriel Concepcion. I can’t be with you right now, but if you leave your name and telephone number, I can…” Or something as busy and professional as that.


          The “a” in Gabriel was a long “a,” the spiel wound too fast for my Pinoy ears, and I had no way of knowing if the voice would even call back. It did not. Over the next days, I tried two or three more times.


          Finally, after my third message into the recorder, the voice called back.


“I’m just really busy,” it said quickly enough and it sound like the Gabby Concepcion. “I got your calls, but I couldn’t find time to return them. I have client calls all the time. When called last night [9:30], I was still working, and when you called again in the morning [9:00], I was with a client na in the office.”


          Heavens, such industry. “I’m a licensed realtor now,” he was going on. “And the market is so hot, it’s a sellers’ market. Bidding for houses goes so fast and so high, I have clients losing out despite very good bids. For instance, in Daly City, my client bids $700,000 and is ready to get it, but in the next hour, somebody bids $720,000! Prices are literally going through the roof. So I’m constantly on call to protect my clients.” Then, as quickly as he plunged into the real-estate talk, he ended it, saying: “that’s why I don’t know if we can do this interview. I’m always with a client, believe me.”


          I don’t give up. Two days after, I call again. This time he picks up the phone but says politely: “Ah, I’m at the office with a client. Can we do this another time?” I call again the night after. Now his phone is on receiver mode. One more call two days later, and I manage to talk to him again.


          But again, he is begging off: “It’s been eight, nine years, and I have not said anything. I’ve moved on. My life is different now. I’m an example of one who started from scratch. I had no credits, no work experience, nothing. I went back to school. I took further studies. I did mortgage and realty. See, mortgage and finance and realty are symbiotic. Its clams and fishes to anemone, it’s jellyfish to…” Frankly, I lose him. He is talking real fast now about three things he’s always wanted to do in life, how ended up with Prudential California Realty, how he caught up with Gretchen Barreto and Tonyboy Cojuangco when they were in California, and how Gretchen—who herself was called to the witness stand in the same 1994 filmfest scandal and gave testimony damagind to Lolit & Co.—invited him, profusely, to come home to showbiz.


          Crazily, I happen to be—as I was, every single time he called—in a car, in and out of the freeway, with a precarious cellphone in one hand, a lactating ballpoint in another, and a small notebook jiggling every which way on my lap. I tell him I  promise him I will get everything wrong, I must see him.


          He laughs, says he’ll try to find time. I say I just have four days left. He says, okay, he’ll call to give me the place and time and date for the interview. But the first day passes, and nothing. I see the airport looming. I try again, twice, one at 8:30 in the morning and another at 9:30 at night of the following day. Still nothing, and only two days to go.


          Then late in the night, I get him. As usual, he is with a client. He apologizes for not returning the calls earlier, he’s really swamped, could we just do a phone interview? I wail. Then he says, all right, but which day is free? I say, That very day! Well, the day happens to be his mother’s birthday and his family is meeting up in the Bay Area. Unfortunately, the very next morning, he has a client call, and then a meeting for the lunch hour, and another at 3 p.m.


          Hmmm, I’m beginning to dislike this guy.

          But, okay, one last final heave-ho, just so my boss feels I earn my keep. I call. He picks up. He says: “I haven’t called you? I’m sorry, I thought I did. You’re coming from Newark? All right, Macaroni Grill in Pleasanton, 1 o’clock. It’s in the mall and easy to find. But please,  no cameras.” The date falls right on my last full day in the U.S.


          Then he adds: “I can only give you an hour.”

          Gads, I knew I wouldn’t like this guy.


When the meeting finally happens, I find a Gabby Concepcion who is formal and a mite distant.


          “My name is Gabriel,” he begins. “That’s what it is anyway. I was born with it. Gabby is my showbiz name. So for things to work out for us, I think it’s best that we understand that we’re…”


          This will be a difficult lunch. He also has with him his log list of don’ts—and admits he was close to calling the lunch off to begin with.


          “I don’t want to talk to reporters kasi there might be negative vibes,” he explains fastidiousl. “But if it’s anybody who wants to talk to me sincerely, on the positive angle, on the good side, I’m here.”


