By Leandro Milan
Our hero is star-struck and, apparently, love-struck too.
After bagging the CNN Hero of the Year (2009) award, Efren Peñaflorida finds himself in hot pursuit of a more stunning and elusive trophy. The object of his affections is the gorgeous and alluring actress Angel Locsin.
Efren’s romantic exploits first came to light in late December when he was interviewed by Boy Abunda on the TV show Bottomline. In that interview, the acclaimed kariton educator admitted that he has had a big crush on the the actress for the longest time.
Angel and Efren first became friends on Facebook, drawn by their common interest to help the underprivileged – he, with his Kariton Klassroom project; she, with her numerous charitable undertakings. By sheer coincidence, on November 19, the two found themselves on the same flight to the US. She was on her way to New York to attend the Emmy Awards where she was nominated for Best Performance for an Actress in the teleserye Lobo. He was on his way to Los Angeles to receive an award as one of CNN’s Top Ten Heroes and later as CNN Hero of the Year for 2009 for his heroic attempt to bring education to the poor children of Cavite via a mobile classroom. Up on Cloud Nine, our star-struck hero did not pass up the chance to reveal his feelings for Angel.
When it was Angel’s turn to appear on the gossip show The Buzz on January 3, Boy, the self-proclaimed King of Talk, grilled the actress about Efren’s startling disclosure.
An embarrassed Angel was initially at a loss for words.
“Paano ba?” she began. “Nakapag-usap kami. Actually, before pa naman magkaroon ng award sa kanya, magkaibigan na kami sa Facebook. Yung mga cause na ginagawa niya, sinusuportahan ko rin. Naniniwala ako sa mga gusto niyang gawin. And nagkita kami bago ako pumuntang New York, sabay kami sa eroplano kasi, e. Doon na kami nagkakilala talaga.”
Angel continued: “Nakapag-usap kami. Hindi ko alam kung paano ko sabihin, e… Yun nga, parang sinabi ko sa kanya na medyo natatakot akong sabihin sa kanya kasi siyempre siya yung nakikitang hope ng bansa natin, e. Para sa akin kasi, ang mas kailangan natin ngayon sa Pilipinas yung hope. At ayoko yung… dahil magulo nga ang buhay ko dahil nasa showbiz ako, ayokong yung hope na maibibigay niya sa mga tao, maapektuhan ng dahil sa akin. Sinabi ko sa kanya kung ready na ba siya na… Ay, nahihiya ako! Kung ready na ba siya na harapin yung mga yun. Ako kasi sinabi ko na, well ako kasi gusto ko friendship muna.”
Pushing the kilig factor several notches higher, Boy commented that he was surprised that the two were able to discuss something so serious in their brief, unplanned in-flight meeting.
And then came more revelations from Angel that elicited shrieks from the audience. Efren had visited her at home and he had talked to her father about his romantic intentions.
“Paano ba?” she rambled on. “Kasi pumunta siya sa bahay. Nag-usap sila ng dad ko. Mas una niyang kinausap yung dad ko kesa sa akin. Nagulat ako pagdating ko, ‘Bakit parang nagkukulong sa kuwarto yung dalawa. Ano ang nangyayari dun?’”
Boy pressed on: “So Efren and your dad had a heart-to-heart talk?”
“Pero first time lang po yun, Tito Boy. Nahihiya ako. Ano ba ‘yan, nawawala ako! Ang init ng pisngi ko,” confessed Angel, blushing.
She declined to speculate on where the whole thing would lead. Everything will fall into place if it is meant to be, she said.
In another television interview, this time on GMA-7’s 24 Oras, Efren confirmed his intentions to court the actress. He said it was back in 2004 when he developed a big crush on the Angel. What attracted her to him, he said, was not her looks and celebrity status but her character and inner beauty.
He admitted that he had gone to Angel’s house to talk to her father, Angel Colmenares, about his plans to court his daughter.
“Sinabi ko sa dad niya kung ano yung intentions ko. In-open up ko sa dad niya. I was able to pray pa nga sa dad niya,” the high school teacher revealed. “Bago ko in-ask, bago ko in-open sa kanya ‘yong mga intentions ko, ready na ako. Prepared ako doon sa kung ano man ang mangyayari.”
Efren says he has not had a single girlfriend in all his 28 years, which explains why he appears so thrilled whenever he talks about his feelings for the actress. On the other hand, Angel, who turns 25 in April, has had three showbiz boyfriends: Mico Sotto, an aspiring actor who fell to his death from a condominium building six years ago; Oyo Sotto, Mico’s first cousin and son of Vic Sotto and Dina Bonnevie; and her latest ex, Luis Manzano, son of Vilma Santos and Edu Manzano. Angel and Luis ended their year-long relationship last August for still undisclosed reasons.
Unfortunately for our hero, But Angel does not appear to be too keen about his romantic intentions. Although she has gone out with Efren, she says all she could offer to him at this point is her friendship.
“Hindi naman ako nagpapaligaw,” she said on Showbiz Ngayon last Jan. 21. “Right now, we’re good friends lang talaga. . . Minsan pumupunta siya sa bahay kasama yung mga kids. Minsan lumabas kami. Nanoood kami ng sine kasama ang mga bata. ‘Yon naman ‘yong usapan din namin, eh. Ayoko ‘yong kausap ko si Luis [Manzano] tapos may kausap akong iba. Ayoko namang magpaasa ng tao.”
Angel is keener in giving his erstwhile boyfriend another chance. Luis has admitted that he is wooing the actress again and reports say that he is a constant visitor in the Colmenares’ residence nowadays. “I’m trying to win her back and make up for my mistakes in the past. Na-realize ko she’s a good girl worth fighting for,” Luis was quoted in one report.
Angel appreciates Luis’ efforts to win her back. “May effort naman siya [Luis]. Na-appreciate ko naman. Tingnan natin kung ano ang…hindi naman kami nagmamadali. Siyempre, hindi naman ma-i-aalis kung gaano ka-espesyal si Luis.”
In tabloids and social networking sites, fans of Angel and Efren expressed shock, disappointment, even disdain at the news.
“You’re dreaming! Just because you’re a CNN Hero doesn’t mean you can be Angel’s boyfriend,” said one user on social networking site Twitter.
“It was great that he won as CNN Hero. But I was disappointed he wanted to join the celebrity world so quickly,” quipped a Facebook user.
Indeed, many onlookers find the Angel-Efren tandem implausible, even off-beat, because his chosen career and her social milieu are night and day. While both come from poor families, today their lifestyles are worlds apart. Efren is immersed in the harsh reality of the slums of Cavite. Angel inhabits the glittery make-believe world of Tinseltown. Can they defy fate and live happily ever after? Will this romance be nipped in the bud? One would think this unlikely fairy tale could happen only in the movies. Abangan!