Eighteen-year-old acting prodigy Therese Malvar bagged an unprecedented feat in any movie award-giving body in the country. She competed against herself in a single category and won a tie for both the titles for which she was nominated.
This all happened at the 2018 Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival when Malvar was named Best Supporting Actress for her portrayals as the elder daughter of a stowaway mother with a lesbian lover in “Distance” and as a teen prostitute in “School Service.”
In fact, the young actress was so convincing in both parts that The Sunday Times Magazine learned from a Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) insider how one judge even remarked he thought the actress who played Iza Calzado’s daughter in “Distance” was different from the actress in Ai-Ai delas Alas’ dramatic breakthrough in “School Service.” It can therefore be said that Malvar’s excellence is not simply acting out a part but becoming the part.
Differentiating how she attacked her characters in both entries, she told The Sunday Times Magazine in an interview how the roles were such contrasts in study.
“[My role in] ‘Distance’ was hard to achieve. We had few lines but our eyes did the talking. There were a lot of nuances and meaning in every action we delivered. My character was reserved but had a breakdown/outburst scene so it gave the role a fun sort of challenge,” Malvar shared.
“Thankfully, my roles in ‘Distance’ and ‘School Service’ were so different from each other that I didn’t have difficulty in shooting them [almost at the same time]. I was guided well by my directors, which is why my performances were nominated and fortunately won in a tie,” she continued.
Asked what ran through her mind when her phenomenal wins were called out, Malvar laughingly said the moment affirmed she made the right decision in choosing acting as a vocation rather than becoming a nun.
“It still feels surreal and I always get teary-eyed whenever I watch the video when I won the award(s). I felt such an affirmation that night and I will be forever grateful to Cinemalaya and everyone who believed in me,” the young thespian said.
Winner since 12
Believe it or not, it was simply boredom that started the acting career of this great granddaughter of two of the Philippines’ greatest heroes —General Miguel Malvar and Dr. Jose Rizal — in 2013.
The only girl among businessman Jaymee Malvar and indie actress Cherry Malvar’s brood of four, the young acting gem related how she just tagged along her mom’s audition for CineFilipino, a film festival organized by Cignal TV and Unitel Productions.
“I decided to go with my mom to her audition because I was bored at home. I ended up auditioning myself for [the role] of Anita in ‘Ang Huling Cha-Cha Ni Anita’ and luckily bagged the role. I’ve been grateful [for that moment] ever since.
“My first film was supposedly a ‘one-time-big-time’ thing but then I won an award [as Best Actress] so I decided to continue. It was only much later when I realized that acting is really my passion,” she added.
Asked all the same if she admired any movie stars growing up, Malvar confessed, “I never really had an acting idol or model growing up since it wasn’t my childhood dream to [become one]. I did, however, dream of becoming a nun because of my idol, St. Therese of Liseux. I’ve always been inspired by how she lived her life and how she loved God.”
Naturally, the acting award came as a big surprise to Malvar who was then only 12 years old.
“To say I was shocked is an understatement because it was my first time acting for film and I received an award. I am truly grateful to direk Sigrid [Bernardo] for the ultimate trust of giving the role of Anita to a newbie who didn’t know a thing about acting,” she averred.
Malvar took on three more indie movies after her win for “Anita” — “Tumbang Preso,” “Bitukang Manok” and “Matangtubig.”
It was, however, in 2015 that she proved her earlier win wasn’t just a gift from lady luck. Malvar made a big splash in the indie scene when she won one Best Actress award after another for “Hamog” as a street kid named Jinky who endures life’s harsh realities.
“It was a very heavy role to deliver,” she recalled. “There were scenes that I was too shy to do but managed to deliver in the end with the guidance of director Ralston Jover.”
Malvar went beyond delivering of course and rose to the occasion with triumphs at the Cinema One Originals Awards, the Rising Star Asia Award from the New York Asia Film Festival, and the Silver St. George Best Actress Award at the 38th Moscow (Russia) International Film Festival.
“We were in Canada for a layover when we found out about the award from Moscow and my mom shrieked so loudly at the airport. Nagtampo pa nga ako noon kasi gusto ko nang matulog, so hindi ko pa po na-process na nanalo ako sa Moscow,” Malvar recalled.
The recognitions didn’t end there, however, as she was next honored with the Outstanding Artistic Achievement Golden Goblet Award at the 2016 Shanghai International Film Festival, and again at the 9th Ani Ng Dangal (Harvest of Honors) by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
“I still can’t grasp how and why I’ve been recognized both locally and internationally for the movies I’ve done, but all of it only made me strive to give my best each time and always improve [in my craft thereafter]. Hindi award ang habol ko pero sobrang bonus yun para sa aming lahat.
