Away from the glare of camera lights, Abby Viduya, a.k.a. Priscilla Almeda, is settling to a low-key life with a sparkle in her eyes in the laid-back city of Ichihara in eastern Japan.
Even in anonymity, intrigues hound her. Priscilla Almeda Killed in Japan! screamed bloodthirsty showbiz columns in the middle of last year. It turned out the news was a hoax or a case of mistaken identity (the victim of the fatal crime was reportedly a co-worker of hers who had similar features).
Barely creating a rustle in showbiz as Abby Viduya, Priscilla re-surfaced on our celluloid screens in the mid 90’s sizzling as a sex nymph in such titillating flicks as Sabik, Exploitation and Sutla. She stirred up a hornet’s nest at home and in the pulpits—being made a symbolic scapegoat for the moral decay of Philippine society—even as Filipino men continued to fancy her as their Syota ng Bayan, another voluptuous persona of hers in the sleazy blockbuster. We got glimpses of the elusive person behind the image in her cry of exploitation against producer Robbie Tan. But by and large, Priscilla was as veiled in private as she was unrobed in public. And then, the klieg lights faded on her like a mist.
With the image that precedes her name, we were pleasantly surprised to find Priscilla recently in a very low-key setting in the laid-back port city of Ichihara in Chiba Pref.
Introducing herself as Abby, she ushers us into the Chinese restaurant, Pon-yo (which means friend) where she now works. Answering the question “as what”, she very matter-of-factly tells us that she does everything from serving food to tidying the place—“like mopping the floor”. She doesn’t even bother making up a title for herself: “We’re like a family in this restaurant. My boss is a good friend. I even cook for my colleagues.”
The angelic face and the velvety skin are unchanged, but the body has lost its divine proportion. She candidly admits, “I have to shed some pounds before I go out to the public…”
You could very well be in the US or Canada, where you have family ties. Why did you choose to settle in Japan? “I like Japanese food, the place is beautiful and the people are friendly and honest,” she replies effusively like a first-time tourist. The sparkle in her eyes shows that Abby means what she says: the extremes of the movie world has apparently made her appreciate the beauty of ordinary people and things.
Do you miss showbiz? “Not really.” Why not? “I love my work here at the restaurant. I am satisfied with my life here. And besides, it’s nice to be around real people.” She bursts into a chuckle before she hastens to add, “And besides, somebody makes me happy here…” She teases us by holding back the clue. “Really, I am at peace with myself here…”
How did it feel—or how does it feel—to be seen as a sex symbol? “It was a simply a role, being a sex symbol… It was not me, but just an image of me …” At this point, she almost sounds like a guileless child. Was there anything you wish you could have done in the movies, like being recognized as an actress? “Actually, I am already more than happy to be nominated by the Urian for my role in Batang West Side. I can’t ask for more.”
Abby’s words are sparse, but she speaks them seemingly unguarded. Looking at the apparent angst of someone whose bare skin the public demanded to see too much of in her showbiz days, we can only respect her for wanting to keep her inner soul to herself now that she has taken refuge in the shadow of obscurity.
B.D. Tutor Jr.
(This article is based on an interview made by the author for Airmart Newsline and photo is by Lilibeth Valera.)