EXCLUSIVE: "Exes Baggage" Stars And Real-Life Exes Angelica Panganiban & Carlo Aquino Find Love Again
As she prepares for a long day ahead in her makeup chair, Angelica Panganiban uses the rare moment of downtime to take it easy. With a schedule as busy as hers, no one questions the usually chatty actress' choice to keep to herself before the cameras begin to roll, most especially the person sitting next to her in his own chair who has her hand in his.
With each stroke of rouge applied on Angelica's cheeks and color painted on her lips, Carlo Aquino rhythmically massages her hand, expertly hitting the right pressure points to aid in her relaxation. A few wordless glances are exchanged, and maybe a couple of reassuring smiles, too, that we might have missed.
Their closeness excites the room.
They don't talk much as they go on this way until it's time to start the shoot, but they don't have to; with a history as colorful and a connection as electric as theirs, their bond needs no words to prove its potency and sincerity.
Now primed and prepped for their photos, Angelica and Carlo get closer than ever. The line between simply following photo choreography and a genuine desire to be within inches of each other blurs. She leans on his chest and he envelops her in his arms, and, quite literally, their hearts align for a minute or two as they hold the pose for the camera.
This time, no one misses the big smiles on both their faces that beamed from the first photo to the last. They make it almost impossible (and painfully difficult for their most loyal fans) to believe that CarGel is no more—or at least, the CarGel that we wish still was.
Though no longer a couple like they were more than 10 years ago, Angelica and Carlo still have love at the core of their relationship—or should we say, their friendship.
The real-life exes turned friends are more than happy to still be in each other's lives despite the fact that they now play different roles in them; their titles might have changed, but their warmth and intimacy have remained intact.
They've gone through a ton of experiences together and as individuals since then—so much so that they've channeled their memories into a project that we can't wait to devour: Exes Baggage. Produced by Black Sheep, it digs deep into the realities of love and relationships—from the kilig to the ugly, the heartwarming, and the inevitable.
On Carlo: Black jacket by Bershka, khaki inner polo and brown pants both by H&M | On Angelica: Gold top by Miss Selfridge, camel bottom by Offbeat Alley, and earrings by Wanderlust + Co
Art mirroring life
Though the highly anticipated Dan Villegas creation is very much about love, it's unlike many of the silver screen romances the Filipino audiences have seen before.
Don't mistake it for a lighthearted romantic comedy; Exes Baggage is much closer to an eventful, unpredictable reality than it is to saccharine, smooth-sailing scripted infatuation. It uses no euphemisms in portraying the full range of emotions and experiences of a couple who falls in love—and possibly out of it.
"Gusto namin makapagkwento ng simpleng story na makaka-relate ang mas maraming tao. Basically, tungkol siya sa paano nagsisimula ang simpleng love story, paano lumalalim, ano ba talaga ‘yung mga mas matitimbang, ano ‘yung pinag-aawayan, ano ‘yung nagko-cause ng breakup, bakit nasasayang ‘yung isang special na relationship," Angelica elaborates.
Asked if the movie is any way reflective of her relationship with Carlo from all those years ago, the 31-year-old actress just laughs.
"May mga eksenang ‘pag inaarte na ni Carlo, nanggigigil talaga ako. Nakikita ko ‘yung mga pinagaawayan namin dati. Naaalala ko. Parang gusto mong batuhin ng vase," she jokes in her signature sense of humor.
And according to Carlo, it's not only his and Angelica's past relationship that's reflected in the film, either; their true-to-life qualities and personalities played a role in shaping their onscreen characters, making them all the more enjoyable to bring to life.
Angelica's Pia is outspoken and feisty in the same way that she truly is on and off camera, while Carlo's Nix is an introvert just like the actor himself.
"Pia has a strong personality. Ngayon, ganu’n na rin si Ange. ‘Yun ‘yung isa sa mga nagustuhan ko sa kanya ngayon. Kung ano ‘yung nararamdaman ko sa moment, hindi ko sinasabi; siya kasi ipapaalam niya sa mga tao.
"Nix is a perfectionist. Extreme siya. He sets standards with things and people, at kapag hindi nami-meet ‘yung standards na iyon, he gets disappointed and stressed," explains Carlo.
On Carlo: Black jacket by Uniqlo, black inner shirt by Topman, and denim jeans by American Eagle Outfitters | On Angelica: Black fringe dress by Miss Selfridge and earrings by Wanderlust + Co
Lesson to teach
The realness of the film is not without purpose. Anyone who's had brushes with love—and its twin, heartache—is likely to leave theaters with a better understanding of themselves. Fiction gives way to lessons needed to be learned for a relationship to flourish.