          Every now and then, like a mantra, he repeats this.

          “I don’t want to incriminate myself. I don’t want to say anything that reporters can write negative against me. I’m here living a quiet life.”


          Indeed, he has taken a great pains not to go back to the old life. He doesn’t go to Goldilocks or Jollibee, Filipino food chains now found in the U.S. He has not watched a single Sharon Cuneta concert here.


          He bothers with a proper explanation though: “I don’t know when she’s in town for a concert. I don’t even have TFC [The Filipino Channel]. I’ve kept myself distant from show business talaga. This is my first interview, and the only reporter I’ve met is you.”


          He proceeds: “It is more on what I went through… because I went through hell. Everybody goes through hell before… you have to crawl, have a few wounds.. before you can walk, before you can run.”


          But, as events bear out, he cannot always insulate himself from what’s being said about him in the Philippines.


          Once he picked up news that he was an insurance agen. “I remember two years ago, when I first started[in Prudential California Realty], people were saying that I’m already in the insurance business. Little did they know that Prudential has a real estate division. Insurance is not a bad thing, you know? It’s just that I was never in Prudential insurance.”


          He adds, “And here in America, I heard from one of Kris’s [Aquino] shows that somebody said I was a security guard daw. Security guard daw ako, sabi ni Kris.” (Kris Aquino, made to comment, says she can’t recall ever saying that; she suggests she may have been absent from the show that day.)


          He is quick to say there is nothing the matter with being a security guard. He thinks it’s a right decent job. But he speculates that the reason he might’ve been taken for a security guard is because he’s always in blue.


          “I like wearing blue,” he says with befuddlement. “Prudential’s colors are blue and white. See? E sa Pilipinas, ang security guard ay blue.”


          Well, says he, many times he simply ignores these erroneous bits of news. “A very famous actress told me, a veteran actress in the Philippines told me, ‘You know, the more you talk about it, the more they will feast on it.’


          And the rest of our interview, Gabby seems genuinely concerned about not offending anybody.

          Again, fastidiously, he says: “You know why I’m saying this? With, of course, you know, a plea? It’s because it’s negative, and I don’t want to have anything negative. I’m moving forward, we’re all moving forward.”


          He then reveals: “The point is, I don’t know if I can trust anyone here [at the lunch]. And that’s really scary. Because, with me,  pagka na-trust na kita, and something goes wrong, I can never, I’m sorry, but I can never get that trust back. I can forgive, but the trust will always be different.


What Gabby is quite happy to talk about is life in America today. Busy is written all over him. “I have my telephone here, my wallet there. I don’t put it in my pocket, it gets bulky. Every day, you know, I carry a calculator, with me, a mortgage calculator, a regular calculator.”


          These are the tools of his trade. He’s been in mortgage since 2000, and in real estate for the last two years, working both residential and commercial properties. And he used to be a lender until he became a realtor, both of which he says in answer to a question, are “financially rewarding.”


          Today, he is licensed to work even the San Francisco area, or, for that matter, the entire California. But he particularly works the San Joaquin Valley, which includes Stockton, the city where concentrations of manongs—Filipino farmhands who worked and settled in America—have migrated to.


          This puts Gabby in the right place at the right time. Filipinos have helped his business a lot, he admits. “Pero I’m not banking on it because my goal is to give good service. I’m not out there to trick anyone. I’m not out there to make a scam on anybody.”


          Many of his Filipino clients clearly recognize him, and stare a bit, but they keep a proper distance.

          “When I was in the [entertainment] industry, the fans asked about your love life and what movies you are doing right now and all that. Now it’s less than that, e. Maybe because a lot of them grew up here na rin. But one thing I noticed, those who know me, are nahihiya to ask questions. Generally, Pilipino kasi, they’re very bashful.” Still, Pinoys love to take pictures, which bothers Gabby just enough to make him change address again, right about this month.


          “I’m a people person, but I need my privacy. It’s fun also, pero sometimes I’m in my shorts, ‘tapos bagong gising lang ako. I’m still scratching my eyes and I can’t say ‘no’ to them when, you know, they want to say ‘hi’ and have a picture.”


