On her 36th birthday on September 12, Kara Mendez of the popular all-girl singing group, Rouge, took to social media to post her video audition for PBB (Pinoy Big Brother) Kumunity’s Adult Edition.
Pikapika.ph got wind of her plans and we decided to interview her about it a few days prior to her upload.
Channeling PBB’s Kuya, this writer asks her what she can lay on the table.
And Kara says it’s her positivity despite her not-so-easy life.
“Life experience ko—’yon talaga,” she asserts. “Ulila ako at a very young age, pinagpasa-pasahan ako ng mga kamag-anak ko...whoever is available, took care of me.
“Kaya nu’ng nag-18 ako, nag-work na ako. Grabe ’yong experiences ko talaga—as in. As in ibang level talaga. Failure, success, failure. Talagang nakita ko na sobrang fighter ako, madiskarte ako, magaling ako makisama, hindi ako impulsive.”
“’Yong nakaka-focus ako sa isang bagay, hindi ako like emotional na kapag sinabi na ganito, ganyan-ganyan hindi ako kaagad...Kumbaga, nagpo-pause muna ako bago ako mag-decide,” she elaborates.
“Gusto ko i-share talaga ’yong life story ko. It will really inspire a lot of people.”
MMK-worthy life story
Kara’s life is MMK (Maalaala Mo Kaya)-material.
She lost her mother at three years old and she left without telling her who her father was.
“Nakamatayan nalang niya. Wala siyang pinagsabihan,” Kara retells what she’s been told growing up. “So, lumaki akong fatherless.”
She got tossed around among relatives a lot.
But while growing up, she and her cousins were starting to wonder why they’re so much alike in features.
“Meron kasi akong mga cousins, anak sila ng tita ko na ate ng nanay ko, kamukha ko sila. So, sabi ko ‘Baka kamukha lang natin ang isa’t isa kasi magkakamag-anak tayo?’ Pero parang masyado lang ’yong resemblance?”
Among themselves, they were entertaining the thought that maybe, they aren’t just cousins. But they, too, would dismiss it.
But Aling Maritess (chismosang kapitbahay) was already around at that time.
“Dati pag nae-entertain ko ’yong idea na ’yon, ang pangit pakinggan...na baka same kami ng father. Pero habang tumatanda ako, naririnig ko, ‘Ah, yan anak yan ni ganito, ganyan...’ As a child, pinapalagpas mo lang pero grabe ’yong curiosity ko.”
This curiosity drove her to join the reality show Pinoy Dream Academy several years back.
“Kaya ako nag-audition sa Pinoy Dream Academy noon is for ABS-CBN to help me look for my father,” she reveals. “Iyon talaga, e. Kaya lang ano lang ako doon, e, one of the Top 20 finalists. Hindi ako umabot doon talaga sa pinaka-top para matulungan nila ako doon.”
Upon turning adult, Kara, armed with her guitar and her good looks that came with a good singing voice, tried her luck in Singapore to work as a performer.
But being ma-diskarte, the singing gig just became her night job. By day, she took on other money-making endeavors.
“Nag-dishwasher ako, nag-waitress ako, nag- English teacher ako, nag-dog walker ako, at kung mga anu-ano pa,” she laughs at the recollection. “As in talagang madiskarte. Pati mga ano clerical jobs. Pero ang pinaka-malaki pa din kinikita ko sa abroad ’yong as singer pa din. Kasi ano madami on the side din bukod sa kumakanta ka may sweldo ka, may tips, meron pang ladies drink...so, ang dami kong natutunan talaga kung paano ka kikita sa pag-inom na hindi ka nalalasing. Hahaha!”
It was in Singapore where her then fiancé (and that’s another story altogether) proposed to her.
Her “cousin,” knowing she was about to enter a new phase in her life, also proposed that they get a DNA test. This is one of her “cousins” who also had a hunch that they may actually be sisters.
“Itong pinsan ko, si Ate Daphne Pineda, she’s from the US, nag-message s’ya...sabi niya, ‘You’re about to face new life, gusto mo magpa-sibling test tayo?’ So, na-shock ako. ‘If you’ll it, I’ll send you the kit.’ E, doktor din ’yong husband niya...”
Long story short, the results came and confirmed what they have been sensing all these time: they are sisters!
“We really share the same biological father— 99.87%,” she laughs. Laughing some more, she adds: “In short, ’yong tatay namin talagang malupit! Hahaha!”
It turned out that the Uncle Ed she knew growing up was actually her father.
She surmised, that may have been the reason why he always treated her extra special all those years.
