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Feature Story


How travel, familial support and a love for cooking help Marian Rivera reign supreme as the empress of primetime TV.

by Karl De Mesa

MARCH 2012

Marian Rivera has the kind of beauty that could proverbially launch a thousand ships. And those ships would all be war frigates bent on winning her hand or executing her pleasure.

That rare species of femininity possessing doe eyes, skin fit for a goddess and a figure that conquistadors make sure they go home to after years of reaving or overthrowing tribal governments—combined with talent, moxie and street smarts—has propelled the Caviteña to the heights she currently occupies.

It’s like talking to a bundle of energy who has no qualms about being herself. And she has an opinion, eschewing canned, manager-approved lines, which she articulates in a comfortable vernacular. “Pumasok ako sa showbiz na naging totoo ako sa sarili ko. Minahal ko ’yung trabaho, minahal ko ’yung mga taong nakapaligid sa akin,” she explains. “Public property ang artista so dapat matuto ka na hindi talaga lahat ng tao mape-please mo.”

From Spain to fantastic realms

Not bad for a girl whose story starts out in Madrid, Spain, where she was born Marian Gracia Rivera on August 12, 1984 to a Spanish father named Francisco Javier Gracia Alonso and Filipina Amalia Rivera. After her parents separated, Rivera’s mother brought her home to the Philippines, where she grew up in Cavite.

After a three-month practicum at the National Mental Hospital, Rivera graduated with a degree in Psychology from the De La Salle University-Dasmariñas. She then went to Manila to pursue her modelling dreams and got discovered through her TVC appearances. She’s since risen from afternoon soaps to movie cameos and her big break as the titular protagonist in 2007’s primetime remake of the Mexican telenovela Marimar.

While the rest is history, Marian also has a solid résumé in Pinoy horror and fantasy movies like Tarot, The Engkanto Slayer, Shake, Rattle & Roll X, Pamahiin, and alongside Bong Revilla in 2011’s Ang Panday 2.

Soap veteran

Producing a soap opera is the broadcast equivalent of a war of attrition. Everything moves too fast, resources burn too quickly, everyone is always exhausted and on a short fuse. It’s like a creative uphill battle using bayonets all the way.

When a soap is successful after a couple of episodes, thousands of viewers start clocking in regularly—viewing Marian’s leading roles on GMA’s productions of Mars Ravelo’s Dyesebel and Darna, the Korean remake Endless Love, and the quasi-historical Amaya—and the production budget becomes considerably fatter and the stakes higher with each subsequent episode as the network’s faith grows in proportion.

What it all means is that the crew and actors have a chance at a real creative push. But it takes back in terms of zero social life, sleepless nights and very long taping hours. Being a veteran of the soap grind, Marian knows this too well. That’s why she keeps healthy with three things: right diet, regular family days and trips to other countries.

“Once a week, pinupuntahan ako ni Nanay (her maternal grandmother) at ni Mommy ko. Bonding kami,” she shares. “Nakakapag-unwind ako kapag kasama ko mga mahal ko sa buhay.

Though she doesn’t adhere to any popular diet, she has simple rules when it comes to eating: regular meals, the occasional midnight snack and no unhealthy stuff—which means no softdrinks and no junk food, including chips. “Likas kasi akong payat. Hindi rin ako nagdyi-gym, pero aware ako sa mga dapat kong kainin at hindi. Sa trabaho ko, hindi pwedeng hindi nagri-rice kasi puyatan. Mawawalan ako ng energy.”

She also needs her fruits and vitamins, which she takes religiously. With a stomach that’s prone to becoming acidic, she needs antacids and buffer meds—and shuns coffee completely. If her food doesn’t get digested properly, she helps her system with some lavender or chamomile tea.

She also finds the time to indulge in her love for travel with her constant companion, longtime beau Dingdong Dantes. They try to schedule a trip abroad at least once a year. They’ve since gone to more than 10 countries together.

New challenges

As cheat foods go, her sweet tooth rules. That’s hot chocolate drinks, chocolate bars and pastries. “Boring ang buhay ko!” she laughingly declares. “Walang smoke, walang gimik.”

Here’s a revelation: Aside from craving sweets, Rivera also loves to cook. From watching the Asian Food Channel and nearly all the cooking shows you can name for inspiration, she plans to enter a culinary institute soon.

Gusto ko maging certified na chef talaga! Hinahabol ko yung toque!” she giddily says. “Malay mo, balang araw magkaroon ako ng restaurant. Gusto ko ako ang head chef.” Thanks to her special interest in baking and the use of chocolate, we may be able to taste a Marian Rivera fudge cake soon.

But right now, her daily grind involves filming opposite her Marimar leading man Dingdong for a new TV soap, the angel- and divine beings-themed My Beloved. The busy actress was all set for a vacation period after Amaya wrapped up—but gladly accepted the role of Czarina to work with her on- and off-screen partner.

With My Beloved, the couple had to sit down and talk about adjustments since “two years din kaming hindi nag-work together.” There’s a big difference, she says, between being together and working together on set every day. “Magkasama kami? Oo. Nagde-date kami? Oo. Pero ’yung magkasama sa set, ibang usapan na ’yan.”

“Naniniwala ako na ang magaling na actress, alam niya [ang] ginagawa niya,” she says, gesturing as the make-up artist works on deepening the contrast of her anime eyes. “On time siya, binabasa niya script niya. Kung gusto mong maganda ang kalabasan n’yan ay matutuo ka dapat mag-homework.”

Battalions to back her

Although Marian’s been recognized—from awards for her acting prowess to pop culture tributes from men’s magazines for her hotness, you can forget industry accolades and plum roles if you’re in it for the long haul.

Longevity in the local showbiz industry is found in endorsements. And does Marian have a battalion of them. That’s everything from cosmetic products to canned goods, food and beverages, vehicles, entertainment appliances, telecommunications and a print and billboard campaign for ladies' wear.

Not one to rest just because things are going too well, Marian still wants to fulfil a few more things on her acting to-do list. These include: playing a mad person, playing a man, and being in an Angelina Jolie-type Mr. & Mrs. Smith action role. For a woman who refused a stunt double for her action scenes in Amaya, that’s a big assertion.

For more on Marian, grab your copy of HealthToday’s March issue, out now in major newsstands and bookstores.

Marian Rivera - Queen's Gambit

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