Lea Salonga’s Backstory: Down time at home


—–Lea’s little angel, Nicole.


Down time at home
By Lea Salonga
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:39:00 10/15/2008; On Paper 10/16/2008

MANILA, Philippines—I flew into Manila quietly on Wednesday evening to spend a week of down time with my family. I’m very thankful that, although I’m signed on to spend a good chunk of time on this Asian tour (of “Cinderella”), there are mini-breaks due to transit days and whatever else that allow me to come home. My entire body shuts down and grabs whatever respite it can, however it can.

Whilst at my favorite foot reflexology massage spot, I thought of the top 10 things I do while on a decompression break.

1) Sleep

Truth be told, even in the most ideal conditions, I have trouble sleeping. I could have the most comfortable bed on the planet or the nicest pillows that could be provided by a hotel — and I’ve stayed in some really nice ones — and still I’d be tossing and turning till daylight. Even at home I need a bit of a time to entice slumber (and not on account of my husband’s sonorous snoring, either). In any case, home is where I sleep best, because … hey, it’s home.

So, whenever I’m home, I allow myself the luxury of extra sleep, knowing full well that once I’m back on the road, there will be some tossing and turning once again.

2) Get a massage or two

This is another indulgence. My husband and I always come here—our favorite reflexology massage place—together. It’s quiet and peaceful, with new age or ambient music at a manageable volume. There are private rooms, large wooden buckets of hot herbal foot soaks, even pajamas for us to change into prior to treatment. Hot wolfberry tea is served before we’re ushered into our room, setting us on the path to relaxation. The rates are reasonable, too!

My legs are what suffer when I perform “Cinderella.” Ballet turns, heading up and down flights of stairs, and waltzing in three-inch heels make for a very sore body from the waist down. Thus, the massage.

3) Eating out with Rob

My husband and I are incredibly busy people, with work taking up a bulk of our schedules and the remainder of our days occupied by a very curious, talkative and active toddler. However, we do make it a point to have a “date” whenever we can.

Lunch or dinner, pizza or sushi—we make time, over a nice meal, to reconnect. And before we fall asleep, it’s nice to hear him say, “Honey, I’m so happy you’re home.” It puts a smile on my face. The sonorous snoring is then blissfully ignored.

4) Time with Nicole

I love my daughter, I love my daughter, I really, really love my daughter.

The one thing that does make me feel a bit sad is not being there everyday for Nicole. I feel blessed, though, that she is in trusted and caring hands. I have a fantastic yaya and my mother stays at our house when I’m away. When I’m abroad and my husband’s home, Skype becomes our best friend. I can then watch Nicole recite “Patty Cake,” or sing along with the “West Side Story” DVD (she actually asks for it, and loves to sing “Maria”).

Still, as great as technology is, it’s not the same as being home, where I can spend time with her watching Elmo or “Blue’s Clues” or a Disney animated film like “Cinderella,” “Aladdin” or “Mulan”… and applaud her own unique rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Or I can just watch her pick up toys off the floor or pick out an outfit. She would call my attention to crickets singing in the twilight, the rumbling of thunder, a plane passing by…

I love watching her fall asleep. I love the smell of her hair. I love the sound of her voice as her vocabulary expands and her enunciation improves.

She’s 2 years and 5 months old, and to this day I regard her with disbelief. I catch myself thinking, “I can’t believe this little girl is mine.” On her wedding day, I’d probably be thinking the same thing still!

5) Watch my brother work

I am quite possibly my brother Gerard’s biggest fan. More often than not, I’ll be the screaming banshee at a concert that he’s conducting. Hey, I’m his big sister! I see it as my responsibility to behave like a complete idiot when he’s on stage.

I recently took in two concerts: Ogie Alcasid’s “Twenty/Twenty” and “FilFest All-Mozart Concert,” which he conducted on his birthday, Oct. 11. Two very different shows. I’m used to seeing him conduct pop repertoires—my own or another artist’s. The Mozart concert was my first time to watch him conduct classical music (Mozart is one of my favorite classical composers). The repertoire included the familiar overtures from “The Marriage of Figaro” and “The Magic Flute.” Gerard was in fine form. The orchestra was fantastic, guest performers Coke Bolipata and Giovanney Emmanuel Cruz were excellent. And Gerard? My histrionics should suffice as a description. He was magnificent— and I say it without bias.

Ah, my baby brother’s all grown up! Belated happy birthday, Gerry!

6) See my friends

On Thursday, I met up with three of my good friends— Bobby Garcia, Chari Arespacochaga and Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo—to attack the buffet at Shangri-La Makati’s Circles. I was the last one to arrive, having come from doing errands. They had started on the appetizers. Yes, yes, I did catch up. That entire buffet is sinfully delicious, but the Indian food was especially great! We we there at around 6:30 p.m., and left at close to 11 p.m.

