MANILA, Philippines - In person, Bing Loyzaga, showbiz’s quintessential tisay contravida, is lovely and, a little bit wacky. Like, Maine Mendoza wacky. She likes making faces and uses her hands a lot to underscore her stories. She is perched at the edge of the bed, straight hair slicked back, fresh-faced makeup on-fleek. Today’s photo shoot location is a posh hotel suite at the Fort, and Bing is wearing a royal blue body-con that brings to mind something iconic bombshell Sofia Loren once said: “A woman‘s dress should be like a barbed-wire fence: serving its purpose without obstructing the view.” Five months ago, you could not have forced her to wear this dress, not even if you paid her a million pesos. Because five months ago, Bing Loyzaga was at her biggest and lowest. But more on that later.
From being one among the many pretty young things in the ’80s TV phenomenon That’s Entertainment, Bing went on to find her spot in this messy-glittery industry. The legendary Vic del Rosario, her then-manager (he’s the man behind the stellar careers of Anne Curtis, Sarah Geronimo, and JaDine, among others) asked her this career-defining question: “Bing, do you want to be a superstar or an actress? A superstar is a Sharon Cuneta. An actress is a Dina Bonnevie.” Her honest response? “Gusto ko ‘yung nakaka-mall ako. Gusto ko ’yung I can still go out and I can still be myself. ’Pag superstar ka, bawal ka magpakita na you’re smoking or bawal ka magpakita na galit ka. My problem is even if my mouth doesn’t say it, my face says so many stories kaagad. That’s so hard.” Her initial post-That’s roles were — no surprise here — tweetums or the best friend of the bida. Eventually she got leading lady roles too, but she found them boring: “I’ll wait for him to arrive and save me? But I can save myself, you know? Wait, di naman kailangan damsel-in-distress parati ang babae.”
Good thing management decided to experiment and give her darker characters. Bingo. The girl was a natural. Bing relished fake-shooting people and pretend-slapping them hard, but the best thing about being the baddie was, “You don’t get the stress of the bida. If the movie doesn’t make money, tuloy pa rin ’yung buhay ng contravida. ‘Yung bida will have to make up for it if the movie or the show doesn’t do well because everything is on their shoulders.” (That’s a lesson in working smart.) Bing believes her perpetually raised eyebrow helped her own the contravida niche, but clarifies it was always raised because, “I was always nervous. Not because I was bitching around. Hindi nila alam namamatay ako sa nerbyos. Yung kilay ko naka gan’un all the time!” (During the photo shoot, her kids, Chi, 26, and Gab, 18, had to keep reminding her to relax because that signature Loyzaga raised eyebrow was making a cameo.) Her proudest achievement is the fact that she’s still around, a feat in this hyper-fickle industry. Bing Loyzaga’s definition of success is not defined by how many best actress trophies she has lined up on a shelf, but by the kind of people she has had the privilege of working with. “For me, to be able to have four projects with FPJ is my biggest trophy. To be able to do, gosh, how many projects with Sharon Cuneta are my trophies. To have a movie with Vilma Santos and Christopher de Leon, ako ’yung third party, is another trophy. And then I was able to do a movie a couple of years back with Nora Aunor, that’s a trophy. I may not have a best actress award but I have memories with great actors and actresses and movies that will last even when I’m gone. I don’t need an award to tell me how good I act. I will say peak ng career ko was every time I had a project with legends.”
But as with everything in life, nothing lasts forever. Younger actresses entered the picture, and Bing went from leading lady roles, to sister roles, and eventually, to mother roles, which she didn’t mind, really. It’s the natural progression of things. What she did mind was getting booted out of a project because they deemed her “too fat.” She was cast, she had already shot scenes, but was unceremoniously dropped for looking too big on TV. It wasn’t even her acting skills (intact, thankyouverymuch) that got her in trouble; it was something as superficial as weight.
What a lot of people didn’t know was five years ago, her father, athlete and one-time Olympian Caloy Loyzaga, suffered a stroke. Bing asked her mom to move in with them so she could take care of them both. Aside from the stroke, her dad also suffered from dementia, which meant he would sometimes fall on the floor—not a problem if he wasn't 6’3”. Once, Bing fractured a rib when she picked him up from the floor. “Ang initial reaction ko was I need to become strong, I need to become big, I need to carry him.” The stress of taking care of an ill parent took its toll. She was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, a condition that makes losing weight extra difficult. “I became really big. Si Chubby Bing standee sa labas, mahal ko 'yan kasi kinaya niya ’yung daddy ko,” she explains, voice cracking. “I may not have gotten work because I was big but I was able to care for my parents.”
The fat remarks didn’t just end in the work arena. Bing would get it from strangers who just looove to rudely comment about people’s weight. At the grocery store once, someone approached her and said, “Idol kita nun eh, kaso anong nangyari sa ’yo? Ang taba mo eh.” Her thought bubble was, “Explain ko ba dito yung sakit ko? Explain ko ba dito yung sitwasyon ko?” But what she actually said was, “’Thank you.’ Papatulan ko pa ba?’”
When her dad passed in January, Bing decided to take action about her weight, but liposuction was out of the question. Her daughters saw her recover from a lipo procedure years ago, and they didn’t want her to go through it again. (“As in she had to sleep with an absorbent pad because the fat would leak out from the wound. Can you imagine?”) The Gibbs sisters are confident young women who aren’t size zero and okay with it. “Our dad made us feel beautiful. He valued intelligence and creativity and other things. They raised us believing being pretty is not the most important thing. It’s to be smart and talented,” Chi shares. “Kunyari we’ll say ang ganda ng katawan ni ganyan. He’ll say, ‘Maganda na may laman,’” Gab seconds.
Speaking of their dad, Janno (who secretly loves weight-loss clinic Marie France, his daughters tell us) recommended non-invasive procedures instead. “Lakasan ng loob na lang. I told my manager Biboy Arboleda, ‘Tanong mo naman if Marie France is willing to have me.’” And they were. With the help of a doctor a nutritionist, a slimming consultant, and therapists, she has lost 30 pounds in five months, and now rocks her royal blue body-con better than women half her age. (i.e. me)
No one is prouder than her husband Janno who posted a photo of her billboard on his Instagram and captioned it, “I’m so proud of my Bing. Through thick and thin.” “It sounds like a joke, but to me, it really meant a lot. It meant a lot for him to say that on social media kasi hindi kami showy na mga tao,” she explains, beaming. “There was a time na siya naman ’yung thick so patas lang kami!” For the record, the two are still together. “I would rather say na there is commitment instead of forever,” she says matter-of-factly. “If he wasn’t worth it I wouldn’t be here.”
Bing Loyzaga is no longer the pretty young thing she was in the ’80s. She is no longer the bombshell contravida we love to hate. What she is a woman who has lived her life for herself and for others; a woman who has gained and lost; a woman who advocates self-acceptance, but also pushes for self-improvement. She is the kind of woman who will hug a young photographer and beg to take him home because she doesn’t have a son, and sincerely thank a creative director for making her look smoking hot. This is a dispatch from the frontline: the contravida is the real heroine.
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Photo by PATRICK DIOKNO
Produced by DAVID MILAN
Makeup by STEVEN DOLOSO
Hair by MAMA BONGGA