By Arnel Ramos
At 51, she is still a wonder. A riddle to some, even. In this spontaneous interview with the only Diamond Star, Maricel Soriano reflects on the movies she’s made, the friends she intends to keep, the secret to achieving the greatest love of all, and why one cannot stay safe forever.
Maricel Soriano doesn’t show signs of having had barely an hour of sleep. She stepped out of the huge door of her home all perky and sunshiny. The agenda at hand – to go about the Paranaque leg of her “palengke” tour for her favored candidates in the upcoming elections.
“Ilang oras ang tulog mo?” she asked us, one of her three companions for the day. “Pareho tayong isang oras lang ang tulog.”
Maricel said that she lost sleep when she had an early morning schedule. She’s always fidgety, her hands never keeping still. “Check ako nang check kung ayos na ba ang mga dadalhin.” The actress was like that even when she was at the peak of her acting career. It was never just a job for her. “Mahal ako ng trabahong ito. Nirespeto ko ito.”
Audiences and critics alike have responded with awe at her most riveting screen portrayals. A less gifted actress would have floundered at being given the very complex role of a young woman seeing the ills and ugliness of the world while contemplating abortion in Hinugot sa Langit.
“Si (Ishmael) Bernal talaga ang nag-alaga sa akin,” Maricel looked back. The late National Artist for Film also helmed Marya in such searing masterpieces as the aforementioned Hinugot… and The Graduates (where the star shone in her very few scenes as an unfortunate college graduate), the well-made melodrama Pinulot Ka Lang Sa Lupa, such rollicking comedies as Galawgaw and Pabling and the homage to romantic dramas of yore Hindi Kita Malimot.
There was a seven-year gap between Hinugot, Maricel’s first truly mature showcase and Ikaw Pa Lang Ang Minahal which is largely hailed as her finest two hours on celluloid as Adela, the cinematic equivalent of a woman who loved too much but not too wisely. That line in the rains “Mamahalin n’ya ako para sa inyong lahat ng hindi nagmahal sa akin” reverberated to this day, close to 25 years after.
“Mahirap ‘yung mga pinapagawa ni Carlitos minsan,” Marya reminisced about working for the first time with the son of Armida Siguino-Reyna, the director of Ikaw Pa Lang Ang Minahal. For someone who did not make a name in the industry disrobing for the cameras, the star was naturally a tad apprehensive about doing the love scenes that the script required. “Since gagawin ko rin naman, ginawa ko na nu’n. Now that I’m 51, why will I do it? Pero hindi talaga ako confident. Sobra akong agitated. Pero kung talagang hindi puwedeng wala (‘yung mga love scenes), maiintindihan ko.”
Doing a Garbo
To the world outside, she was a reclusive movie queen who in some people’s eyes had seen better days. Her adoring lot, however, would argue tooth and nail that a star of her magnitude never would fade. They just chose to rest awhile, took stock, hibernated if you call it that, only to bounce back when they feel like it or when the industry has had enough of their absence. The likes of her – and there are so few who belong in the same league – have earned the right to do a Garbo.
But a movie royalty’s days were no different from yours and mine. There were good days and some uneventful ones.
On fine days, she would watch Empire, the entire first two seasons of it. She swooned over Terrence Howard and loved Taraji P. Henson. She almost never left the house, she said. “I really don’t go around much kasi people cannot hear each other kapag maingay na ‘yung lugar.”
She would rather listen to that quiet voice inside her which is almost always right about certain things. If not all of them. She has gone far both in life and love to realize that the greatest love of all, as a song goes, is learning to love yourself. “Dapat matuto kang magmahal ng sarili mo muna para ma-extend mo ‘yung love na ‘yun. Buung-buo ka, nasa sentro ka.”
She might be carrying around a Prada sling bag because it is finely-crafted and looked good, but there were more important things than what the hands could hold or the eyes could see. “Ang mga tanong ko sa Diyos, iba na eh. Hindi na ako naka-attach sa material things. Yung joy, ‘yun ‘yung ultimate para sa akin eh. Iba ‘yung happy ka eh. Si God lang ang makakapagbigay nu’n sa akin. All my life, I’ve always had to fight for myself.”
She had been quite fortunate not to fight for the roles that would make great use of her instinctive talents and skills as an actress. The accolades and respect she won warmed the woman’s heart. When told that her brief role in the twinbill Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin drew good words from a film critic, she said, with a genuinely grateful smile, “Nanalo ako ng twice sa Young Critics Circle.” Her three YCC Best Performer awards are for Ikaw Pa Lang Ang Minahal, Vampira, and Inang Yaya, respectively.
The best is yet to come
Maricel Soriano has lately become more upfront about her political views, knowing fully well that one can only be complacent for so long. “We cannot play safe forever. We have to speak out because the future depends on the choices that we make (today),” the actress said. She has been actively going around “palengkes” to campaign for LP presidential aspirant Mar Roxas, gamely posing for selfies and groupies with elderly “tinderas” and enthusiastic vendors, all excited at the sight of a movie star – nay, a legendary star – who had, through decades, came to embody their stories, their gripes, their sentiments, their pleas, their dreams.
On quiet days when hours seemed to just roll by, Marya withdrew from the madding crowd to commune with Our Savior. “From the time that I was 4 (years old), I’ve always wanted to go back to God.” Or she spent time with her closest circle, and who are like family to her. “itong life na ito, tanggap ka lang nang tanggap. Kung ano ‘yung ayaw mo, itapon mo,” she shared.
On ourride home, while the summer sun has just cast a warm glow to the morning skies, and before it grew scorching and relentless in the midnoon, Maricel Soriano was still in high spirits. “Ang ganda ng simula ng araw natin, ano?” she addressed her slim army for the day.
She wasn’t sure what her next project would be, and seemed perfectly alright with it. “Sa 45 years ko sa industriya, alam ko na ang pakanan at pakaliwa dito,” she added. Fame which is temporal does not bother her anymore. She has 45 years’ worth of enchanting performances to carry her through the less active period.
It has been oft-repeated to the point of sounding cliché that you can never put a damn good woman down. In this woman’s case, it can be surmised almost with certainty that there are good days still ahead. The best from Maricel Soriano – the extraordinary star who revolutionized the way idols can behave, the woman who called a spade a spade – is yet to come.