|Written by C. MENDEZ LEGASPI / Photographed by Henry Anima II|
|Thursday, 22 October 2009 22:46|
THE most memorable encounters on GMA’s Stairway to Heaven happen when Cholo and Jodi are cavorting in a carousel, innocently at first as kids frolicking, and then as adults sharing tender moments, and—much later—after he finds her once again just when everybody around him insists that she is forever gone.
Rhian Ramos may not have realized it but these scenes atop a horse channel the mythical origins of her name. Rhian Denise Ramos Howell, 19, took her name after Rhiannon, the “Welsh manifestation of the Gaulish horse goddess Epona and the Irish goddess Macha. She is best known from the Mabinogion, in which she makes her appearance as a beautiful woman dressed in gold and riding on a pale, mysterious steed and meets King Pwyll, whom she marries. Unjustly accused of killing her infant son, she is forced to carry people on her back like a horse until she is vindicated by her son’s return.”
One might be tempted to draw parallelisms to Jodi, her oft-suffering character on the GMA’s top-rating adaptation of the top-rating Koreanovela, which would be understandable. After all, Rhian portrays a character who seemingly carries a seemingly endless amount of burden. She is maltreated by her madrasta (Jean Garcia, at her most beyond-redemption meanest) and stepsister Eunice (Glaiza de Castro, stepping up a notch in the villainess department). Throughout her travails, she remains silent and never tells her dimwit father (Jestoni Alarcon).
Just when she is about to be reunited with Cholo, upon his return from studies in the US, she gets run down by Eunice. She is believed to be dead but, in true telenovela fashion, is really suffering from amnesia. Her stepbrother Tristan (a.k.a. Charlie), who nurtures a most tragic form of unrequited love for Jodi, makes her believe that they are a couple and hides her in the province.
By this time in its second life on prime-time TV, or again in true telenovela fashion, Cholo has already found Jodi (now Jenna) and is in relentless pursuit to prove that she is indeed his one true betrothed. (At the same time in that other GMA prime-time romantic fare, Fernando Jose is also unwavering in his belief that Paloma is indeed Rosalinda.)
At the launch of the series at the new Studio 7 of GMA Network Center, Rhian, understandably, was besieged by the press from all sides with questions mundane and matter-of-fact. We just flowed from the get-go. Does she find Dingdong Dantes, the Cholo to her Jodi, attractive? “Dong has a sense of humor. He’s a gentleman. Am I attracted to him physically? ’Di ba No. 3 in the world as the sexiest man siya? He has the height; all girls give plus points if a guy is tall. Na kay Dong na ang lahat ng katangian na gusto ng isang babae sa isang lalaki,” Rhian answered, with the ease of a veteran media magnet.
But will there ever be a possibility that she might fall for her leading man? “Hindi ako kumukuha nang hindi sa akin,” came the withering reply. “Madali akong ma-in love, pero magaling akong magpigil.”
SOUL SISTERS Does she and Stairway to Heaven’s Jodi share similar traits? “In dealing with problems, hurt and loneliness, pareho kami na ayaw ipakita. I can relate to her in that aspect,” she said.
At the launch, the cast did a live rendition of some dramatic highlights from the series. In one impressive, highly charged scene, Jean slapped Rhian so hard that the audience gasped in shock.
“My sampalan scene with Jean is not taped yet, though sa live performance nakatikim na ako. Habang nangyayari ’yon, ’di mo nagugustuhan. After that, pag-cut, you appreciate your life more na ’di ka ginaganyan. Ang sakit, medyo tinotoo; ilang seconds na ’di ako makarinig. Nahilo ako konti sa scene, that was obvious, pero sinubukan ko pa rin maalala ang mga linya ko. I will master that skill one day,” the radiant star, dressed in Sabella, said with the conviction of a thespian in training.
Jennylyn Mercado was supposedly the frontrunner to play Jodi until Rhian clinched the role at the auditions. “Malaki ang pressure sa akin. During tapings, ’di ko nakikita ang moments ko, kasi I don’t watch playbacks,” she shared. “But at the SM Megamall premiere, nawala ang pressure and kaba ko. I was so happy with the outcome. I saw the audience with shiny faces, may sinisipon kasi naiyak sila. Binuksan nila ang puso nila at tinanggap ang kuwento. Pinoys know the kuwento already, so you can’t help but wonder kung tatanggapin kaya nila na Pinoy na ang umaarte. Sana every night, ganun ang resulta gaya sa SM.”
Does she and Jodi share similar traits? “In dealing with problems, hurt and loneliness, pareho kami na ayaw ipakita. I can relate to her in that aspect,” she said, the thought just occurring to her.
And what would be the selling point of her pairing with Dingdong? “It’s not a love team na hindi pinag-isipan ng network. Nagpa-audition talaga to see who will create sparks with Dong; from there, they decided whom to pair him with. This partnership was not made without any basis. I have trust in the network that this will succeed. Dingdong is maalalay in our scenes, ramdam na ramdam ko ’yon ’pag kasama ko siya. He makes our scenes easier to do and totally believable.”
Then, speaking like a true star, she exhorted everyone to watch Stairway to Heaven. “The true magic of the show is in the story, because it’s a good story, I have confidence that people will love it.”
Indeed, they have. From the AGB Nielsen Philippines surveys of Mega Manila homes since its September debut, Pinoys have wholly embraced the show—and the stars continue to shine bright on Rhian Ramos.