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Jillian Ward: Reaching For The Stars

Sparkle actress Jillian Ward is arguably one of GMA-7’s most sought-after talents today.

Her current afternoon series, “Abot-Kamay Na Pangarap,” has been airing for over a year now and continues to break TV ratings and online stream records, even surpassing numbers from primetime shows on both ABS-CBN and GMA-7.

Jillian is now dubbed by Sparkle as the “Star of the New Gen.” This title spans recognitions, endorsements, and projects she has done in her 14-year career, starting from when she was a child actress to the teen star she is today. 

But even if she has been in showbiz for more than a decade, being awarded the title still came as a surprise to her.

She recalls, “Nalaman ko lang po siya, actually, noong pinost na po siya!

Parang sinabi na, ‘Ay, may ipo-post kami mamaya, ha.’ Ganun po. ‘Tapos nakita ko na po yung title mismo.”

Jillian is beyond grateful to her management for the title. But even with the absence of any recognition or title, she just continues to do what she enjoys: acting.

She explains, “Kapag may binibigay po na mga title or kapag pinupuri po ako, parang hindi po siya nagsi-sink in sa akin

Kumbaga, ako, ginagawa ko lang po kung saan ako nag-e-enjoy. Nag-e-enjoy po ako sa pagpunta sa taping, sa pag-arte.

“So, kumbaga, may title man po o wala, masaya na po ako doon. Pero, yun nga po, grateful po ako doon.”

In this FreebieMNL Spotlight exclusive, Jillian takes us through the success and challenges that come with this new milestone in her career.

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The success of “Abot-Kamay Na Pangarap”

Even if “Abot-Kamay Na Pangarap” has been running for more than a year, it continues to break records on TV and digital platforms.

And it seems like GMA-7 is continuing to celebrate the show’s success. Though it was reported to wrap up early next year, the drama series doesn’t seem to be approaching an end just yet.

Its success is something that Jillian did not expect when it started airing in September 2022. After all, its story is experimental for its time slot: a child genius who goes against all odds to become the youngest neurosurgeon in the country.

Jillian recalls, “Noong [pinag-uusapan] po namin sa storycon, parang sabi ko, ‘challenging siya,’ pero wala po akong expectations at all talaga. 

Alam niyo po bang meron silang goal sa amin na 8% ratings, ganyan? ‘Tapos, sabi ko, Ma-a-achieve kaya namin?’ 

Pero isipin niyo po na almost double na po ngayon kaysa po doon sa [initial] goal namin.”

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Aside from groundbreaking numbers across TV and social media platforms, what Jillian appreciates the most about the series is the inspiration it offers viewers. 

“Blessing po talaga siya para sa aming lahat. Super, iba po sa pakiramdam, e. Kasi yung mga past shows ko po, although naging successful din naman po siya, ngayon po, kapag lalabas po ako ‘tapos may mga lola, may mga bata po na nanonood ng ‘Abot,’ iba po yung impact kumbaga. Parang sobrang inspired po talaga sila.”

Jillian believes that the inspiring story of Analyn and her mother, Lyneth (Carmina Villarroel), captured the hearts of casual viewers, which made it even more popular.

She continues, “Hindi lang po siya sikat talaga kasi entertaining lang siya. Sumikat po yung show kasi may story na nakaka-inspire. 

Kumbaga, nag-start po si Nanay Lyneth ‘tapos si Analyn na nangangarap lang to the point na naging doktora po si Analyn, na-meet niya yung tatay (Richard Yap) niya.

Tapos ngayon po, parang ngayon kapag nanonood ka po, parang family na po kami. Parang parte na ng bahay. Tapos parang ang tagal-tagal ng show, so nasanay na rin po yung mga tao na kasama kami tuwing hapon.”

She continues to share, “Araw-araw, may nag me-message na na-i-inspire po sila na gusto rin nila mag-doktor.

