ANATOMY OF A PINOY TELESERYE: The stories behind Judy Ann Santos TV shows

by James Patrick Anarcon
Apr 19, 2019
Ever wondered what went on behind-the-scenes of Judy Ann Santos's TV shows? In this PEP.ph special report, Judy Ann tells interesting stories behind some of her unforgettable ABS-CBN teleseryes.
PHOTO/S: ABS-CBN (Judy Ann's photos)
ILLUSTRATION: Jeremiah Idanan

Judy Ann Santos's TV shows cannot be missed when discussing the Pinoy teleserye genre.

Top-billing various drama shows from the late '80s to the present, Judy Ann's TV shows comprise of around 10 teleseryes, a youth-oriented series, and her own drama anthology show.

Judy Ann's TV shows are mostly hits in the ratings game, but there are also those that did not perform as high as expected.

Dubbed by her mother network, ABS-CBN, as the "Queen of Pinoy Soap Opera," Judy Ann and her TV shows reflect how the Pinoy teleserye genre has evolved to what it is today.

In the first installment of the "Anatomy of a Pinoy Teleserye"—a PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) special report—we sought the expertise and views of business unit heads.

In its second installment, we took a look at how Pinoy teleseryes have evolved from the '90s to the present, through the eyes of three GMA-7 actresses Sunshine Dizon, Angelu de Leon, and Angelika dela Cruz, who have starred in many television series since they were young.

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This time, Judy Ann tells PEP.ph interesting stories behind some of her iconic TV shows that paved the way for her to become ABS-CBN's "Queen of Pinoy Soap Opera."

This "Anatomy of a Teleserye" focuses on eight of Judy Ann's TV shows: Mara Clara (1992-1997), Esperanza (1997-1999), Gimik (1996-1999), Krystala (2004-2005), Ysabella (2007-2008), Habang May Buhay (2010), Huwag Ka Lang Mawawala (2013), and her 2019 upcoming drama series Starla.

Along with stories about these Judy Ann TV shows, the 40-year-old actress also opens up about past TV show issues that were resolved, and dealing with the pressure of TV ratings.

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MARA CLARA

Mara Clara was Judy Ann's first ABS-CBN TV show, which aired its pilot episode on August 17, 1992.

Though Judy Ann already top-billed the IBC-13 series Ula: Ang Batang Gubat in 1988 as a child actress, it was in Mara Clara where she reached the height of her popularity, along with another former child star, Gladys Reyes.

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In Mara Clara, directed by the late Emil Cruz Jr., Judy Ann played the role of the kind Mara while Gladys played the villain Clara.

It was a story of two girls who were switched at birth, living the life that was supposed to be the other's.

Mara, the real daughter of a rich couple, lived in the slums. Clara, on the other hand, enjoyed the lavish life supposedly meant for Mara.

Judy Ann recalls that Mara Clara was originally a blocktimer during its first few years in ABS-CBN.

It was also during this time when content creators, specifically blocktimers, were given freedom in producing the shows.

She tells PEP, "Before kasi, it's just the director and the writer and then the studio will let you be. Kumbaga, diskarte mo na 'yan.

"Ang Mara Clara was a blocktimer at that time. It wasn't produced by the network.

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"Two-thirty yung timeslot namin. Yung director namin, siya din yung writer namin. It was kami-kami lang talaga. Basically, ang staff lang ng ABS-CBN doon was the core staff.

"It was Direk Emil Cruz’s idea. Siya talaga yung utak sa likod ng Mara Clara, pati yung kanta ng Mara Clara theme song, siya ang nag-compose noon. It was his brainchild."

The staff of Mara Clara would only meet with ABS-CBN Entertainment heads, then led by Charo Santos-Concio, for ratings feedback.

During those times, ABS-CBN would always come to the decision to cut Mara Clara off the air because of the ratings.

Judy Ann tells PEP.ph, "There was a point that time na ilang beses na kaming liligwakin na sa ere, titigukin na kami kasi hindi nagre-rate.

"'Tapos siguro, may mga dalawang beses kaming pinatawag ni Ma'am Charo at that time para sabihin na, 'You have to end Mara Clara already' and then nakikiusap kami na 'Please.'

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"Nakikiusap kami na bigyan kami ng chance na mag-rate pa yung Mara Clara, i-extend lang nang konti pa. And then magre-rate na naman kami 'tapos after a year, liligwakin na naman, may pa-meeting na naman.

"At that time, ang magandang nangyayari was ang pinapatawag, buo. Lahat ng cast nandoon, lahat ng staff nandoon. Hindi lang director at producer.

"Kaya kami, kumbaga, alam namin yung dapat naming ilaban.

"Lahat kami, nakikiusap na 'Ma'am, please, baka pwedeng sabihin niyo po kina Boss na just give us more time, magre-rate kami, pabibilisin namin yung istorya.'

"May push and pull na nangyayari in between those meetings."

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In their third meeting, sometime in 1996, Judy Ann expected that Mara Clara would finally reach its end.

It was during the time when RPN-9 introduced the Mexican telenovela craze via MariMar, top-billed by Thalia.

MariMar aired at 6:30 p.m., and went head-to-head against the last 30 minutes of ABS-CBN's flagship newscast, TV Patrol.

MariMar became such a hit that it was able to gain more viewership than TV Patrol, which was then the highest-rated program in that timeslot.

In that same year, in March 1996, Judy Ann and Gladys already top-billed the movie Sana Naman. Produced by MAQ Productions, the movie became a blockbuster hit.

