When asked about her favorite leading man, Marianne Dela Riva answered: "FPJ! Super bait [niya] and because I’ve worked with him the most. Maalaga siya sa set, maalaga siya sa tao at very gentlemanly kasi." Photo: Noel Orsal

In the '80s, if one said "leading lady," the name Marianne dela Riva would come into mind. She used to be the most visible actress in the action movie genre, that even Da King—the late Fernando Poe Jr.—openly admitted, "Si Marianne ang aking paborito."


On April 14, over lunch, PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) came face to face with still-beautiful Marianne. And just like the roles she mostly portrayed in the movies, the action king's favorite leading lady is simplicity, serenity, and beauty personified.


PEP asked her about the comment of FPJ.


"Maybe siguro I really looked like a damsel in distress," she said softly. "Kasi usually yung storylines naman ganun, eh. Usually ipagtatanggol ka ng leading man, gano'n. Usually gano'n ang formula."


HER LIFE NOW. Marianne is based in the U.S. now, and describes her life in New Jersey as "quite contented." Away from the glittering world of showbiz, she says, "I've been fine. Masaya ako. I've remarried."


Her marriage to Dr. Oscar T. Ortiz was her reason for leaving the country. Here's a portion of their love story.


"Actually, I was just visiting my daughters, which I did every year because they're residing in the States," recalled Marianne. "And then three years ago, just three days before I left, ‘cause I was about to come home na, I attended some type of get-together by a good friend of mine, former actress din yun, eh. And then, may pinakilala siya sa akin.


"To cut a long story short, nagkita lang kami once and then nasundan ‘yon. 'Tapos mga early 2005, by December, he came back and nagkita kami ulit, we got together, medyo nagkakaintindihan...'Tapos the following year, six months later, we got married na."


Marianne's last project was the television remake of Panday, released in December 2005. She was Flavio's (the original Panday, played by FPJ) wife in Panday IV (Ika-apat na Aklat), which hit the theaters in 1984.


Now, she's a full-time housewife and mom, the roles she actually aspired for before entering showbiz.


She shared, "Sabi ko, when I grow old, I just want to be a good housewife, good mother, finish college, ganun-ganon...But hindi, eh. By age 16, napasok na ako sa art-art. Then tuluy-tuloy na. Parang handed to me [and] it's a blessing. Hindi ko hilig and sabi nga nila shy-shy ako pero nakapasok ako doon. Tuluy-tuloy na yun."


BACK THEN. It was fashion designer Pitoy Moreno who discovered Marianne. She used to be one of his models. "'Tapos because of Pitoy Moreno, I became one of Manila's Prettiest," continued Marianne.


"Nasasali ako dun because of Pitoy. Then I was a fashion model, and then I became a print model. Then Mrs. Laurel naman was looking for a leading lady for Cocoy Laurel para sa first venture nila. They saw my picture yata sa cover ng Women's magazine. Kinontak nila si Pitoy. And that's how it started."


Marianne's career was launched via the movie Love Song in 1972. Thereafter, she became one of the screen goddesses. She actually lost count of the number of movies she made, "mga more than 50" was her estimate.


When asked about the most challenging role she played, she answered, "Maybe the one where I appeared as a drug addict. It was during my early years in showbiz. Matagal na 'yon...


"Pero yun sigurong more memorable sa ‘kin yung sa Gulong ng Palad. That was the only time I got serious with my career. Before that, paloko-loko lang ako, eh. On and off ako, aalis ako [pero] babalik ako. Kumbaga dun sa Gulong ng Palad series, mas nagiging grounded ako. I liked doing it."


With the "more than 50 movies" she starred in, is there any role or offer she wished she would have accepted?


"Some of the offers were really challenging," she replied. "Kaya lang, during those days, they did ask you to show a little skin, and so maybe I missed some opportunities because of that, na you have to be a little bit more daring for the more challenging roles."


Even if in real life she kept a very low profile, showbiz did not spare her from controversies. She considers her separation from Ronald Corveau, her co-star in Gulong ng Palad and the dad of her two daughters, as the most controversial. But everything's under the bridge now.


In a calm voice, she said, "It's one thing na I'd rather not talk about or would like to forget about already."


SHOWBIZ TODAY. In her brief stay here in Manila, offers came knocking at her door, but she begged off. She is happy with her life and has no plans of going back to showbiz.


PEP asked her to describe the showbiz landscape of today.


"Mabilis ang turnover ngayon, marami nga sila...Pero yung mga bata rin ngayon, parang mas marami silang pinagkaka-abalahang projects than nung panahon namin. Noon, sa movies, movie actor or actress ka lang, or sa TV, TV ka lang, walang crossover.


"Ngayon, lahat na lang ng media hawak nila. 'Tapos yung commercials, ang dami! 'Tapos yung movie system, parang humina. Nawala yung golden days ng movie-making system. Pero parang mas maraming successful ngayon sa TV."


She dropped the name of "Bea Alonzo" when asked who among the female stars, she thinks, is the young Marianne dela Riva. And she was all praises for Maja Salvador. "She's very pretty and all-around. Magaling siyang umarte. She's versatile at kaya niya yung characterization ng mga roles niya."


And if there's one thing she wishes to impart to the young stars of today, "Love your work, be very responsible, be very professional. Kasi pag niloko-loko mo, madaling mawala sa kamay mo."


PEP's final question was about her beauty secrets. The people who lived through the '80s would agree with us when we say she did not age that much.


"Wala naman talaga," she shyly replied. "Really, but I don't do alcohol, I don't do drugs, I don't smoke. I live healthy and wholesome. Basta simple living lang ako. Nag-de-derma din ako but nothing invasive." And then the topic shifted to cosmetic surgery, to which she said she has not resorted to any, including botox.


The afternoon chat was very casual, and full of fun and warmth. When it ended, we surmised the reason she was Da King and other action stars' favorite leading lady: She's a knockout inside out.