Mayroon nga pong nagpo-post na mga teachers po sila, kumbaga naabot na po nila mga pangarap nila pero gusto po nila mangarap pa for themselves, parang sinasabi po nila na si Analyn, doktor na po siya pero hindi po hadlang na mangarap pa rin po siya for the better pa po.”

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Not spared from burnout

Jillian is always excited every time she goes to the set and starts taping for the show. This energy is evident in the bonding and kulitan moments of the whole cast, as seen in their TikTok videos.

But just like any of us, Jillian is not spared from feeling burnt out due to her busy schedule. 

She explains, “Masaya po ako pero aaminin ko rin po na minsan, may times po na pagod din. So, ayun, hindi po siya always na parang energized ako, or parang laging nasa tuktok yung energy ko or yung motivation ko sa sarili ko. “

But instead of giving up, Jillian takes this as a challenge on how to stay motivated and be on her toes.

“Actually, first time ko nga po na-experience na ganun ka-low-batt or ka-drained minsan. So, medyo naging challenging po siya sa akin noong first time ko po siyang maramdaman na ganon po ka-drained kumbaga or ka-burnt-out. 

“So, parang ang naging challenge po sa akin, paano po ako mas magiging inspired pa ulit? Mas magiging motivated pa ulit? 

Pero alam niyo po, minsan, kapag pupunta po ako ng set, nawawala po yung pagka-drained ko. Baliktad po, di ba? Parang nade-drain po ako kapag nasa bahay pero kapag back to work, nare-recharge po ako.”

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Kasi parang gusto ko po laging i-push ko pa yung sarili ko. ‘Tapos minsan po, yung mga eksena pang mahirap, like yung mga medical terms, kapag hindi ko po nakukuha, nai-i-stress po ako sa sarili ko.”

This is why Jillian also appreciates her strong support system, which includes her co-stars, their director LA Madridejos, and her acting coach, Anne Villegas.

Iniiyak ko po talaga lahat ‘tapos parang pina-practice ko po nang pina-practice kasi practice makes perfect. So, yung lines ko po kasi nauulit. Ime-memorize ko po siya ‘tapos sasabihin ko siya habang naglalakad. Papaulit-ulit po siya, e, medical terms po, e, so kailangan

Lahat po sa production, sa cast, sa mga direktor po namin. ‘Tapos mayroon rin po akong acting coach, si Miss Anne Villegas. Kailangan po, e, kasi medical terms ‘tapos doktor. ‘Tapos mayroon rin pong doktor mismo sa set. Actually, pati po yung mga nurse po sa eksena, mga totoong nurse rin po sila.

Kahit sina Direk, nag-aral rin po sila ng medicine, mga writers din po namin. ‘Tapos, may mga surgeons po na minsan nagsasabi rin po kung anong kailangan naming gawin sa script.

Sobra po yung support system po dito. So, siguro yun po talaga yung magic. ‘Yung sinusuportahan po namin ang isa’t isa. Lahat po kami.

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Analyn in real life

Jillian’s career trajectory may have looked easy for some. After all, her first show as a child star was already a titular role: GMA-7’s 2010 adaptation of Vilma Santos’ movie, “Trudis Liit.”

This was then followed by more lead roles: “Jillian: Namamasko Po (2010)” and “Daldalita (2011),” to name a few.

When she transitioned into becoming a teen actress, she headlined the shows “Sa Piling Ni Nanay (2016),” “Prima Donnas (2019-2021),” and now, “Abot-Kamay Na Pangarap.”

But Analyn’s success story in “Abot-Kamay Na Pangarap” isn’t exactly far from Jillian’s road to stardom.

Minus the teleserye tropes, Jillian also did not have it easy before she became the “Star of the New Gen.”

Recalling her humble beginnings, Jillian says, “Well, siguro po first of all, noong batang-bata pa po talaga ako, noong hindi pa po ako artista talaga, as in nagsisipag po kami nila Mama at Papa na yung sa mga commercials—audition po sa commercials. 

