Famous Filipino singer set on making a mark as a romance author

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Juanita Allas-Monaghan writes: Amapola, who has sung professionally since she was five, and born to the musical Cabase family of Cebu, is also set on making a mark as a romance author.

Amapola, who has sung professionally since she was five, and born to the musical Cabase family of Cebu, is also set on making a mark as a romance author.

Her first novel “Coming Home” shows her mettle in weaving scenes and characters that evoke a myriad of emotions, from anger at life’s cruel blows to anticipation of the next love encounter. The book follows Charity Ashlyn, whose life choices are flawed by an inability to trust, arising from the trauma of her parents’ divorce, due to her father’s infidelity. It explores what therapists suspect – that childhood events shape one’s future.

Amapola started writing by accident when she accepted a three month contract onboard the MS Hanseatic during two Antarctic seasons. Running out of books to read and videos to view from the onboard library, she remembered that as a young student at the Malate Catholic School, she’d write poems, songs and musings in a journal.

She then bought one at the ship’s next stop. She traces her decision to write romance novels to her teen years when she was exposed to her mother’s Cosmopolitan magazines but forbidden to read them. Instead, her mother bought her books by the British novelist Denise Robins.

These got her hooked on romantic novels, the beauty of England and, three decades later, she even married Englishman Steve Woodward. Judith Krantz, Danielle Steel, Sidney Sheldon and Harold Robbins also inspired her writing style.

Scattered throughout “Coming Home” are paragraphs devoted to the basic desire for gratification. The heroine’s need to find love despite her confusion about what it means, takes her to men who, while professing passion for her, end up seeking satisfaction elsewhere.

The men’s adventures with other women, one even bordering on incest, add to the book’s pull. But it has an emotional quality to it that makes the reader sympathize with the victim and wishes for her happiness. What inspired a Filipino entertainer to write a novel about American characters dating back from the ‘40s to ‘60s in San Francisco? Amapola’s mother’s sister, Charito, was her idol – attractive, stylish, independent, strong-willed – just like her heroine. Amapola learned about courtship through her Aunt Charito as she watched her boyfriends come and go.

“There was one who stuck by her,” she recalls, “but they just never seemed to make a go of it.” Her aunt’s bittersweet love story provided the basis for “Coming Home.” Because she chose an era alien to her, Amapola spent many hours at the Petersfield Library in Hampshire, England, where she lived in the ‘80s.

“Libraries there are like community halls and I loved being in them,” said Amapola.

“People meet there to read the paper, scan magazines and chat in the foyer. Amusingly, I researched about the U.S. in a U.K. library.”

Her manuscript stayed in a box when Amapola moved to Florida four years ago and last year, self-published her work.

“I also write whenever I can,” she says.

“In a way, writing is a lot like singing. I can vocalize and rehearse in a regimented manner but I can also jam with a band with no charts, no plans, just sing songs that come to mind.”

Music plays a prominent role in “Coming Home.” The hero, Michael, is a concert violinist and Charity is a piano teacher.

“You know the old rule – ‘write about what you know’? I found I can go a hundred miles per minute when I write about entertainment.”

Her choice of setting, San Francisco, was where she lived from 1973 to 1989 with her parents, Mahnee and Sheila Cabase, children April and Rodney Aballe, sister Weena and brother Christopher. And while in England, Amapola heeded the urgings of her mother-in-law, Ivy Woodward, to take up creative writing.

“She and my husband strongly support my writing,” Amapola says.

“It is really crucial that one’s spouse understands what it’s like to be a writer. As soon as I wake up, I have to write or I’d feel incomplete all day. I carry a small notepad and pen to write ideas down. Sometimes a dialogue would come in my head and, just like music, it had to be written down quickly.”

Amapola said that the gratification from a book will probably last her a lifetime, while with singing, it is fleeting.

Yet, she admits that writing is a lonely effort, while performing is a team effort where she relies on support from musicians, back- up vocalists, stage and floor personnel, production and publicity staff.

“I love the mechanics of performing onstage, though the ideal life for me would be performing full time and writing in between.”

In the Philippines, Amapola starred in films at age eight, led a band by age 19, and starred in her own TV show, “Amapola Sings.” In San Francisco, she hosted her own TV show, “Amapola Presents,” for eight years.

She’s performed concerts worldwide and on board cruise liners.

Visit her website at http://www.amapola.net.


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