Barbie Forteza Shares Her Relationship With On-Screen Partner David Licauco Off-Cam

Barbie Forteza admits she and David Licauco had to go through “testing the waters” stage

Barbie Forteza is surely getting along with her current on-screen partner, David Licauco.

The two Kapuso artists are paired together in the primetime series “Maria Clara at Ibarra.” Their tandem called FiLay—a word play to their characters Fidel (Licauco) and Klay (Forteza)—continues to receive good feedback from the viewers.

While this is the third time that Forteza and Licauco worked together—from “Heartful Cafe” to “Mano Po Legacy: The Family Fortune”—it was only in “Maria Clara at Ibarra” where they really got close to each other.

Forteza reveals this in an exclusive interview after her shoot for FreebieMNL Spotlight, where she is the featured star for January 2023.

She tells FreebieMNL, “Ang maganda sa naging relationship ko with David from ‘Heartful Cafe’ to ‘Mano Po’ to ‘Maria Clara’, bukod sa characters namin sa show, kami rin as totoong tao, para sa akin, nag-grow din yung relationship namin as on-screen partners.

Kasi ano siya, e, hindi ko alam kung introvert ba siya pero hindi rin kasi siya ma-chika. ‘Tapos ‘pag chi-chika pa siya before, about business, so wala rin ako ma-input. ‘Tapos ako naman, may pagka-introvert din ako lalo na kapag nararamdaman kong hindi naman ma-chika yung tao, so medyo nagkaroon kami ng testing the waters stage.”

David Licauco and Barbie Forteza
Image: GMA

How Barbie Forteza and David Licauco became closer

Since they are together for most of their scenes, Forteza and Licauco were given the chance to get to know each other more.

She relates, “Dito sa ‘Maria Clara at Ibarra,’ since matagal nang halos kami yung magka-eksena, so in between takes, pagka nagse-set up, we get the chance to really talk. It starts from a random na, ‘Saan ka galing kahapon? Asan si Jak ngayon? Punta kayo sa Kuya Korea, libre ko kayo.’” Kuya Korea is one of Licauco’s restaurants while Jak is Jak Roberto, Forteza’s boyfriend who is also friends with Licauco.

With these conversations, Forteza has learned a lot about her on-screen partner, including one aspect that she used to not like about him.

The Kapuso actress continues, “From there, medyo nagiging mas personal yung conversation namin, nakikilala ko siya and mula doon sa conversations na yun, nagkaroon ako ng confirmation and clarification of why parang… kasi, there was a time in ‘Mano Po’ na…” Forteza then stops and gives a smile, before continuing. “He would arrive…”—she again avoids the word until this writer prods—“…late.”

Forteza explains, “E, sobrang hate ko yun, e. Since ngayon, nagiging close na kami, in-open up niya sa akin kung bakit, and now, I totally understand why. So, when it happens again, I would know.”

The Kapuso Primetime Princess says that their closeness really helped them do their scenes more effectively. “Mas naging close kami ngayon, mas naging magaan ang loob ko sa kanya, mas naging comfortable ang working relationship naming dalawa. Hindi nga namin pinag-uusapan yung mga eksena, e. Hindi namin pinag-uusapan kung paano namin gagawin, natural lahat. Nakatulong din kasi mas nagiging close kami kaya yung mga reaction namin, nagiging natural na rin.”

Barbie Forteza on Maria Clara at Ibarra’s success

As for her show, Forteza is very happy with the success that their program has achieved, especially that it is a show that’s not easy to do.

She says, “Ang gandang bawi niya from the pandemic na parang kahit yung standard natin sa free TV, tumaas because of ‘Maria Clara at Ibarra’ kasi yung quality niya, effort din naman talaga. On set, mahirap talaga siyang gawin, challenging kasi paulit-ulit and marami rin kaming inabot na mga sakuna and all.

“Pero it all really paid off kasi nga, maganda yung response ng mga tao and I guess it’s because of a great cast, very dedicated pool of writers, creative writers dahil sila naman talaga ang pinakaunang nagtrabaho para sa proyektong ito, sila ang gumawa ng research nila, nagsulat, nagpiga sa bawat character. Very great direction by Zig Dulay. Cinematography, di ba? Mala-pelikula na kami, e, di ba? And you get to see it on free TV.”

Of course, Forteza does not dismiss the fact that the popularity of the show really came from where it’s based on, Jose Rizal’s novels “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo.”

The added flair is that these novels are being retold through the point of view of Klay Infantes (Forteza), a Gen-Z student, making it more relatable to the audience.

She says, “May touch of now pero it’s still relevant kasi yung—somehow, injustices— nangyayari pa rin today, sadly. Pero, in terms of yung nagagawa ng babae, kahit papaano nagbabago na rin naman at unti-unti na rin namang umaangat at mas maraming opportunities ang available ngayon for women.”

Maria Clara at Ibarra
The cast of Maria Clara at Ibarra (L-R): Barbie Forteza, Dennis Trillo, and Julie Anne San Jose
Image: GMA

Fears before the premiere

But Forteza is honest in saying that she and director Zig Dulay had fears before the airing of “Maria Clara at Ibarra.”

She explains, “Noong una, honestly, nagkaroon kami ng fear ni Direk Zig kasi first slot ng primetime, GMA primetime, so nagkaroon kami ng fear because we thought na it would be too heavy, kasi siyempre, may mga bagets pang gising niyan, di ba? So, we thought it would be too heavy to show a period drama on the first slot of GMA Drama.

Kasi, usually, yan yung ano mo for family comedy, drama, feel-good lang ‘tapos lalagyan mo bigla ng period drama na yung kasamaan ng prayle, ipapakita mo, yung injustices and all.

“So, nakakatuwa lang kasi kinagat siya talaga ng mga tao of all ages and isa rin siguro sa ikina-proud ko of being part of this show, hindi lang kami, we don’t just entertain people, we educate them as well. We remind them of our history and our culture.”

“Maria Clara at Ibarra” is off to its last three weeks as it is scheduled to end on February 17, 2023. Also part of the cast are Dennis Trillo and Julie Anne San Jose.

Check out Barbie Forteza’s FreebieMNL Spotlight cover story for more on the actress: Barbie Forteza: Thriving In Her Quarter Life

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