Cosmo.ph Spotlight: Maris Racal
"Ang dami kong gustong
makamit na pangarap."
"Ang dami kong gustong
makamit na pangarap."
During her early teenage years, the last thing on Mariestella "Maris" Cañedo Racal's mind was to enter showbiz. It's understandable. The 20-year-old multi-talented star is a self-confessed introvert. During her interview with Cosmo.ph, she gave sporadic glimpses of her shyness and surprised us with sudden bouts of passionate retorts. "Parang tago ako," she revealed. "Super slow ako mag-open up." But when she began to tell us the story of her life, we discovered how she just needed a little push to realize what her mom knew all along: She was meant to be a star.
Maris was born into a music-loving family in Tagum City, Davao del Norte. Her father is part of a group of folk singers and performs on occasion. "'Pag nagkakasama ['yung pamilya], ang ganda lang ng vibe," she said. "Si Mama naman, marunong lang siya 'yung mga techniques. 'Yung kuya ko, nagsusulat din siya ng kanta."
The shy, young artist, however, didn't pay much attention to her talents: She never joined any singing competition or auditioned for a singing career. She shared, "Sobrang takot ako sa mga contests dati kasi kapag mga contests sa school, automatic na nananalo kung sino 'yung bumibirit. Hindi talaga ako bumibirit. As in, hindi ko 'yan goal. 'Yung sa akin, chill lang na pang-camping 'yung mga kanta ko. 'Yun talaga 'yung boses ko. And hindi ko siya tina-try maging bigger kasi manipis lang talaga boses ko."
Instead, Maris expressed her musical talent by singing during intermission numbers or icebreakers during school programs in St. Mary's College of Tagum, where she attended from elementary until high school. She also joined a choir and sang in church.
It was at the request of her mother when she finally decided to take a chance on fame, by auditioning for the reality TV show Pinoy Big Brother: All In in 2014. Before the biggest gig of her life, Maris tried her hand at modeling, still to grant one of her mother's wishes. "Ayoko talaga," she blurted out. "I mean, 'yung itsura ko doon. Pero ngayon, nagru-runway naman ako 'pag nai-invite."
When her mother asked her to audition for Pinoy Big Brother: All In (PBB), she recalled reasoning out,
"'Ma, sayang lang 'yan sa oras kasi hindi din ako matatanggap kasi ang layo-layo nu'n. Imposible.' Nag-tampo siya. Tapos bigla akong nilapitan ng ate ko. Sabi niya, 'Alam mo, ilang beses mo nang ni-reject si Mama sa mga auditions. Ngayon naman, pagbigyan mo na siya, kahit once.'"
Little did she know that that moment would change her life. Until now, she remains perplexed at how her mother knew that she deserved a spot in the world of show business: "Ewan ko, nakitaan yata ako ng potential ni Mama."
After winning second place in PBB in August 2014, Maris had to leave home and move to Manila with one of her sisters. Her win opened doors that she once thought were out of reach—but when reality hit, she realized that the road to success was not easy. "Grabe 'yung first year na wala parents ko. Ang daming nights na umiiyak ako because of homesickness. Parang gusto ko silang makasama. Gusto ko silang makita every night, pero hindi puwede."
During the low points in her life, what keeps her going is her desire to give her family a better life: "Sakto lang kasi 'yung family ko. I wanna help them," she shared. "Ang dami kong gustong makamit na pangarap: magkaroon ng bahay dito, at least hindi na ako nagre-rent."
"May times na gusto kong umuwi. Pero 'pag gusto mo kasi talaga 'yung bagay, paghihirapan mo talaga, eh, para makuha mo siya. 'Yun na lang talaga 'yung pinanghahawakan ko."
Maris' popularity from PBB helped her bag acting roles, which Maris once perceived as a necessary step to sustain a showbiz career. "It just came out," she said, describing her acting skills. "Wala talaga akong experience nu'n sa acting. Then, paglabas ko, kasi siguro sa thought na kailangan siyang gawin, kailangan siyang tapusin on that day, sige, gawin ko na lang."
In September 2014, Maris had her first acting stint in the teleserye Hawak Kamay, starring Piolo Pascual. In October 2014, Maris showed her potential for drama in the anthology Maalaaala Mo Kaya. The episode had Maris acting alongside veteran actor Nonie Buencamino. "Sobrang vulnerable pa ng heart ko para sa super harsh na acting gig," she shared. "Nakatulong talaga 'pag sobra 'yung patience ng director, ni Sir Nonie, kasi na-guide nila ako hanggang sa matapos."
Gradually, the acting bug bit her. She appeared in four Maalaala Mo Kaya episodes, had a cameo role for the movie Halik sa Hangin (2015), and had supporting roles in the films Vince & Kath & James (2016) and Bloody Crayons (2017). She is set to star in the movie Haunted Forest, and the TV series All that Matters. She exclaimed, "Project after project, parang na-open na ako sa paga-acting. Ang saya mag-acting. Hindi siya 'yung kapag marunong kang umarte, marunong ka na. Isa siyang skill na kailangan inaaral mo. Nawawala siya, eh. Hindi siya permanent."
She told us that one of her inspirations when it comes to acting is Toni Gonzaga. She explained, "Gusto ko 'yung comedy na marunong din mag-drama, parang makilala as rom-com queen. Gusto ko din mag-drama, pero mas gusto ko 'yung part na nagpapasaya ng tao."
