Yam Concepcion is on fire in first TV lead

Vanessa A. Balbuena (The Freeman) - April 22, 2021 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  For anyone feeling impatient to reach the homerun or who can’t seem to catch a break, Yam Concepcion thinks there is a lesson to be had from her career: After 10 years in show business, it is only now that she’s landed a lead role on television.

It’s a milestone she doesn’t take lightly, made even more bittersweet when her discoverer, the OPM singer Claire dela Fuente, passed away unexpectedly before the show aired. Days before her demise, the “Sayang” singer found time to ring up Yam to congratulate the actress for her series’ well-received trailer.

“Ang tagal ko din naghintay. It feels very fulfilling,” Yam says in a virtual conference for the newest ABS-CBN Star Creatives’ series “Init sa Magdamag” which premiered April 19 on the Kapamilya Channel, A2Z, and TV5.

“I feel like this is a good story to share to young ones who have a dream: That success doesn’t happen overnight. You have to work hard for it.”

“Along the way you will experience struggles and rejections. You will question yourself, ‘Kaya pa ba?’ Ang dami mong insecurities,” she adds. “At the end of the day, just believe in yourself and fight for your dreams. Of course with prayers and a little luck, you will get there.”

After absorbing all the hate from viewers as the antagonist Dana Wong to Kim Chiu in 2020’s “Love Thy Woman” where they wrangled over Xian Lim, Yam in “Init sa Magdamag” is front and center as the lone female that two men, played by Gerald Anderson and JM de Guzman, will tussle over.

Yam and JM play the prominent political couple Rita and Peterson, whose marriage is on the brink of collapse as they struggle to have a child. Peterson met an accident years earlier that made him incapable of fathering a child.

Rita believes that they can save their relationship if she bears a child through in vitro fertilization. Against Peterson’s parent’s wishes and their town’s beliefs, the two take a chance on the plan.

But Peterson proposes what he thinks is a simpler solution: get the barrio doctor, Tupe (Gerald) to be their sperm donor. Unbeknownst to Peterson, Rita and Tupe were once lovers. How long can Rita hide her past with Tupe from Peterson? What happens when Rita and Tupe’s love rekindles?

“Init sa Magdamag” starts with the young love between Tupe and Rita whose story is cut short because of a circumstance that leaves him to choose between protecting the woman she loves or his responsibility to his family.

As Rita moves forward, she meets Peterson who finds a reason to be a better man because of her. Yet they will be tested early on in their relationship, which is the same time when Tupe finds his way back into Rita’s world.

“Yung mga ginagawa kung roles since I started in showbiz, lahat sexy. Parating ganun yung image ko,” shares Yam. “I feel with this teleserye, parang na-challenge ako more than just being sexy. My vulnerability as an actor and as a person was tested. I was pushed with what emotions I can give. I was able to experience emotions that I haven’t felt before. I’m very grateful and until now I still can’t believe that I was given a good project like this. I feel very proud because not in my wildest dreams did I imagine receiving this kind of role.”

“Not only because it’s a steamy role. It’s deeper than that. Not only because I’m one of the leads or I’m a protagonist, but that it’s such a great project.”

The trailer for “Init sa Magdamag” hit 12 million views 13 days after it was first released on YouTube and became a hot trending topic on social media. While Yam and the rest of the cast greatly appreciate the attention, they reminded viewers that their show has so much more to offer than to titillate.

“It’s not just about the love scenes,” says Yam. “It’s necessary to the story and not just to drum up noise. It makes one question to what you can do for the sake of love.”

It takes effort for Yam, who also played the memorable antagonist Jade in the 2018 hit drama “Halik,” to shake off the nuances of a mean girl.

“For two years, I’ve been portraying puro kontrabida. Parang nadala ko yata sa totoong buhay. The rolling of the eyes…nagmumukha akong mataray talaga. Sinasabihan naman nila ako. My directors [Ian Lorenos and Raymond Ocampo] are very honest, which I like. When they see that Rita is not like that, they tell me that they see Jade or Dana. They correct me. Wala pa ako sa point na kaya ko na ako lang.”

Also cast in “Init sa Magdamag” are Joey Marquez, Tetchie Agbayani, Lovely Rivero, Mickey Ferriols, Albie Casino, Alexa Ilacad, Nikko Natividad, Gab Lagman, Kate Alejandro, Aleck Bovick, and Jeric Raval.

As the current leading lady of a controversial actor, Yam did not escape the ribbing of netizens.

“Nakakatawa kasi ang sabi ng mga netizens, ‘O Yam mag-ingat ka kay Gerald ha.’ Hindi ko naman kailangan mag-ingat kasi noong nakilala ko siya..sinasabi nila matinik sa babae, hindi loyal. Pero hindi eh. Pag katrabaho mo so Gerald, he’s very professional and a gentleman. He didn’t make me feel na may malisya or what. It’s just purely work, but he also made me feel the honest emotions of his character. The directors guided and protected us, it was all rehearsed and professional, so I felt very safe.”

Yam and Gerald’s first intimate scene was shot during their first lock-in period and they had yet to get comfortable with one another. “Nandun pa yung ilangan. We needed 30 minutes to get to know each other kasi nakitaan nila na medyo naiilang kami sa isa’t-isa. Eventually the chemistry came naturally. We got each other’s trust. Hindi naman kasi yan biglaan. It takes a while to trust, even your directors and other co-actors,” she says.

On how her experiences and the present status of her romance aided in tackling her character, Yam shares, “I think it helped that I’m at that stage where I’ve matured, so I understand better love in all aspects – in terms of family and romantic. Among all my roles, this is the character that I was able to relate to on a personal level.”

“I was also able to ask myself what I can sacrifice for love…but I’m keeping that for myself. Unexpected things also came while we were doing the series that made me question myself, my capacity to love, and for love. That helped me build the character internally. In terms of choosing between present and past love – doon ako naka-relate.”

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