Freeman Cebu Entertainment

‘Maria Clara at Ibarra’ stars reflect on show’s success

Januar Junior Aguja - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines — GMA Network’s hit teleserye “Maria Clara at Ibarra” is nearly approaching

its February 17 finale, as Barbie Forteza’s Klay Infantes re-enters the world of Jose Rizal through El Filibusterismo in an attempt to save her friends from their tragic fates determined by the Philippine national hero.

Aside from bringing Rizal’s novels to life on the small screen, another aspect of the show that brought in viewers was the chemistry of Forteza and David Licauco whose characters Klay and Fidel – known by their “ship” name FiLay – were not in the literature and just created for the primetime series.

Asked during a recent press conference in Cebu why he thinks their chemistry worked perfectly, Licauco credited Forteza for being a good team player.

“Barbie is a great actress so working alongside good actresses like her every single day or every other day during taping is such a treat,” the actor said. “The chemistry works naturally when your partner is good.”

Their tandem, he added, is also strengthened by how their characters were developed. “It really boils down to the script on how it was written, directed, and how the camera angles are planned,” he said.

Licauco expressed interest to work with Forteza again. “We are comfortable with each other. We are entertainers for a reason. So if our fans who are happy with our tandem want to see us again, why not?”

To further capitalize on the popularity of “Maria Clara at Ibarra” on social media, Juancho Triviño would take his character Padre Salvi outside the series and make his own online comedic skits.

Joined by fellow cast members Kiel Rodriguez as Renato and Roven Alejandro as Don Tiburcio, Padre Salvi and his gang would walk the modern streets of the Philippines and react to the current phenomenon around them.

These skits include Padre Salvi ordering take-out from Jollibee in Spanish to the confusion of the cashier, collapsing at seeing the inflated price of onions during a supermarket trip, and providing sports commentary during the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) games on GMA’s sister channel GTV.

The skits, done with permission from the production team, don’t reflect the villainous nature of Salvi in the teleserye and in the books as he did these out of fun – not to soften the character for younger viewers.

“It’s something we like to do on our free time because I found the role intriguing, so we just have fun with it,” said Triviño.

On the day of the press conference, Andrea Torres bid goodbye to her character as Sisa who passed away in the hands of the young Basilio, played by child actor Stanley Abuloc. The surviving son is now being played as a young adult by Khalil Ramos in El Filibusterismo.

Torres recalled how nervous she was to portray such an iconic character in Philippine literature. “I was scared to take on the role because it’s a huge risk,” she said. “At the same time, I want to give a shout-out to the universe because, for the longest time, I wanted a role where I am not always glamorous.”

She found Sisa equally challenging and fulfilling. “Although it’s emotionally draining, it still feels satisfying when you deliver that kind of performance. Every artist wants to get these kinds of scenes where they get to show everything they have. In the case of Sisa, I was given an opportunity to showcase what I can do as a drama actress. I am very grateful to be able to explore these kinds of roles, so I would consider Sisa as my favorite so far.”

Speaking for her fellow cast members, Julie Anne San Jose said she was grateful for the positive reception that “Maria Clara at Ibarra” has been receiving.

“A lot of people already read Rizal’s novels but there are also some viewers who didn’t know the story, so that’s why we are here to show everyone that apart from our show being entertaining, we also want to remind them that this is our past,” she said.

The singer-actress found it exciting to re-enact scenes from the novels. “What we learned in high school and college, it felt very nostalgic. When you watch the show, you will react with the visuals, ‘Oh this is what happened during this chapter’”.

She reiterated the importance for the show’s production to be faithful to the setting and events in Rizal’s work as much as possible.

“We worked hard in adapting the story and it’s no joke because we have to be historically accurate and do a lot of research. As actors, we have to study as well what our characters would do and what our character sketches look like.”

San Jose thanked her mother network for creating “Maria Clara at Ibarra”, saying, “We are so grateful that there is this kind of project from GMA where it’s entertaining and educational, and which reminds us of our roots.”


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