The world of Princess Punzalan as an Actress and as a Nurse

Princess Punzalan on
Princess Punzalan

Growing up in the Philippines in the 80s, I had an immense love for variety shows and drama series. In fact, every Sunday, I always looked forward to seeing the long-running GMA Supershow followed by the television drama anthology “Lovingly Yours, Helen”. And speaking of these shows, Bernadette Vela Punzalan aka Princess Punzalan was part of these seminal shows. The latter was originally hosted by her late mother legendary host/actress/producer Helen Vela. Princess took over as the host after the passing of her mother.

Fast forward eons later, the actress who I used to watch on Philippine television in the 80s is now living in the United States. Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting her in person. At first, we missed each other because the meeting spot we were supposed to meet at was closed. And I didn’t want Princess to wait on a hot Sunday, so she sent me a whole new address, and my son who I brought with me said, “Mom, I think that’s the person you are trying to meet. She’s looking at you and wearing a red shirt!” And I looked in that direction, and yes that was her. So I shouted “Princess!” like a friend of mine that I see regularly. I was impressed by how down-to-earth she was. We started to chat about the ’80s, her career as a nurse and as an international actress now, and her family. Princess was also part of the 2019 acclaimed movie, “Yellow Rose” together with distinguished Broadway stars Lea Salonga and Eva Noblezada which opened at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival on May 2, 2019. The film garnered multiple awards including Special Jury Award at the 2019 Asian American International Film Festival, Best Narrative Feature Film at the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, Best Feature Film at Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, and many more.

Princess Punzalan

In this interview, I started with how she adjusted to moving to a different country like the US.

Ruchel: You grew up with famous parents in the Philippines with a lot of perks and privileges, and you are a celebrity yourself, how did you adjust to moving to the US with just you and your husband without relatives nearby?
Princess: My mother brought me up to be independent and self-sufficient. She taught me not to ask others to do things for me when I can do it myself. This helped me a lot. She also taught me that nothing is permanent in this world except change. We need to learn to adapt to new things. When I was growing up in the business and had groups of fans who were always visible, she told me that that was temporary because a day will come when they will not be around anymore so I should keep my feet on the ground and not drown in a glass of water.

Ruchel: How did you meet your husband?
Princess: A common friend made us meet in Manila. We were both not looking for a relationship but our personalities, characters, and goals in life coincided. After dating for two years, he proposed marriage when he was going back to the US.

Ruchel: I understand you are a nurse now, what made you decide to switch to a different career? It is just like day and night.
Princess: After high school, I wanted to be a doctor, but I did not have the confidence. My mother suggested since I am creative, I should take up Interior Design which I took. I had excellent grades but it just wasn’t my thing so I did not practice it. I went back to school to study nursing because it is still health-related and I like helping people get better. I enjoy explaining to the clients and their families what is happening in the body and how the interventions help them get better.

Princess Punzalan and popbuff blogger Ruchel Freibrun

Ruchel: How is it like to be a working mom?
Princess: It is not easy juggling a lot. There was a season when I only could sleep three hours a day especially when I was working the night shift.

Ruchel: You have a daughter; do you encourage her to enter the “biz” whether here in the US or the Philippines?
Princess: I am encouraging her to discover her talents and to enhance them. I will allow her to get into the business when I feel she is ready. It is tough to be in this business. If you are not equipped, it could be disastrous. There are a lot of tricky decisions to make. And also, a lot of heartaches.

Ruchel: You were a part of this iconic movie “Yellow Rose” with celebrated Fil-Am actresses like Eva Noblezada and Lea Salonga, what was it like working in that film?
Princess: I truly enjoyed working with Eva because she is such a committed performer She has so much fire and emotion. I can just react naturally. Too bad that I was not able to have a scene with Lea.

Ruchel: Do you have any projects brewing?
I’ve been doing few short films that tackle important topics like handling disappointments and failure, the importance of family relationships, and the #StopAsianHate.

Ruchel: What’s on your bucket list?
Princess: Someday, I would like to produce a movie here in the US.

Magazine cover with the legendary Helen Vela, Princess, and her brothers in the early 80s

Ruchel: What advice can you give to young adults who are pursuing a career in acting or nursing?
Princess: We must KNOW ourselves well first before deciding on what career to take. Know what you like, want, and can put up with. If you do something, do it with all your heart. Commit. There are no shortcuts. Do things the right way. Respect each person you meet.

Princess Punzalan on the cover of one of the Philippine women’s lifestyle magazines in the late 90s

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