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Judy Ann says about this, "Noong third meeting namin, that was the time na lumabas na si MariMar and then may first movie na kami ni Gladys noon na Sana Naman.

"Noong third meeting namin, dumating si Ma'am Charo, naka-black. Hindi ko talaga makakalimutan yung time na yun!

"Takot na takot kami kasi parang, 'My God! Naka-black si Ma'am Charo. Ito na 'ata ito, kamatayan na ito ng Mara Clara,' kasi noong unang dalawang meeting namin, naka-puti siya, e, so yun yung biruan namin.

"'Tapos ibinalita niya sa amin na after Sana Naman na super blockbuster hit nung time na yun, ibinalita niya sa amin na since MariMar is airing at 6:30 sa Channel 9, ililipat kami ng timeslot, itatapat kami kay MariMar."

ABS-CBN then invested in more cameras and equipment to elevate the production quality of Mara Clara.

Judy Ann continues, "Doon na pumasok yung mga bagong equipment. Binigyan na kami ng dolly, binigyan na kami ng jaguar ba yung tawag doon? Basta may mga bago nang equipment yung Mara Clara after three years of airing.

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"So, dati, magte-taping kami, 52 sequences, four locations, eight a.m. call, six p.m. pack-up. Gano’n yung working habit namin—yung tumutuhog kami ng apat, anim na eksenang sabay-sabay, bihis kami sa set, it was a very good training for me and Gladys at that time."

On July 8, 1996, Mara Clara first aired in its prime-time timeslot.

Judy Ann recalls about this time, "Noong sinabi na sa amin na ililipat kami ng timeslot, itatapat kami kay MariMar, siyempre overwhelmed kami.

"Pero ito na yung napupuyat ka na kasi inaabot na ng hanggang two a.m. yung taping dahil nga kailangan may dolly shot, may crane shot. Kinareer at nginarag ang buong taping namin!”

JUDY ANN VS. GLADYS IN FIGHT SCENES

Mara Clara became known for its confrontation scenes between characters Mara and Clara.

Judy Ann and Gladys would engage in face-slapping and hair-strangling fight scenes that added spice to Mara Clara's story.

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Judy Ann narrated how they did their fight scenes back then.

She says, "Kapag meron kaming fight scene, kami na gumagawa ng fight scenes namin.

"Wala, basta sasabihin lang ni Direk Emil, 'Magsisimula kayo dito, dapat dito kayo magtapos, dapat may hinto lang kayo dito. Bahala ka na kung anong gusto mong gawin.'

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"At that time, hindi kami dumating sa punto na nagkatampuhan kami kasi masyado na kaming nasaktan sa fight scene.

"Yung simula pa lang, 'Oh, ngayon pa lang nagsosorry na ako, ha' kasi alam naming magkakasakitan kami.

"True enough, at the end of every fight scene, puro kami pasa, gasgas, maraming nalagas na mga buhok sa amin!

"Ano talaga siya, kalmot! Kasi wala kaming, kumbaga, 'One-two-three, o, sasampalin kita! Four-five-six...' Hindi siya daya kahit ngayon kapag nag-fight scene kami ni Gladys.

"Hindi kasi kami sanay nang ganun. Hindi kami sanay na may fight routine na ginagawa for us, kasi mas gusto nga namin yung natural na defenses mo ang lalabas kapag nakipag-away ka sa babae or sa lalaki."

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PEP.ph asks Judy Ann about the most challenging fight scene she did with Gladys for Mara Clara.

She answers, "Meron din doon, parang Sana Naman siya, sa labahan. Pero mas nauna yung Mara Clara kaysa sa Sana Naman, e, na fight scene.

"Yun yung parang four minutes 'ata yung bugbugan namin. Yung parang konti na lang, nagbulungan kami, 'Hindi pa ba ito matatapos? Haba-haba na nito. Kaya ko pa ba? May energy pa ba tayo?'

"Dumating sa point na pagkatapos noong eksena, nagbitawan na lang kami, 'tapos yung tingin namin na natawa na lang kami na 'Ay, natapos na!'

"Doon mo makikita kung gaano ka-professional and kung gaano ka-genuine yung friendship ninyo kasi, at the end of the day, kahit gaano kayo nagkasakitan, you still respect kung ano yung nangyari na, 'E, trabaho ito, e.'

"Nagtawanan kami. No hard feelings, wala siya yung 'Sinadya mo, e!' Walang ganon."

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Judy Ann and Gladys were both open in saying that in the beginning, they were not friends.

Judy Ann elaborates, "Isang trivia, pero nasabi na namin ito ni Gladys, early parts of Mara Clara, hindi kami bati.

"Hindi naman kami nagtatarayan, pero hindi kami close.

"Nag-a-ano kami, yung 'Hi!' 'Hello!' pero wala kaming small talk.

"Nasa taas siya sa bahay ng mayaman, doon siya sa kwarto. Ako, doon ako sa sala or sa den. Hindi talaga kami lumalabas."

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Judy Ann says that she hangs out more with her usual scene partners: Susan Africa (as her mother Susan), Eagle Riggs (as CG), and Minnie Aguilar (as Lagring).

"Ang kasama kong gumi-gimik noon, sila Nanay Susan, si Ninang CG, at si Ninang Lagring. Kaming apat yun kasi kami yung magkakasama palagi, wala kami palagi sa studio.

"Ang bahay nila Gladys, studio. Kami sa location, sa remote location. Nilipat na lang yung bahay nila Gladys sa totoong location noong third year."

