Mercedes Cabral is the classic example of how dogged determination moves mountains.
When the award-winning actress was still practically a nobody in showbiz seven years ago, all she knew was that giving up her studies at the UP Diliman College of Fine Arts to become a model was her ticket to a better life for her family.
“May nagsabi sa akin na, ‘Mag-model ka,” she recalls.
And so the dusky Mercedes gave it a try.
She showed up for photo shoots, even if all she got were mere literally walk-in parts.
Until someone came up with a bright idea.
BIG BREAK. Why doesn’t she try her hand in a basic acting workshop? Luckily, at that time, writer-director Francis Villacorta was conducting one.
Mercedes did, and got the surprise of her life.
“Kaya ko pala [umarte]! At the same time, enjoy ako sa ginagawa ko! Wow! Hindi ko alam na ganito pala!” she gushed.
The acting bug bit Mercedes so hard, she auditioned in not just one, but several productions. Rejections only spurred her to take on more challenges.
“Mas tumatag ako nung na-reject ako sa mga projects. It only meant that hindi lang siguro para sa akin ang mga projects na 'yon.
“Yakapin mo na lang 'yon at magpasalamat ka. May rason kung bakit nangyari 'yan,” she advises aspiring actors.
Whenever she fails to bag a role (it happens to the best of them), Mercedes doesn’t waste time moping. She just tells herself it’s not her, but the project, which is not suited for her.
PASSION FOR ART. She can just go back to her beloved sketch pad and summon her original passion by creating doodles.
“Hindi nawala ang passion na 'yon. Every now and then, nagdu-doodle pa rin ako as some sort of therapy,” she also reveals.
Acting—Mercedes’ accidental, now overriding passion—not only feeds her soul, it has time again fed her body, and that of her family’s.
She has a long list of indie movies—Ligo Na U... Lapit Na Me, Ang Nawawala, Ang Babae sa Septic Tank, Transit, Mater Dolorosa, Bingoleras, Serbis, Kinatay, Captive, Thy Womb, and Biktima.
She has also done international films, including Rosita (released in Denmark) and the Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize winner Thirst, to name a few.
Mercedes also has TV projects for GMA-7. But these have not eclipsed her credentials as an indie actress.
REASON FOR BEING. Fulfillment, not awards, is her reason for being as an actress.
She stresses, “Ang habol ko ay fulfillment. Mas enjoy ako sa proseso ng pagbuo ng character. 'Pag maganda ang character at ang story, enjoy ko siya.
“Hindi ko iniisip kung mananalo ito ng award. 'Pag nanalo, bonus na lang 'yon sa parte ko.”
Working with the best is another plus.
Mercedes worked with Nora Aunor in Thy Womb, and found the Superstar “down-to-earth at nakakatuwang katrabaho.”
Mercedes had a special participation in the Vilma Santos film The Healing, and is happy to note that The Star for All Seasons is “very approachable, hindi intimidating.”
Coco Martin, Mercedes’ co-star in the critically-acclaimed Serbis, on the other hand, is “magaling, kahit noon pa.”
Still another co-star who stands out in Mercedes’ book is Jericho Rosales, whom she worked with in Red.
“Hindi siya swapang, hindi madamot. Nakikipag-collaborate siya,” she says proudly.
They say your idols reflect who you are.
Judging from Mercedes’ list, you know she’s an artist for whom craft—not number of box-office hits—is number one.