“‘Yung white shirt na suot ko jan ‘yung may ralph lauren teddy bear, that’s papa’s shirt na dapat pantulog lang pero feel na feel ko cos kanya yun. I wore it panlabas he he… I used to do it with my step-dad’s shirts when i was younger, nung 1st few years of marriage nila…”—KC to YES! (YES! October 2006 issue)
KC must be the most attractive 21-year-old in the country today. Certainly, she is up there as a most sought-after celebrity endorser. To date, the Paris-based student has racked up no less than four years’ worth of endorsements, from print to TV to billboards. She is begged to grace every kind of event, to—from charity auctions to fashion shows to premieres to launches to visits of orphanages. Everyone wants a piece of this girl.
She has appeared in only two professional stage plays (Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast), written just a few newspaper columns, done no movies, produced no books or screenplays, and been away from the country for the greater part of four years. Still a pretty young resumé—but, nevertheless, she is hot. And people say it’s all because she’s the daughter of.
They are talking, of course, about her mother, Sharon Cuneta, the No. 1 celebrity endorser hereabouts, a multi-awarded movie star with almost 30 years in the business, a big chunk of that spent on top of the heap. But they are also talking, of course, about her father, Gabby Concepcion, one of the last of the real movie stars and himself a much-sought-after celebrity endorser when he quit showbiz and left for the United States in 1995.
Together, KC’s parents were a lightning bolt of megastar power. No one could come close to the heat that the two, together, generated in the press, and when they legally separated in 1987, the ground could have shaken from under showbiz. Sharon Gamboa Cuneta stayed in the country; Gabriel Arellano Concepcion eventually went into self-exile in America. Six years later, that marriage was annulled, and three more years later, in 1996, KC’s mom rebuilt her life with Francisco Nepomuceno Pangilinan, who went on to win a Senate seat with no small boost from her megastar status. Eighteen years after the legal separation, KC’s father rebuilt his own life with Genevieve Yatco Gonzales, a Filipina. KC, in 2003, was legally adopted by her stepfather.
That said, there is no question that the child has made her mark in the here and now of the local scene as simply-KC.
Amazingly, there is nothing to dislike and everything to smile about this beautiful girl who has it all. Just listen to what she says to Lara Parpan in marie claire (October 2006) about all the hype surrounding her: “But how much of me is really interesting? Oh my God, I meet so many people, especially here, that have really interesting lives, amazing life stories. And I’m, like, I wish I could have that life so I could write all about it. Sometimes I feel like I have so much more to live to be able to write about it.”
Now the young thing has sprung a rather adult surprise on us. She has gone off to meet the father she last saw when she was 10 years old.
Reading her blog, we see that the separation of her parents caused KC real confusion and pain, even anger. But she willed herself to deal with the change. She bore the physical distance from the father she never learned to hate because, as she puts it to marie claire, “My mom never said anything bad about him.” And she carried on with her life, acknowledging that her mother “put herself through hell” to keep the two of them together.
For nine years at least, mother and daughter had only each other, and KC says now that when she walks down the aisle, it will not be a man who will take her to the altar, it will be a woman: her mom.
But the blog reveals something else. It uncovers a sensible, intelligent, emotional female. (And heavens, the female can write.) Now marie claire reveals even more. It uncovers a thoughtfulness and maturity not often expected of young celebs with only pedigree as their first claim to fame.
Why exactly did she seek out the father who had abandoned her and her mom? An introspective KC begins to speak about how each person has her own “unfinished business” to settle. And how, it being her curse to have passionate feelings (“being in touch with your emotions can drive you insane”), there was no other way to go. The child had to see the father again-even one who had missed out on half her life.
Besides, she recalls good things about him: “I remember he would always send, like, cards, letters, gifts. There was always something each year that would show me that he was thinking about me.” She concludes now that it was these “little things” that bonded them all these years.
She is anxious for marie claire to get it right: she finds her stepfather “wonderful,” she was never lacking for love, and her mother will always be the person she loves most in the world. But, she explains, if she did not seek her biological father out, and if anything ever happened to him, or to her, she will regret it forever. In the end, she sought him out because she knew “that he exists out there for me to love and get to know, to hang out with, to share things with.”
Also, she shares, “I had a boyfriend for two-and-a-half years when I was in Paris,” and although they’re no longer together, the relationship made her want to “resolve” things with her father. She did not want to end up “looking for a father, not a husband.” She tells marie claire, “Yes, I’ve become a woman. Yes, I have opportunities to get involved in a relationship. But I just wouldn’t want to do that until things are really resolved in my heart.”
Her next step was to ask her mom and her stepdad for permission to see her father. We can only guess at the couple’s own private agitation over this development, but in the end both rose above themselves and gave their blessings. Sharon would say to GMA-7’s S-Files (September 3, 2006): “The priority has always been my daughter’s wholeness, her well-being, her heart and happiness. So if that had to take me putting aside my own happiness…my anger, my frustrations, and everything, that’s what I did.”
So it was that, after 10 years of separation, KC flew from Paris to San Francisco to meet with her father. On August 13, at the San Francisco International Airport, the two finally met. KC describes the moment to S-Files: “May kausap pa nga ako sa airport na hindi ko naman kilala kasi bored lang ako. Tapos, bigla siyang dumating. Tapos, nag-smile siya. Wala, tumalon-talon na ako. Niyakap ko siya. Umiyak na ako, umiyak din siya.”
KC stayed in Gabby’s home throughout the week she stayed in California. She found her stepmother Genevieve “amazing.” Father and daughter took in the sights, had meals together, found joy in each other’s stories. Daughter says that now that she’s all grown up, she saw her father “in a different way.” Yet strangely, she muses, “you feel like you’re five again, but you’re not, because you’re able to talk to him about so many issues.”
She tells marie claire: “It’s the little things that count. When I got there, he had pictures of me as a baby, framed, or when I was five, framed. I’m surprised he has a lot of them. And that’s not something you can pull out of nowhere just because I’m coming. He kept them all these years.”
Now that she is back, she can only say the whole experience was: “Super! I’m still trying to put things together. It hasn’t really sunk in yet, to be honest.”
She does think the whole experience felt “surreal.” He had always been like “a dream,” she says. Just someone who was “out there.” But now there he was: reality staring her in the flesh. A flesh, what’s more, that “looks exactly like me, except he has lighter eyes.”
And her father’s words to her? “Just have faith,” she tells marie claire. “Faith that things will work out in the end. He gave me my space for a few years. I felt bad about this. But in the end he said, ‘I knew that things would work out, and I knew [laughs] that you would fall in love, that something would happen in your life that would make you run back and find me.’ And it’s true, you know.”
As for Gabby, he told YES! back in August 2005, “If you ask me if there’s anything that I regret… You know, it’s… just… not having time with my daughter. That’s about it.”
That daughter was Kristina Cassandra. These days, Gabby might also be saying to himself, “Surreal.” The daughter he had missed out on for so long, who existed out there for him to love and get to know, had finally been with him in the flesh. What wonder it must have been to stare into someone—someone, what’s more, that’s jumping up and down and hugging him and crying and looks exactly like him, except for the darker eyes.