          In my life I had three things I wanted to do,” he reveals.

“One, I wanted to become a dentist, which hindi na nangyari because the first day that I went to school to register was my last day. That was the peak of my showbiz career…”


          He lets the sentence trail off, but clearly it means that dentistry did not become possible because his fans swarmed all over him.


          “So my second choice was to become a pilot,” he continues.

“So what I did was, I went to Air Link in Manila and took my exam. Medical exam. My depth of vision is perfect. I have 20/20 vision. But when it came to my colors, I was color-blind.”

          Gabby could not distinguish greens and reds. A decided no-no, he says, “kasi when you’re flying, nakikita mo do’n ‘yong greens, runways, blues, reds, whatevers.”


          And so he ended up with the third thing he’s always wanted to do in his life anyway: real-estate work.


          “When I was younger, “he recalls, “I remember my mom giving me, in school, pencils to sell. I remember that—pencils. Kasi nga, you know, my classmates, I’d sell them pencils and erasers and sharpeners. Oh, yeah, they bought it. They bought everything that I had. That was my baon. Everything that I made would be my baon fro recess and lunch.”


          In other words, he liked selling. But he liked selling land and houses best.


          “Oh my God,” he begins, as he extols the value of real-estate work. “I like the service that real estate gives the people. Because the knowledge that I have in real estate and in mortgage, not everybody has. I feel good that I can share this with people—not only our kind. I deal with Hispanics. I get a lot of Hispanic sales because sometimes I look like a Hispanic, or even my last name is Hispanic.”


          But by any measure, getting there was not a breeze.

          “Of course, you come from Manila. The only thing that you know how to do is to run a resort [Anilao, Batangas, property] and to get into show business. So what else do you do here, dib a? Kaya nga I ended up doing odd jobs.”


          On top of that, he was just rooming in with relatives.

          “I stayed at my cousin’s house for three years, then with my brother, here in Bay Area. Then I went to New York because my uncle is over there. So basically, I was a tourist all this time.”

          The next thing he did was to go back to school. “Ever since I came back here, sabi ko, I wanted to get a diploma here—and start a career here.”

          He says he graduated from Lincoln University in San Francisco. “I’m happy that I have that diploma, a dean’s list certificate and all. I was able to take my four-year course, cram it into two, because of the credits [from Maryknoll College] I had in the Philippines.”


          He goes on: “Okay, after I got that… what do people normally do? They apply for jobs everywhere, right? And that’s exactly what I did. I started applying, giving my resume to companies. I ended up with a division of GAP, Fisher Development.”


          He was hired as a purchasing agent. “I would supply all the credenzas of the Banana Republic stores, GAP stores, Old Navy stores. Lighting, all the fixtures, shelves, floorings, logos—all of that, I would supply the different stores. They have hundreds and hundreds of stores all over America and outside the United States. I did everything by phone. Nowadays, everything’s sophisticated.”


          In the States, that was definitely a good first job.

          “Thank God for my education, my college degree. That got me somewhere. Because that is one of the things [companies] also look at. I only had some purchasing experience in L.A. [Los Angeles], but that’s smaller, in a hydraulic company.”


          Finally: “In the process of doing work for Fisher, I purchased a condominium. Because, when I first came here, I didn’t know if I was coming or going.”


His first real estate investment was actually made back in the Eighties, when he bought a house in Pleasanton. But by the early Nineties, he had sold this property.       


          Of this, he says, “That was a mistake. I learned in real estate that you don’t sell. You hold on to your property.”

          Now, returning to America and buying the condominium would lead him straight to the world of real estate.

          Siyempre… first time you’re buying a house, you’re not used to all these fees. Ang daming fees, e. All kinds of fees here, all the escrow fees, and what is that escrow, you know? Title fees, what is that? So, I started investigating. I said, ‘Is it necessary to pay all these fees? Who do these fees go to?’ Enormous! ‘Somebody can live off on these fees,’ sabi ko.


          “So, sabi ko, this is interesting. I’d like to learn more about this. That was my very first experience. It was my own property, my own investment, that I learned from.”