“‘Tapos ngayon naman po, si Annalyn as a dalaga na, masipag po siya. 

“So, kumbaga, na-inspire din po ako sa sarili kong role, so kahit may taping po four times a week, mag-wo-workshop pa rin po ako kapag may break or pupunta po ako ng mga dance class ko. Kumbaga, lagi ko pong pinu-push yung sarili ko.”

But a downside of the show’s popularity is that Jillian’s time with family has been sacrificed.

She narrates, “Yun din po yung parang nag-mi-mirror sa amin ni Analyn, yung parang dahil din po sa work, hindi na po masyadong nakakasama yung family.”

But over the holidays, Jillian plans to make time for her loved ones.

Parang wala din pong masyadong time na mag-travel talaga at saka mahabang break. So, masaya na po ako sa bahay lang na kasama sila.

Kapag umuuwi po ako, parang mga saglit lang po kasi ako umuuwi kasi parang diretso po agad sa work, after ligo tapos work, ganun. 

“So, basta kasama ko lang po yung family ko sa bahay, okay na po ako dun. At saka, sa totoo lang po, yung break po namin sa holidays, medyo maiksi lang din. So, ayun lang, siguro po kain sa bahay, luto sa bahay kasama ang family, okay na po ako dun. Basta kasama sila.”

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Her time has come

Indeed, with Jillian being named by Sparkle as its “Star of the New Gen,” her time has come.

It may not come as a surprise to some since Jillian has been headlining top-rating programs since she was a child actress. But it is something that she worked hard for—from long hours of taping to brand shoots for social media and her cosplay pictorials. The actress’ work ethic and how she relates to her co-stars, directors, and producers, as well as to the press and her fans have also contributed to her success

Through time and experience, Jillian has learned to persevere and it is something that she wants her fans to learn as well.

She tells them, “Huwag po sila magsa-stop kasi parang you never know kailan po talaga ang time mo. Parang sa iba matagal, sa iba po, mabilis. 

“Always do your best at saka i-appreciate niyo na lang po yung mga challenges na dumadating like sa workplace din po, kasi yun po yung makakabigay po ng spice sa atin para mas ma-motivate pa rin tayo.

“Be appreciative po sa lahat, kumbaga sa mga katrabaho, sa opportunities po na dumadating, i-appreciate po natin lahat. Kasi life is so short, huwag lang po tayo mag-focus lang doon sa end goal kumbaga.

Kasi ang mas importante po ay yung during po, e, yung challenge po, yung journey, yung mga pinagdadaanan mo po, yung matutunan po, yun po ang mas importante.”

Jillian also emphasizes the importance of treating people well. “Always be humble kasi sa iba nga po, pwede na madali ma-achieve yung dreams nila, pero siyempre, mas importante pa rin po yung mga friendships na mabui-build mo habang nandun ka po sa journey mo, di ba, at saka yung mga matututunan mo. 

“So, kumbaga, okay, na-achieve mo nga yung pangarap mo pero may totoo ka bang friends? So, para po sa akin, mas importante yung real-life experience sa personal life mo. Mas yun yung tine-treasure ko. 

“So, sana, ganun din po sila and appreciate nila yung mga sumusuporta talaga sa kanila para ma-achieve ang pangarap nila. More than po yung power, yung money na ma-a-achieve nila, mas importante po ang memories,” she concludes, smiling.

And just like her character Analyn, Jillian’s time has come and we can’t wait to see what’s next for the Star of the New Gen. 

Photography Joseph Bermudez
Art and Art Direction Alexandra Lara
Interview and Cover Story Jimpy Anarcon
Transcription Rod Hagen
Styling Gee Jocson assisted by Angelo Vasallo and Jason Mago
Make-up Pam Carreon
Hair Darlyn Monasterial
Production FreebieMNL
Special Thanks Chester Singian, Kimmy Alfeche, and Vic del Rosario of Sparkle GMA Artist Center

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