By Pepper Marcelo
Considered as one of the great beauties in local showbiz, Gretchen Barretto has been in the public eye since her early teens as a model and later on as an actress. She is not only one of the most fashionable and glamorous celebrities today, she is also one of the more colorful personalities in showbiz, thanks to her candid and sometimes over-the-top comments and behavior that have become regular fodder for the tabloids.
In the trailer of ABS-CBN’s recently launched fashionserye, Magkaribal, Derek Ramsay pushed Gretchen down on a table, suggesting a wild session for their characters Louie and Victoria.
“First day namin na-shoot yun,” recalls Gretchen during the press conference of Magkaribal. “Matagal akong hindi nakapag-love scene na kahit kanino—sa pelikula or telebisyon—so medyo nahirapan kami at hindi ko dapat aminin ito, pero kinailangan naming mag-shot ng brandy bago makunan ang scene na ‘yon. Kasi siyempre nakakanerbiyos. ‘Saka mainit kasi maraming ilaw.”
During the press con, Gretchen refused to talk about her leading man, who was then in South Africa with girlfriend Angelica Panganiban. It will be recalled that Gretchen asked Derek to send her solo pictures from his vacation. In response, Angelica posted an intriguing message in her Twitter account that led some people to believe that she was slighted by the “naughty statement” of Gretchen.
Does she feel sorry for being playful?
“Of course, I have to apologize for being playful kaya ngayon mas guarded ako. Hindi na ako masyadong exciting. Boring na ako. Bahala na kayo [press] kasi kayo lang ang nagpapalaki ng mga sinasabi ko,” she said.
She promised to focus on her acting career, which has been on an upturn since her appearance last year on the drama anthology Maalaala Mo Kaya (MMK). This was followed by her ongoing soap, Magkaribal, co-starring Bea Alonzo, Angel Aquino and Derek.
Gretchen is excited to once again showcase her talents on a regular basis in front of the camera. “Parang feeling ko andito lang ako sa show business pero wala talagang anything na solid para sabihing artista ako or talagang singer dahil paga-nun-ganon lang ako. Ngayon artista na po ako.”
She said she was inspired to work harder when she was bestowed the Best Single Performance by an Actress citation last year by the Philippine Movie Press Club Star Awards for the episode Salamin in MMK.
“Gusto ko kasi makita ng tao kung paano ako magtrabaho, kung gaano ako kasipag at kung gaano ako ka-excited na bumalik sa show business,” she says. “After all, I’ve been here for like half of my life, so gusto kong bumalik at paligayahin ang mga tao na naghintay nang matagal para sa teleserye na ito.”
Set in the fashion world, Magkaribal finds Gretchen in her natural environment, essaying the role of a successful model-cum-socialite. While some may feel that Gretchen is merely being typecast in the soap, the actress promises to bring an unexpected emotional complexity to the role.
“Ang kakaiba lang makikita nila ‘yung emotions ni Gretchen Barretto, na ang isang socialite, ang isang model at isang mayaman ay tao rin na nagkakaproblema, umiiyak rin at may issues din sa buhay. Hindi porke’t mayaman ‘yung tao o maganda, ibig sabihin wala na siyang problema sa buhay, wala na siyang pinagdadaanan na sitwasyon.”
Originally, Gretchen was to appear on the soap alongside younger sister Claudine, but after the latter moved to rival network GMA-7, the project was shelved. Claudine’s role eventually went to Bea.
Gretchen is happy that ABS-CBN kept its word to produce the teleserye despite some drastic changes. “Habang nag-uusap kami tungkol sa kontrata at tungkol sa teleserye na dapat si Claudine ang kasama ko, sinabi nila na, ‘Baka hindi matuloy si Claud. Kung mangyari ba yun, matutuloy ka pa rin ba, because we still want you.’”
She says that she and Claudine have never discussed the latter’s abrupt transfer to GMA-7 but she respects her sister’s decision. “Nanghinayang ako na hindi na si Claud, pero siyempre, hindi naman ibig sabihin nun hindi na kami magkakatrabaho sa isang teleserye, na hindi na magkikita. Again, maliit lang ang mundo ng show business.”
Nonetheless, Gretchen is excited to be working Bea. “Unang-una, that’s Bea Alonzo. She’s one of the biggest stars of ABS-CBN, box-office princess. It’s inspiring to know I’ll be working with somebody as good and as famous as she is, so inspiring talaga for me.”
For her part, Bea admits she was initially intimidated at the thought of working with the model-actress nicknamed “La Greta.” (The moniker stems from her diva-esque attitude.) “Kahit naman sinong tao ‘di ba when you hear na si Gretchen ang makakatrabaho mo, dyosa lang, tapos ang ganda-ganda niya, e ako panay effort bago gumanda. Ang tagal [kong] magpapapayat, ganyan. Nai-intimidate ako.”
Before taping started, the two attended acting workshops where they got to know each other. “Nakita ko ‘yung vulnerable side of her. Parang doon ko nasabing tao naman itong tao na ‘to. Hindi siya showbiz, tao naman siya. So, excited ako. Nag-connect kami doon sa workshop,” adds Bea.
Gretchen is likewise excited to work with Derek, who, like her, is a model too. She admits to having a “showbiz crush” on him before. There were reports that she had asked him to co-star with her in the soap. Notorious for getting involved with her leading men in the past, the rumor did not escape the attention of the gossip mills.
But she laughed off the speculations, pointing to her long and strong relationship with her live-in partner of 16 years, millionaire businessman Tonyboy Cojuangco.
“Hindi naman siya nagseselos kasi alam naman ni Tony na kahit ano pa ang mangyari, hindi ko naman siya iiwan. Naughty-naughty ako minsan, pero alam din niyang good girl ako ngayon.”
She fully appreciates Tonyboy’s support and encouragement. “Sinasabi niya lagi sa akin, ‘Go, I want you to work, I want you to feel good.’ Kasi siyempre, when I feel good about my career, about myself, I feel happy also. Alam niya na ito ang pinakagusto ko, alam niyang I’m happiest when I’m working.”
As a show of dedication, she has refused other projects for the duration of the teleserye. “Ayoko naman i-overload because I’ll be taping three times a week for 24 hours. So ‘yun muna. Titingnan namin kung anong gagawin. May na–mention about a movie project, but hindi pa namin talaga pinagmi–meeting-an. Siyempre unahin muna namin ‘yung teleserye.”
With her comeback in full swing, Gretchen is determined to ignore intrigues that will surely come her way. “As long as hindi masisira ang pagtatrabaho ko, focus pa rin sa pagtatrabaho ko, ibibigay ko pa rin para sa publiko at para sa mga bosses ng ABS-CBN ‘ yung Gretchen, the best of Gretchen, and I realize that.”
She says she’s currently where she wants to be, both personally and professionally. “My life is too perfect now! I have Tony. I have [15-year-old daughter] Dominique and I have a career.”