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Gladys Reyes: Winning In Life And Love

Gladys Reyes’ presence, professionalism and positive demeanor light up the room every time. For her FreebieMNL Spotlight shoot, she arrived early, accommodated an interview while on the glam chair, and in the following hour, the three-layout photoshoot was finished.

Days before the shoot, Reyes had just won an award for Best Actress at the first Summer Metro Manila Film Festival for the movie “Apag.”

She says of this, “Special kasi first Summer MMFF. Kumbaga, kapag itinrivia mo yan, ‘Who was the first summer MMFF Best Actress,’ parang nandoon tayo sa ganung kategorya, di ba, na first talaga? And then, actually, first award ko ito sa film as Best Actress.”

Reyes has been in showbiz for 38 years and has received numerous awards for her film and television projects. However, she admits, “Parang hindi ako nasasanay doon sa feeling na tumatanggap ng award. Kasi nga, iba-iba, e. Like, may awards din tayo as a host, di ba? Dahil I’ve been doing ‘Moments’ for so long na. Iba rin yung satisfaction.”

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Love for her craft

Acting is Reyes’ first love. Ever since kindergarten, she had already known that it was something she wanted to do for a living.

She shares, “Noong bata ako, naalala ko, sumasali na ako sa parang talent contest sa school. At ako yung… alam mo kung anong talent ko? Ako si Sisa! Imagine, kinder ako, maiisip ko ba naman na mag-portray ng Sisa?”

Sisa is the iconic character from Jose Rizal’s novel, “Noli Me Tangere,” an abused woman who lost her sanity after losing her children.

Reyes continues, “So, siyempre, noong bata ka, ang iniisip mo pag Sisa, nawawala sa sarili, di ba? So, ang opening monologue ko kaagad doon, ‘Crispin, Basillio,’ ganyan! ‘Mga anak ko, nasaan kayo?’ Ganun na kaagad, yung piyesa ko, imagine, for a kindergartener, Sisa agad, di ba? Not the usual bata na parang iniwan lang ng nanay niya. So, medyo mabigat agad yung piyesa.”

Then, at six years old, Reyes was finally given a chance to try show business when she joined “Little Miss Philippines,” a segment on the noontime show “Eat Bulaga!” for little girls who wanted to become beauty queens. She then landed roles in VIVA movies such as “Muling Buksan ang Puso” and “Nakagapos na Puso.”

But it wasn’t until she was 12 years old that a show would catapult her into stardom landed on her lap: “Mara Clara,” which also starred Judy Ann Santos.

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She recalls, “Sa totoo lang, hindi pa nila alam kung sino ang Mara, kung sino ang Clara. So, ipinatawag kami, parang screen test. Siyempre, may monitor [sa] parang studio, binigyan kami ng parang script na maiksi lang. So, it depends paano namin ide-deliver yun. Siyempre, Judy Ann Santos, bilang kilala si Judy Ann na parang gripo yung luha, di ba? So, umiyak siya kasi parang pinagbibintangan kunyari na nagnakaw. Ako, parang iniba ko yung atake ko. Alam mo yung pinagbibintangan pero palaban pa rin ako? Yung ganun, parang ginawa ko siya na, ‘Ano? Ako? Nagnakaw? Bakit niyo ‘ko pinagbibintangan, hindi porke’t mahirap kami…’ ganyan! Pero with tears pa rin para palaban.”

Her performance at the screen test sealed the deal, and Gladys was awarded the role of Clara, the main villain in the show. “Mara Clara” would become a huge success on TV—it ran for five years on ABS-CBN and catapulted Reyes and Santos into household names in drama. As for Reyes, her performance as Clara earned her the title of “primera kontrabida.”

Living up to the title, Reyes continued portraying kontrabida roles in her succeeding shows, alongside Angelu de Leon in “Ikaw Na Sana,” Carmina Villarroel in “Ganyan Kita Kamahal,” and Claudine Barretto for “Saan Ka Man Naroroon” and “Sa Dulo ng Walang Hanggan.”

Not a kontrabida off-screen

Gladys Reyes may have played the kontrabida to these actresses, but she proudly says that she has built lifetime friendships with them off-screen. 

She says, “Yung tawid ng mga friendship namin is hindi lang sa professional level, kung hindi hanggang doon sa personal life, nashe-share na nila sa akin. Na-preserve namin yung aming friendship all these years.”

It’s not just her co-actors who have noticed this; it’s everyone she’s come across in the industry. In fact, Reyes is known to be the opposite of the kontrabida roles she plays: kind, bright, and cheerful.

How is she able to maintain this disposition despite the heavy and villainous roles she portrays on screen?

She shares, “When they see me in person, what they see is what they get. Kumbaga, alam mo kasing kapag hindi ito yung natural mo, lalabas at lalabas. E, wala e. Ibig sabihin ito talaga ako. So, yun talaga ang nakikita ng karamihan ng tao when they meet me in person. Nakikita talaga nila yung ang layo noong sa pino-portray ko kasi sa totoong buhay, wala naman yatang ganun kasamang tao [katulad] sa mga pino-portray ko. Kaya nga enjoy na enjoy akong mag-portray ng ganun kasi, in real life, hindi ko naman magagawa yun, e.”

