Maricel Soriano, simply Maria to friends, is turning 55 on Feb. 25 next year. ‘Oh my God, I don’t want to turn 55!’, she exclaims in mock shock. ‘Puede ba 54 na lang?’ But she has mellowed considerably. Asked what she likes about herself now, she smiles, ‘I’m more tame, I’m better and I am prettier…ay sus!!!’ Then she laughs.
Unmasking the Diamond Star
Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - November 25, 2019 - 12:00am

Back then, many years ago, when journalists (this one included) wrote about Maricel Soriano (simply Maria to friends) they would quote the title of a song from The Sound of Music — you know, How do you solve a problem like Maria?

That was during Maria’s taray (bitchy) days. She has changed and that’s what you will find out in the following interview in which she “unmasks” herself, baring the now  Maria who has ceased to be the “problem” and has become, well, the “solution.”

In her new movie, Regal Entertainment’s The Heiress directed by Frasco Mortiz, Maria plays a character exactly her opposite ­— as the aunt/surrogate mother of Janella Salvador whom she shields against those she perceives to be out to break her spirit or do her harm, including the girl’s biological mom (Sunshine Cruz) and boyfriend (McCoy). She’s a mambabarang (sorceress).

In the movie, everybody is afraid of her. Her previous image lingers a bit and some people, particularly young stars, think she’s an object of fear.

Maria laughed. “Why should they be afraid of me? I don’t eat people, hahaha!!!”

Stay tuned and check the “who-what-where-when-how” about the Diamond Star.

Who

• Who is your greatest love?

“My boys — Marron, 31, and Sebastien, 26. They are of age and I don’t want to meddle in their love lives. I just remind them, ‘’Make sure na ‘yung babaeng ipakilala n’yo sa akin ay ‘yon na ‘yon.’ Ngayon, kung tarantado ‘yung babae, please lang, alisin n’yo na sa harap ko.”

• Who has the most impact on your life?

“My Daddy Dolphy. (Who played her father in the sitcom John en Marsha. — RFL) Inangkin ko siyang ama at inangkin niya rin naman akong anak.”

• Who is the one person that you look up to?

“Marami. Aside from my Daddy Dolphy, sina Mommy Nida (Blanca) at Tita Chato (Charito Solis), kaya lang iniwan na nila ako, eh. I miss them so much, especially when I am depressed. I would ask them, ‘Bakit n’yo ako iniwan?’ Ganoon.”

• Who is the one person that you turn to when you are feeling low?

“Si Mr. Tuviera (Antonio, a.k.a. Mr. T). He’s also my tatay who is always there for me. Andyan din si Mother (Lily) on whom I can confide about my problems.”

• Who are your real friends?

“I think you know who they are, a few from showbiz and others are non-showbiz.”

What

• What do you consider your greatest achievement?

“My children. I thought I would never have children. Then I had Marron. Can you imagine how a woman feels if she can’t bear a child? God gave me Tien, so sino ang mag-aakala na magkakaanak pa pala ako? But I can’t have more children. By Feb. 25 next year, I will be 55.”

• What’s the best lesson that you have learned?

“That you have to leave some for yourself. Don’t give away everything kasi the moment you have a misunderstanding, ibabalik sa’yo ‘yon, eh. That’s what I learned from my mom (Linda who died years ago. — RFL).”

• What’s in your bucket list?

 “I don’t have a bucket list. But I want to play roles that I’ve never done, ‘yung medyo action-something…ala-hitman na hindi halata. Not somebody na nagka-karate. After doing a ‘hit,’ she’s shown rushing for a date. The audience will just find out that, ‘A, siya pala ‘yon; kaya pala siya umuwi’…like the role of Angelina Jolie in Mr. and Mrs. Smith.”

• What is your biggest regret?

“That I didn’t have more time with my mom. She was my best friend. She died too soon. Her 10th death anniversary was marked just recently and up to now, hindi ko matanggap na wala na siya. It’s unfair! We had a talk. I told her, ‘I should go first.’ She said, ‘Hindi, dapat mauna ako sa’yo!’ Baklang-bakla ang Nanay ko, di ba? ”

• What do you like about yourself now? Your Heiress young co-stars (among them Janella Salvador and McCoy de Leon) said that you have changed; hindi ka na raw mataray.

