The news on the floor spread like wildfire. A former actress was is in the Training Room. I thought it was a joke. When I learned that it was not, I thought the actress was a trainer, only for me to learn that she was indeed a trainee, a newbie, who just started for Program Specifics Training. At first I could not believe it, because the actress was a favorite of mine, and still is. Until I got the chance to see her at the pantry, getting coffee. I had the gumption to approach her and say “Hi,” but it seemed she was so focused on having her mug filled with coffee , or perhaps her mind was somewhere else. And without intention, she had ignored me. And that’s when I left.
Her name was Cita Astals. She had been a favorite household name back in the late 90’s when she played Hilary, the comedy king Dolphy’s boss in the sitcom “Home Along the Riles.” It tells about the joys and triumphs of an ordinary family whose house is near the railways. Dolphy, who played Kevin, is a single parent to Bill (Smokey Manaloto), Bob (Gio Alvarez), Bing (Claudine Barretto) and Baldo (Vandolp Quizon) who is also Dolpy’s real life son. Every week, most Filipinos would gather infront of their television sets to watch and enjoy the stories filled with wit and laughter which had always been a trademark for every Dolphy sitcom through the years. And because the sitcom had good ratings, most of the cast had the benefit of getting offers and gaining exposure elsewhere including Cita Astals. She got invited to talk shows like “Kris ‘ hosted by Kris Aquino and “Ms D.” which was then hosted by Dina Bonnevie. And since she does not really give her opinions when not asked, it was quite a revelation the first time she gave one . I still remember that interview.The topic was about relationships. Kris noticed , asked her even why was her same sex relationship not known until then? In which she answered smartly, “Because nobody asked me,” which solicited quite a laughter at the studio.
Since then, I had watched most of the talk shows where she guested. The way she answered her questions and how each answer turned out laughable was such a refreshing sight compared to the usual quips one hears from other artists. Perhaps because Cita speaks he mind openly. And if her smart quips and one liners elicited such shocking reactions , then it is about time one’s line of thinking needed upgrading.
It was not really a surprise when she ran for office and won as Councilor for Manila. Because being a public servant ate most of her time, she slowly dropped out of show business. And I have to admit, I missed those days when I would watch and laugh at her smart answers, just like anybody else.
It was 2010 when one of my daughters was watching “Wish Ko Lang,” a documentary that grants people their wishes, either requested by these same people or by others who felt they deserve such help. My kids and I could not believe that the commedianne, Cita Astals, was at the center of the story. It said that she had been seen wandering alone, most of the time, sometimes talking to herself or getting angry for no reason at all, in public. That she no longer held an office, and that it was her friends, her colleagues that had asked for help. It also said that Cita might be experiencing depression, brought about by loosing to another showbiz personality when they both ran for the vice mayor ticket and after she lost, she ended up unemployed. Cita was unaware that her friends had asked for the program’s help though she knew from the initial interviews she had with the program’s staff that their line of questioning was leading to something. What more, she did not even know such show existed until she was told of the reason for the interviews. Upon learning that it was her friends who had asked for help, she was so pleased upon seeing them, because it had been a long time that she kept in touch. Though she was not denying the fact that she had been affected with what happened in her life, she welcomed the idea of getting psychological help.
It had been almost two years since I last saw that documentary. Seeing her now, almost everyday, sometimes made me wonder what she had been through and the fact that she had chosen our company to start all over again. Her reasons for depression maybe trivial to others, but each of us have different capacities on how we handle stress and rejections. For some , it would be easy to succumb to that point of being selfish, self centered, worst resorting to alcohol, drugs or even gambling, while others would rather keep things to themselves and not to burden other people on what they were going through.
It was such a courageous and a humbling decision to pick up the pieces of her life again. It may not have mattered if she should have done that a long time ago or she just started now. In the end, she believed that she deserved a second chance on life , just like any one of us do.