Let’s do That’s Entertainment. How did you get in it and how fun was it being in that show?
I was 12 years old at that time. By then I just took as another project that came my way. But I knew that it would involve a lot of acting workshops on air—because we didn’t have proper workshops outside of the live show back then, ha ha ha! We were probably Kuya Germs’s guinea pigs that time, but it actually worked because a lot of us who came from That’s became successful ! I actually applaud Kuya Germs for coming up with that concept.
A lot of our titos and titas remember you were with the Wednesday group, tama ba?
With Jojo Alejar, Rachel Alejandro, Ricky Rivero, Lilet, Jojo Abellana…Romnick was not originally from the Wednesday group but was eventually placed there to be paired off with me. Harlene [Bautista—who eventually married Romnick but are now estranged] was with us, too, but she was transferred to a different day for some reason, and Romnick was the switch. The original That’s Entertainment was only from Mondays to Thursdays, wala pang Friday. Eventually they added a day, and nadagdagan pa ng Saturday.
Saturday Entertainment was where you had these grand production numbers and it was stiff competition among the groups.
Yes! We had big production numbers that we did not do rehearsals for in big dance studios…we were practically rehearsing out in the streets back then. Sa kalye kami ng [television] studio nagrerehearse!
Who were the Wednesday group’s rivals back then?
Most of the time it was Wednesday against Friday and Thursday.
Who were in these groups?
Si Vina Morales I remember was in the Thursday group. Friday group sina Isabel Granada.
And Wednesday’s secret weapon was?
Sobrang galing namin sa dance! We were very blessed to have a group of performers including Cecile Galvez, Jennifer Mendoza, and Marilyn Villamor who were really good dancers and singers, so total performers talaga. That was the era when we celebrated the music of Michael Jackson and Gary Valenciano, Madonna—we performed to their songs.
Do you remember your signature look back then?
I remember getting into Madonna’s look, but I wasn’t the girl into teased hair and all that. I kept it low that time. Maybe the loose shirts and skinny jeans?
How were the fans during Saturday Entertainment? Were they ready to go to war?
Well, all I can say is grabe. Do you remember the days when movie fans drowned Vilma Santos and Nora Aunor in sampaguita garlands? Sa amin na nag-end yon; we would have sampaguitas up to our necks when we would perform. From start to finish ng isang song, wala kang makikita kundi puro sabitan ng sampaguita, ha ha ha! They would give gifts; we even had fans na mga prinsesa sa Mindanao who would give jewelry. They were really, really kind. And now I have fans who are teachers, lawyers, doctors, nurses, and they would tell me na nakikipag-away sila nung mga panahon na yon! Doon daw sa basketball court nakikipagsabunutan sa isang Jennifer Sevilla fan! Even though Jennifer and I are friends!
Nakakatawa kasi this all happened long before social media. If this were now, viral ‘to! We’re assuming fans sent you letters then. How many did you get in a day?
I was getting sacks full of letters. As in sako-sako! My mom Rosemarie Sonora eventually had to help me sort through my fan mail. But I did send letters back, and what we did was gumagamit na kami ng carbon paper so I can sign multiple letters, ha ha ha! For every sack mailed out, tatlong sako ang babalik.
Those were the days when fans were really fanatics.
It was really different back then. I remember we would do events in big places and you couldn’t even see spaces between people’s bodies, it was really full, inside and outside the venue! We had a lot of concerts outside Manila that had to be cancelled on the day itself because the fans were uncontrollable. I remember these concerts would be in cockpits pa back in those days! When these places swelled with people, they would really storm the stage, and by then hindi na talaga kami makakalabas. There was one concert in Cotabato where they had to wheel us out in a big soft drinks delivery truck. We were on top of the truck! Down below, men, women and children were already getting hurt.
How were you able to take all this fame at such a young age?
The truth is, it was too much to handle.