Maja Salvador recalls intense ‘iyakan’ acting audition with Erich Gonzales for MMK “Regalo”

After almost four months spent in the paradise island of Palawan, Maja is back to her usual hustle. Among her first assignments is to invite viewers to catch the replay of Maalaala Mo Kaya “Regalo”, first aired in 2006 and one of the drama anthology’s bests. 

Maja emphasized there’s more to this tearjerker piece than just being headlined by two of the biggest thespians in the industry – Vilma Santos and Ricky Davao. It follows the life of Vilma’s Daisy Hernandez, an empowered woman and selfless mother who refused to capitulate to the sufferings of her daughter with cerebral palsy played by Maja. Talking about Vilma’s character, Maja shared, “Binigay niya lahat ng oras pati trabaho kinalimutan niya noong kinailangan siya ni April. Itinodo na niya ang pag-aalaga at pag-aaruga.” The masterpiece took one whole year of shooting, given Vilma’s limited schedule. The veteran actress had to juggle her taping days with political obligations. 

Maja’s raw yet compelling portrayal as April Hernandez is a big factor in the episode’s purely excellent outcome. Her character is an epitome of strength and hope, a diligent student who never lets sickness dismantle her capacity to excel, love, and give happiness. To repay her parents’ sacrifices, April does her best as a student and a daughter. Her affectionate nature has the power to kiss her parents’ weariness goodbye. 

Maja has a lot of people to thank for her enthralling performance in the episode including the Star for All Seasons herself and Director Olivia Lamasan, who artists fondly call as ‘Inang.’ 

This project is a memorable one for Maja. Besides working with a stellar team, she also had to audition for the role. “Nag-audition kami ni Erich Gonzales… Kahit anong luha na lumabas sa amin kulang na lang pati kaluluwa, kapag hindi niya [Direk Olivia Lamasan] naramdaman na totoo ‘yung iyak mo, hindi ka niya papahintuin,” she recalled. This was also her first project with Nadine Lustre, who portrayed the role of her younger sister. 

Maja continued, “Si Inang, ang bilin sa akin, ‘Kapag nasa set ka na, hindi ka na si Maja. Ikaw na si April.’ Ang hirap na hindi mo ayusin kasi nakakahiya. Makalimutan mo lang ‘yung kamay mo, from the top ulit. Hindi magiging maganda ang flow ng istorya. Hindi kakapit ang manonood kung hindi sila maniniwala na ganun ang kondisyon mo.” 

“Pati pagsasalita ko nu’n, ‘pag tinanong ako ni Inang kailangan ang sagot ko as April. Hindi niya pinabitawan sa akin si April.” Maja had to knit April’s character to her own flesh, so she had to act like a cerebral palsy patient all throughout the taping day, even during her free hours on the set. She would only get to take a break for a few moments inside her car.   

The experience, though challenging, made her appreciate her craft even more. And learning from the showbiz’s top calibre actress, Maja was taught that it is important to embrace the character wholeheartedly. “Sabi ni Miss Vilma, ‘Huwag mo isipin kung paano ka umiyak. Isipin mo kung paano sila mapapaiyak.’ Ibig sabihin, kailangan mo mag-dive in.”

The episode’s takeaways on selflessness, love, and quality time spent with loved ones will certainly arouse the viewer’s emotions, now that the world is plunged into a dark season of uncertainties. With these lessons in mind, Maja continued, “Huwag natin hintayin na magkaroon ng pandemic para bigyan ng oras ang ating pamilya, para mas ipakita kung paano tayo magmahal sa bawat isa.” She added that times may be trying but love, especially when unconditional, is a powerful weapon in fighting the weariness. This kind of love, Maja stressed, is what she will bring with her as she builds her own family in the future.