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...