Unaware of pregnancy, Ryza Cenon does hardcore action for ‘Bella Bandida’

Vanessa Balbuena (The Freeman) - November 25, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  When Ryza Cenon was wrapping up remaining scenes for the action-drama series “Bella Bandida” in February – including the big finale that took three days to complete – she had no inkling that there was already a bun in her oven.

The 32-year-old actress, who gave birth to a boy last month, calls her fight choreography “sobrang tindi,” that she is in awe at how she pulled it off when a life was already delicately growing inside her. “After ko nalaman na buntis na pala ako, doon ka na-realize na kaya ko pala gawin,” Ryza told media in a digital conference.

But knowing her condition would not have spelled a difference. Ryza said she would have continued with the physically taxing project despite learning of her pregnancy, unless her obstetrician advised against it.

She would have been hard-pressed to let go of a role that sees her playing an action heroine for the first time. That the material is loosely based on a comic book by Francisco V. Coching, a National Artist, was also a major come-on for the Viva contract star.

Premiering 9:30 tonight on TV5, “Bella Bandida” has Ryza in the titular role of Annabelle “Bella” Suarez, a doctor who grew up with the Karag-ayon tribe of Santiago. A witness to their difficulties, she returns to the community to fulfill a promise of helping improve their welfare. Her boyfriend, town councilor Brick Ortaleza (Josef Elizalde), also intends to change the corrupt political system as he is being groomed to be the next mayor.

Bella finds out that Santiago Mayor Timothy Gregory Ortaleza, a.k.a  “Mayor Tigro” (Efren Reyes, Jr.), is authorizing a mining operation, and bravely confronts him about it, knowing the bad effects it could bring to the town, especially the tribe where she belongs.

But she ends up getting gang-raped by the mayor himself, Santiago’s chief of police, Col. Emmanuel Barbaro (Lito Pimentel), and skilled assassin El Pistulero (Rafa Siguion-Reyna). When Mayor Tigro attempts to murder her, Bella is saved by a rebel named Chris (AJ Muhlach). A higher power also gives her a second life: May’ari (Phoebe Walker), the goddess of moon and night, endows her with super powers.  Bella Bandida is born.

Fueled by revenge, Bella hunts those who wronged her, with Chris proving a worthy ally. In the process of seeking redress, she discovers much deeper societal issues and uses her powers to fight against the injustices in Santiago.

Before production began last year, Ryza said she underwent a two-week training for fight scenes and had to learn how to maneuver a big bike. While she can manage driving a scooter, Ryza laughingly admitted that she struggled to steer the big bike with her co-star Josef riding along.

Unlike the original Bella Bandida who donned sexy outfits, Ryza’s wardrobe was tamed to fit a television audience.

Portraying strong characters in the last four years – Georgia Ferrer on “Ika-6 na Utos,” Aubrey Hidalgo on “FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano”, and Jessie de Leon-del Fierro on “The General’s Daughter” – Ryza is honored to be among the few female action heroes on Philippine TV.

“Mas enjoy and nae-excite talaga ako gumanap na kontrabida kasi mas nalalaro ko yung character. Kasi pwede ka naman maging mabait na kontrabida eh. But Bella Bandida is also very challenging because it’s my first time to do hardcore action,” said Ryza, who named “John Wick” her most memorable action film and Scarlett Johansson of the “Avengers” films as her favorite Hollywood action heroine.

Josef praised Ryza’s discipline and dedication to master her fight scenes. “For a first-timer in action, mapapahanga ka talaga,” the former PBB housemate said.

For AJ, whose previous training in Filipino combat art Pekiti-Tirsia Kali came in handy for “Bella Bandida,” Ryza’s flexibility was a commendable trait for an actress thrust into action for the first time.

“Fight scenes are stressful,” explained the star of action flicks “Buy Bust” and “Double Barrel.” “Part din yung may pagbabago sa fight choreography pagdating sa set because of camera angle or lighting, and mabilis siya maka-adjust.”

Produced by Viva Entertainment and Sari-Sari Channel, “Bella Bandida” also stars Sarah Jane Abad as Rhoda Velasquez, a family friend of the Ortalezas who will fall in love with Brick when Bella disappears. Ara Mina will also play a pivotal role in Bella’s life.

Helming the series was TV commercial and music video director Raffy Francisco in his first foray into long-form narrative. Prolific writer and creative consultant Temi Abad co-directed.

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