Arjo, usually the more stoic of the two, loosened up at the Cosmopolitan Philippines shoot, with him trying his best to make his sister crack up just as the camera shutter would click, and his sister doing the same when it was time for his solo photos. The resulting pictures tell the story of their bond.
Growing up was a different story, though. "He used to bully me a lot," says Ria of her brother who is only a year and four months ahead of her. When they were kids, their mom Sylvia Sanchez was so frustrated with them, Ria recalls. "We drove her to her wit's end! She was at the point where she would yell things like, 'heto ang kutsilyo, magsaksakan kayo, tingnan ninyo kung iiyak ako sa libing ninyo!' Then, she would make us kneel on munggo or asin," she says with a laugh.
"I would tease her until she cried. Maguumpisa 'yan na lokohan lang, and then later on serious na. Tapos sasabihin ko 'iiyak na 'yan.' Pikon kasi siya e." —Arjo
It was always Arjo who was the instigator, it seems. Ria shares that the first time she was brought to the hospital was because of her kuya. "He put me in a bathtub that had potpourri and bath oils in it, and I have very sensitive skin, so my allergies flared up." She did have her moments too. "I bit him so hard that he bled," she cackles at the memory. "He would hide my stuff, and then I would cry, and tell on him to our mom. She would make him kneel on the munggo, pero damay din ako, because I reacted," she shares with a pout as Arjo smirks. "I would tease her until she cried. Maguumpisa yan na lokohan lang, and then later on serious na. Tapos sasabihin ko 'iiyak na yan.' Pikon kasi siya e," Arjo shares, laughing.
Even though they were constantly fighting, they had fond memories of their childhood together, with the adorable pair wearing matching outfits when they went out. "I wore a Pocahontas shirt and he would wear Lion King," Ria shares. "We would swim in a balde," Arjo chimes in.
"Freak" (Arjo) and "Wee-Wee" (Ria), as they called each other, played a lot together too, with sports such as football and skating, and games such as Crash Bandicoot and Sonic on their PS1. "When I got stuck on something on my Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen game, he would help me out," Ria says. Perhaps in preparation for their respective showbiz careers, they also took dance classes in their early teens.
They also became kiddie crew at McDonald's in their teens. "Special case kami, kasi overaged na," Ria says. Their first soiree was together too, with her group of friends from Poveda meeting his classmates from La Salle.
They are in a remarkable position, they agree, to have a mom who knows the industry so well, after being considered one of the best local actresses in her prime. Sylvia had to give up her showbiz career just as she was about to be launched in her first leading role because she became pregnant with Arjo. Now, she is definitely back and has been gaining recognition for her acting chops, including recently winning an award as Best Actress for her role in the movie Jesusa at the 5th Sinag Maynila Film Festival.
When asked how they feel about being the children of the award-winning actress Sylvia Sanchez, the two laughed. "Award-winning ba?" Ria jokes. Arjo follows up with, "hindi kami naniniwala."
That is how it is in their family, they share. "We like to bully each other; our parents bully us, we bully them back," Arjo says. "Our parents are relatively young. Our dad is only 53 while our mom is 47, and they are very cool. We can talk about anything with them." They have a Viber group for the family, and that is where they update each other on where they are and what they are doing, along with so many messages of them teasing each other.
When Arjo got into showbiz, Ria was one of the most supportive of that move. "I knew that it was what he really wanted. I remember him talking about it even when we were very young kids, so when he started his career, I was so happy for him. But then, being the nerd that I am, I asked, 'what about school?'"
During the time when it was Ria's turn to get into showbiz, Arjo was equally supportive. "I never meddled with her work, and I know that she is also into the artsy parts, and I am happy with that." The only advice he ever gave her is the same advice that he got from their mom: Always be real.
It's so cool that they can talk about their work over lunch and dinner, the siblings agree. "We would sit and talk about our respective projects, or we would critique a film that we all watched together. We don't need to explain things, because we know how the industry works. I don't think a lot of other families can do that," Arjo imparts.
They don't feel any pressure either, they say. "We are very chill people in general and it is nice, especially for me that I have two people I can look up to when it comes to the craft— Arjo and my mom," Ria adds.
