Living a childhood dream, Barbie Forteza embraces the acting grind
Vanessa Balbuena (The Freeman) - January 25, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — Barbie Forteza, 22, not only remembers that her very first regional promotional event was in Cebu, but was also able to correctly name which restaurant in a mall her press conference was held here years ago. That was during her early tween days when she was still paired with Joshua Dioniso.

When the press mentions how she’s still very much around while Joshua has been long out of the limelight, the actress quickly points out that it was her former screen tandem’s decision to leave acting and prioritize school.

“Laking pasasalamat ko lang since [even if] we were built up together, umalis man siya, hindi ako pinabayaan ng GMA,” says Barbie during a media huddle over the recent Sinulog weekend at Abaseria Deli & Café in Barangay Kasambagan, Cebu City.

“They didn’t set me aside just because wala na yung partner ko. Talagang hinanapan nila ako ng way para mag-excel mag-isa.”

Barbie was in town last Jan. 17 for mall shows at the Gaisano Fiesta Mall Tabunok South and at Ayala Center Cebu with Kate Valdez and Migo Adecer, her co-stars in the upcoming “Anak Ni Waray vs Anak Ni Biday” primetime series.

Dubbed as the Primetime Princess of the Kapuso Network, Barbie may not be in the Major Star category just yet, but she enjoys a track record of starring in TV shows that make her bosses happy with its competitive ratings, most memorably of which was the afternoon drama “The Half Sisters” that ran for a year and a half.

When she was much younger, Barbie says she was oblivious to the importance of her show rating well. She was enjoying the acting grind too much to notice.

“Hindi ko iniisip na I’m getting paid for doing what I love. It wasn’t sinking in na nagtatrabaho ako. Bata pa lang ako, nag-e-enjoy ako na ‘O, taping tayo, ganito ganyan.’ Tapos kinabukasan, ‘O, eroplano tayo, punta tayong Cebu, punta tayong Davao, punta tayong Iloilo,’” she shares.

“Yung panahon ng ‘First Time,’ tulog ako sa kotse tapos paggising ko, nasa NAIA na ako. Yung bahala na sila kung saan ako dalhin. Ganoon ako ka-enjoy. Hanggang ngayon, I embrace it because dahil doon, okay ang family ko, okey ako, nabibili ko yung gusto ko and I still have enough for my family. It’s a win-win situation.”

Despite being among her network’s bankable talents, Barbie refuses to buy into the suggestion that she can probably wield a bit of clout and choose her projects.

“Bilang bata pa lang ako, gusto ko ng mag-artista at umarte, hindi naman ako para tumanggi kung anong ibigay sa akin. Di bale nalang kung medyo sexy or offensive, syempre, hindi pa tayo ready diyan. Or kung hindi sakop ng capabilities ko,” she says.

“Respeto na rin syempre sa network na nagtiwala sa akin, na alam ko na hindi ako pababayaan, so bakit ako tatanggi, diba?”

While she’s now aware that ratings matter in deciding whether to axe or extend a show, Barbie still chooses not to lose sleep over a project performing poorly.

“Ginagawa ko lang kung ano yung binibigay sa akin, kung saan ako ilagay. Iniisip ko nalang din yung positive possibilities na maibibigay sa akin ng isang project. Either good or bad, it’s still publicity. They will still know me. Magiging household name pa rin ako kahit anong mangyari.”

That she continuously appears on television is already a dream fulfilled for Barbie. As she tells it, she was a painfully shy kid who would skip school if she had to be in front of a crowd. She wouldn’t participate in school activities nor joined any clubs.

So her mother, a Sharonian, was surprised to hear an eight-year-old Barbie ask her innocently how she can get inside the television – literally.

“Kasi feeling ko dati yung mga artista, literal na nasa loob ng TV. Nanonood kami ng ‘Madrasta’ nung time na yun. Sabi ko sa kanya, ‘Ma, gusto kong gawin yan,’” says Barbie, recalling her fascination when watching television and feeling the passion of the actors.

“Finally, nung isa-isa ko ng nakilala yung mga idols ko – yung iba nakatrabaho ko pa – mas lalo kong minahal yung ginagawa ko kasi unti-unti kong naaabot yung pangarap ko.”

Today, some of those dreams include doing more independent and mainstream films, and getting to act alongside veterans such as Joel Torre and Tirso Cruz III.

Returning to primetime after last year’s “Kara Mia,” Barbie will have a front row seat to the performances of seasoned actresses Dina Bonnevie and Snooky Serna in GMA Network’s adaptation of the 1984 film “Anak Ni Waray vs. Anak Ni Biday.” The Regal flick starred Maricel Soriano and Snooky as Waray’s daughter and Biday’s daughter, respectively.

In this remake – tweaked to be more heavy drama than the original’s loud comedy – Barbie is Ginalyn, the daughter of Snooky’s Waraynon Amy who grows up into a diligent and optimistic woman juggling her family’s Binagol business and her tour guide duties.

Despite their opposite worlds, young Amy the Waray from Leyte and young Sussie the Biday from Ilocos are the best of friends. Amy works for Sussie’s wealthy Ilocano family based in Manila in exchange for the latter’s parents funding her studies.

Their bond is jeopardized when the dashing young Joaquin takes an interest in them both. After finding out that they have fallen in love with the same man, Amy and Sussie’s friendship is now in shambles. Worse, the two are bearing Joaquin’s children.

Years passed, Amy’s daughter Ginalyn, and Sussie’s prim and proper daughter Caitlyn (Kate Valdez), a frustrated vlogger, cross paths and ironically become best friends.

Barbie says her character was raised in Manila, so there was no need for her to learn the Waray dialect. Instead, she needed to understand and imbibe the characteristics of Waraynons, foremost of which is being strong-willed.

Adding spice to the feud between the Warays and Bidays are: Migo as Cocoy, a charming city boy who crosses paths with Ginalyn and Caitlyn; Jay Manalo as Joaquin, a dashing man from Manila who breaks Amy and Sussie apart; Teresa Loyzaga as Dorcas, Joaquin’s sophisticated cousin who would do anything to keep their family’s riches to herself; Faith da Silva as Agatha, Dorcas’ spoiled brat daughter; Jean Saburit as Vanessa, doting mother of Cocoy; Tanya Montenegro as Glenda, Amy’s cousin and close confidant from Leyte; Benedict Cua as Benny, a famous charismatic vlogger of Filipino-Chinese descent and Caitlyn’s best friend; and Celia Rodriguez as Zenaida, Sussie’s elitist and controlling mom who makes Amy’s life a living hell.

Premiering this Monday, Jan. 27, the pilot week of “Anak Ni Waray Vs. Anak Ni Biday” will feature Lovi Poe as young Sussie, Max Collins as young Amy, Jason Abalos as young Joaquin; Pinky Amador as young Zenaida; Mike ‘Pekto’ Nacua as Randy, young Joaquin’s comrade; and Yanna Asistio as young Glenda.

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