Maryo J.: A dvocate of Hope

KAPUSO DAY - Butch S. Raquel - The Philippine Star

Had it not been for fate, director Maryo J. delos Reyes could have been giving homilies this very moment. A former seminarian, he spent four long years training to spread God’s message.  

But the pulpit was not for the eventual director. “Hindi naman ibig sabihin na porke nasa labas ka na ng religious order at hindi na magiging pari, hindi ka na rin makakapag-apostolate at makakapag-bigay ng mensahe ng Diyos,” he remembers his spiritual adviser telling him. 

Before long, he braved university life, majoring in film at the University of the Philippines Diliman. Direk Maryo may have shied away from the seminary, but he swears allegiance to his calling with pride. 

His newest GMA 7 primetime opus Niño — an inspiring tale anchored on hope and family —   fulfills this time-tested promise. “As a filmmaker, I have to become responsible for a bigger majority because my films are more universal. Niño becomes a venue or a medium for me to express whatever messages — whether God’s message or values and principles that I could encapsulate in a show.” 

Niño follows the friendship between a mentally-disabled teenager (played by Miguel Tanfelix) and a Sto. Niño incarnate called Tukayo (David Remo). Together, they inspire a small town to believe in miracles and ultimately, in the power of hope. Niño also stars Gloria Romero, Dante Rivero, Angelu de Leon, Katrina Halili and German Moreno.

Kapuso executives were quick to green light Niño and it proved to be a wise decision. In a matter of weeks, Niño raked in both ratings and applause from viewers around the country. Direk Maryo couldn’t be happier for his latest project.  

“I guess they were after value-formation, an inspirational story based on uplifting the human spirit and upholding good values for the family, for people and for children,” he commends his bosses. 

Direk Maryo’s extensive experience in helming inspirational stories was the bedrock of his selection. “When the concept was presented to me, they credited my works for Magnifico, Bamboo Flowers and Kamoteng Kahoy. All of these films were inspirational films and upheld the human spirit.” 

Niño is also a collaboration between manager and talent. Lead star Miguel, an alumnus of GMA 7’s reality show StarStruck Kids, is a long-time ward of the multi-awarded director, now co-managed with GMA Artist Center. It is precisely for this reason that Miguel is in tune with his character. 

Direk Maryo is not one to dilly  dally when it comes to his talents. “Mas strict ako sa talents ko,” he reveals. “Mas kilala niya dapat ako at mas kilala ko siya. Kumbaga, isang tingin lang, dapat alam na niya kung anong gusto kong mangyari.” 

Miguel’s portrayal of Niño has drawn critical and ratings success. For this, direk Maryo is pleased that Miguel’s attitude is at par with his drive. “Wala siyang problema sa attitude. Work habits niya are all great. Mas challenging pa yung upcoming roles niya, so it gives me an inspiration to work harder for him.” 

Direk Maryo shares his initial impression of Miguel: “I believed in him,” he says adamantly. When the young teen and his father first showed up in his office asking for career guidance, the director saw Miguel’s star potential.  

“I tried him out as a young Dennis Trillo noong bata-bata pa siya sa Biritera (a primetime hit that premiered in 2012) and he delivered. Ngayon, sa tulong ng mga workshops na ginagawa namin sa GMA, he has improved a lot also. Nasa kanya yung desire to improve himself.” 

Miguel’s initiative propels him to even greater heights, observes direk Maryo. “Kung yun patuloy na ma-inculcate sa batang ito, wala nang problema, kasi siya na mismo humihingi ng improvement, at siya na mismo ang kikilos para sa improvement na yun.”

Direk Maryo is likewise delighted to be working with a group of talented teens and tweeners whom he says will be the “next batch of artists to fulfill the teen market.” Also in Niño are teen stars Bianca Umali, Julian Trono and Renz Valerio. 

The director is quick to send applause their way — these kids are the next big thing, he says. “As a matter of fact, gusto kong gumawa ng special project for all of them.” 

In a separate interview, Bianca and Renz express great admiration for their director. “Direk Maryo is a very detailed person,” says Renz. “He knows his craft very well. One of the most important lessons I picked up from him is, blocking or rehearsal pa lang, kailangan 100-percent performance na.”

Bianca echoes this sentiment. “He is very relaxed on set. He expresses exactly what he wants, not only visually but also emotionally.”  

Niño is a traditional story at the core, which makes it a hit among the Filipino masses, notes direk Maryo. Elsewhere in the world, people are recoiling from traditional practices — but not Filipinos. “We’re very family-oriented. Masyado ngang extended ang ating family ties, na maski yung mga may anak nakatira pa rin sa pamilya. That is the pride of the Filipino compared to Western culture.” 

Niño’s unique formula is that “it’s a reinforcement of the strength of the Filipino spirit,” he notes. “It’s a reminder that there is hope,” he stresses, beaming. “There is hope for cure in sickness, there is hope for healing in relationships, and there is hope for a better life.

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