          Enthusiastically, he says that many people in the business—strangers to him at first—were only too willing to teach him the ropes. And one prime lesson was that mortgage was a partner to real estate. He decided he would take the U.S. exam for realtors. For this, he would go back to school for a year.


          “Oh, well, that’s the only way to go here in America. You have to do something to stay alive. So, from scratch talaga. No showbiz influence, nothing. I just started from the beginning.”


          His mother Lourdes Arellano Concepcion, was especially happy for him. “She was reluctant when I got into show business in the Philippines. But when I put up my resort, she goes, ‘I know when you concentrate on something..’ She’s my mother, she knows me. When I concentrate on something, it becomes a  golden hen, or a golden egg, whichever comes first, hehe.”


          Indeed, Gabby is tenacious. And he knows it, too. “When I got into the business [running his Anilao resort] that I did, surely it flourished. Kasi I know when I put my mind and heart to it, it will just go.”


          Meantime, during the period he was to take the exam, he prayed really hard and made God a bargain.

          “You know, I used to go to church every Sunday, but I promised the Lord that if He gave me just this… We call ourselves Catholics but we don’t normally practice it. The day I passed this thing—I wasn’t making it a condition—I said I will reinforce my faith. And it happened.”


          This, he says, is what makes him steer clear of nay ill will towards anybody today. As he puts it, “If you can’t say anything good about somebody, don’t say it.”


          Gabby today will sidestep all talk about certain things. He will not, for instance, talk about Sharon Cuneta, who was legally separated from him on August 4, 1987, whose conjugal partnership with him was dissolved on December 11 that same year, and whose marriage to him was declared null and void on November 10, 1993.


          He will not go into Sharon’s petition for KC’s adoption on August 3, 2001, which was officially resolved in Sharon’s favor by July 31, 2003.


          He will venture only: “It’s KC’s decision. She is under Sharon’s influence, she grew up with Sharon, and I don’t want to say anything negative about them. Because I have nothing negative to say about them. It’s just how life is.”

          It is his father Rolly Concepcion who, back in Manila, volunteers that the court case took  “several months” and that he represented Gabby in court. “He fought for KC. We knew it was a losing battle, but the thing is Gabby wanted to show for later years, the he in fact fought for her.”


          Gabby will not talk about Jenny Syquia, the 25-year-old he married before his marriage to Sharon was nullified, and from whom he became estranged in 1995, and officially separated from in December 2001.


          Gabby will steadfastly refuse to say how the union ended: “I don’t want that brought up. It’s a settlement issue.”


          He argues, looking particularly serious: “If you write about the history behind me being here and all that… ‘Well, you know why he’s here? Because he wanted, uh, he’s always wanted to see Disneyland and see all that stuff.’ Pero, because of Jenny, because of his failed marriage, all that stuff—that’s all negative, e.”

          And after years of being on the receiving end of the movie press, he’s come up with his insight: “You say anything more about that and you’ll see another writeup about it. It will go on for the next six months, and we know that. So, one article that comes out this week, manganganak. It mutates.”


          He adds, earnestly: “I don’t want to bring up, and open, a dirty can of worms because I don’t want the family to have to come up to defend themselves, you know. When you say something about the other side, they’re not going to look at the good things that have happened to you. They’re just going to concentrate on that one line.”


          By now, I am clearly feeling like an interloper. Much more so when he says about the fifth time tin two hours: “That’s all behind me now. I don’t want to talk about ‘yong mga past ko. It’s not going to help my business anyway. And I don’t want to hurt anybody. I don’t want to say anything that will make anybody react.


          There is something he does reveal. For a man who can will himself to focus on a goal, and is quite capable of ridding his mind of anything that gets in the way of that goal, he is not given to many regrets.


          But, he says, “If you ask me if there’s anything that I regret… You know, it’s…just…not having time with my daughter [KC]. That’s about it.”


          Then, of the one recent major happy event in his life—his marriage this year to Filipina Genevieve Yatco Gonzales—he begs off from any talk, saying only: “Remember, marriage is a union of one—of two becoming one. My decisions are no longer my own, so I have to respect that.”


          And what of showbiz? Does he miss it?  After all, he was in it from 15 to 31. His answer is: “You know what, to me, showbiz was a dream. So after a thirteen years, that’s the number that tells me that’s enough.”