“Pero may babala.” (Laughed) “Ano ‘yon? Wala! Look lang ako, hahaha!!!” (McCoy was touched when Maricel put a face towel on his back.) “Kasi kawawa ‘yung mga bata, walang nag-aalaga. I told him and Janella, ‘You should take care of yourselves, mahirap magkasakit.’ What do I like about myself now? She’s tame now, she’s better now, she’s prettier now…ay sus!!! Hahaha!!! You know, some things change with time. It comes with age.”

On today’s young stars (like Janella Salvador and McCoy de Leon, her co-stars in Regal Entertainment’s The Heiress): They should know how to respect senior stars. During our time, humahalik kami sa mga nakakatanda hanggang mapudpod ang mga nguso namin.

Where

• Where are you most comfortable?

“At home. I’m a homebody. Ever since, hindi ako ma-party. Maingay sa party; you can’t hear one another so you end up saying, ‘Ano ‘yon, ano daw, anong sabi?’ I don’t even deal with gossip; hindi ako tsismosa, ano! Pakialam ko sa buhay ng may buhay! So sa bahay lang ako. I watch Netflix. I have just watched The Bodyguard (not the one with Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner).”

• Where do you eventually want to settle down?

“Abroad? No, I’d rather stay in the Philippines. Sa Maynila pa rin.”

• Where do you go to unwind?

“I love going to Willie’s place in Tagaytay.” (Willie Revillame, that is, ex-boyfriend of Maricel’s sister Becbec with whom Willie has a daughter, Meryll Soriano. — RFL) “Alam mo naman si Willie, siya ang hilaw kong brother-in-law pero ayaw niyang pumayag. He said that he is a member of our family. He would accommodate us in his vacation house na parang hindi kami ibang tao.”

• Where is your Achilles’ Heel?

“Mayroon ba akong ganoon? Oh yes, pakialaman na nila ang buhay ko pero huwag lang ang buhay ng mga anak ko.”

When

• When are you happiest?

“When I have accomplished something. I think I have done a lot but…hmmm, hindi pa ako nanalo ng Urian ha! In my 45 years in the business, I have been nominated (by the Urian) several times but I’ve never won.”

• When are you saddest?

“When there’s a misunderstanding around, whether at home or on the set. You want to get angry but it’s useless. You know, puede namang idaan sa magandang usapan ang lahat.”

• When do you feel triumphant?

“When my movie makes money. That’s why I’m inviting everybody to watch The Heiress which is opening on Wednesday, Nov. 27. You will like it. It’s na-iiba. I have a new (young) director, si Frasco Mortiz, the son of Edgar Mortiz. Ako ang nakakatakot dito in every scene. Watch kayong lahat ha!”

• When do you think is the right time to retire?

“When people don’t like you anymore; kapag ayaw na sa’yo ng tao.”

How

• How was it working with young stars like Janella and McCoy?

“I can’t say anything bad about them because I saw how hard they worked. They reminded me of my early years in the business.”

• How do you think are young stars today different from stars of your time?

“I will speak in general ha. I notice that many of them don’t respect senior stars. Hindi sila marunong magpugay sa mga nakakatandang stars. Di ba dapat humahalik sila hanggang mapudpod ang mga nguso nila…like we did during our time?

• How do you deal with low moments?

“I pray. I talk straight to God, to Mama Mary. Was I named after Mama Mary? My full first name is Maria Cecilia and I was named after the saint who played the piano, St. Cecilia.”

• How would you do it if you start all over again?

“I started as a child actress and it was different during our time. But if I were to start all over again now, hmmm teka, medyo mahirap because we are in the age of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I’m not active on social media. How should I deal with people that I don’t see, that I don’t know? Ako pa naman, gusto ko sapakan kaagad. Sorry ha. But if we have to fight, let’s do it face-to-face, magtinginan tayo sa mata.”

• How do you look at life now that you are turning 55?

“Oh my God, I don’t want to turn 55! Puede ba 54 na lang? What part of my life do I want to go back to? A, wala. I want to fast-forward. I want to look back…at the past? No, I want to look forward…at the future because I want to go home. I want na to see my dad, my mom. That’s the ultimate joy that I want to feel…when I am with God already. Face-to-face with God, what would I tell Him? Oh, this: ‘I love you so much’.”

(E-mail reactions at rickylophilstar@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos, visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on Instagram @therealrickylo.)

JANELLA SALVADOR MACCOY DE LEON MARICEL SORIANO
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