That was Bubble Gang Girl she started out in showbiz.
This is what pure ambition and drive looks like
How badly must you want to be a star to actually become one? In the case of Lovely Abella, she wanted it so bad since she was eight she was going to shed all her shyness for it, and that was the first thing she did when she set foot in Manila. “Eight years old ako noon, nag-audition ako agad,” Lovely shares, recalling the time when she first arrived in the capital coming from a humble town in Koronadal City, South Cotabato. To prepare for auditions, “humaharap ako sa salamin, umiiyak ako. Pinag-aaralan ko kung paano umiyak… Bata pa lang, emotera na ako, ganun!” Like many dreamers before her, she thought show business was a way out of poverty. “Mahirap ang buhay namin [back then in Koronadal]. Tipong kukuha ka lang ng gulay sa bakuran niyo, yun na yung ulam niyo. Yung pupunta ka sa tindahan, bibili ng sardinas. Na-realize ko na ang sitwasyon namin sa probinsya ang nagbigay sa akin ng pangarap sa buhay. Eh sa probinsya, wala namang ibang libangan doon kundi kakanta ka o sasayaw tapos maaaliw sa’yo ang mga kapitbahay, sasabihin sa’yo, mag-artista ka!” Lovely says.
It took a while, though. But when you’ve been through only rejections since you were eight, it couldn’t have come quickly enough—even if it was only for becoming an “extra.” “Unang extra ko, 15 na ako nun. Hindi ko na maalala kung anong project.”
Lovely remembers the time when she thought she had already gotten her big break. She received a call from a talent scout and said that she would be given some lines this time. Having dreamed of this day all her life, she quickly said yes.
Ang talent fee raw, P2500. Eh nagstart ako sa P250 lang! Ang saya ko! May dialogue ako for the first time,” Lovely recalls. “’Eto na!...sisigaw lang pala ako ng ‘Aaaaaaaaaahhhhh!!!’ Jusko! Sisigaw lang pala ako tapos puno yung kukuhanan! Yun lang yun, sisigawan ko lang pala yung puno! Pero P2,500!”
All while she was recounting stories, we couldn’t help notice her way of spinning her yarn into a colorful ball of funny details. She kept on building on a story, delivered with actions and all. Lovely is, as we would say in kanto-speak, the self-appointed bangka ng kwentuhan.
“’Eto na, model naman ng Star City! Alas-tres ng madaling araw nandoon na ako. Sabi, ‘Neng, P250 lang to ha.’ Sabi ko okay lang kasi gusto ko talagang maging artista. Sige, laban ako! Star City, eto na. Ang dami pala namin doon! Jusko, nandoon ako sa ferris wheel! Ikot-ikot ako ng ilang beses doon! Kakaway ka kapag nasa itaas! Ay jusko, takot ako sa heights! Mula 3 a.m. hanggang 2:30 a.m. kinabukasan! Pero dahil nga gustong kong makita sa TV, laban talaga ako!”
If you stubbornly keep at something, pretty soon some kind of good will have to come out of it. For this he has Michael V. to thank.
Bitoy’s Funniest Videos kay Kuya Bitoy [Michael V.] talaga ako nag-start,” Lovely says. It was a hit gag show on GMA 7 similar to many “Funniest Videos” shows with hidden cameras and pranks. Lovely’s first “starring role” was acting as a massage therapist in Boracay, pranking customers at the beach.
That stint, no matter how minor, opened doors for Lovely. She was noticed by talent scouts and later on got a slot in the pool of dancers in Wowowee, a then-popular noontime variety show in ABS-CBN where sexy dancers had fortune boxes with cash prizes in them. And when the show folded, she went back to GMA to look for another break.
“One time, nagkaroon ng Sunday Pinasaya audition tapos [during my audition] lahat ng judges o mga producer, lumabas. Sabi nung mga nag-o-audition na artista na kasabay ko, kapag lumalabas daw, hindi ka raw tanggap. So kinabahan na ako!” Lovely says, pausing for a while as though to add some suspense. “Pagbalik ng mga producer, sabi ko, ‘Hindi ninyo po ba ako namumukhaan? Kasi dancer po ako rati. ‘Hindi,’ sabi naman nila. ‘Ilongga dancer po ako.’ ‘Ah talaga, Ilongga ka? Oh sige nga, try mo magaudition ng Ilongga.’ Ang ginawa ko, sumayaw ako habang nag-i-ilongga. Umiiyak ako, nagmamakaawa ako sa salitang Ilongga. Ganyan! Yun yung rason kaya nandito ako ngayon.”
