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Vanessa Hudgens: Fast-rising young Fil-Am star loves adobo

LOS ANGELES — It was a very charming, cool and confident Vanessa Hudgens who welcomed us for our exclusive one-on-one interview, sucking on a candy drop since it has been a long day for her and it was past lunchtime already. But being the professional actress that she is, Vanessa gamely answered all our questions and didn't mind delaying her lunch. Vanessa, one of the hottest and successful Filipino-American actresses here in Hollywood, is doing her third installment of the mega hit and blockbuster movie, "High School Musical 3: The Senior Year." In this installment, Vanessa chooses to go to Stanford and Zac Efron, her real on and offscreen boyfriend, goes to UC Berkeley. It is their last year together and emotions get high on and off the set. "We were very emotional and crying on the set since we know it is our last High School Musical," revealed Vanessa. "We all could not stop crying." Vanessa, who is the daughter of Filipina Gina Guangco and American Greg Hudgens, hasn't been to the Philippines yet but has heard a lot about it from her mother who hails from the south. She said, "I had an offer to actually go to the Philippines and do a show there which unfortunately didn't materialize. Hopefully, I will be able to do that sometime in the near future because I really want to go. My mom still hasn't been back and it would just be nice to be able to take my mom, explore, hang out and see the world that my mom grew up in. I can't wait to go." We also met her mom, Gina Guangco, who dropped by during the interview and we found her charming and unassuming. "We are so proud of her," said Gina, a petite, bespectacled lady. She brought along her younger daughter too, Stella Hudgens, who is also an actress. Vanessa, who just bought a $2.75 million house in Los Angeles with six bedrooms and six bathrooms, said that she is enjoying her independence and her own space. She said of her new house, "I'm really happy. It's really exciting to own a home. I'm just really excited to have my own personal routines, my own food in my kitchen and have my own space." She added, "I am growing up. It's really important for a young woman to attain her independence. I will be living by myself and hopefully my friends will come over and keep me company. Owning a home is a good investment. I want to be able to take care of myself. I need to learn how to cook so I can feed myself. Growing up, especially in Hollywood, can be tough because everyone's looking at you. I want to know myself by being by myself." She pointed out, though, that her mom "even stocked my refrigerator already with meat, chicken and other stuff." Her favorite Filipino foods are adobo, halo-halo, pancit and lumpia. "I eat a lot of rice," she said laughing and disclosed that she has even taught Zac how to eat halo-halo. "Zac loves eating halo-halo," she said amused. We learned in an earlier interview that Zac's dad often goes to the Philippines because he has a Filipino friend over there. But Vanessa said that she has not talked to Zac about the Philippines. She said, "No, I haven't. I really should. He probably knows more than I do. But, yeah, they actually have a close family friend who is from the Philippines so they're lucky enough to go. I'll go someday, though. I know it." Vanessa, who is turning 20 years old this coming December 14, is also excited about being able to vote. "It is very important that young people exercise their right to vote and be heard," she stressed. She disclosed that she was supposed to go to the Philippines to do a concert but it didn't push through. "I am still planning to go there one of these days either to do a concert or to promote my movie," she said. Fresh from a trip to Europe to promote "High School Musical 3," Vanessa admitted that she is not aware that "HSM 3" is very popular in the Philippines. "I look forward to going there and see my mom's native hometown," she said. Vanessa said that she was raised by her Filipino mother as a "Filipino-American." "She has instilled in me the Filipino values of respect for elders, close family ties and the like but has raised me as a Fil-Am," she said. She revealed, "My mom and dad didn't really want me to be in the business because there's a lot of competitiveness and rejection. It's tough for a kid to understand that and learn how to deal with it. They're extremely supportive. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be where I am. They've always let me do what I wanted to with acting, singing and dancing. They have been there with me every step of the way." She pointed out that she was homeschooled by her mom and that her parents have been very supportive of her. "They have been with me through all my personal and professional challenges," she said. She added, "My parents know that I'm growing up and that it's important for me to be independent. They live only a few miles away. I am going to miss them but they're extremely supportive. They know that this is something I want. They're behind me. My dad is extremely involved with making sure that my home is secure. I know it's hard for them but they've taken it quite well." Although she does not speak perfect Tagalog, Vanessa knows a few words like kumusta," salamat, among others. She proudly tells me, though, that she can sing "Itsy Bitsy Spider" in Tagalog. Then, off camera, she sings "Itsy Bitsy Spider" in Tagalog to me while she started hopping, dancing and putting her hands up in the air. Unfortunately, she said, she has not met Fil-Am Hollywood actors like Tia Carrere, Rob Schneider, Lou Diamond Phillips, Reggie Lee, Paolo Montalban, Rodney To, Anna Maria Perez de Tagle, Michael Copon, Dante Basco or producer Dean Devlin. Inspired by Celine Dion song Vanessa admitted also that if not for Celine Dion's "Power of Love," she would not be a singer. "I actually stole my parents' CD of Celine Dion's "The Power of Love" when I was about seven years old. I just took out the flip book and sang every single song, every single day. I remember singing "The Power of Love" and there was that one high note that I strived for every single day to get. So if it wasn't for her, I wouldn't be singing. That's been a huge part of my life, musically. Growing up, I loved Christina Aguilera. I always loved her music. She has the most amazing voice. It's incredible what she can do, what comes out of her little body. And Michael Jackson has always been an inspiration. I was actually lucky enough to meet him which was an honor. I actually grew up singing a lot of karaoke tunes. My parents bought me a karaoke machine and I got a whole bunch of the old classics. "I used to sing Patsy Cline and songs from musicals as well. They were another reason why I was singing. I always loved musicals and I've been in so many as well." Vanessa still has to meet Lea Salonga, she said. She came out with her second CD entitled, "Identified" and revealed that she enjoys performing onstage. "You get the reaction of the audience right away and that is really awesome. I also enjoy touring which I think is the best part of my career. Hopefully, I can do more of those and go to the Philippines for a concert," she disclosed. Another Fil-Am who is doing well is Charles "Chucky" Klapow who choreographed all the "High School Musical" installments with director-choreographer Kenny Ortega. According to Vanessa, "I just love fellow Fil-Am Chucky Klapow," she said smiling. "I learned a lot from him. He is such a great choreographer," she said. Are you ready to start a new chapter in your career after this movie? Yeah, of course. "HSM" has been an incredible part of my life. I will never forget it but at the same time, I feel like it's also the beginning. Everyone in the cast is extremely talented. We all have careers ahead of us and I'm excited. One of my favorite things about being an actress is that you do get to play different characters and be in different genres. I am excited to take that next step - grow up and do things that are different. Asked if she is worried that she could be typecast because of the success of "HSM," Vanessa replied, "The thing is, a lot of people only know me from "High School Musical." But the fact is, I've already done two other movies. I'm really thankful to be in "High School Musical" and it's amazing that it's blown up like it has but at the same time, I've done other things. I can play different characters. "Bandslam," the next movie I have coming out is so different for me. My character is a lot darker than Gabriella. She's very deadpan. Like I said, I love being able to play different characters so I think within that, hopefully I'll be fine." The music-driven comedy, "Bandslam" will be with Lisa Kudrow, David Boie and "High School Musical 3" colleague, Alyson Michalka. "I play Sam here who plays a mean guitar and sings," she said. "There is some music here too but not as many as 'High School Musical,'" she added. When we asked her to say goodbye to her fans in Tagalog, Vanessa was stumped and said, "How do you say goodbye in Tagalog?" I said, paalam. She said, "That's the first time I heard that. Okay, paalam! - GMANews.TV