          He goes on: “I did mention one time in one of my interviews that, you know, showbiz is a circus and I don’t want to be a part of that. I wanna be an audience.”


          He clarifies that he thoroughly enjoyed being an actor. He liked the jov of acting, of “getting into moods and expressing these moods. There was something inside me that came in natural when I was doing my scenes.”


          In fact, he is not close to the idea of appearing in another film again. But it has to be one, he says, that say something, has a good director (he mentions Carlos Siguion-Reyna, Chito Rono, Laurice Guillen), and is shot in America.


          Then he says, quietly but without apologies, that the big disadvantage to being an actor is the press.


          “Well, I’m really happier here than I was in Manila because walang mga “reporters who, ah, you know.”


          He cites the way television and print are so careless about the things they put out today, thinking everything can simply be corrected tomorrow. Gabby objects, with reason: “When, it’s out there, even if it’s corrected, it’s already out there. That’s why having an interview to me is dreadful.”


          When Gabby does get back to what the interview can be about, it is this: “I just want to talk about the present.”

          It is a present that he describes as going well, thank you.

          “In a nutshell, you know, it’s been a good ride. My life here is 101 percent better than it was in the Philippines. Although I’ve had good times in the Philippines. I’ve had, you know, beautiful children, I had a very good experience in Manila, I’ve learned a lot, I grew up in the Philippines. But my life is here. My home is here.


          Lolit Solis tells YES! that this is news to her. “Ang alam ko, nang huli kaming mag-usap, ayaw talaga niya ang Amerika. Ang mga kapatid nga niya, noon pa naroon, pero siya, dito talaga. Gusto niya ang Pilipinas, ang beach resort niya, ang buhay dito.”


          Maybe, the years have give Gabby a new feel for America: “I feel at home here, kasi Filipinos are all over in the world. Not just America. And I can’t say na, dito sa Amerika, na home will still be in the Philippines. Home is where the heart is, you know. And this is my home.”


          He says the Philippines remains special, but things are changing for him. “Okay, I’m not saying I don’t want to have anything to do with the Philippines. I mean, my resort is still back there, but I want to sell it. But, you know, I wanna move over here because my life is here.”


          For Gabriel Concepcion, it seems work is life.


          And he says he will toil to make things happen his way. For instance, there are hundreds of realtors around, but Gabby says, he has a sure edge over them. “I farm,” he says. “I’m diligent. e. I farm, I farm, I farm.”


          He means, literally,  “Magtatanim ka.”

          He brings out his flyers. He sends postcards. He is making calls all the time. He adjusts to their hours. He lets them know that a house is on the market. He again lets them know when he’s sold one, and what kind, so that if they’re looking for something similar, it is him they go to.


          And, he repeats: “I don’t just farm sa mga Filipino. I farm to everybody. That’s why the clientele I get is not just Filipinos. I don’t even have to rely on kababayans. But, of course, I’d love to help our own.”


          What is more, says he with vigor: “I do this full-time. This is all I do.”


          And so, at age 41, it is America he has decided to grow old in. “This is home. You can do whatever you want. There are prejudices everywhere, pero I hope in this business [realty] there isn’t, and I don’t feel it here. I don’t feel that people are looking down at you.


          “You know, whatever kind of job you have, everybody here is normal. You eat the same food everybody else does. You do the same things everybody else does. You go to the same parks everybody else does.


          “And, you know, it’s affordable. Anything is affordable for as long as you are willing to work. And everything is achievable.


          “In Manila, it’s a little different. I don’t need to do politics with anybody here because all you need to do is just do your thing—and you’ll be okay. Be honest, do the right thing, and you’ll be okay. In the Philippines, it’s a little bit different.”


No, nine years after he left showbiz and the country, everything has changed.


          Gabby Concepcion, the young and spoiled aristocrat-upon whose feet lay easy riches and quick pleasures—looks to have disappeared.


          In his place, Gabriel Concepcion, a decade older, more diligent, more earnest, and now a common realtor—in whose hands lie rewards that can be earned—looks to have emerged.


          Ceasing to be a star, he might yet, finally, be master of his own.