Right then, she had stumbled into a comedy act that would land her the racket she had chased for so long. “Napanood ako ng head writer ng Bubble Gang, si Direk Caesar Cosme, sa Sunday Pinasaya. Pinag-guest nila ako. Sa lahat ng sketches na binigay nila sa akin, talagang nag-effort ako, kasi hindi pa rin ako makapaniwala nung nandoon na ako.”
Lovely’s efforts paid off, obviously. Now, she can include herself among the A-list Bubble Gang Girls who have earned their spot on the cover of our magazine, joining the likes of Kim Domingo, Valeen Montenegro, and Andrea Torres, among others.
Lovely is busy these days. Her normal week includes Bubble Gang tapings every Monday, Sunday Pinasaya rehearsals on Saturdays, and Sunday Pinasaya live tapings on Sundays, all of which run for long hours of throwing jokes, doing funny acts, and basically just exhausting themselves out to be funny and look good on TV.
“Hindi talaga madali ang tapings namin sa Bubble Gang. Mukha lang siyang madali, mukhang masaya, pero mahirap siya. Mahirap magpatawa para sa TV ha,” Lovely says.
Lovely is humble enough to say that she acknowledges that the “big break” hasn’t come for her yet. But she is working on it. Recently, she’s been undergoing drama workshops and has also been appearing on some drama shows.
“Hindi ako nananawang matuto. Hangga’t maaari, nag-aaral ako nang nag-aaral para matuto pa ako kung paano pa ang pag-arte nang maganda. Hindi ako yung parang ‘Umarte ka dyan, okay na yan.’ Hangga’t maaari, kakausapin ko si direk. ‘Direk, pwede pa po bang [retake]?’ Kasi alam kong may mailalabas pa akong maganda.”
Lovely also says that even until now she still gets surprised and overwhelmed every time anybody acknowledges her as Lovely Abella. “Kasi alam ko hindi pa naman ako big star talaga eh, alam mo yun? Pero nakakatuwa lang na minsan may nakakakilala pala sa akin, haha!” she says, blushing.
“One time kumain ako sa lugawan. Sabi ng nagse-serve, ‘para pong namumukhaan ko talaga kayo.’ Hindi siya makapag-serve kasi alam kong may gusto siyang sabihin. Pero yung anak niya, sabi, ‘Ma, si Lovely yan!’
“Kapag may mga out-of-town shows ako, talagang bumababa ako sa mga tao. Kapag nakikipag-shake hands ako sa kanila sobrang saya ko talaga na syempre dahil sa kanila kaya ako nandito,” Lovely says.
Our cover girl adds that her humble beginnings in showbiz keep her feet on the ground. “Kaya siguro ako ganito kasi nag-start ako as extra. Nakita ko kung paano yung buhay. Nakita ko yung nakasalpak lang kami dyan sa tabi kasi wala kaming sariling tent. Kumbaga alam ko yung pagod ng mga malilit na tao.”
So Lovely promises—well, at least to us at Fhm—that she won’t change, whatever her showbiz career brings to her. “Kung sakali mang sumikat ako nang sobra, mas mamahalin ko pa rin yung mga taong walang wala sa buhay kasi alam ko ang nararamdaman nila, kasi nanggaling din ako roon at hindi ko yun tinatago. Proud ako.”
Lovely’s eyes light up when we ask her about her vlog. “Nag-eenjoy ako kasi feeling ko roon sa channel ko, magagawa ko lahat. Hindi naman ako nabibigyan ng opportunity na mabigyan ng dance prod na sarili— at least sa channel ko, may sarili akong dance prod! May backup dancers pa ako di ba! Hindi naman ako nabibigyan ng opportunity na kumanta ng Ilongga version katulad ng ginawa ko yung ‘Hayaan Mo Sila’ in Ilonggo. Hindi ko yun magagawa sa TV pero doon [sa channel ko] magagawa ko lahat.”
As you can probably already tell, Lovely is hyped up with everything she does, this first solo cover shoot included [her first cover was the Bubble Gang special last year]. During the shoot, Lovely fell into the difficult poses photographer Xander Angeles asked her to do as though she had rehearsed for it. Valeen Montenegro, who dropped by the shoot, joked as she saw Lovely lying down on a couch with legs up in the air. “Lovely! Nalingat lang ako sandali, nakaganyan ka na!” In a word, kinareer.
“Hindi ako pumunta rito para makipaglokohan, hindi para makipagbiruan, kundi for FHM photo shoot talaga,” Lovely says resolutely. “Ni-ready ko ang sarili ko para rito. Ang difference nito dun sa Bubble Gang cover namin noon, ito may hugot. Masaya lang kami doon sa last cover, may mga lobo…ito may pa-black and white eh!