“Kumbaga, example, pag namimigay ng pera, halimbawa P20-P20 sa lahat, sa akin P50. Parang ganu’n. Kumbaga, may special treatment. ’Yon pala, father ko pala siya.”
Later, she found out more about her back story from those who knew but chose to keep it from her and her siblings.
“Parang kumbaga, nangyari daw ’yon dahil sa kalasingan, ganyan-ganyan. Whatever the reason happy na ako to know kung sino ’yong tatay ko.”
Unfortunately, though, Daddy Ed passed on in 2006, five years prior to the DNA test. Meaning, he didn’t get the chance to tell Kara that he was the father that’s been missing in her life all those years. She never had the chance to actually call her dad.
For Kara, knowing the reason behind the secrecy was not important anymore. What mattered in the end was that she “found” him. That gave her answer. That gave her closure.
“So, hindi ko man nasabi na, ‘Uy, tatay kita.’ Okey na din ’yon for me,” she rationalizes for the elders.
“Kesa naman talagang tatanda nalang ako na hindi ko kilala kung sino ’yong father ko. Kumbaga, hindi na kinailangan ng reality show na hanapin pa ’yong tatay ko. Happy na din ako.”
But if there’s one thing that this puzzling life experience gifted her with, it’s her special bond with her “cousin”-turned sister, Ate Daphne.
“Si Ate Daphne, siya ’yong laging nagsu-support sa akin sa Kumu every time I stream. Parati s’yang nagda-drop ng gifts...parang bumabawi siya in behalf of our father. Para siyang pinaka... siya kasi ’yong elder sister, so, nagpapaka-tatay din siya sa akin. Bumabawi siya.”
Bahay ni Kuya appeared in her dreams
Kara says she didn’t know about the PBB audition at all. But one night, she dreamt something about the “bahay ni Kuya.” A Kumu host, Kara has the built-in impulse to check on her Kumu app the moment she wakes up. And lo and behold, she saw the announcement.
“Sabi ko, ‘Hala, grabe namang coincidence ’yon ta’s nakalagay na may audition.”
Thus, she took it as a sign. Just as she did in her previous reality-show experiences namely Pinoy Dream Academy, Pilipinas Got Talent (with her Rouge bandmates), and the reality pre-wedding show, I Do.
“For some reason, naa-attract ko siya, e. Kamukha nu’ng sa Pilipinas Got Talent noon sa banda kong Rouge, sabi ni Princess [Ybañez], ‘Ate, mag-audition kaya tayo?’ Sabi ko, ‘Sige.’ Tapos kinakabahan sila sa ganyan-ganyan. Sabi ko, ‘Hindi, alam ko pasok tayo.’ Tapos sabi ko sa semi-finals alam ko din pasok kami. Tapos nu’ng sinabi ko na , ‘Alam ko na hindi tayo aabot sa grand finals,’ hindi talaga kami umabot sa grand finals. Parang meron lang laging gut feel na ganu’n.”
Kara thinks it’s a perfect time for her to be in a reality show as live performances, her main source of income, is in limbo at the moment. Moreover, she’s also single and unattached.
“Kumbaga, wala akong asawa, wala akong anak so it’s really a good opportunity. Pag pasok ko, wala akong bitbit na iisipin o aalalahanin bukod sa mga cats ko na pagkadami-dami. Iisipin ko sila kung pa’no sila. Pero I’m sure may mag-aalaga sa kanila.”
Her friends, in fact, are teasing her that should she make it in, she could find her new love inside the “bahay ni kuya”—or that love may find her there.
“Baka may makilala daw ako doon na magka-gustuhan kami, parang ganu’n. Who knows? Hahaha. Why not kung doon pala siya makikita?”
Wedding na, naging bato pa
You’re probably wondering why Kara is open to find love? Whatever happened to her “fiancé?”
In 2014, Kara and her boyfriend of 13 years, the one who proposed to her in Singapore, agreed to join the reality show I Do, hosted by Judy Ann Santos.
Unknown to them, the show, instead of solidifying their soon-to-be-married relationship, broke them off in the end.
“I Do is a reality show na para sa mga couples dati,” she refreshes our memory. “So, sumali kami doon to get the chance for free wedding, dream house, tapos dream negosyo. So, we were part of that nine couples who competed for that grand wedding package.
“Tapos, eventually hindi kami nagkatuluyan... naghiwalay din kami right after nu’ng show na ’yon and actually ’yong show na ’yon is one of the reasons bakit kami naghiwalay.
