Every inch a delicate Dresden doll, she is cool and collected as a team of stylists fuss and fret over her hair, makeup, clothes, and jewelry.
Dolled up with smoky eyes and pouty lips, Maricar Reyes—ABS-CBN actress, model, and doctor of medicine—looks like a glamorous ice queen in front of the camera.
“Think Angelina Jolie,” the crew of fashion and style experts motivate her with every snap and pose.
Looking closely, however, one would notice that she has proudly matched her designer gowns with flip-flops. Comfort is evidently Maricar’s priority when at work.
Once the dust has settled and the stylists have packed up and left, Maricar explains that she’s not easily ruffled by the fuss and frenzy of a high-fashion pictorial. “I don’t mind shoots at all. But I easily get stage fright when I have to speak or perform in front of a live audience,” she confesses. “The pressure is different onstage.”
On the set of a TV show or a movie, “I can get lost in a role and pretend no one is watching.”
But in front of a crowd, she can’t hide in the comfort of a fictional character, she relates. “You have to take the audience into consideration. I get self-conscious. I sometimes feel like I’m no good.”
And she doesn’t want to disappoint.
After two years in the business, she has staunchly and willfully remained enigmatic—the real Maricar Reyes, shrouded in a seemingly impenetrable veil of mystery.
If she and her handlers seem fiercely protective of her privacy, it’s largely out of necessity rather than choice. After all, she had unwittingly figured in a stunning controversy that could’ve forced lesser souls to quit and go into exile.
Still, she persevered, and was able to pursue a showbiz career while refusing to give in to inevitable pressures to grant unnecessarily lugubrious tell-alls in TV chat shows.
Now, that took commitment.
Until now, she remains admirably tight-lipped about that distressing issue.
If she were to give advice to aspiring actresses on how to best handle career- and life-altering intrigues, it seems Maricar wouldn’t have it any other way.
She counsels young stars: “There are a lot of lessons, but it’s best to know who you are, stick to it—and listen to your manager.”
Again, the mystery is undeniable.
Will the real Maricar Reyes please stand up?
Asked to describe herself, she jokes that it may “shatter the packaging and persona” that her handlers have so meticulously created, crafted, and cultivated for the past two years.
One big misconception about her is that she’s a hothouse flower, she insists. “I’m not sosyal.”
She sighs that, since joining the biz, she has had to give up eating fishballs and riding the FX and MRT. “If it’s not rush hour, commuting can be fun.”
She can also be jolly and makulit, she admits.
“I have no idea what the real me is like,” she says, laughing.
She finds it “sad” that the public has yet to see her cheery and light-hearted side, having done mostly dramatic roles onscreen. “I can be shy, but among people I know and trust, I can loosen up a bit and be giggly.”
She admits to having bouts of insecurity, like any ordinary girl. “But you just have to get over it. When I was a kid, I went through a big-shirt, big-pants phase, wearing sandals with high heels.”
That was her one and only “awkward” moment as a teenager before transforming into the graceful swan that she is now.
When she’s not working, she reads and runs, she says. “I read anything and everything—from Michael Crichton to Milan Kundera,” she says. “I want to go back to running again, but I’ve been swamped with work lately.”
When she’s not busy with a telenovela or a movie, she relishes nights out with her friends, as well. She maintains ties with pals she met long before showbiz beckoned, she says. “They have normal jobs. They work in offices and call centers. Some are teachers.”
The constant push-and-pull between normalcy and showbiz is a challenge that comes with the territory, she reveals. “I hope to balance everything,” she says. “I believe that if you put your mind to it, you can do it.”
Her family, she acknowledges, once considered showbusiness a “weird” choice—especially for someone with a medical degree—but she says that she has matured a lot in the last two years.
“I used to be rigid and uncompromising. I had to learn to adjust,” she discloses. “The business has taught me patience and flexibility.”
She has gotten used to the highs and lows of her work, as well—even the long lulls between takes. “I used to complain about waiting for hours. But in retrospect, I’ve realized that I am blessed. I have a fun job. I love the work, and if the industry still has room for me, I’d gladly be an actress all my life.”
One perk of the job is the opportunity to juggle different roles and inhabit diverse worlds.
“I love change and trying new things. On the set, I can play different kinds of women: from a vampire (Imortal) to a taong grasa (a homeless bum in May Bukas Pa) and a teacher (in the new youth show Growing Up).” Metaphorically, playing dissimilar characters is akin to wearing colorful masks that conceal and reveal at the same time.
