[EXCLUSIVE] Zsa Zsa Padilla Celebrates Life, Career, Family and Being Happy

The month of May is special for Zsa Zsa Padilla for good reasons: she’s turning 54 on May 28; celebrated Mother’s Day with her three daughters Karylle, Nicole and Zia last May 13; and her 35thshowbiz anniversary concert dubbed “The Best Days of My Life” held at the Newport Performing Arts Theatre in Resorts World Manila on May 11 was a resounding success.

In a time where fans are going crazy over love teams and pop stars, Zsa Zsa is a perfect example that versatility, talent and right attitude are the perfect recipe to stay a lifelong in an industry where one has to always contend with a pool of artists determined to make it big.

35 Years and Counting

With an impressive career spanning 35 years, Zsa Zsa is one of the most distinct voices, touted as the Divine Diva, in the local music industry being behind timeless hits such as “Mambobola,” “Kahit Na,” “Hiram,” “Ikaw Lamang” and “Sana’y Maghintay ang Walang Hanggan.”

The multi-awarded singer-actress started her career as a vocalist for Hotdog, the legendary Pinoy band, in the mid-‘70s before deciding to go solo in 1982. Five years later, she landed her first acting role via hit TV drama series “Lovingly Yours Helen.” Since then, Zsa Zsa appeared in numerous projects that allowed her to carve out a lustrous career and survive controversies along the way.

Her successful anniversary concert cemented her place as one of the best and respected singers today as she relived her journey in the past decades through her memorable songs that earned her awards and accolades.

With an astounding career, the Divine Diva was quick to give credit to her mentors and people who helped her hone her talent and supported her in more ways than one.

“My secret in staying that long is like what other people would say ‘No man is an island.’ I was backed by so many people. Especially when I was starting my career ang dami talagang tumulong sa akin – my managers that I will forever be grateful to, the publicists, and the band I’ve worked with, mga directors, napakadami,” she said in a recent interview.

Career Dynamics

The journey to having a successful career in the entertainment business didn’t come easy for the veteran singer-actress. She had to contend with controversies and learn lessons from it and in all of her undertakings, Zsa Zsa is out there giving extra effort be it in doing a series of shows or acting as a kontrabida in a TV drama series like her role as Helen Montoya/Red Dragon in the recently concluded ABS-CBN show “Wildflower.”

“So since first time ko naman pinabayaan ko na kumabaga lahat ng criticisms wini-weigh-in ko lalo na kung baka naman makakatulong sa akin.

“Sabi ko, kailangang patunayan ko ang sarili ko na kahit ang tagal ko na sa showbiz. And so eventually, nag-grow,” Zsa Zsa relates about her character in an exclusive interview with Filipino-Japanese Journal (FJJ) at Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo where she had a pictorial for the magazine.

Through the years, she has learned to really get in to the character that she is portraying to elicit the right emotions.

“While you’re playing it, doon mo lalong maiintindihan ang character mo kaya ang acting hindi mo kailangang sobrang planuhin. It’s more of how you feel inside. Ito yung character ko and alam mo na kapag kausap ka ng director masasabi mo kung gagawin ba ito o hindi ng character mo.

“I guess doon lumalabas ang pagka-artist ng isang artista,” she enthuses.

Being a veteran, Zsa Zsa admits that she is at a point where she has the freedom on whether she will accept a project or not.

“I feel at my age, being in showbiz for 35 years, mayroon naman na akong privilege na makapamili. Kapag bata ka pa, kaya mo tanggapin lahat ng projects kasi kailangan mo ng exposure. Siguro ngayon sa edad ko at hindi ko na rin kaya, nakakapamili na ako ng trabaho.”

“I’m just in a chill place in my life where I don’t have to prioritize work anymore. Kung may work, o sige. Kung wala, relax lang. I think I’m very comfortable now where I am. Ang artista naman hindi nagre-retire hanggang may trabaho, hangga’t kaya pa gagawin pero I am at a point in my life where I’m really savoring the moment,” she says.

On Love and Motherhood

Zsa Zsa got a second wind at love a few years after Dolphy, her partner for 23 years, died in 2012. Being in a long relationship with the comedy king, Zsa Zsa thought that falling in love again was out of the equation. Until she met Conrad Onglao, an architect, through her good friend Sharon Cuneta.

The relationship blossomed and although they had a short break up last year, all is well now between the two.

“The biggest challenge for me was that I was with Dolphy for 23 years and it’s difficult for me realizing that I was with another person. There was a lot in my past that I had to let go of and accept before I could really, truly move on,” Zsa Zsa admits.

Now, she enjoys doing simple joys with him like eating, walking and traveling.

“Gusto ko iyong ninanamnam ko iyong mga moments. I like simple joys. Ganun na, I’m in that path already. And I’m looking forward to farm life. Ganun na ang mga dreams namin, me and Conrad, as partners. Busy kami sa pagplano kung ano ang gagawin namin in the next years,” she adds.

She also enjoys quality time with her kids Karylle, Nicole and Zia. Although she had a hard time raising them because she was a working mother, with showbiz commitments left and right, Zsa Zsa made it a point to be there in the most important stages of their lives.

“Raising them when they were younger was a challenge because I had less time with them. We tried to bring them abroad or sa work namin kung pwede.”

Her memorable celebration of Mother’s Day happened when her kids prepared a delicious meal for her at their Marina house in Parañaque City.

“They make it special for me, my girls. Mayroong time na nandoon kami sa Marina and nagluto, naghain sila. Ang nag-set up si Coco, si Zia iyong nagluto, tapos nag-entertain si Karylle and si Yael. Mayroon pang video online na Arroz ala Cubana, iyon un. So that was very memorable kasi sobrang nag-effort sila, na-appreciate ko iyon.”

As any other mother would do, Zsa Zsa will do everything to protect her children, “Mabait ako sa tao pero kapag feeling ko inaapi mo iyong anak ko bigla akong nagbabago. Siguro lahat naman ng nanay ganun pagdating sa anak.”

Zsa Zsa may be a big star with a lustrous career in show business but in the end, her greatest achievement in life will always be family.

“I think we have to remember na napakalaking achievement ang magkaroon ng masayang pamilya because we all work hard for that, ‘di ba, buong buhay natin. We have arguments, misunderstandings pero we always want na buo ang pamilya natin, na nagkakaintindihan kayo.

“I am proud that my daughters even though individually may kanya-kanya na kaming tirahan, we still see each other, we communicate all the time, and that’s something I am very proud of. I think that is my greatest achievement in life.”

This article was originally published in Filipino-Japanese Journal May 2018 issue.

(Interview by Florenda Corpuz, Words by Nel Salvador, Photographs by Din Eugenio)