Ann,now an acting coach, with Mikael Daez
She was named after a saint — Ann, the mother of Mary. It therefore came as no surprise when Ann Villegas, as a child, dreamt of becoming a nun.
However, fate had a peculiar way of charting one’s destiny. And for Ann, a nun she wasn’t to be.
Instead, the allure of showbiz beckoned her. But it wasn’t too surprising either being the granddaughter of the country’s premiere comedian Dely Atay-atayan. It’s in the blood,so they say.
As fate had it, at 14, fame was literally handed to Ann.
In her very first foray into acting, a silver platter in the form of a co-starring role in a major film was laid at her feet. The project was “Dalawang Pugad, Isang Ibon”(1977), one of the country’s finest movies that pitted her against film giants like Vilma Santos, Romeo Vasquez and Mat Ranillo III.
In other words, everything came fast and easy for Ann. At fourteen, she had everything. She was a model, a radio personality and a movie star.
But while all else came easy, a satisfying love life was elusive.
“If I could only turn back the hands of time, I would’ve avoided falling in love easily,” Ann now says. “Siguro, nagpakasal muna ako bago ako nag-anak. Dapat umpisahan ng tama ang anumang relasyon.”
Ann fell in love to the most unlikely person—a married actor. She describes her feeling then as “super in-love, yet not completely happy”. “Because of my wrong choices, may iba akong nasagasaan,” she explains.
“The Ann before was pasaway,” she admits. “The new Ann is more knowledgeable in life. Marami nang eye-openers sa akin. I’m obedient now.”
The eye-opener came through a celebrity-evangelist, Coney Reyes. “I was doing the TV series ‘Munting Paraiso’ with Ate Coney then,” she says. “She knew that I was in a wrong relationship. So, during the first two years that we’re together, she kept on giving me advices on how to conduct my life, but I wasn’t receptive. Then, after two years, she made a request. She said, pa-birthday ko na daw sa kanya. She invited me to attend a church service. Gusto lang daw niyang makinig ako.”
“So, I went to the church for the first time, sa Victory,” she continues. “The sermon that day mirrored my situation. You know? Then and there, I had a conviction na ayaw ko nang magpatuloy yung relasyon naming dalawa. It’s that easy.”
But of course, it didn’t come as simple to the other party. ”Kasi, parang bigla akong nagbago. But I was firm in my decision. And in fairness, in the end, he respected my conviction. Maybe because he felt that I’m really decided”, explains Ann.
“We didn’t see each other anymore after that,” she says. “But he and the children maintain an open communication. My children respect their father.”
“We were together for fourteen years,” Ann confesses. “Pero hindi masakit yung paghihiwalay namin. It was so sudden. Ganoon ako kamahal ng Diyos. He gave me the strength para maituwid ang buhay ko. God worked on me.”
“When Christ became the center of my life, all my worries vanished,” she continues. “Nag- iba lahat.”
The change is even manifested physically, according to Ann. “Before, my friends would tease me, ang taba-taba ko daw. Kesyo, I looked old, problematic and irritable. Well, not anymore.”
The most dramatic improvement however is seen in her children. “Pati mga anak ko, they are growing up, na tama yung ginagawa. Maybe, ‘pag alam ng mga bata na tama ang ginagawa mo, they will follow you. They will respect you, regardless of your past”, she philosophies.
Ann’s pride is anchored on her three children: the eldest Rapunzel Crystal has just finished pre-law in U.P; Ramona Maurice is in third year, high-school; while the youngest, Alfredo Marquis is in Grade 2.
“My children are not luxurious,” says Ann. “But we’re very close. Every Sunday, we go to church together. I feel that they like our arrangement now. It’s because alam nilang wala akong natatapakang iba. And I’m an honest woman.“
“When it comes to rearing my children…Well, I remind them right away,” she says. “Wag nang patagalin. Ang mali. Mali. Ang tama. Tama. I am very honest to my mother and my children. They know my problems and my fears.”
Amid the trials, Ann’s family remains as her muse, the source of all-pervading comfort and strength. “Second to God, my family talaga,” she says. In fact, Ann considers the love and unity in her family as her greatest achievement.
“Yung love and respect nila, sobra. At alam nilang mahal ko sila.”
She also said that having a good set of friends is crucial to her survival. “I’ve been betrayed by friends, a lot of times,” she admits. “But I’m also lucky to have really good ones, like Ate Coney (Reyes), Princess Punzalan and Gina Alajar. Guwardiyado ‘ko talaga. Mahalagang may circle of friends ka, na nagbabantay sa iyo.”
In the end, she attributes her newfound happiness to her Creator. “Without God, windang ako,” she says. “I’m very happy now because I am peaceful and I have inner joy.”
Today, she says, “I’m giving a hundred percent of my talent–kahit pagluluto ‘yan o pagpapaligo ng bata— lahat–100 percent para sa Panginoon. I made a vow to the Lord that I am His servant.”
Ann has been in the entertainment business for a good three decades now. “Awa ng Diyos, hindi ako nawawalan ng assignment,” she says. At present, she busies herself as the resident director of Sining Pinagpala Foundation, and as one of the mentors of the Actors Workshop Foundation.
Ann, in her journey had been through highs and lows of life. But in the end of her long and winding voyage, she goes back to her roots— the child Ann, who once wished upon a star to be a true servant of the Lord.
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