MANILA, Philippines - For Christians, Lent is the time of the year that mostly focuses on sacrifice and self-reflection, but at the heart of it is thanksgiving. After spending a quiet Holy Week, the celebration of Easter hinges putting to heart Christ's ultimate sacrifice and what it has brought us-life and all its blessings.
In show business, it is rare for stars to find that enduring light that lets them shine for a long time. Charlene Gonzales is one of the lucky ones, and she has always been thankful for the almost two decades that she's been in the business.
''I never realized na tatagal din ako rito,'' she tells Bulletin Entertainment in an exclusive interview. ''Initially I thought I wanted to do it for one year. But I fell in love with the industry.''
Coming into our homes every Sunday, Charlene is currently known best as a co-host in ''The Buzz,'' which she joined in July 2010. But while she is the daughter of showbiz luminaries, Bernard Bonnin and Elvira Gonzales (who was crowned Binibining Pilipinas First Runner-Up in 1964), she knows even lineage like this does not assure one of longevity in this business.
For Charlene, who herself was crowed Binibining Pilipinas in 1994, her career is something she takes one step at a time. ''I never really planned my career path,'' she says. She's always welcomed projects as they came along-and she has a good number of movies and TV shows with her name on it, with ''The Buzz'' actually being her first showbiz-oriented talk show.
But even as she changes hats every now and then, there is one constant in Charlene's life to which even her celebrity persona takes a back seat. Having one of the most enduring relationships in local showbiz, Charlene's marriage to actor Aga Muhlach has thrived because the couple puts a high premium on their family.
''Aga and I have made it a point to give quality time to our children, especially during their formative years... every step of the way. Now, we're reaping the benefits,'' Charlene shares.
''Cherish your family,'' she advises. ''We all dream of an ideal family so when that opportunity comes, treasure it. It's a job in a sense, so you also have to set aside time for it. 'Pag masaya ang family, everything follows.''
After the Holy Week break, which her family celebrated at Mataas na Kahoy, in their rest house in Batangas, the hardworking Charlene will be back juggling her parental duties with her responsibilities at work. Through it all, she needs to keep the balance between her job in a show that dishes the intrigues and keeping within her personal boundaries.
''It's difficult when you know the person really well... when you're directly involved and you know what's really happening,'' she says. ''But as I always say, it's a judgment call, knowing how to weigh things between doing a job and maintaining a friendship. But there should always be respect... [for] the individual and their privacy.''
''One thing I'm proud of is that I've made a lot of good friends [in the business] and friendships based on trust,'' she points out.
Perhaps keeping out of Twitter and Facebook has also helped her maintain these relationships. ''I stopped with Twitter kasi nakaka-addict,'' she laughs. ''I'm all for expressing thoughts and opinions-that's everyone's right. But if that's really your opinion, panindigan mo 'yan. If you go beyond a certain point and hurt somebody, you have to take responsibility.''
Charlene, who has achieved a steady standing in the industry, also notes, ''I started young, and this business makes you grow up really quick. There's pressure, extreme happiness, moments you feel bad... really, a roller coaster ride. But it's a school of life-it always gives you something to learn, something to appreciate.''
Blessed with beauty
Aside from enduring relationships, this former beauty queen has also managed to maintain her looks and figure through the years, kids and all. She's managed that by exercise, drinking lots of water, keeping to certain foods and getting a lot of sleep.
It isn't surprising, therefore, that brands have come to Charlene for her endorsement. Currently an endorser for ForMe, Charlene says she likes to ''mix styles and brands... to experiment.'' This is also why she's agreed to represent the brand.
''Totoo 'yung name nung brand,'' she notes. '''For me' talaga, meaning, they make clothes specific to different body types.'' The brand's new collection called ''Charmed Life,'' which will be showcased at the Philippine Fashion Week Holiday 2011 on May 12, will attest to that.
''It is important to have the right fit of clothes,'' she noted, but also admits getting bored wearing the same cuts all the time. ''I dress depending on my mood, so I always like to get excited with that I'm wearing. I know you see me in the show, always all dressed up, but I like seeing something new on me as well.''
For someone who also likes to play sports and keep active, and who confesses to being an extreme shoe fanatic, Charlene often presents a different image when she's working. But just as the brand she endorses offers a variety of styles that women can wear to practically any occasion, Charlene is just as flexible with her own personal style. Nevertheless, she notes, ''Wear what you feel brings you happiness, what you are comfortable in.''
Beauty in and out; longevity in the business and in personal relationships-Charlene is, indeed, charmed in more ways than one. For that she is always thankful, not just on Easter but every single day of the year.