By Jocelyn Valle
Pokwang may have lost another chance at love when an imminent romance with a Mexican-American whom she met while doing a show in Dallas, Texas in April 2010 went kaput. But she’s not sulking.
For starters, her career is going great guns. She recently cut a two-picture deal with Regal Films and she will soon work on the remake of the ‘80s cult hit, Temptation Island, as one of the leads alongside young stars Andi Eigenmann and Carla Abellana. She will play the role of a bratty beauty queen’s loyal yaya. A solo picture is also said to be in the works over at Pokwang’s mother studio, Star Cinema, which is the film production arm of ABS-CBN.
Of course, there’s still the noontime show, Wowowee, which she has been co-hosting since 2007. Pokwang will also be part of the new game and variety show Pilipinas, Win na Win, which will replace Wowowee beginning July 31. Her resilient professionalism and unique brand of humor have attracted a solid following in the country and abroad.
Pokwang, who is Marietta Subong in real life, is a fulfilled single mother to her teenage daughter, Riemae, and a capable provider to her widowed mother, her 11 siblings and several relatives. Her father died a few years ago.
She proudly declares that she attributes and dedicates her success to her family, most especially to her child. “Dalawa silang anak ko pero ‘yung panganay kong lalaki, angel ko na siya ngayon,” she says, referring to the sad aftermath of a personal tragedy in 1998 that she now considers as the turning point in her life.
“Apat na beses akong nag-abroad sa Japan at ‘yung pinaka-last sa Abu Dhabi,” she recalls her experience as a migrant worker. “’Yun ang time na nagkasakit ang anak kong lalaki. Hindi ako nakauwi hanggang sa mamatay ang anak ko sa brain tumor at mailibing. . . Ang amo namin doon [ay] iba ang paniniwala nila sa mga Kristyano [kaya] parang hindi naman daw importante ‘yung pag-uwi ko. Tapusin ko na lang daw ang kontrata ko or else idedemanda ako. Six months ang kontrata ko. Nakaka-three months pa lang ako. Ayaw sagutin ang pamasahe ko. . . After that, hindi na ako bumiyahe ulit. Ayoko nang magtrabaho abroad. . . May nangyari sa anak ko na wala ako sa tabi n’ya. Sobrang do’n ako durog na durog.”
Upon returning home, Pokwang worked as a choreographer and then as a stand-up comedian at Music Box on Timog Avenue, Quezon City. One night, a talent coordinator from the now defunct gag show of ABS-CBN, Yes, Yes Show, came scouting for contestants in the segment, “Clown in a Million.” Her friends secretly signed her on so she nearly went berserk upon receiving a call telling her to report to the gag show’s set.
Despite feeling unsure of her chances in the contest, Pokwang reported to ABS-CBN studio. “Wala akong magagawa kundi magsikap na kahit ano’ng trabaho basta legal papasukin ko,” she says. “Kasi nakita ko na walang tutulong sa anak ko kundi ako lang. ‘Yung tatay, wala ng silbi, ‘di ba? Ang mga magulang ko naman matatanda na, wala nang trabaho. ‘Yung mga kapatid ko, sa akin pa rin umaasa.”
Pokwang, who wears her Catholic faith on her sleeves, firmly believes in fate. “Naniniwala talaga ako na ‘pag destiny mo, destiny mo talaga kahit ano’ng gawin mong iwas. Ayoko talagang sumali kasi sobrang nahihiya ako nang bonggang-bongga pero plano ni God ‘yan kaya hindi pwedeng ilihis.”
At the same time, she lives by the dictum that God helps those who help themselves. That’s why despite her flourishing showbiz career, Pokwang has put up a salon with her colleague and good friend, Pooh, and mulls over getting into a food business like a Japanese restaurant because she’s a fan of Nippon cuisine. She’s also building another house near her place in Antipolo that she considers lucky and looking into other real estate investments.
Asked if she’s already wealthy, Pokwang, without missing a beat, exclaims, “Ay, sobra! Umaapaw, siksik, liglig. Wala na akong bangko na madepositohan kasi tinatanggihan na. Gano’n ako kayaman!”
But does she still cry?
“Oo naman, may mga moment,” she admits, turning serious. “Ibang reason na. Hindi na sa boyfriend, hindi na sa pamilya. Sa pera hindi na rin kasi alam ko na kung paano i-manage ang pinaghirapan ko.”
The last time Pokwang had a good cry was when she received last December the citation for the Readers’ Choice’s “Triumph over Tragedy” category of the 2009 Working Mom Balance Awards. Working Mom is a monthly glossy of ABS-CBN Publishing that annually honors exemplary mothers from various fields.
In between sobs, Pokwang made wisecracks at her hard and sad past while accepting her award. “Ang nanay ko talaga ang inspirasyon ko kung bakit ako naging komedyante. Nililibang n’ya kaming magkakapatid kasi wala kaming makain.” Then she turned emotional. “Idolo ko sa pagiging ina si Mama Mary. Pareho kaming nawalan ng anak [na] ginawa kong inspirasyon.”
She later tells us: “Very thankful ako na nare-recognize ang mga kagaya ko na comedian. Ibang-iba ito sa mga award na natanggap ko kasi madalas sa acting or hosting pero ito, akong-ako talaga ito.”
Last month the comedienne received another unexpected gift, this time from one of her closest friends in showbiz, TV host-actress Kris Aquino. Before the presidential sister left for the US last July, she gave away her customized pink-colored mini-bus to Pokwang as a token of appreciation for the comedienne’s support for President Noynoy Aquino in the last elections.
“Bago siya umalis [papunta] sa US ay tinext niya na ako na ide-deliver daw sa bahay,” she relates, adding that she never dreamed of having a bus of her own and receiving such a big present from Kris. “Actually ako, ang gusto ko lang talaga ay malaking sasakyan kasi malaki ang pamilya ko. Sobrang marami kaming magkakapatid, mga pamangkin ko, ilan yang mga yan. Pero hindi ganoon kaganda at hindi ko ini-expect talaga.”
Pokwang says her mother became emotional upon seeing the mini-bus. “Ang unang una umiyak nanay ko. Natuwa talaga ang nanay ko nang bonggang bongga. Saka kasi mahilig maglaboy ang nanay ko. Excited na excited siya. Ginamit na nga agad.”
For all the blessings that she has received, she is still wishing for Mr. Right to come her way. “Kung nabibili lang ang dyowa at pagmamahal,” she sighs. “Iniisip ko na lang na mas maswerte ako doon sa mga kababayan natin na walang bahay – ‘yung mga nakatira sa ilalim ng tulay na walang ano…alam mo ‘yun?”
But she adds her Prince Charming should be someone special. “Kailangan mas maraming pera kaysa akin. ‘Yun ang totoo kasi kung ako rin ang bubuhay sa kanya, ‘wag na. At siyempre kailangan ‘yung may takot sa Diyos dahil unang-una, babae ang anak ko. Dapat kasing sipag ko rin siya.”