ESPERANZA

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When Mara Clara ended on February 14, 1997, Judy Ann and Gladys would go separate ways.

Gladys transferred to GMA-7 and VIVA Artists Agency, while Judy Ann remained with ABS-CBN.

Judy Ann's follow-up TV show after Mara Clara was the drama series Esperanza, where she played the title role.

It was the first full-length drama produced by ABS-CBN.

Esperanza boasted a huge cast which included: Dante Rivero, Sylvia Sanchez, Joel Torre, Bembol Roco, Lito Legaspi, Teresa Loyzaga, Chat Silayan, Tommy Abuel, Elizabeth Oropesa, and Charo Santos-Concio.

It was Charo's acting comeback after focusing on her post as ABS-CBN TV Production Head.

PEP asks Juday: back then, did she already know that Esperanza will be her follow-up after Mara Clara?

She tells us, "Wala pa. Wala pa nga ba? Wala pa, pero may chismis na meron nang susunod na nakapilang teleserye, pero hindi pa nire-reveal na title role ako.

"Noong ni-reveal sa akin yun, parang ang una kong tanong, 'Bakit ako? Kaya ba? Talaga ba? Pwede ba yun?'

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"'Tapos noong nakita ko kung gaano kalaki yung supporting cast, sabi ko, 'Ah okay, malaki pong teleserye siguro ‘to kasi nandoon si Ma’am Charo, e.'

"Ang tagal nang hindi umaarte ni Ma’am Charo noong time na yun, so nape-pressure ako.

"'Paano kaya ito, matatawid ko ba? Ma-a-accept ba ng tao na hindi kasama ni Mara si Clara?'

"It's totally different, e, at saka mas matapang yung character na Esperanza, e. Api din siya pero lumalaban siya.

"Umpisa pa lang, first week pa lang, nakipag-away na siya, so ibang-iba talaga."

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Judy Ann recalls that during Esperanza, she was also busy doing other projects.

"Iyon din yung time na nagpatung-patong, dire-diretso na yung trabaho ko. I would come to the set na walang tulog kaya hindi ako nale-late sa set.

"That’s why kapag tinanong mo sila ngayon kung anong klase akong katrabaho before at sinabi nilang hindi ako nale-late, kasi hindi na ako umuuwi. From one set to the other talaga ako.

“Doon ako naliligo sa location, kaya minsan, mas nauuna ako sa kanila ng an hour para maliligo muna ako. Matutulog ako kapag tapos na maligo.

"'Tapos wala namang make-up si Esperanza, wala namang blower-blower doon, kaya nga buhaghag buhok ko noon, di ba? Gano'n lang."

The love team of Judy Ann and Wowie de Guzman, which had a jumpstart in Mara Clara, also went full blast in Esperanza.

Judy Ann adds, "Ayun yung simula pa lang, may love team na, in-introduce na yung Juday-Wowie love team.

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"Hindi ko rin naman in-expect na ganon magiging kalawak o gano'n kalaki magiging ang Esperanza to the point na magiging pelikula din siya like Mara Clara.

"So, siyempre, nandoon yung takot, nandoon yung kaba, but at the same time, in-enjoy ko yung proseso.

"In-enjoy ko yung nakikita ko, in-enjoy ko yung experience ko, para lang din hindi ko maisip na napakalaking burden nito, napakalaking test nito para sa akin kung saka-sakali, kasi hindi siya biro, e. Ito yung time na kailangan mong patunayan yung sarili mo."

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ESPERANZA VS. MULA SA PUSO IN TV RATINGS

It was also in Esperanza where Judy Ann first experienced the pressure of TV ratings.

She recalls, "Dati, sa akin, wala naman akong ano diyan sa mga ratings na 'yan, e, hanggang sa prinesenta na sa amin na ‘O, you have to hit this rating kasi si ganito, ganyan.’

“Hanggang sa pinaglalaban na yung mga business unit heads na lahat yon, under ABS-CBN."

Today, rival programs in ABS-CBN and GMA-7 compete for ratings supremacy in a timeslot.

However, during Judy Ann's time, her TV show was competing with a show within her own network.

At that specific airing period, it was pitted against Claudine Barretto's ABS-CBN drama series Mula sa Puso, which comes after Esperanza in the Kapamilya prime-time block.

The show, which premiered in March 1997, showcased the love team of Claudine and late actor Rico Yan. Both shows dominated the prime-time slots, along with ABS-CBN's TV Patrol.

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Judy Ann admits she was suprised with the stiff competition between programs in the same network.

She says, "Parang kami, naguluhan kami na, 'Ay, di ba, nasa iisang network tayo? Bakit tayo pinaglalaban ng ratings?'

"Pero it was a healthy competition at that time. It was Esperanza and Mula Sa Puso.

"Magkaiba ng timeslot pero yung ratings, kailangan nagpapataasan kayo. Yun yung part na hindi ko naiintindihan.

"Hindi ba dapat ang katapat ko, ratings na iniisip ko lang, yung katapat ko?"

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At that time, Esperanza went head-to-head with GMA-7's GoBingo, a game show hosted by Arnell Ignacio, while Mula sa Puso competed against Angelu de Leon and Bobby Andrews's Ikaw Na Sana.

Judy Ann continues, "For us, it was a healthy relationship. But it came to a point na parang may personalang nangyari.

"Pero hindi naman ito yung nagbangayan yung mga artista. Ano talaga siya, yung professional na nagpapataasan ng ratings.

"Kapag nagkikita, hindi nagpapansinan. 'Hi, taas ng ratings ko!' May mga gano'n!