“Nananahimik ’yong buhay namin for 13 years tapos pina-realize sa’yo nu’ng mga marriage counselors doon that checks—kasi may 24/7 camera ’yon, nakikita how we are with each other —and they told us we are not compatible. The reason daw kaya kami nagtagal is because of co-dependency. So, parang ganu’n. So, parang doon nag-start na na-confuse ako. Pinag-usapan namin right after nu’ng pag labas nu’ng [wedding] village, ganyan-ganyan.”
But life goes on for Kara. What’s bound to happen is bound to happen. And that’s why she’s trying her luck anew in PBB.
What happens to Rouge?
Kara co-founded the Rouge band in 2014. The all-girl group, composed of Jeri Oro, Princess Ybañez, and Gyan Murriel, has been turning eyes and ears since they invaded the music scene.
But more than their musicality, what they cherish more as a band is the sisterly bond they’ve created all those years. Even the pandemic did not shatter that sisterhood one bit.
And they’re all totally supporting her in her decision to do things as a solo artist.
“It’s totally fine with my band kasi kami we’ve always talked about this: Kapurihan ng isa, kapurihan ng lahat.
“You know, my drummer [Gyan Murriel], she’s very famous, pinaka-sikat sa amin. Ang dami niyang commercials. Whatever nga na lumalabas na commercial niya, ‘Uy, drummer ng Rouge!’
“’Yong violinist ko, si Princess [Ybañez], siya ’yong laging pinapadala Department of Tourism to represent our country... pag may corporate [show], solo siya. Hindi kami ’yong ‘Uy, wag mo tanggapin yan kasi meron din tayong gig.’ Hindi ganu’n, e. Give and take talaga.
“Sa guitarist ko [Jeri Oro], walang problema kasi sa December ikakasal na siya at plan niyang mag-baby. So, parang ito ’yong pinaka-perfect time kung sakali kasi wala din magiging Rouge kasi pahinga siya. So, chance din namin ng solo-solo...gumawa din ng aming solo career. This is the perfect time talaga.”
Best version of herself
Kara, who’s been through so much in life, did not let adversaries defeat her. Orphaned at three? It’s fine for as long as there are other people who love her. Thirteen-year relationship went down the drain? Life goes on. She has Rouge and her cats.
She has already mastered seeing rainbow after each gloomy event. Each painful situation is seen as an occasion to rise above it, an opportunity for self-improvement.
And that’s what she wants to inspire people with—her capacity to change pain to gain.
“It’s really ano, talagang kakaiba ’yong life story ko, as in. Tapos yan titingnan mo ako, I could be rebellious growing up, I could be negative blah-blah...itong mga nangyari sa akin, tinawanan ko lang. Nagpaka-positive pa din ako talaga.
“So, p’wede ako maka-inspire. Hindi porke may nangyaring ganap sa buhay mo ay magda-drugs ka na, mag-ganyan ka na... itong nangyari sa akin, mas nag-push sa akin, mas nag-motivate sa akin to become a better person.
“And hopefully if I join... if pinili nila ako sa Pinoy Big Brother, ito ’yong gusto ko talaga. Sila [PBB] ’yong magiging way para maging best version ko ’yong sarili ko talaga. ’Yon talaga ang goal ko, to be the best version [of myself].
“Kung ngayon tamad akong mag-work out, baka doon sipagin akong mag-gym or ma-push ako doon magpa-ganda, magpa-sexy...” she admits. “Kumbaga, gusto ko maging best version. Gusto ko all out sa PBB.
“This is my moment. Nawalan na ako trabaho as musician, ito na ’yong moment...walang hang up, walang karelasyon, walang boyfriend, walang ganito, walang ganyan-ganyan. Kumbaga, makakapag-focus talaga ako sa sarili ko. Kumbaga para akong naka-leave, naka-vacation with a goal.
“Merong path talaga na ipu-push... ganu’n ako ka-motivated, e. Grabe ’yong drive ko ngayon talaga.”
Now that she’s uploaded her audition video, all she needs to do is to wait and hope for the best.
“Sa akin naman if not for me, wala lakong magiging regret diba? Kumbaga, at least ginigive ko talaga ’yong best ko... nag-audition ako na kumbaga ’yong whole heart na push na push for chasing my dreams, my goals.
“If it’s not for me, okey lang ’yon. Life goes on. Everyday naman sa stream ko, ginagawa ko naman ’yong purpose ko, e. Kumbaga, it’s a good platform. I’ll never stop pag hindi ako natanggap.”