I Feel U: Jodi Sta Maria and Richard Yap recall Be Careful With My Heart days

Jodi Sta. Maria has come a long way since charming the viewers as George Fuentebella in the iconic ‘90s Kapamilya series Tabing Ilog. Her versatility as an actress gave birth to some of her most remarkable characters in films and television.

First groomed as a dramatic star, Jodi slowly ventured to horror, romance, and comedy. She would consider her career as a rom-com actress an accidental discovery, thanks to the hit Kapamilya series Be Careful with My Heart. Each project memorable but Jodi finds relief in doing light comedy.

But perhaps the most favorite role she plays is being a mother to 14-year-old son Thirdy, who is now evolving into a fine young man. Jodi is aware that her unico hijo may already have crushes. Although she isn’t nosy about the topic, the loving mom thinks there’s nothing wrong with being curious at times. She says doing research on her son’s circle of friends is a sign of concern and not of strict parenting. It’s likewise a manner of knowing the child’s preferences.

Motherhood is no doubt a challenging journey, much more doing it singlehandedly, and at a time of a pandemic. In Jodi’s case, she has to be extra patient in dealing with Thirdy’s questions about online schooling and the current situation.

Jodi celebrates the beauty and challenges of solo parenting without leaving her ex-husband’s effort unnoticed. “Hindi ko pwedeng sabihin na ako lang talaga kasi unfair to my ex-husband, si Pampi, kasi he is very much involved in the life of his son. He is a good provider. I thank the Lord na we are on good terms,” shares Jodi.

Jodi makes sure to provide her son a good and happy life even if she’s not able to give him a two-parent home. As she thrives as a woman, Jodi learned to protect her inner peace by not giving anyone the ticket to cross her boundaries. “There’s a reason why we put our walls up, so we should never let anyone step doon sa line na drinaw natin.”

Jodi currently headlines the newest Kapamilya series Ang Sa Iyo Ay Akin alongside Iza Calzado, Sam Milby, and with Diamond Star Maricel Soriano. They were able to film a few episodes prior to the quarantine and lock-in tapings last month. While waiting for the shoot to resume, Jodi explored the art of aromatherapy. She learned how to make her own essential oil blend, disinfectant, and hand sanitizer.

Dominating the morning block of Philippine TV for almost three years, Be Careful with My Heart changed the face of daytime series and imparted lasting ‘feel good’ effects to its avid viewers. The show’s lead stars Jodi Sta. Maria and Richard Yap reminisce on the phenomenal teleserye, eight years after its first airing.

Richard would call the series a life-changing project that skyrocketed him to fame. No one among the cast saw it flourish the way it did, not even Ser Chief himself. Richard was even doubtful in the beginning, thinking they lack popularity. “When I found out the story and the cast, medyo napaisip ako na parang si Jodi lang ang kilala sa amin. Kami, puro kami baguhan, so kinabahan ako in a way. Pero bahala na, it’s a job, so let’s do it,” he thought at that time.

But the magic just happened. Richard had to adjust from being a private person to a heartthrob, though it took him a while to get used to the publicity. “Nanibago ako kasi feeling ko bakit pinagkakaguluhan ako, eh dati wala namang pakialam ‘yung mga tao. Dumami nagsasabi sa akin na ang gwapo ko, eh dati wala naman nagsasabi sa akin nu’n,” he jestingly adds.

The show’s supposed one-season airing extended until two and a half years, a sign that Maya and Ser Chief’s chemistry is way beyond effective. Trying to analyze how did it occur, Jodi thinks the viewers’ penchant for sweet love stories contributed a lot to their success. “Kasi Filipinos love nila ‘yung dalawang magkahiwalay na mundo. Mayroon kang babae mula sa probinsiya then may lalaking mayaman na negosyante na supladito. At kung paano napalambot ng babae ‘yung leading man na supladito,” she explains.

As well as individual career growth, the teleserye paved the way to Jodi and Richard’s friendship. They got to know each other deeper in more than two years of working together. They both miss their companionship, the food trip, conversations, and good times on the set. “Nakakatuwa sa kanya pinapatulan niya ‘yung mga kalokohan ko. Lagi kong sinasabi na mukhang napakaseryoso niya pero ang galing niya mag-crack ng jokes, sensible kausap. Sobrang proud siya sa akin,” retorts Jodi on Richard’s statement about her hidden dancing and singing skills.

Richard further reveals that Jodi is scared of spiders, a fun-loving girl who smiles a lot, and she always pokes fun at his bloopers.  One thing he loves about their friendship is that their secrets are safe with each other. There is trust, respect, and honesty between them.

From giving wholesome ‘kilig’ that kept viewers ecstatic over the years, Jodi and Richard came to realize their powers as thespians. And this would have to be their biggest takeaway from the project. “Kailangan kung anong gagawin mo pagbutihin mo talaga kasi hindi mo alam you are affecting a lot of people in a very good way. Sometimes we think na it’s just work but for other people, it gives them hope,” Richard expresses.

“We’ll never know kung anong klaseng inspirasyon at strength ang kayang i-impart ng isang programa. Tayo mismo as actors natututo din tayo doon sa journey ng ating mga characters,” relates Jodi, adding that Be Careful with My Heart is that one project she will forever be grateful for.

While Jodi is busy with her current project, the newest Kapamilya series Ang Sa Iyo Ay Akin, Richard makes the most of the time spent with family. The actor-entrepreneur admits that his restaurant business had been greatly affected by the pandemic. But as the family’s pillar of strength, he couldn’t afford to lose hope despite the pressure.

Richard, as a dutiful father, teaches his kids to value their reputation and integrity. He believes there are no shortcuts to success but an honest man easily gains people’s trust. And at the end of the day, people will remember the good deeds.

Richard never thought he would make it this far, since starring in the teleserye My Binondo Girl in 2009. From acting for the sake of trying it out, he eventually found himself trapped in a new world he learned to love. He’s happy with where that first acting gig brought him to. Besides, he loves what he does and he couldn’t see himself retiring from showbiz.