Sharon Cuneta’s decision to jump ship and sign a five-year contract with TV 5 last November created a storm of criticism, with some people calling her an ingrate for turning her back on ABS-CBN, her home network for 23 years.
“I was shocked by that reaction since a lot of other artists were already moving around the three networks. Why was it such a big deal?” she said during the recent press launch of her coming daily talk show “Sharon, Kasama Mo, Kapatid.”
She lamented: “All of a sudden ang sama-sama namin. It’s unfair to us artists, because this is our choice … Ang sakit-sakit naman ng mga paratang.”
Sharon was also annoyed at the accusation that the P1-billion TV 5 deal had blinded her. “I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I get labeled mukhang pera,” she said. “One billion is a huge amount, but it’s not new to me after 30 years in the industry.”
She explained: “Two hundred million every year for five years, minus taxes and other deductions—that’s pretty much what I normally earn. It was not about the P1 billion.”
A little respect
At the end of day, she stressed, it’s about getting a little respect.
“Although I was given many opportunities and will always be grateful to ABS-CBN, I thought I deserved, and wanted my name on my show again. And it was TV 5 that gave it to me,” she said.
The veteran actress-host-singer acknowledged that her departure may have hurt some Kapamilya friends, but she maintained that her relationship with former ABS-CBN bosses, Gabby Lopez, Charo Santos-Concio, and Cory Vidanes remained sound.
“It was painful to leave because I love them so much,” Sharon said. “In fact, before signing the contract with TV 5, I couldn’t help but cry, because it used to be Sir Gabby sitting beside me.”
She loves Helen
Sharon was generally upbeat throughout the press con. But when the subject shifted to the longstanding rift with her aunt, Helen Gamboa, she turned emotional.
Political misunderstandings over the years between her husband, Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, and Helen’s, Sen. Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, have marred the two women’s relationship. Sharon and Helen have not talked face-to-face in the last two years.
Old wounds were reopened when a newspaper story quoted Sharon as saying, “Politics does divide families, such as when my uncle says something bad about Kiko …” Helen responded: “I feel that it is not right na ang pamangkin ko ay masyadong matayog.”
Sharon said she never intended to fan the fire. “Ayoko na ng gulo. I love my family, especially the Sottos.”
“I love my Aunt Helen very much and I didn’t mean any disrespect,” she added. “But I’m hurt and I’m already 46, and I need time to heal before facing her.”
She was not being conceited, she said, especially because Helen had brought her up. “She’s like a mother to me.”
Though she still felt unwelcome, Sharon said, she had been reaching out to Helen through the latter’s daughter, Ciara Sotto. From time to time, Sharon also asks former boyfriend Richard Gomez, who works with Helen in ABS-CBN’s “Walang Hanggan,” to relay messages to her aunt.
Not KC, please
“Sharon” was initially set for a March premiere, but was moved to May 7. “We didn’t want to put out something half-baked,” Sharon said.
Citing Oprah Winfrey as inspiration, she added that she wanted to emulate the media mogul – not for her wealth and fame, but for her power to touch millions of lives. “Aside from celebrities, we’ll have ordinary people with inspiring stories on the show,” she said. “I want this to be my legacy.”
Asked if she was prepared for the possibility that ABS-CBN would produce a similar show, Sharon said that was something she could not control.
Sharon said that: “Whoever is pitted against me isn’t going to be an issue. She did have one reservation though: “Sana lang, huwag ang anak ko [KC Concepcion].”
That, she said, would be painful. And rude.
Photos by Marianne Bermudez