“Sabi ko, 'Ano ba ito? Anong nangyayari? Iisa naman kami ng network, pero bakit kailangan mas mataas kami sa Mula Sa Puso? Or pagka naungusan kami ng Mula Sa Puso, masama yung loob namin? Di ba, hindi dapat ganon?'

"After everything naman, tinawanan na lang namin. Madaming artista ang Esperanza, ang dami ring artista ng Mula Sa Puso. Iba talaga yung naging rivalry namin.

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"Plus, tapatan pa yun ng Juday-Wowie, Rico-Claudine."

What made the love team rivalry more interesting was that Judy Ann and Rico were paired in the youth-oriented series Gimik, which was also airing during that time.

Just like Wowie, Rico was also part of Judy Ann's previous TV show, Mara Clara, and became the third wheel to the Juday-Wowie team-up.

Judy Ann and Rico also worked together in movies like Paano Ang Puso Ko? and Kay Tagal Kang Hinintay, and earned their own fan base.

This prompted a Mula sa Puso-Esperanza cross-over episode.

"Sabay siya kaya parang at some point, si Rico, tumawid from Mula Sa Puso to Esperanza.

"'Tapos ang ending ng Esperanza, opening ng Mula Sa Puso. Nasa taxi si Rico na pumapasok sa eksena.

"Yung ending ng Esperanza noong time na yun, bumaba ako sa taxi niya, for that episode."

Looking back at those memories today, Judy Ann says, "Masaya din, ha! Nakakaaliw kapag binabalikan mo yung ganoong rivalries na kapag iisipin mo, nakakaloka, nakakatawa naman ito!

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"At saka matatanda na kami ngayon, yung kapag pinag-uusapan namin, tawang-tawa talaga kami."

GIMIK

In the middle of doing Mara Clara, in 1996, Judy Ann led the cast of ABS-CBN's youth-oriented TV show, Gimik.

Judy Ann top-billed the show along with Rico Yan, Jolina Magdangal, Marvin Agustin, Andrea Blaesi, Mylene Dizon, G. Toengi, and Diether Ocampo.

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Back then, it was only Judy Ann and G who were not managed by ABS-CBN Talent Center (now Star Magic) nor part of any Star Circle batch.

Given this fact, how was Juday tapped to be part of the cast?

She answers, "Ewan ko din. Hindi ko rin alam.

"Ang naalala ko na lang noon, excited na excited ako kasi part ako ng isang youth-oriented program na hindi teleserye.

"Masaya lang, bagets! May barkada ka pero takot na takot ako noong pictorial namin kasi nga lahat sila Star Circle. Wala akong kilala.

"Si Rico lang yung kilala ko at saka si G. Kasi si G, ang manager niya at that time, si Tita Dolor Guevarra. So, silang dalawa lang yung kakilala ko."

Judy Ann admits that in the beginning, she did not know how to mingle with the other cast members of Gimik.

"Hindi ko alam kung paano ako makikisama, paano ako makikipag-usap, 'tapos kumpleto sila ng costumes nila.

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"Noong binigay sa akin yung latag ng costumes, hindi ko alam kung ano ba yung denim, ano ba yung faded!

"E, duster lang naman kasi ang costume ko! Bigla mo akong pagdadalhin ng mga pangporma. Wala talaga ako noon, tsong!

"Ang mga damit ko lang noon, dadating lang ako sa set, pantalon, white na T-shirt, shorts, or naka-pyjama ako.

"Kaya noong pagdating ko doon, may mga accessories, may mga make-up, 'Shocks, saan ako kukuha ng mga ganito, wala ako ng mga ito!' Wala namang magpo-provide sa 'yo ng wardrobe mo noong time na 'yon, e."

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It was also a challenge for Judy Ann, who was so associated with the impoverished character Mara, to take on her role as Diane in Gimik, the complete opposite of Mara.

"Kahit naman ako tinatanong ko, 'Bakit ako?'

"At saka parang yung ganda nila, parang feeling ko, wala akong lugar. Wala ako talagang confidence noong ginagawa ko yung Gimik.

"Hindi ko alam kung paano ko itatawid yung character ni Dianne na medyo nag-i-English.

"It's totally out of my comfort zone. Everything about Dianne in Gimik is not me kaya talagang hirap na hirap ako."

Juday says she eventually enjoyed being with her castmates and built long-lasting relationships with them, especially with Jolina and Mylene, two of her closest friends.

"Andun yung pinakamasayang experiences ko, yun yung time na talagang naramdaman ko na ito pala yung buhay ng teenager.

"Labas kayo, inom kayo, mapupuyat kayo nang magkakasama, 'tapos chikahan kayo. Masaya siya, talagang happing-happy ako na kinonsider ako ng ABS.

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"Happy akong pumupunta sa set, ang dami kong bitbit.

"Nagpapalitan kami ng mga accessories ni Jolina, palitan kami ng mga make-up."

LEAVING GIMIK AND GIMIK: THE REUNION

After a year, in 1997, Judy Ann had to leave Gimik.

According to reports back then, she had to focus on doing her main TV show, Esperanza.

When PEP.ph asks her about this, Judy Ann answers, "That and a lot more reasons.

"Dire-diretso na rin yung movies. Lagari talaga ako, at saka ayaw na rin ni Tito Alfie na magstay ako sa Gimik."

Tito Alfie is the late talent manager and publicist Alfie Lorenzo, who handled Judy Ann's career for the longest time.

Why was she pulled out by Alfie?

