I was suffocated by Lloydie’s silence
(The Philippine Star) - December 8, 2015 - 9:00am

He makes me feel nervous and calm at the same time. And he’s the only one who can do that to me.

This is what I realized when I worked with John Lloyd Cruz once again this year. A Second Chance is our first project in three years, and our eighth film as a loveteam.

The last time we did a film together — The Mistress, in 2012 — what I recognized was John Lloyd’s ability to challenge me to do well in every scene that we would be in.

I don’t want to be just a fan (and I have always been a fan of his work) in awe of the actor working in front of me — I want to be just as good an actor as he is; I want to learn from him; I want to prove myself worthy of being in the same frame with him. I guess this is where the nerves come from.

The calm I now feel with Lloydie, his nickname, also comes from the same place: I know that he will bring out the best in me. But more than that, our partnership has transformed into a friendship that allows me to be both brave and honest, on camera and off it.

Looking back at where we started 13 years ago, however, tells you a different story.

It was, among other things, awkward.

Imagine this: I was a 14-year-old newcomer eager to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming an actress. I felt lucky and grateful to have been included in the teleserye Kay Tagal Kang Hinintay, which was going to be Lloydie’s big break on primetime. When I found out that I was going to be paired with Lloydie, who by then was already a household name because of Tabing Ilog, I was intimidated.

Adding to the awkwardness of the working relationship is Lloydie’s introverted nature. He was also so intense in his approach to his work that I often felt that he would rather be partnered with someone else, maybe an actress who had more acting experience. He barely spoke to me, except when in character, using dialogues from a script. Tracking scenes with just the two of us in a car were unbearable torture — there I was, confined in a small space for hours with someone who probably thought I was undeserving of receiving even one word from him. I was suffocated by his silence.

At some point, I had begun to think that God had a strange sense of humor for allowing me to have my dream and yet burdening me with an acting partner who seemed so unhappy to have me around.

This “cold” (and “cold” is an understatement) offscreen relationship continued until halfway through the shoot of our second movie Now That I Have You and our second soap It Might Be You. That time, our film director, direk Lauren Dyogi (who also directed us in Kay Tagal) found it odd that Lloydie and I still had not become friends after two years of working together. Direk Lauren knew that on the big screen, no amount of great acting and direction could hide our obvious discomfort with each other.

So, direk Lauren forced us to become friends. It took several small talks before Lloydie and I became comfortable with each other, comfortable enough for me to call him Lloydie.

I discovered that he’s not always so dark, quiet and brooding. He loves to laugh, too, sometimes at my expense. He could be very free-spirited and childlike as well. And I related very much to his devotion to his family.

The friendship was easy to maintain in the beginning as we were always working together. But after One More Chance in 2007, we were paired with other actors. That was our time to grow as individual actors, and I welcomed the change. I was excited to see what I could be as an actress working outside the safety net of a loveteam.

It is with great humility and courage now that I am honest enough to admit that my post-One More Chance era was a period of great difficulty. It was not the victorious adventure I had initially thought it would be. Lloydie had done so well in his projects and I was happy for him, but I struggled to find my footing. Lloydie’s success made me more determined to find a project that was right for me.

I was given a chance to prove myself through And I Love You So. In a way, that movie, which is about a young widow learning to live life on her own, mirrored my professional journey as well. I was, so to speak, finding myself and finding my way without Lloydie.

I was touched when Lloydie expressed his positive reaction to the work I had done in that film. To this day, I welcome and appreciate his feedback on any of the projects I do.

After One More Chance, my friendship with Lloydie has grown deeper and more complex. There have been long stretches of unease and disagreement; there have been many moments filled with laughter and comfort.

But our friendship has never crossed the line to romance.

I know that this makes a lot of people, our fans especially, wonder why the love stories we act out onscreen don’t translate for us in real life.

This remains an unanswered question even to us, but maybe, it’s a blessing, too. Because that’s what makes my team-up with Lloydie unique — we have never been and do not have to be romantically involved offcam to be romantic oncam.

Some people say that that is the “magic” of our loveteam. I am usually dumbfounded, and I am sure Lloydie feels the same way. Ano nga ba? Magic nga ba ang tawag du’n?

The easiest answer I could give is that our so-called “magic” is a combination of sincerity, mystery and commitment.

Sincerity because we have remained true to ourselves and honest with our fans. We never pretended to be in love with each other just for the sake of the team-up.

Mystery because our chemistry is a gift that remains unexplained and rare. Even I do not know why Lloydie and I just click onscreen.

Commitment because if there is one thing that Lloydie and I have been consistent about these last 13 years, it’s our dedication to our craft. That has always been our primary focus. More than our personal feelings for each other, what’s more important for us is how special our projects are. We are committed to always give justice to the stories and characters that we have been given.

I hope that “magic” comes across stronger in our latest movie A Second Chance.

Eight years ago, One More Chance reinvigorated me to commit to acting as my calling as an actor, in the same way that my character Basha rediscovered her passion for architecture. This time around, I came into A Second Chance with a better sense of self and with more confidence in my abilities, which is something that the now-married Basha also displays in this movie.

My heart overflows with gratitude for the support the public has given our movie. It was not an easy film to make, but we made it through all our difficulties, fears and doubts. We have a beautiful film, and I am proud to say that.

The movie would not be what it is without the passion and vision of our director direk Cathy Garcia-Molina, the brilliance of our writers Ate Carmi Raymundo and Ate Vanessa Valdez, the strong support of our producer Miss Elma Medua, and the steadying guidance of the management of Star Cinema led by Tita Malou Santos and Inang direk Olive Lamasan. I am truly thankful to them, and to all those who worked behind-the-scenes, for making this project possible.

But special thanks goes to the man who is Popoy — Lloydie  … my friend Idan.

Yes, I now call him Idan, his true nickname. I used to feel undeserving of the privilege to call him Idan. For years, I felt like a stranger thrown into absurd situations of involuntary intimacy with another stranger. Then we became very good workmates, acquaintances comfortably crossing paths within the same social circles. After what we’ve been through this year though, I can confidently declare that we have become friends in the truest sense of the word.

Idan, I’ve said before that our loveteam is my professional Twister Fries: We rarely work together now, but when we do, we always want to give the public something special. And A Second Chance is many kinds of special not just for our audience, but also for us.

Idan, I am happy to have been challenged and changed for the better by you once again. I am grateful that our friendship has been enriched and transformed by this project. I am hopeful that the next time we meet again, that you will still make me nervous and calm at the same time because that’s how we make something so unforgettably, wonderfully beautiful.

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