“And for me, I shouldn’t be the only one recognized but the whole cast and crew of every film I’ve won for because they helped me achieve each role,” she said.
Less than two years later, Malvar would figure in the hardest role she had ever been given in her thriving career — that of a spirit who manifests in different ways to a family via the movie “Ilawod.” She was among a star-studded cast in the critically acclaimed indie, comprised of Ian Veneracion, Iza Calzado, Xyriel Manabat and Harvey Bautista.
“I consider Ilawod as the movie with the most difficult role I’ve ever done. I had to be so confident and graceful in my every move. I also had to be sensual and mysterious to be Ilawod. It was so hard, considering that I was only 15 then, but age shouldn’t be an excuse [not to play the role correctly]. I was really thankful to direk Dan Villegas for bearing with me and helping me bring life to Ilawod,” Malvar shared with The Sunday Times Magazine.
Her hard work for the role paid off, as she was in a triple tie for Eddys 2018 Best Supporting Actress with Angeli Bayani for “Maestra” and Chai Fonacier for “Respeto.”
As to her formula in understanding and internalizing a character in a story, whether it’s the movies or on television, she underscores the techniques she learned from Sheenly Gener, assistant director and acting coach of “1-2-3,” a movie she made in 2016 before “Ilawod.”
“I learned how to create a character sketch because of Ms. Sheenly Gener. From then on I kept creating character sketches. I’d like to think of the characters’ goals and attitude, especially their mannerisms. But above all, I put a bit of myself to each character so it would appear natural. Watching other movies and TV series is also a big help in creating character sketches,” she disclosed.
Co-managed by Ferdy Lapuz and GMA Artist Center, Malvar is currently doing the GMA Telebabad series, “Beautiful Justice,” directed by Mark Reyes that premieres on September 9.
Finding balance in school and showbiz commitments, the pretty young thespian who is now in 12th Grade at the Marymount Academy in Parañaque City has maintained her number one ranking in class, and intends to do so until she becomes a lawyer.
“I am a descendant of both Gen. Miguel Malvar and Dr. Jose Rizal, and I strive to achieve honors in school so I wouldn’t waste the opportunity my parents gave me to study. I became Rank 1 last year and I’m hoping to achieve it again this year — not for the sake of bragging rights but because I need a scholarship for college,” she said.
“Honestly, I actually can’t manage my tasks very well. It’s stressful sometimes, but surprisingly I finish any work given to me. All I can say is it’s not me but the Lord who balances my time. Gapang mode na pero laban pa rin! Ganun minsan!” she exclaimed, informing The Sunday Times Magazine she is also a part of CFC-YFL (Couples For Christ-Youth for Family and Life.)
In 2017, she met Filipino-American director-writer Micael Preysler, whose works include the 2015 film “Lily & Kat.”
“He told me that he loved the character I played in ‘Hamog’ so he wanted to meet me to see if I fit a certain role he had in mind. Then after two years, he got back and asked Tito Ferdy if I was still up for the project. He gave the concept, character description, shoot dates and the technicalities. GMA and Tito Ferdy said yes, so now it’s finally pushing through and all we have to do is wait for the scheduled shooting dates. I am so excited to be working for an American film project… and I am even more excited to be shooting in a different country for the first time,” she shared.
With two elder brothers, Reb, 23 and Miggs, 19, and younger brother Jash, 17, the future international star says she never ended up with boyish pursuits all the same.
“I am into books and doing calligraphy but haven’t spent much time with my hobbies because of other tasks that I need to do. I am in love with watching criminal docu-series, mukbangs [an internet fad that started in Korea with viewers watching a person binge eating copious amounts of food] and ASMR (automatic sensory meridian response) videos to keep my boredom away,” she said.
Accepting the fact she can no longer follow the life of St. Therese of Liseux as closely as she can or even perhaps become a lawyer what with her present career, Malvar says her guiding philosophy is amor fati or love of fate.
“My philosophy is ‘Amor Fati,’ which means loving or accepting one’s fate. Not all things go our way but that doesn’t mean we should always feel bummed about it. Love what you want to do and also what you have to do. It’s hard to accept our fate at times but it’s necessary to experience in life,” she asserted.
For those who also want to become an acting gem like her, the award-winner says it is important, first of all, to believe in oneself.
“A piece of advice I would give to anyone is to believe in yourself. It is not enough that other people encourage you to do something you can do unless you yourself believe you can. Have a strong foundation of self-love and absolutely know your strengths and weaknesses. In an industry full of masks, stay genuine. Above all else, stay at peace with the Lord. Our future may be a blur but may God’s love assure you that His plan for you is crystal clear,” she concluded to The Sunday Times Magazine.