"Ewan ko. Ewan ko kung anong nakain noon! Basta may ganong moments si Tito Alfie na kapag ayaw na niya, ayaw na niya. E, ako naman, sumusunod lang ako."

This was also the reason why she only did a cameo role in Gimik's 1999 movie version, Gimik: The Reunion, instead of being part of the cast.

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She reveals, "Nasa planong part ako ng movie, hindi lang pumayag si Alfie na maging part ako ng pelikula. Wala, dumiva lang siya. Sorry Tito A, kailangan ko itong sabihin."

Judy Ann admits that she was saddened by what happened.

"Ang sama rin ng loob ko at that time kasi mahal ko yun, e. Mahal ko ang Gimik. Gusto kong nandoon ako.

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"Original cast ako, e. Ang sama ng loob ko na limang shooting days lang yung binigay ni Tito Alfie at that time.

"Ang dami niyang hininging demands na hiyang-hiya rin ako sa Star Cinema. Hiyang-hiya ako kila Direk Lauren kasi talagang pinahirapan sila ni Tito Alfie na hindi ko na maalala kung bakit."

Direk Lauren is Laurenti Dyogi, now ABS-CBN TV Production Head for Pinoy Big Brother.

Judy Ann continues, "Pero marami ring mga issues na nag-surface noong time na yun. Kaya feel ko, okay lang rin na lima lang yung shooting days ko.

"Kasi noong time na yun, nandoon na yung may issue kami ni Rico, so okay lang din.

"Kaya hindi na rin nilagay sa poster na nandon ako. Talagang ginawang surprise guest na lang siya. Cameo na lang talaga siya."

Judy Ann did not detail anymore her issues with Rico at that time, but they were once rumored to have a special relationship at the time of their team-up.

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Judy Ann admitted about the real score between them in a 2018 episode of Magandang Buhay. She said back then, "We will always say na we were more than friends, but we’re not lovers. Hindi kami umabot sa puntong yun."

KRYSTALA

Krystala, which was aired in 2004, is another one of Judy Ann's iconic TV shows.

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It was not only Judy Ann's first fantasy show, but it was also her first time portraying a superhero.

She recalls, "Naalala ko with Krystala, when it was offered to me, ang una kong tanong, 'At 26, magta-tights pa ba talaga ako? Parang huli akong nag-tights, That’s Entertainment pa, at saka sa bahay!' 'Hindi! Kaya mo yan!'

"Parang yun ang itatapat sa Darna. E, at that time, Darna is Darna already. Hindi pa ako pinapanganak may Darna na."

At that time, GMA-7 was set to air a TV adaptation of Darna, with Angel Locsin assuming the title role.

Krystala and Darna, however, would only go against each other in the prime-time arena for 18 days.

Krystala premiered on October 11, 2004 and ended on April 22, 2005.

Darna, on the other hand, aired from April 4, 2005 to November 25, 2005.

Judy Ann admits that back then, she felt immense pressure when ABS-CBN entrusted her to play a superhero.

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"Parang siyempre, nandoon yung pressure na 'Ano naman ang karapatan ko magpaka-superhero?'

"'Pero ano rin naman ang karapatan ko para kwestiyunin yung ino-offer sa akin ng ABS-CBN at that time kung nakikita nilang ako dapat ang gumanap?'

"Kung may nakikita silang something, ang dating sa akin noon, baka hindi ko lang siya tinitingnan. Baka pinipilit ko lang siyang hindi i-accept na kaya ko siyang itawid.

"Pero sa kanila, naniniwala silang maitatawid ko, so buong trust ang ibinigay ko sa ABS noon kasi parang mas alam nila ito kaysa sa akin.

“I work for them. Sila yung nakakakita at nakakaalam ng trabahong ito, ng negosyong ito, so anong karapatan kong kwestiyunin yon?"

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Eventually, Judy Ann enjoyed doing the sci-fi-themed series.

"I had fun. I had fun! Who doesn't want to be a superhero? Di ba, lahat gustong maging superhero?

"Lahat, at some point—naging Wonderwoman ka noong kabataan mo, naging Darna ka noong kabataan mo, may sarili kang superpowers na iniisip noong bata ka.

"In-enjoy ko siya, yung fight scenes, yung may imaginary superpowers ka during taping, naka-harness ka. Hindi ko siya inisip na napakahirap.

"Pero sa tunay na buhay, parang matatanggal na yung esophagus ko sa pagod. Yung 'Kaya ko pa ba?' Tumatakbo ako nang naka-heels. 'Tapos ang lalim ng costume ko!

"Kasi dalawa lang ang choice doon, e, either mag-tanga ako o mag lalim ako ng neckline.

"Malaki ang pata ko pag nag-tanga ako. Baka sabihin nila, weapon 'yan!

"'Yung malalim na lang pong dibdib, kasi kahit hanggang pusod pa 'yan, walang makikita.'

"So, doon na lang tayo sa laliman na lang natin yung dibdib."

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KRYSTALA'S FINAL EPISODE BLUNDER

It is no secret that Krystala did not gain a huge following during its run.

Though the show would perform well in some of its episodes, its ratings wasn't enough to nudge its competitor, GMA-7's Mulawin, starring Richard Gutierrez and Angel Locsin.

Still, Judy Ann enjoyed the process of doing Krystala. "Na-enjoy ko siya. Kumbaga, looking back, never ako nagkaroon ng point na na-badtrip ako maliban doon sa finale episode namin."

Aside from the problems in special effects, Judy Ann had an encounter with Krystala's executive producer (E.P.) during the finale.

