Here are the six superstars that didn’t just set the proverbial bar in excellence—they are the bar.
For 25 years, Star Magic has built careers, guided actors and actresses, and challenged them to live up to their full potential. Piolo Pascual, Jericho Rosales, John Lloyd Cruz, Bea Alonzo, Jodi Sta. Maria, and Angelica Panganiban enter the 25th year of Star Magic as the heavily touted pillars of this institution: the homegrown, prime talents. They are the ones that represent what Star Magic is all about—and here are their stories.
Piolo was launched as part of Star Circle Batch 3 in 1996, and he remembers that back then, it wasn’t so easy.
He recounts the challenges of those days: “We didn’t have makeup artists and stylists then; we bought our own clothes, at pahirapan pa noong makahanap ng mag-i-sponsor ng clothes namin. Ang ex-deal pa namin noon was live mention na lang sa ASAP. We trained with direk Erik Matti. We had a training center. We had singing, dancing, and acting workshops. Even when we were already launched as artists, continuous pa rin ‘yung training.”
With the advent of social media, Piolo joins the few who have resisted sharing their entire lives online. He prefers less fuss and no fanfare. “I’m the same person that you see on TV. Kung pwede rin lang, huwag na akong mag-makeup, because ayoko nang sobrang naaayusan. I go to the mall na bare lang ‘yung mukha ko. I always want to keep it real.”
It’s hard to imagine Philippine TV and cinema without Bea Alonzo. And do you know that she almost did not make it?
Bea tells about her near-miss: “Hindi siguro milagro, kun’di destiny, na pumasok ako sa Star Magic. Hindi ako pinayagan ng mama ko na sumama sa audition ng Star Circle Batch 10. Noong finally, pinayagan niya ako, when I went to the Talent Center, nagbabakasakali lang kasi wala nang auditions—closed na. Nakasabay ko sa elevator sina Tita Mariole, and she asked me, ‘Are you here to audition?’ and I said, ‘Yes ma’am.’ I didn’t know who she was. Sabi niya, ‘Come with me to Mr. M’s office.’ Tuloy-tuloy na. I think it was destiny, kasi ilan ba ‘yung tao na makakasama ‘yung VP ng Star Magic sa elevator?”
John Lloyd Cruz
John Lloyd’s straightforward manner makes it look like it was a straight shot from being a newbie to a star, but it was nothing like that. His incredible talent and intuition, ignited by an incomparable passion to deliver the best work possible, dovetailed by an unexpected humility, and of course, a great support system—people who want the best for him—have been giving vast audiences the kind of experience they deserve.
Star Magic wanted to build a star. And they made John Lloyd happen.
John Lloyd’s acting mettle and his passion for the cinematic experience have gotten him far. He managed to break into the international scene in prestigious film festivals. He declares: “Iba ‘yung value ng films. ‘Yung two hours na you’re actually requiring your audience to pay. Hindi na mura ang sine. Sa iba, sweldo na nila ‘yun sa isang araw. That’s why, sobrang maingat ako with the way I present my films.”
There are no borders in Angelica career. Place her in drama and her gut-wrenching sobs will rock through your body. Place her in horror: the dread in her eyes will shake you to your very core. Place her in comedy: you will roll on the floor, laughing. Every single stride, turn, breath, and nuance can only be the result of her craft having been honed since the age of six.
“Pakiramdam ko, mas maganda naman na binibigyan mo ng challenge dapat ‘yung sarili mo, di ba? Kaya kong sabihin na taon-taon, nagbabago nang nagbabago ‘yung experiences—pahirap nang pahirap,” she imparts.
When asked for a role she wants to play, in true Angelica fashion, things take a turn for the hilarious. She replies in jest: “Comatose. ‘Yung tulog lang lagi. Tapos sa ending lang ako magigising. Nakahiga ka lang, tapos umiiyak lang ‘yung mga tao sa paligid mo. Tapos ikaw, ang sarap ng buhay mo. Tulog ka lang. At gusto kong manalo ng award sa role na ‘yun. Winner! Bibigyan ko ng magandang texture, mare-realize nila na… grabe…siya ang pinakamagaling umarte na bedridden siya, comatose siya. Pati sa Oscars, mapapabilib sila, na…whoa! Sino yan? Kunin natin!”
Jericho’s tale with Star Magic may resemble a biblical narrative, but unlike the prodigal son, his time away was not spent squandering, but more of finding himself. “I left for eight years. The first years were parang…discovery, discovery… rebelde. Then, I came back with more substance, and last year, they told me, ‘You are this year’s Star Magic Icon.’”
Not everyone gets a second chance. Then again, not everyone has Echo’s talent. But while others have talent and waste it, it is Echo’s striking awareness that makes him a pillar of Star Magic.
As someone with his own brand of experiences, he has so much wisdom to share: “You have to be more responsible, more creative. You have to transform yourself every so often. You have to show these kids, to help them discover themselves. I just want to show them that if you push your originality, then yes, you’re someone. And if you keep trying to copy and copy, you can’t be a great you. Responsibility means opportunity, and the power to show them how it’s done.”
Jodi Sta. Maria
Jodi Sta. Maria radiates a sense of joy that cannot be faked. Her smile envelops you in a comforting warmth, and her eyes twinkle like those of a child who had just been told a secret. But for Jodi, that secret is contentment.
There are no dream roles; she treats every role that comes her way as her dream role. There are no unfinished quests for fame or success. “I’m content with what I have. It would be so much for me to ask for more. I believe the Lord has blessed me with more than what I had asked for so, I only have gratitude in my heart.”
But it is perhaps in giving so much of herself that Jodi gains so much back. Her definition of success doesn’t lie in accolades or fame. “Success is more than just an achievement; it’s about character—who you have become after all that you have achieved in life. It’s not about being a foundation, that’s not the way na nakikita ko siya. It’s really setting an example, being a role model to those na kinaunahan namin.” ∎
Photography by Shaira Luna for StarStudio magazine May 2017 issue