For Angelica, her lesson was being reminded of the importance of communication.
"Malaking factor talaga siya sa relationship," she says.
For Carlo, his was the necessity of self-awareness.
"Bago ka maging overcritical sa mga tao, pansinin mo muna ‘yung sarili mo. Baka ikaw talaga ‘yung may mali at sa iyo nanggagaling [ang problema]. Ikaw muna ‘yung magbago. Tignan mo muna kung ikaw ‘yung nasa posisyon na tama," adds Carlo with steadiness.
From real to reel
At the end of the day, Angelica and Carlo acknowledge the obvious—that they are, in essence, actual exes playing characters in a story that reminds them of themselves and encourages CarGel fanatics to fantasize about a much-awaited reunion.
The irony of the situation definitely lends depth to an already juicy feature; Exes Baggage is the first big screen project that Angelica and Carlo will be co-starring and playing a couple in since they broke up.
"Dream siya noong bata kami. Idol namin sila Marvin, Jolina, Rico, Claudine. Love team din kami noon, so tanong namin, 'Tayo kaya? Kailan kaya tayo magkakaroon ng mga ganyang movie tulad ng kina Piolo, Juday, Christine, Jericho?' Feeling namin 15 years delayed ‘yung [pagtupad ng] pangarap namin," teases Angelica.
But rather than focus on the film's timing, we're likening it to a slow-cooked meal of perfection; the waiting time isn't a detriment, but a crucial step in creating a full-flavored masterpiece. The years that Angelica and Carlo spent apart helped broadened their horizons, developing their maturity as well as deepening their wealth of experiences to draw from for a movie as personal as Exes Baggage.
Between Carlo and Angelica, Carlo seemed to be the one most aware of this. He did, after all, admit that their 2006 split was his fault.
He reveals, "’Yung breakup namin, ako may kasalanan. Nakalimutan ko na ‘yun, pero siya, hindi ko alam kung napatawad na niya ‘yun! Mas naging close kami ngayon na nagkakasama kami, at tinatawagan ko siya. Dati kasi, may girlfriend ako at paminsan-minsan lang kami nagkakasama. Pero ngayon, mas nag-uusap kami."
Likewise, Angelica is thankful for their newfound closeness. Though she says that she and Carlo have always been friends and never, ever considered permanently severing ties with each other, they're on much better terms now and are in a great place together, both professionally and personally.
Like we said—time apart can make the heart grow fonder.
A piece of advice
With Angelica and Carlo both single at the moment, the topic of a second shot at love becomes unavoidable. Much to our disappointment, these two talents have mastered the art of nonchalant reactions and kept mum about it. (Our fingers remain tightly crossed!).
However, they did have much to say when it came to love, finding it, and moving on from it:
"Keep on looking [for love]. Tapos ‘pag wala, sa ibang direksyon ka maghanap. ‘Pag wala, tigil ka muna, baka nag-iikutan lang kayong dalawa. Sa breakups, kailangan mo lang siyang i-embrace; ‘wag mo siyang talikuran, ‘wag mo siyang tatakbuhan. Kailangan mo siya i-enjoy dahil du’n ka matututo, du’n ka makaka-move on totally," Angelica suggests.
Carlo, on the other hand, seemed to approach the issues from a totally different perspective:
"’Wag mong hanapin ang pag-ibig! Darating din ‘yun. ‘Pag hinanap mo ‘yun, mapapagod ka. Hindi mo rin malalaman kung siya talaga ‘yun kung hinanap mo; darating din ‘yun kung siya na talaga ‘yun. When it comes to breakups, hindi mo naman mamamadali ‘yun. Labas ka with friends and family, hanggang kaya na mawala sa isip mo ‘yung breakup. Have fun!" he concludes.
By just being themselves, Angelica and Carlo give their audience a wonderful sneak peek of what to expect from Exes Baggage that's sure to be a nationwide hit.
With Angelica and Carlo proving it in real life, love can be found, again and again—even with an ex.
Produced by Grace Libero-Cruz
Photography by Seven Barretto
Creative direction by Chookie Cruz
Art direction by Butchie Peña
Makeup by Mikka Marcaida for NARS (Angelica)
Hairstyling by Raven Dizon (Angelica)
Grooming by Joshen Vahn Lee (Carlo)
Styling by Patty Yap (Carlo) and Myrrh Lao To, assisted by Zia dela Rosa (Angelica)
Special thanks to Black Sheep