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SARAH Lahbati is flattered when folks say she resembles Jennifer Lawrence, the leading lady in “The Hunger Games.” “I haven’t seen the movie pero nakakatuwa nga kung totoong may kamukha akong Hollywood star,” she says.

So what has she been doing since “Kokak” ended? “I went to Switzerland to do a concert and I stayed there for one and a half weeks. Naunang umuwi rito sina Enzo Pineda and Derrick Monasterio who performed with me. But we went to Paris first. Nag-enjoy sila. First time nila mag-snowboarding. They still communicate with my friends in Geneva up to now. While vacationing in Geneva, I gained weight, so heto, nagpapapayat ako before we start taping the new soap with Richard Gutierrez. Totally, no rice ako and I do boxing. I was 64 kgs. before. 60 na lang ngayon.”

How does she feel being paired with Richard? “I’m really excited. We’ve met na sa story con and sa workshops. At first, nahihiya ako. But he talked to me, very friendly, so I’m comfortable with him now.”

What’s her role in the story? “I play Graciela, a student who falls for Mark Anthony Fernandez in Manila, then I realized he’s not good for me so we broke up and I went to the province where I met Richard. Si Carla Abellana naman is a lawyer in the province na may kaugnayan kay Richard, then she goes to Manila and meets TJ Trinidad, another lawyer. The tentative title is ‘Makapiling Kang Muli’. I’m so happy kasi our director is Direk Ricky Davao, who also directed me in ‘Kokak’. Napakabait niya so I’m glad siya uli ang director ko.”

Some folks urge to join her the next Miss Philippines World contest as she has a good chance of replacing First Princess Gwen Ruais in the next Miss World Pageant. “But I never dreamt of being a beauty queen,” she says. “Gusto ko talaga, mag-artista at maging singer. Ngayon, artista na ako, I want to try indie films naman o kaya, mabigyan ako ng sarili kong album.”

NINA DENIES ROMANCE WITH VIC

NINA Jose is delighted with the positive feedback she’s getting for her performance as the wild and fiery Leona Braganza in TV5’s “Valiente.” Just like Annabelle Rama who called for her own presscon to promote her wards’ shows on TV5 (Arci Muñoz in “Felina” and Danita Paner in “Isang Dakot na Luha”), Nina’s manager Manny Valera also held a special interview for her and Roxanne Guinoo who’s joining the cast of “Valiente” this week, and Liane Valentino who plays Danita’s sister in “Isang Dakot na Luha.”

“I’m happy that I moved to TV5 because my role in ‘Valiente’ is my best and most challenging role ever,” says Nina. “Leona is a very complex character, very classy, may depth ang pagkatao niya. Obssessed siya kay JC de Vera as Gardo, na ayaw naman sa kanya. Then she gets pregnant, without her revealing who the father is. Eventually, I will lose my sanity as Leona. Abangan nyo yung mga eksenang nababaliw na ako. They all praise me but I don’t want it to get into my head.”

She feels blessed as she also gets to do comedy in TV5’s sitcom with Vic Sotto, Jose and Wally. “Nakakatuwa talaga kasi not everyone is given the chance to do both comedy and drama.”

It’s good the rumors linking her to Vic have died down. “Hindi naman kasi talaga totoo. Like I said, I have a non-showbiz BF, Joseph Calata, a businessman. We just celebrated our third monthsary. Sobrang masaya ako sa kanya as he’s so thoughtful and caring.”

Doesn’t he get jealous when she does kissing scenes with JC De Vera? “He comes from a very conservative family so kinakantiyawan niya ako about it. But he’s very understanding. Alam naman niyang part ng work ko ito.”

MARITONI HAS MISGIVINGS ABOUT JAKE FOR LEXI

MARITONI Fernandez is turning 47 on Saturday and she’s glad she’s still very much active as an actress. She gets a lot of good feedback for her role in “Legacy” as the ex-bold star mom of Alessandra de Rossi. “Ang sarap paglaruan ng role ko,” she tells us on the set of “Legacy.” “Kontrabidang nakakatawa, laging nang-aasar. Sabi ko kay Eddie Garcia, lalandiin kita rito, ha. Ang tawag ko sa kanya, Fafa at di Papa. Both Alex de Rossi and I, enjoy sa roles namin. I treat her as my own kasi magkapangalan pa sila ng daughter kong si Lexi Fernandez. Type ko ring nakikipagtarayan ako, lalo with Cherie Gil. Very challenging. Nagsabunutan na kami.”

