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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Pauleen Luna: Lessons from a tragedy

The show must go on, even when a family tragedy threatens to tear your world apart. Pauleen Luna learned this painful lesson when her maternal grandmother, Merceditas Jimenez, died at the hands of a still unnamed gunman in the morning of her first taping day for GMA 7’s new series Luna Mystica.

“The tragedy tested my professionalism,” she looks back. “I’ve given my word that I will show up for work. But then this had to happen. It was like a baptism of fire for me.”

Eyes weary from crying, body weak with sorrow, Pauleen reported on the set, where her co-stars, Heart Evangelista, Mark Anthony Fernandez and others embraced her and held her hand in sympathy.

If there’s one good thing that came out of the tragedy, it is the way it has taught Pauleen a couple of lessons.

“Life is short and we have to do what we can today, while we still can,” she muses.

Indeed, 30 minutes after she talked to her grandma on the phone, the old lady died — without saying goodbye.

Pauleen’s only explanation: “God must have taken her because He wants her to be happy.”

Now all that’s left for this Lola’s Girl are sweet memories. Pauleen’s heart swelled when she discovered piles and piles of articles about her, plus notebooks with her on the cover, in her late grandma’s house. The old lady never told Pauleen about the collection of mementos. But she kept it like a treasure neatly tucked away among her keepsakes.

Did her grandma keep it to surprise Pauleen someday? Did the old lady leaf through the articles and gaze at her granddaughter’s smiling picture on the notebook now and then? Now, no one will ever know.

“She always had food for my friends on the set. One day she’d give me perfume; another day, it would be food again,” adds Pauleen.

To the very end, the doting grandma was thinking of her dear granddaughter. Pauleen got the surprise of her life when someone delivered her favorite food, like lumpiang ubod, for her her 20th birthday days ago. The sender: Pauleen’s grandma.

Pauleen says she felt her grandma’s presence three days after she died.

“The aircon was only at low cool but the room was so cold! And the phone – it kept ringing and ringing at 4 a.m.! Then, I felt someone pulling my blanket. I looked, but no one was there.”

You can’t blame Pauleen if she didn’t feel like making people laugh on Eat Bulaga! for a week.

“I would be a hypocrite if I showed up and cracked jokes,” she relates.

Pauleen was never wanting in friends who ran to her side. When he learned about it while he was in Malaysia, Pauleen’s former boyfriend Sherwin Gatchalian flew to her side. The news did not come from Pauleen. It came from his concerned staff at the city mayor’s office in Bulacan.

He was not alone. His brothers, Pauleen’s showbiz and nonshowbiz friends came. Pauleen’s best friend Ruby Rodriguez was one of the first to rush to her side.

Not everything is dark and gloomy in Pauleen’s world now though. The bright side is her reconciliation with Michelle Madrigal, more than two years after they had a rift.

The root cause is their former boyfriend JC de Vera.

“It was just a misunderstanding,” says Pauleen. “I called Michelle up and we listened to each other. Now there’s peace. We’ve agreed not to talk about the misunderstanding anymore.”

It’s just as well. Pauleen and Michelle play friends on Luna Mystica (to premiere Monday). It’s a role they can play better if they have no hard feelings towards each other.

Now that Pauleen has finally cast this burden off her back, her loving grandma — wherever she is — must be smiling from ear to ear.




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