She shrieks when she reveals that her parents are more updated with what is happening in showbiz than she is. "As in legit. My mom or my dad would ask me about our friends, with conversations starting with, 'Have you heard?' Then, when I ask how they found out about these things, they would send me links to articles," she says.
As for their two younger sibs Gela and Xavi, they act as protective second parents. Ria says, "I am super ate with them and Arjo is super kuya. True to his style, he bullies them too! He uses them as pillows and plays with their noses. Then, when there are things we find out as older siblings, when they tell us things or if we just find out, Arjo and I would have discussions about, should we tell our mom and dad, how do we deal with this?"
The biggest challenge of working in the same industry is that they often bring the intensity of their roles home. "There was a time when I was doing Guia for My Dear Heart, and he was playing Joaquin in Ang Probinsyano. Intense sila pareho as characters, so madali kaming magkapikunan, we would be like, 'Can you not?' and we would catch ourselves and stop there. To debrief or make pagpag, we just watch movies together, and then we are okay again," Ria recalls.
"We are very open about the people around us, but we don't really intervene, walang ganoon." —Ria
When it comes to their respective relationships and friendships. The two try to keep a hands-off policy. "Walang pakialaman, we just tell each other straight up, 'I am not a fan of this person.' It's not like we tell the other to stop hanging out with that person; we just give our opinions and that's it. On the opposite end, I can also say, 'I like that person for you.' We are very open about the people around us, but we don't really intervene, walang ganoon."
When it comes to their romantic relationships, there are only three instances when they really talk about it: When it begins, when there is something really good or really bad happening, and when it ends. "In between, we just let each other be," Arjo shares, although he admits to messaging his sister just to ask where she is, as any protective kuya would do.
Ria recalls the sweetest thing Arjo ever did for her when they were kids. It's also one of her favorite summer memories. "We were in Australia during summer break to visit our dad. My birthday falls [in the] summer kasi, and it was just the two of us in the house at that time, our parents were out. He came into the room with a kind of mamon that had a candle on top. We were not allowed to play with fire then, so the candle was unlit. Of course, Arjo forgot about that na. He has a horrible memory," she says, not missing an opportunity to make a dig at her kuya. As for Arjo, his memories of summer would always be about family, especially on the trips that they all take together.
There are several things that irk her about him, still. Ria says one of her peeves is when people mistake her for being the older sib. "One time, he had his friends over, and when I went down they greeted me with 'Good evening po.' I told them talaga, 'You are all younger than me!'" she says with a laugh.
She also hates the fact that Arjo has a horrible sense of time management. "As in ho-rri-ble!" she emphasizes. "There was one time when he had a flight at 5:30 a.m. and he was still in my room at 4:30. I told him, don't you have a flight? Leave na!' And he was all like, 'no it's ok." She rolls her eyes at him.
"I don't want anything negative, so when I hear negative things, I just avoid it." —Arjo
What she does admire about her brother is that he is always just so chill. "Nothing bothers him! I am trying my best to practice that because I am a very emotional person. Like when people say things to bash him, he doesn't get affected at all." Arjo adds matter-of-factly, "I don't really mind it. I am telling you people don't understand how chill I am. I am chill for life. I don't want anything negative, so when I hear negative things, I just avoid it."
Ria agrees and adds, "When something like that comes up, he just walks out. E I am so emotional, right? We are so similar, but also so different. People always tell me, things like, 'I know you guys are siblings, but how?'" She chuckles and looks over at her kuya who is smiling with the self-satisfaction of being the "cooler" sibling.
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PRODUCED BY: Jacinda A. Lopez
CO-PRODUCED BY: Lily Tabanera
ART DIRECTOR & PHOTOGRAPHER: Jico Joson
ART DIRECTION ASSISTED BY: Mixi Ignacio
SHOOT COORDINATOR: Lou Ferrer
SOCIAL MEDIA: Andie Estella
SITTINGS EDITOR: Jillian Gatcheco
GROOMING: Monica Reyes
HAIRSTYLIST: RJ Dela Cruz
MAKEUP ARTIST: Effie Inigo