We heard she and Kuya Germs will be “magbalae” since Lexi is the true inamorata of Jake Vargas. “Ay, hindi na, break na sila. Goodbye. Busy ngayon si Lexi shooting ‘Just One Summer.’ Siya ang kontrabida kina Elmo Magalona and Julie Anne San Jose. Ms. Annette Gozon assured me hindi siya madedehado as a villain kundi mamahalin siya ng lahat ng mga bakla.  Si Lexi kasi, tatahi-tahimik ‘yan, pero babaeng bakla din ‘yan.”

How did Lexi feel about breaking up with Jake? “Namroblema nga ako as she might be sad, pero hindi naman. Parang bale wala lang. Hindi naman kasi ito serious relationship, puppy love lang, but it’s her first. We’re best friends so I’m sure she’ll tell me if nasaktan siya.”

Didn’t she like Jake? “He’s okay, dumadalaw sa amin, mabait na bata. Kaya lang, ayoko ng pandak, e. But okay naman sila, they still work together in ‘Alice Bungisngis and Her Magic Walis’.”

LEXI REACTS TO MOM: ‘YUNG PANDAK, OPINION NIYA ‘YUN

LEXI Fernandez corrected her mom at the GMA7 presscon for their Afternoon Prime soaps, to which Lexi belongs in “Alice Bungisngis and Her Magic Walis.” “Lahat ng sinabi ng mom ko is true, except ‘yung nag-on kami ni Jake,” she says. “Never officially naging kami. Yes, dinadalaw niya ako sa bahay, we’re close, but tumigil na. We both realized we should focus more sa trabaho, but we keep our friendship. About sa ‘pandak’ thing, opinion ‘yun ng mommy ko.”

So she doesn’t mind having a vertically challenged BF? “Siyempre I prefer someone taller than me, but not naman ‘yung sobrang tangkad.”

Didn’t Bea Binene (Jake’s ka-love team) and she feel awkward on the set of “Alice Walis”? “No naman. Lahat naman kami sa show, friends. As of now, I’m paired with Derrick Monasterio and she, with Jake. Pero magkakapalitan kami ng partners as the show goes along. Magiging intense ang rivalry namin ni Bea not only because of the boys but also because of our Yaya, si Lola Andeng played by Alicia Alonzo who we both love.”

YENG WANTS TO SETTLE DOWN AT 27

YENG Constantino is the only Pinoy Dream Academy Season 1 discovery who is successful in her career. Her batchmates are no longer active as Jay-R Siaboc (who was active even as an actor for a while) has faded back into oblivion. “I’m really thankful to ABS for supporting my career,” she tells us at the screening of “Anino,” the Star Magic production that’s also her very first movie. “Matagal na akong tinatanong kung gusto kong umarte but choice ko talaga to focus on singing and composing. Itong ‘Anino’ cameo role lang ako dito and I get to sing my own song, ‘Lapit.’ After this, may short role din ako sa ‘Kimmy Dora 2, Temple of Kiyeme’ ni Ms. Eugene Domingo.”

So she’s now ready to act. “If there’s a good offer, why not? You con’t say no to such a blessing. But then, I really have to prepare and train for it first. Itong ginagawa ko ngayon, cameo roles lang naman. Hindi mahirap.”

If ever, what kind of movie whould she like to do? “I want to do something light, like a romantic comedy. Hindi ko naman kakayaning magdrama. Ang idols ko, sina Sarah Geronimo and Toni Gonzaga. I like the rom-coms that they do. Pareho silang singer, pero naging successful din sa acting.”

She’s now 23 but has yet to have a boyfriend. “I really don’t know kung bakit kailangan, may boyfriend ka. Honestly, gusto ko, pag nag-boyfriend ako, ‘yung tuluy-tuloy at diretso na sa kasal. Ayokong magbilang ng boyfriends.”

So when does she plan to get married? “Siguro when I’m 27. Beyond that, baka made-depress na ako. Gusto ko namang maging mother na bata-bata pa rin ako.”

The day after we talked to her, Yeng left with other Star Magic talents for the first leg of the Star Magic U.S. tour. Their first destination is Waikiki, Hawaii on March 30, then they go to L.A. for two shows, then back to Waikiki for another show with an independent producer. With her are Angelica Panganiban, Bea Alonzo, Kim Chiu, Xian Lim, Gerald Anderson, Erich Gonzales, Zanjoe Marudo, Enchong Dee, Rayver Cruz, Vina Morales, Erik Santos, and Pokwang.

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