Maris is equally passionate about her music. Although she grew up with musicians, she only began to hone her skills in singing and playing instruments while she was inside the Pinoy Big Brother house.
"I never knew na marunong pala akong magsulat ng kanta," Maris said with a smile. She discovered her songwriting skills after one of her fans gave her a notebook: "Ganda ng cover ng notebook, 'Leave sparkles wherever you go,' parang ganu'n 'yong thought. Na-inspire ako. Sabi ng fan, 'Mag-start ka na magsulat ng kanta kasi alam kong magaling ka.' That night, hindi ako makatulog. Sinulat ko lahat ng nasa isip ko. Nakabuo ako ng kanta."
She revealed that she has already written four to five songs—the first of which was titled, "Sana Naman," which is about "a guy na hindi siya napapansin." Is the song based on her own experience? She answered with a laugh, "Hindi natin alam. Ayaw nating sabihin!"
She did tell us the most profound song she has ever written: It's called "Take It All Away." "Heartbreak song siya," she revealed. "Siguro 'yun 'yung song ko na binuhos ko talaga lahat ng nasa puso ko. After that, I felt okay na." But, this time, the song was not intended for a guy. Instead, it was an outlet for "one of the lowest points" in her life. "Nagkaroon ako ng problem sa career. I don't wanna drop names. Basta parang nagka-issue lang ako. Parang ang unfair, and not pertaining to one person, but sa situation. Sobrang malungkot ako one night, and bigla akong nagsulat. And 'yung words, bigla na lang lumabas sa isip ko."
Maris is most comfortable playing the guitar, which she learned in her sophomore year in high school. "Kasi 'yung circle of friends ko marunong mag-gitara. Naiinggit ako. Nagpaturo ako sa papa ko." Aside from the guitar, she also plays the piano and ukulele.
She cited singers Yeng Constantino, Rico Blanco, and Sarah Geronimo as her inspirations: "Nagagalingan ako kay ate Yeng magsulat ng kanta. Sobrang full package: siya gumagawa ng songs niya, siya din nagpe-perform. Rico Blanco, ang ganda mag-construct ng words and melodies. Performance naman, si Ate Sarah G."
Her songs are all recorded on her phone, and she posts these prized possessions once in a while. But there's one other person who sees it first before the rest of the world: her love-team partner Iñigo Pascual, who she first met while shooting for scenes for Hawak Kamay.
"Sa kanya ko unang pinaparinig mga songs," she gushed. "Kasi kami 'yung as in magka-gets sa mga bagay 'pag music. Siya 'yung critic ko. 'Pag pinarinig ko, tapos gusto niya, sobrang saya ko na. 'Pag 'di niya gusto, wala, next song."
And like every other musician craving to be heard, Maris wishes to have her own album one day: "Gusto ko siyang i-claim. Wala pa. Pero we'll try. Marami na naman akong nasulat, so hopefully next year or this year."
The world of show business has been kind to Maris so far—save for her online haters.
"Honestly, may times na 'yung bashers, bini-bring out nila 'yung beast sa akin," she said in her usual soft and calm voice. "Na 'di ko na talaga 'to kaya, sasagutin ko na.' But 'pag nakakabasa ako ng comments na ganyan, alam mo 'yung sobrang manhid ka na? Wala siya sa top priority na papansinin ko. Kasi mas papansinin ko pa 'yung mga totoong tao na may objective criticism, kaysa plain bashing. They only bash kasi they love somebody else. Mali 'yung mentality ng ibang tao: 'Pag may hinahangaan sila, gusto nilang binababa 'yung Ibang tao. Dati dine-delete ko sila, but ngayon hinahayaan ko na lang. Bahala sila. I'm happy naman with what I'm doing."
She has also learned to deal with issues that come her away:
"I deal with issues by saying what is true kasi mas naa-appreciate nu'ng tao 'pag nagiging tototo ka."
And while the spotlight is loving her, Maris knows that "nothing lasts forever" in showbiz. Next year, she plans to go back to college and take up Psychology at the Trinity University of Asia in Quezon City, where she already took one semester of their Medical Technology program. Her dream is to become a doctor, which she described as a "noble" job. But that may have to take a backseat for now, as she also admitted, "napamahal na din ako sa pag-aartista."
As we wrapped up our interview, Maris imparted:
"Gusto ko magkaroon ng voice sa industry, na parang makilala as, 'Ah, si Maris, magaling 'to sa ganyan. Sa mga veterans, pag name-mention mo lang 'yong pangalan nila, kilala na agad, kilala as ganito. Gusto ko din magkaroon ng gano'ng impact sa tao."
This 20-year-old is no longer the girl who just got out of kuya's house. "Dati sobrang weak ko, hindi ako lumalaban." There was a pause before she said, "Alam mo 'yong kahit ako 'yong nasa tama, and sila 'yong nasa mali, tatahimik na lang ako para wala nang gulo? Instead na lumaki? I never stood up for what is right. Na-develop ko lang siya n'ung every day, n'ung nafe-face ko na ang problems after PBB. Laban talaga. Kahit ang hirap-hirap na, dapat fight, fight, fight."
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PHOTOGRAPHY: Jico Joson
HAIR: Ethan David
MAKEUP: Lei Ponce of Make Up For Ever
STYLING: Ryuji Shiomitsu
FOOD AND PROP STYLING: Kay Isabedra of Gathered Creative Co.