Being described as bubbly and the opposite her characters, she’s just showing her real self. “Hindi ko kasi gawa-gawa o pinaplano kung paano kapag lalabas ako in public. E, yun talaga ako. Kaya, salamat, na-a-appreciate nila yung totoong ako. Salamat, na-a-appreciate nila na, ‘Ay, hindi pala siya kontrabida sa totoong buhay.’”

She also appreciates it whenever people say nice comments about how she looks in person. “Ang pinakanatutuwa ako sa lahat, yung kapag may nakakita sa akin in person tapos ‘Ang ganda mo pala sa personal.’ Kasi nga, laging yung projection ko on TV, parang lagi akongunang-una, mataray na talaga ang mukha ko tapos yung kilay ko. So, lalo na pag mali yung makeup sa akin, naku, lalong tumataray yung mukha ko. Kaya siguro hindi ako masyadong mahal ng camera sa TV kasi yung sharp features ko, yun yung lumalabas. Pero na-a-appreciate ko, ang sarap naman sa pakiramdam na ‘Ang ganda mo pala sa personal,’ di ba? Kaysa naman sa ‘Ang ganda mo sa TV, ang pangit mo sa personal.’ Kaya tuwang-tuwa ako kapag sinasabi nila yun.”

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A hands-on mom

When she’s not portraying characters, Reyes enjoys the real-life role she plays at home: a wife to Christopher Roxas and a mom to her four children, Christophe, Aquisha, Grant, and Gavin.

This May, Reyes is about to receive one of the best gifts for Mother’s Day: “Ang dami kong ga-graduate ngayon! Lahat kinuha ko na!” Three of her children are about to graduate: Christophe (High School), Grant (Grade 6), and Gavin (Kinder). Reyes makes sure that she’s present every step of the way, even to the point of doing their makeup during their graduation pictorial.

She proudly narrates, “Dinala ko talaga doon yung mirror ko na may mga ilaw ilaw. Tapos meron talaga akong makeup kit na dala. Feel na feel ko talaga na makeup artist ako slash stylist slash stage mother!”

Of this, Reyes can’t help but reminisce how her mom took care of her during her “Mara Clara” days. She says, “Kahit noon, ang nanay ko, personal yang sumasama sa taping sa akin, personal na inaasikaso yung mga dadalhin sa taping, isusuot ko. Iba talaga yung personal na nandun yung nanay mo, di ba? Siguro, hindi mo na talaga makakalimutan doon, hindi lang sa mga anak ko kung hindi ako rin, as a mom, hindi mo rin naman kasi forever gagawin yun, e. So, gusto kong i-cherish at saka i-savor yung moment na yun na nandoon ako sa grad pictorial nila at talagang personally, inaasikaso.”

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A doting wife

When it comes to being a wife, Gladys Reyes admits with a smile: “Hindi naman ako perfect, ano?”

Gladys is  happy that she and husband Christopher Roxas complement each other. As she puts it in her words, “We fill each other’s blanks. Kung ano yung weakness niya, siguro yun yung strength ko. Kung ano yung strength niya, yun yung weakness ko. Sobrang nagpapasalamat ako sa Panginoon na binigyan ako ng mabuting asawa. Ang sabi nga, di ba, even sa Bible, ang mabuting asawa, biyaya ng Diyos. Laging nag-uumapaw ang gratefulness sa puso ko na pagka tinitingan ko kung gaano kabuting asawa, bilang ama yung asawa ko, si Christopher.”

But what Reyes appreciates the most about her husband is how he shows support for her showbiz endeavors, especially with her latest award. She narrates with a smile, “Ito, passion ko ito, e. Gusto ko talagang umarte. Hindi rin siya hadlang doon sa pangarap ko. Katulad niyan, imagine, at 45, nanalo pa ulit ako ng Best Actress and nagawa ko pa yung movie na ‘Apag.’ Siyempre, kasimay ilang days din na nag-lock in kami doon sa Pampanga. Siyempre, di ba, kung maramot siya, pwede niyang sabihin naHindi, hindi pwede,’ di ba? Pero hindi, e. Ibinigay niya sa akin kasi alam niya, of course, Direk Brillante yun. Alam niyang makakatulong sa karera ko. So, yung credit, ibinibigay ko doon sa asawa ko.”

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Things she wants to achieve

Reyes obviously continues to win in life. With numerous awards, milestones as a mom, and winning moments as a wife, one can say that she has already achieved a lot.

When it comes to her career, Reyes is happy that she’s now free to be picky with roles. “Nandoon na ako sa point ng career ko na noon, nag-uumpisa ka pa lang, mostly, you do it for your earning. Minsan, hindi mo na nga rin pinipili yung materyal, hindi mo na pinipili yung project. Pero, salamat, dumating na ako sa point na yung kaya mo nang piliin, yung hindi yung gagawin mo ‘to kasi kailangan, di ba?”

