ABS-CBN rolled out the red carpet on Thursday night when the network formally announced the return of celebrated dramatic actress Judy Ann Santos to television’s precious prime time block. She is after all the reigning “Queen of Pinoy Soap Operas” and her two-year hiatus from acting has only kept both her fans and critics at the edge of their seats, waiting what her next project will be.
According to the “queen” herself—who took a break from doing teleseryes after she gave birth to son Lucho—her latest project for ABS-CBN is unlike any of the soaps she has done in the past. These include the memorable top-rating series of Mara Clara, Espe-ranza, Sa Puso Ko’y Iingatan Ka, Basta’t Kasama Kita, Krystalla, Ysabella and finally Habang May Buhay.
“Ako si Anessa—isa akong battered wife na matututong lumaban sa Huwag Ka Lang Mawawala,” said Juday at her solo press conference in ABS-CBN’s Dolphy Theater.
Even more beautiful than the last time she appeared before the Entertainment press, the young wife and mother said she thoroughly missed acting even if she enjoyed hosting the Philippine franchises of Junior Master Chef and Master Chef one after the other for the network.
“Hinahanap-hinap pa rin ng sistema ko ang mag-basa ng script, umarte at mahirapan sa pag-ganap,” she revealed. “Pero ninenerbyos din ako sa pag-balik at the same time, lalo na’t binigyan ako ng freedom ng Dream-scape [a subsidiary of ABS-CBN]na magkaroon ng inputs and freehand sa produksyon. Ngayon lang ako nagka-boses na magbigay ng opinyon ko kaya lubos ang pag-papasalamat ko sa ABS sa tiwala nila sa akin ngayon.”
The network also brought together a stellar cast to join Juday in the soap, with Sam Milby, John Estrada, Tirso Cruz 3rd, Coney Reyes, Susan Africa, Mylene Dizon, Matet de Leon, Empress, Bryan Termulo, Joseph Marco, and KC Concepcion in her very first kontrabida role.
Two highly respected directors, Jerry Sineneng and Tots Sanchez-Mariscal—who also happen to be Juday’s favorites—jointly give life to the powerful storyline that fights for women’s rights.
“Ang gusto naming ipakita dito ay isang storya na hindi pang-teleserye lang,” the awarded actress who just turned 35 on May 11 related. “Lahat ng nangyayari sa storya may rason. Yung action pumasok lang kasi kinakailangan. Ipapakita namin dito kung paano maaring maipagtatanggol ng isang babae ang sarili niya—mula Krav Maga at iba-iba pang self-defense techniques.”
Admitting that the role of Anessa is both physically and emotionally challenging, Juday laughingly confessed that in her first few days back on the set, she found it very difficult to cry.
“Dati-rati, isang pitik mo lang, bubuhos na yan,” she said of her trademark tears. “Pero ngayon, hirap na hirap talaga ako umiyak kasi wala akong mapaghugutan. Hindi ko ma-detach yung personal life ko agad-agad, kaya napaisip tuloy ako, dati ba lagi lang akong malungkot?” she laughed again.
“Pero grateful ako sa lahat ng pinagdaan ko sa buhay ko—personal at propesyonal, dahil makulay talaga siya,” she recalled. “Yung titolong binigay sa akin na ‘Queen of Pinoy Soaps,’ alam kong hindi naman lahat agree, pero binigay lang po yan sa akin ng kusa, at kung para sa akin man talaga ay hindi ko naman po nakuha ng overnight.”
Her life always an open book, Judy Ann, despite persistent separation and annulment intrigues, continues to be happily married to Ryan Agoncillo, and revels in being a homemaker. Besides their biological son Lucho, the couple are also the doting parents of Yohann whom the actress adopted long before she met her lifetime love and partner.
Truly a picture of bliss, it is fitting that Judy Ann Santos now portrays an empowered woman on screen instead of her former tearjerker roles of the goody-good schoolgirl or love’s willing martyr. She is at a point in her life where she is finally—and beautifully—confident in her own skin, secure in her relationship, and thriving in her talent. Now, more than ever, she can indeed be a symbol and inspiration for the Filipino woman, for she is proof, that however long it may take, with hard work and faith, a woman can indeed have and be everything she wants to be.
As part of ABS-CBN’s celebration of 60 years of Philippine Television, Huwag Ka Lang Mawawala premieres on June 17 on ABS-CBN’s Primetime Bida. For more updates, log on to www.abs-cbn.com or follow @abscbndotcom on Twitter.