Not all that time was spent eating, no! We talked about work, too. Bobby, Chari and I work on “Cinderella” together, and we took turns telling Menchu about the technical snafus on tour. We talked about other friends, about each other’s shows (“Avenue Q” is going to Singapore later this month), and whatever else we could think of. All of us have worked together, either in pairs, in threes, or all four; in concerts, musicals or plays. We truly enjoy each other’s company away from work. So much laughter goes around! I’m blessed to be a part of their lives and to have them in mine.

7) See my friends, part two

Not all my friends are actors. One of my best friends, Steffi Inocentes (nee del Rosario), I’ve known since I was 15. The friendship started with us fawning over ’80s Puerto Rican boy band Menudo. She asked if I wanted to join the fan club of which she was the president. I said no, but that didn’t stop us from being friends. Today, 23 years later, we’re still best buddies.

We went to Ateneo together, with me visiting her dorm room every chance I got. We’re ninang of each other’s daughters, and try to spend time together whenever I’m home. My most recent visit was to her brand new house, before I headed out on tour. A lovely home it is. When I was away from home for the first time, her cards and letters, as well as her visits to London and New York, kept me from getting too homesick. She’s kind, funny, incredibly sweet, a great mommy and a fabulous ninang. I miss her when I’m away. And I still owe her a night out.

8) Errands

At the end of the day, I am also a housewife. Which means that a grocery list is bound to find its way into my hands. The one that did over the weekend wasn’t very long, but included the staples— fruits, salad, milk, cereal, sweet corn.

Thing is, whenever I do visit the grocery, I usually add a few unlisted things— raisins, almonds, popcorn, interesting-looking junk food, cheese, and crackers. I’m also a sucker for peanut butter and paranoid about running out of diapers, so I tend to grab an additional pack.

Other errands include accompanying my husband on his grooming routine, and making sure that my tour meds are replenished. Also, buying mga bilin for other people.

9) Guest on a game show!

You read that right! I was asked to appear on “Deal or No Deal.” It’s one of my favorite game shows (and I kind of prayed for the chance to be on it). My goodness, I get stressed just watching a contestant pick what could be the P2,000,000 briefcase. I was depressed when I learned that the show was being replaced by another. Now I’m ecstatic that it’s back… and I was asked to play. Yehey!

I’ve chosen the I Can Serve Foundation as my beneficiary, should I win a nice, big prize. For more information on this breast cancer patient advocacy group, visit http://www.icanserve.net. Marie Claire Magazine’s October issue (I’m this month’s cover girl) has dedicated lots of its pages to this worthy cause. If and when you can, get yourself a pink T-shirt! As I write, though, I still don’t know when my “Deal” episode is airing.

10) Nothing

Yes… absolutely nothing. As unproductive as that may sound, sometimes, doing absolutely nothing is the best thing in the world.



Congratulations to Stages and the cast and crew of “West Side Story” for a successful run! Kudos to Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo for an auspicious directorial debut, as well as to Christian Bautista for the courage to take on a huge role. Much salutations go to Joanna Ampil and Rowena Villar for coming home and sharing their incredible talents with RP theatergoers. I hope you two come back again and again… We’ll never have enough of either of you.

To Jo, break a leg, as Christmas Eve on “Avenue Q” on the West End! I think her run begins in December. Merry Christmas, indeed!

Shameless plugs

• FILharmoniKa has released “Heritage: The Music of Antonino Buenaventura” (conducted by Gerard), the fourth CD in the “Musika Natin” series; the three others are “Lahing Kayumanggi,” “Ugnayan” and “Kumpas.” All are now available at major record bars. Visit http://musikanatin.com.

• The Dawn, one of Manila’s premier rock bands, has recorded a jazz album! “The Later Half of Day” has chill versions of their signature hits, such as “Enveloped Ideas,” “Iisang Bangka Tayo” and “Beyond the Bend,” plus covers of “Message in a Bottle,” “Melt With You” and “Can We Still Be Friends.” This album that shouldn’t be missed will be released Nov. 3 by MCA Universal under Songstream Music.

Speaking of The Dawn, their film, “Tulad ng Dati” is now available on DVD. Directed by Mike Sandejas, the semi-autobiographical movie was named Best Film at the 2006 Cinemalaya festival. Find the DVD in any Powerbooks branch or in Fully Booked, Bonifacio High Street.

If you want to read more of what’s going on with me, visit http://bigsis222.multiply.com or http://chinacinders.blogspot.com


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