"Oo, may sumabit sa editing, 'tapos ang tanging request ko lang sa E.P. ko at that time, dapat si Krystala, dahil magre-revenge na siya, dark na yung costume niya, di ba? Yung fierce na siya, fierce na Krystala na animé, ganun.

"Naghahanap ako ng pwedeng magpagawa. Sabi noong E.P. ko, may gumagawa na daw.

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“It turned out, noong mismong taping day, sinabi niyang hindi natapos. Yun pala, hinarang lang niya dahil walang budget.

“Sabi ko, 'Sana, sinabi mong walang budget para ako na lang nagpagawa.'

"Kasi parang gusto kong magkaroon ng magandang ending at magandang image si Krystala."

Despite these hurdles, Judy Ann treasures the memories she had in Krystala.

She recalls with a smile, "Ang pinakamasaya doon kasi nagkaroon ng little Krystala. Si Yohan, meron pa siyang little Krystala costume noong time na yon."

Yohan is Juday's now all-grown-up adopted daughter, big sister to Lucho and Luna.

Judy Ann adds, "Kami yung pinapadala ng ABS sa mga fiesta, sa mga Sinulog, naka-costume kami.

"May dala akong Sto. Niño sa Iloilo, sa parada noon. Ako ang may dala ng Sto. Nino, naka-Krystala costume ako.

"Tinanggal ko yung hiya ko. Wala akong hiya, paninindigan kong ako si Krystala! Masaya naman yung part na yun."

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MEETING RYAN AGONCILLO

It was also during Krystala when good things happened in terms of Judy Ann's personal life.

First, Yohan came into her life.

Second, it was on the set of Krystala where she met her future husband, Ryan Agoncillo, who played her love interest in the story.

She says, "Of course, I met Ryan. I had a baby, and parang doon ako nabuo, doon ako binuo.

"Kumbaga, yun yung first part ng buhay ko, yung first stage ng buhay ko na I’m actually planning on what to do: will I get married or do I just want to have a baby?

"Ang focus ko lang noon was me and Yohan because it was just the two of us at that time."

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Recalling those Krystala days with Ryan, Judy Ann says, "Nagde-date-date na kami, naglalabas labas na kami.

"Pero it was a mutual decision na after Krystala, hindi muna kami magtatrabaho together, just to be sure na the love wasn't just born out of seeing each other almost every day.

“He has to go his way, I had to go my way, but we were still okay. We were still together.

"Parang tinest din namin kung hanggang saan kaya ng relationship yung trabaho ng bawat isa."

The couple did separate projects after Krystala.

Judy Ann reunited with former love-team partner Piolo Pascual in Sa Piling Mo, while Ryan was part of ABS-CBN's adaptation of Bituing Walang Ningning. Both shows aired in 2006.

YSABELLA

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After working with Piolo in Sa Piling Mo, Judy Ann's next TV show was a reunion with Ryan, via the 2007 prime-time series, Ysabella.

Judy Ann played the title role of an aspiring cook who was seeking justice for her mother's death.

Aside from Ryan, Derek Ramsay played one of Judy Ann's leading men.

In the show's first few weeks, Judy Ann and Derek displayed chemistry in their scenes, and in the end, their characters were paired together.

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PEP.ph then asked Judy Ann if she and Ryan already knew that they wouldn’t end up together in Ysabella.

She answered, "Oo, yun talaga ang storyline noon.

"In fairness naman, parang noong prinesent naman kay Ryan, sinabi sa kanya na 'Since you're a real-life couple, baliin natin yung ending for the first time.'

"Dahil nag-click naman yung Derek-Juday tandem at that time, and everybody knows naman na I'm with Ryan already, para na lang din hindi expected yung ending. Okay naman sa kanya.

"So, parang kahit kami, nagugulat din sa twists nung istorya, sa plot nung story."

Talking about this first cooking-themed teleserye, Judy Ann says, "Na-enjoy namin yung part na yun. It's close to my heart simply because it's about culinary. It's about cooking.

“Doon ko naramdaman na tinatanong na ako ni Direk Rory kung, 'Tama ba ito, tama ba yung hawak ng kutsilyo?' na parang feeling ko, medyo mas involved ako dito sa proseso ng Ysabella."

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Rory Quintos is the director of Ysabella and Judy Ann's previous drama shows Krystala and Esperanza.

Juday, who studied culinary arts at Chef Gene Gonzalez's school Center for Asian Culinary Studies, is also known for being a foodie. She now has her own online cooking series called Judy Ann's Kitchen, a title taken from her recipe book of the same name.

HABANG MAY BUHAY

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"Yun na ata yung pinakamatagal kong teleserye na ginawa to date!" Judy Ann says about her TV show Habang May Buhay, which was dubbed as the first (and so far the only) "Nurserye" in the Philippines.

Inspired by medical-themed shows such as ER and Grey's Anatomy, Judy Ann's character in the series was a nurse, hence the "Nurserye" tag.

She elaborates about Habang May Buhay, "Kasi ginagawa ko yun, hindi pa nagpo-propose si Ry, hanggang sa nakapag-propose na si Ry, kinasal na kami, nabuntis na ako, at saka lang siya natapos. So, it's a long process talaga."

Habang May Buhay, originally titled Humingi Ako Sa Langit, was intended to be Judy Ann and Derek's follow-up series after the success of their Ysabella team-up.

Taping for Habang May Buhay started in 2008, but it was only in February 2010 when the show finally aired on television, as part of ABS-CBN's "60 Years of Pinoy Soap Opera" campaign.