Putting on makeup is one of the more enjoyable aspects of the job, she volunteers. Like any girly girl, the new San San cosmetics model is thoroughly intrigued by the art of makeup.
“It’s fascinating. It looks simple but can also be complicated. It’s a lot like painting on a canvas,” she remarks. “Even a simple eyeliner or concealer can make a huge difference.”
With cosmetics, her aim is “to look rested and fresh,” she says. “I’m a minimalist.”
MJ E. Tiquia, brand manager of HBC Incorporated (parent company of San San), says Maricar’s on- and off-screen persona fit the “affordable but high-quality cosmetics brand” to a T. “She’s aspirational. She’s elegant, but her appeal cuts across people from all walks of life. Loyal San San users can relate to her.”
Always in her kikay kit are “nude lipstick, concealer, eyelash curler, and lip balm”—all San San products, says the company exec.
To her credit, Maricar knows which San San products work best for her. “I don’t want to sound hard-sell, but I’ve been looking for a lipstick that’s the same shade as my lips—not too pink nor too pale. I found it in San San.”
As of now, makeup can still do the trick for her, but she isn’t totally averse to beauty enhancements of the medical variety.
“I am amazed by how much technology has improved,” she says. “Results can be had quickly and easily. What was achieved though invasive surgery before can now be attained without going under the knife. But if you ask me, I’m scared of undergoing surgery. It’s not for me.”
She looks up to Angel Aquino, Ruffa Gutierrez, and Angelica Panganiban as style and beauty icons.
“Ruffa is very fashionable. Angelica looks cute even without makeup. I love the way Angel carries herself—she’s always classy and dressed appropriately.”
In a lot of ways, Maricar’s own mom is her beauty idol, too. Her mother taught her the basics of cosmetics and skin care. “I’m the only girl in a family with three children. My mom is very simple. She wears little makeup. She taught me to moisturize, to eat right, and to drink lots of water.”
She defines beauty as a state of bliss. “It’s sad that there are a lot of pretty girls who have low self-esteem. But if you’re healthy and secure in yourself, you’ll look gorgeous.”
In moments of self-doubt, she repeats, like a mantra: “I remind myself of how lucky I am that I have a family that loves me.”
She’d like to think that she’s comfortable enough in her own skin to leave the house, sans makeup. “If I’m going to a formal event, I have to turn to pros. But if I’m just hanging out with friends, I can go with little or no makeup at all. My non-showbiz friends are not used to seeing me with makeup on. They make fun of me when I’m all dolled up.”
Although she straddles two very divergent worlds, Maricar has chosen to focus on acting over medicine in the meantime.
“I find it funny when people ask for medical advice,” she asserts. “I never got to practice or take up residency in a hospital after school. So when people inquire, I just tell them that, at the end of the day, it’s best to consult your specialist.”
She says she’d rather be known as a working actress and hopes to be in the cast of an independent film soon. “I like trying different things. I’m attracted to quirky, intelligent scripts.”
It can be a long, bumpy drive ahead, but it seems Maricar has a road map on her lap. “I have a plan, but I don’t have details yet,” she clarifies. “When I’m 70 or 80, I want to support several charities and live in a nice home, sipping tea while surrounded by my children and grandchildren. That’s the big dream.”
She has already visualized it, but has yet to finalize the nitty-gritty, she declares.
In a nutshell, she elaborates on her life’s goal in very general terms: “That everything will be in place. That I accomplished what I’m supposed to do. That I will have done my work well and provided for the people who need my help.”
In the here and now, she actively supports a friend’s pet advocacy, Right Start.
“It’s an after-school, extra-curricular campaign,” she reports. “It’s education-based. To start it off, we had a feeding program. We also introduced music and arts to the kids.”
They launched the project last July in San Juan. “Instead of just playing games or eating junk food, we want to introduce children to productive after-school activities and healthy meals.”
She was bowled over by the support she had received from her sponsors like Robinsons malls, among others. “It’s nuts. We didn’t expect to get so much help from a lot of people,” she recounts. “But I didn’t do much, ha. The credit should go to my friends. They really worked hard. Ang galing nila! They did a great job.”
She has a soft spot for kids, and affirms that her heart goes out to charity projects for the youth.
Did the kids mob her during the school visit?
“They didn’t pay much attention to me. At the event, the mascot (Geoffrey the Giraffe of Toys “R” Us) was a bigger star than I was,” she recalls, laughing heartily.
For a brief, fleeting moment there, the veil of mystery is lifted, revealing the hidden lightness of Maricar Reyes.
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