Now, the things she wants to achieve in her career are mostly passion projects. First, a project with husband Christopher Roxas: “Parang something like, ‘My Forever.’”

The second is not only a dream project for Reyes but for the batang ‘90s and fans of teleseryes, an ensemble movie featuring the drama queens of the ‘90s: Judy Ann Santos, Claudine Barretto, Angelu de Leon, Jolina Magdangal, and herself.

In fact, when she first shared it in “Magandang Buhay,” people were already assuming that the project was a go! But she clarifies that it still remains a “dream project.”

She says in jest, “Meron pa ngang iba, ginagawan na kami ng poster! May billing na silang suggestion, ganyan. May sina-suggest na silang kung anong story. Sa akin, dream pa lang yun. So, siyempre, magma-materialize pa lang yun once nakumpleto na lahat ng detalye, like, isang konkretong istorya na para sa amin, di ba? Meron akong idea, siyempre, pero hindi pa concrete, e. Hindi pa kumpleto.”

Reyes believes that nothing is impossible now that networks and film outfits—who were once rivals—are already collaborating.

She tells FreebieMNL, “Sana, di ba, matuloy talaga! We’ll never know when pero ngayon kasi, wala nang imposible kasi nagko-collab-collab na yung mga networks, di ba? So, sana, makahanap ako ng mga kasama kong mag-produce and at the same time, yung makakasama ko na magsulat, na makumpleto yung concrete na istorya.”

Since the project relies heavily on the actresses’ availability, she has already spoken with them one by one to ensure that they will say yes!

She shares, “Si Judy Ann, I mentioned it on Viber. Claudine, magkasama kami sa ‘Tadhana,’ minention ko na rin yan. She’s even open to working with me in a serye. Tapos, with Jolina, itong huli kong guesting sa ‘Magandang Buhay,’ I even told her. Sabi ko pa nga, baka pag halimbawa lang di ba, talagang maggu-go na, ‘Baka kapag tumawag sa ‘yo! Tanggapin mo, ha.’ ‘Oo naman, oo naman,’ gumaganyan siya. So, I think, very positive yung sagot nila sa akin. With the right producer, with the right story, and yung magma-match lahat ng schedule namin, I think, hindi imposible.”

Staying power

Finally, with 38 long and successful years in showbiz, what is Reyes’ secret to her staying power?

She answers, “Number one siguro is you really have to love what you’re doing. It has to be your passion so you’ll be able to give your 100 percent performance. Kasi kung hindi, e, makikita sa result yan ng trabaho mo, e, di ba? And secondly, actually, hindi nga ito second pero unang-una sa lahat ito, kung mayroon kang gustong ma-achieve sa buhay, kahit ano, hindi lang sa pag-aartista ‘to ‘no, ipanalangin mo. Walang masama na pag nananalangin tayo, in detail. Ganun ako manalangin, e. Walang masama na pag nananalangin tayo, maging definite, maging in detail. Pero siyempre, yung kalooban pa rin naman ng Panginoon ang masusunod, di ba?”

Aside from prayers and passion, the support of loved ones also matters to Reyes. “Yung unconditional na understanding and love ng asawa ko at mga mahal ko sa buhay, kasama yun.”

However, she admits, “Nahihiya ako pag sinasabi nila na ‘Oh, what’s your secret?’ At saka feeling ko, ang tanda ko na! Pero kasi, gusto ko yung ginagawa ko, e.”

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In fact, Reyes did not even imagine that at this time, she would still be able to win a Best Actress award and star in two summer MMFF entries.

She says, “You’ll never know what’s gonna happen. Di ba, biglang may opportunity na hindi mo inaakalang darating pala bukas. Kaya dapat, hindi ka magse-set ng boundary na, ‘E, ito lang kaya kong gawin.’ Hindi, kasi hindi mo alam yung opportunities na darating sa ‘yo in the future.”

At the end of the day, it’s always important to be grateful and just enjoy the ride. She says, “Ang importante, sabi nga, hindi dalhin yung pagka-kontrabida mo sa totoong buhay. That’s even my unsolicited advice sa mga baguhang nagko-kontrabida rin ngayon na love your work. Enjoy it. Enjoy it and ang importante, maging mabuting tao ka in real life and mas lalo silang hahanga sa ‘yo. Kasi nga, kung ganun ka kasama sa napapanood nila, pero napakabuti mo, napakabait mo in real life, hindi ba, mas kahanga-hanga yun? Kaysa yung hindi masyadong nagkakalayo yung pagiging suplada mo sa TV at sa personal.”

Photography Wilmark Jolindon
Art and Art Direction Alexandra Lara and Dani Sison
Interview and Cover Story Jimpy Anarcon
Transcription Rod Hagen
Hair and Makeup Mamarhaye Dela Cruz
Styling Keith Angelo

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