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It was also during that campaign when ABS-CBN gave Judy Ann the title "Queen of Pinoy Soap Opera."

Judy Ann says she understood why Habang May Buhay took so long to be shot and aired.

"At that time, naintindihan ko naman ang management noon kung bakit ganon kami tumagal kasi masyado siyang technical, kasi nurse.

"E, ang daming nating nurses, e, abroad, dito. We have the best doctors; we have the best nurses na talagang kinukuha pa abroad.

"So they're very, very careful with the details, with the close-ups, with how you handle everything.

"Yung training namin, pagkuha ng dugo, pagkuha ng BP, pag-CPR. Mahaba yung workshop na ginawa namin.

"Doon ako talagang driven, e. Yung halimbawa, may teleseryeng ipapagawa sa akin 'tapos ito yung certain character na gusto nilang ipagawa, 'tapos may training involved, na-e-excite ako!

"Ibig sabihin nun, gusto talaga nilang on-point yung character na ipapagawa nila sa 'yo and I like that.

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"Gusto kong meron akong bagong natututunan, that’s one. Two, yung workshop mo naman, hindi lang naman 'yan magse-stay habang nandoon ka sa teleserye, dala mo na 'yan hanggang pagtanda mo.

"At some point, may nakuha ka rin namang learnings or knowledge from your training.

“Ako, playing a nurse, ang dami ko ring natutunan. Basic basic lang naman, pero feeling ko, tumalino naman ako ng mga one percent, yung may alam ako ng very, very light."

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REUNION WITH GLADYS

Habang May Buhay was Judy Ann's first time to work with the late director Wenn Deramas.

Direk Wenn was closely associated with Claudine in the '90s to the early 2000s, after directing her shows like Mula Sa Puso, Saan Ka Man Naroroon, Sa Dulo ng Walang Hanggan, and Marina.

Habang May Buhay also served as Judy Ann's reunion with Gladys Reyes, 13 years after the last episode of Mara Clara.

Just like in Mara Clara and Sana Naman, Judy Ann also had fight scenes with Gladys in Habang May Buhay.

She recalls in jest, "Yung fight scene namin ni Gladys doon, kung sana lang may clip noong fight scene ng Mara Clara, ng Sana Naman, tapos yung fight scene ng Habang May Buhay, hanggang makuhanan yung after ng fight scene ng Habang May Buhay, pagod na pagod kami ni Gladys, yung 'Ang tanda na natin!'

"'Tapos natatawa talaga kami na, 'Bakit pa ba natin ito ginagawa?'

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"Pero na-e-enjoy namin yung proseso, yung sitwasyon, kasi happy lang siya, e."

Actually, Direk Wenn and Gladys were not part of Habang May Buhay's original cast.

The story shown in the first trailer of Habang May Buhay, which was still carrying the Humingi Ako Sa Langit title, was entirely different from the one aired on television, except for very few elements.

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Even the scenes that were shot in the United States were no longer aired.

Judy Ann says about this, "Yun na ata ang pinakamagulong teleseryeng nagawa ko!

"Kasi nga pabagu-bago ng plot, biglang iba na naman yung staff. Naka-apat na director 'ata ako doon 'tapos ilang writers din yung nagdaan.

"Parang at some point, nawala na rin ako sa character ko.

"But still, I still respected the management's flow kasi wala na akong hawak doon, e. 'Okay sige, kung 'yan ang ano niyo, okay lang.'"

On February 1, 2010, Habang May Buhay finally aired on television and lasted for 15 weeks on the network's prime-time slot.

The show was not extended because Judy Ann and Gladys both got pregnant while doing the series.

HUWAG KA LANG MAWAWALA

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Habang May Buhay, despite all the hurdles it faced during production, was not the TV show that ultimately tested Judy Ann's career.

Rather, the Kapamilya actress says, "In terms of halimbawa, desisyon ng management... Ako siguro, ang pinakamasasabi kong… hindi naman malala pero it was a test of ano sa akin, e, patience and character, yung ano lang, Huwag Ka Lang Mawawala."

In that Judy Ann TV show, she worked with Sam Milby, KC Concepcion, Coney Reyes, and Tirso Cruz III.

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Judy Ann played the role of Anessa, a woman driven to claim what is rightfully hers after her husband (Sam) betrayed and abused her.

It was Judy Ann's comeback teleserye after three years.

Huwag Ka Lang Mawawala aired its pilot episode on June 17, 2013, on the network's second prime-time slot and replaced Kim Chiu and Maja Salvador's series, Ina Kapatid Anak.

Problems came up while doing Huwag Ka Lang Mawawala, especially in its performance in the ratings game.

Judy Ann explains, "Kasi yun yung kung napansin nila, biglaang naputol.

"Simply because from second timeslot, nilipat kami ng third timeslot, na totally fine kasi hindi naman pambata yung storyline ng Huwag Ka Lang Mawawala, di ba?

"So, from second na 8:30, tapos nilipat na kami ng 9:30, okay pa rin. Pero siyempre, parang medyo sumasama na yung loob ko."

On July 8, 2013, Huwag Ka Lang Mawawala moved to the third slot to give way to a new drama series titled Muling Buksan Ang Puso, starring Julia Montes, Enrique Gil, and Enchong Dee. The new series took over the second slot.

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However, the original plan was that aside from Muling Buksan Ang Puso, the Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla's series, Got To Believe, was also supposed to air on that date.

It almost caused Huwag Ka Lang Mawawala to slide down the fourth slot at 10:00 p.m.

