She has played a psychic, a demon-possessed doctor, an orphaned rebel out to avenge the death of her parents and a provincial girl who becomes a celebrated track-and-field athlete. Although she comes from the famous Salvador showbiz clan—she’s the daughter of the late Ross Rival as well as the niece of Phillip Salvador—Maja Ross Andres Salvador refuses to be typecast and is making a name for herself.
Shifting genres and essaying new characters exhilarate the 23-year-old actress. In Minsan Lang Kita Iibigin, ABS-CBN’s primetime military drama that ended last August, Maja played rebel-turned-soldier’s-wife Krista. Leaping from television to the big screen, Maja recently topbilled Thelma, an independent film directed by Paul Soriano. It tells the story of how a provincial girl from a destitute family rose above challenges to become a dedicated track-and-field athlete. Maja prepared herself by training under Elma Muros-Posadas—a national athlete who won 15 gold medals in the Southeast Asian Games.
Coach Elma, as Maja calls her, was an inspiration as she got into shape for the indie flick. Muros-Posadas’ training approach was simple at first: two laps of easy jogging, one lap of easy walking, then three minutes’ rest afterwards. To avoid injury and muscle cramps, Maja had to do basic stretching and exercises from head to foot. Her initial training at the PhilSports Arena would last nearly two hours every morning for three weeks. The program that Coach Elma created for Maja used the Fartlek or speed play approach in running, walking and jogging, and was based on the young actress’ endurance capacity, strength and speed.
To understand a runner’s psyche, Maja asked questions about how a runner would make decisions and what an athlete goes through. She also studied what her character would be like when she falls in love, how Thelma eats and what her other passions are aside from running. “Bago ka mag-start mag-shoot, kailangan buo mo na ’yung character mo. Alam mo yung kilos niya—maglakad, tumakbo, expression kapag pinagalitan, [reactions] kapag nagalit ’yung father [niya], pag napagsasabihan ka ng mother mo o kaya may crush ka. ’Yung mga ganon. Gusto ko makita niyo si Thelma, hindi si Maja.”
On the right track
On the fourth day of shooting Thelma in Ilocos, Maja’s legs completely gave up. She describes the strange feeling on her feet: “Nararamdaman mo pa rin ’yung rough road. Nararamdaman mo ’yung mga bato.” A scene was supposed to be shot at the oval track, but she couldn’t bear the pain anymore and was very close to tears. She was rushed to her van and when her rubber shoes were removed, her legs were shaking violently on their own. The actress was rushed to the hospital.
But despite the setback, the actress remained true to her role, steadfast and determined all throughout the filming of Thelma. She never whined nor complained. “Mas madali ’yung training mo kung mapapamahal talaga sa iyo ’yung ginagawa mo. Hindi mo maaabot ’yung maging successful kung hindi ka talaga dadaan sa hirap. Hindi ka magiging successful kung hindi mo pagdadaanan lahat ng challenges, hindi ka mag sa-sacrifice, hindi ka mahihirapan ng todo. Kelangan mo talagang madapa ng ilang beses. Kasi pag nasaktan ka, dun ka lalakas ng loob. Doon mo masasabi na ayoko nang madapa ulit.”
Her secrets to staying fit
So how does this tough young lady with a fully-booked calendar stay fit? If her schedule is packed, her rehearsal for noontime show ASAP counts as her workout. When there’s a breather in between, she hits the gym and hops on the treadmill for 30 minutes, goes boxing and does 150 crunches for her upper, lower and oblique abdominal muscles. Finally, she cools down with stretching exercises. Maja, however, is not a gym junkie; she believes going to the gym twice a week is okay. And, she stresses, muscles need to rest so that you can see the results of your hard work.
At home, she’ll jump rope for up to an hour while listening to hip hop or R&B and won’t stop until she sweats heavily. She also does her abs routine at home. Her staple refreshment is water. Maja swigs eight glasses a day because of its cleansing properties. “’Yun ’yung tutunaw sa lahat. ’Yun yung magpapabilis ng metabolism mo. So hangga’t maaari, ’yun, umiinom ako. Minsan may kasama, may juice kasi lagi ako naghahanap ng may lasa.”
Maja knows how to take care of her health and well-being. She enumerates some of the benefits of being healthy: “Fresh ka, maganda ka, hindi ka mabilis mapagod sa work, hindi ka masungit, ’yung positive ka, hindi ka mai-insecure ... ’yung tama lang yung health mo.”