But then, Got To Believe did not air on July 8. Instead, the Korean drama That Winter The Wind Blows aired on ABS-CBN's fourth slot.

Judy Ann explains her disappointment about these changes.

"Kasi parang hindi naman ito yung napag-usapan, pero nirerespeto ko na things change and you can't really do anything about it.

"Parang sabi ko, 'Ah, ganong oras, may gising pa naman niyan for sure.'

"Hanggang sa ililipat na ako sa alas-diyes, doon na yung parang ang dating sa akin, 'Bakit hindi niyo na lang tapusin?'

"Kasi sino pang manonood ng… hinihingan niyo ako ng ratings, anong ratings ang maibibigay ko sa alas-diyes ng gabi? Yun naman yung pinanggagalingan ko.

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"Parang hindi ako makakapagdeliver ng ganyang ratings kung nasa ganitong timeslot na tayo and how can I actually explain this to the viewers?

"Kasi ang viewers naman, kapag sinabi o kapag nakita nilang nilipat ng timeslot, ibig sabihin 'Ay, hindi kasi nagre-rate!'

"Hindi naman nila maiintindihan na, 'Ay, kasi may age for this timeslot, for this timeslot, for this timeslot.' Merong ganon na hindi naman alam ng viewers.

"Pwede mo bang i-flash yun sa ilalim ng screen? 'Kasi hindi pwedeng pambata, ganito ganyan, stick lang kayo sa timeslot.'

"'Tapos ang abrupt noong changes na parang ang dating sa akin, ang sabi niyo, comeback teleserye siya, pero parang hindi ko naman naramdaman na it actually mattered."

As a result, Judy Ann asked the management the possibility of delaying Got To Believe's run, and allowing Huwag Ka Lang Mawawala to end early, instead of placing it in the last prime-time slot.

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Huwag Ka Lang Mawawala eventually aired its final episode on August 23, 2013, after 10 weeks of airing.

COMING UP WITH THE DECISION

Today, six years after Huwag Ka Lang Mawawala, Judy Ann admits, "I realized na I should have just allowed them to finish it sa time na gusto nila, yung tinapos ko na lang siya.

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"Kasi maraming nawalan ng trabaho, maraming sumama rin naman ang loob sa akin, na parang I was so selfish at that time na ang inisip ko lang yung nararamdaman ko."

Judy Ann says that it was the first time she made a decision like this for all the shows she did.

"I said sorry to the cast that I had to come up with this decision. It was actually my first time sa buong buhay ko na magdecide na tapusin na yung teleserye.

"I-cut short na because it was also my first teleserye under Dreamscape."

Dreamscape Entertainment, helmed by Roldeo Endrinal, was the producer of Huwag Ka Lang Mawawala.

In the past, Judy Ann's shows were produced by Star Creatives's TV Unit, formerly helmed by Malou Santos.

Des Tanwangco-de Guzman, production manager of Judy Ann's other TV shows, is now the business unit head of Star Creatives.

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Judy Ann continues, "I wanted to prove so many things, but how can I do that if pabagu-bago ng timeslot?

"At saka parang nawawalan na ako ng gana. Hindi na ako nagde-deliver ng tama.

"Parang it's unfair not just for me, but for everybody else who is working tirelessly nang walang question, pero ako half-hearted.

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"Parang I just felt that I wasn’t being fair anymore. Parang hindi tama na ganon yung naging trato ko sa trabaho, 'tapos sila, buong puso nilang binibigay. Unfair para sa kanila na hindi kami patas ng ibinibigay na passion doon sa project.

"That's why I had to decide and I had to come up with something.

"Noong nangyari yun sa Huwag Ka Lang Mawawala, naglabas ako ng cookbook para lang ma-divert yung attention ko kasi ang sama ng loob ko.

"Ganun kasi ako, kapag sumama ang loob ko, kailangan kong i-divert yung attention ko to something na productive.

"Ayokong ilugmok yung sarili ko sa isang posisyon na nandiyan na 'yan, wala na naman akong magagawa kahit ngumalngal ako nang ngumalngal diyan, they're the higher ups, e.

"I mean, they're the management. I work for them basically. Wala akong karapatang kwestiyunin ang desisyon nila."

This was also the reason why she came up with Judy Ann's Kitchen, her online cooking show that streams on YouTube every week.

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"Kaya ko ginawa yung Judy Ann’s Kitchen, gusto kong makuha yung feeling na ako ang magpo-produce, yung ako lang ang magdi-dictate ng gusto ko.

“Wala naman akong gustong patunayan sa iba, yung sa sarili ko lang na kaya kong mag-decide sa produktong gusto kong gawin at itatawid ko ito with flying colors and gusto kong maging happy. Gusto kong i-turn yung attention ko sa talagang passion ko.

"It was just in Huwag Ka Lang Mawawala na nagkaroon ako ng impakta mode na parang feeling ko, masyado niyo namang pinaramdam sa akin na parang nawala ako nang matagal.

"Parang at that point, feeling ko, wala akong value, kaya parang kaysa dumating pa ako sa puntong sumadsad ako ng pagkaself-pity at hindi ko na talaga magawa yung trabaho ko, baka makadamay pa ko ng trabaho ng ibang tao, sige na lang, itotodo ko na yung kasamaan ng ugali dito.

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"Pakita ko na lang na pwede din naman ako mag-maldita at some point. Akuin ko na ito. Akin na lang ito.

"Ayoko nang makadamay ng ibang tao na nakaka-bad vibes pa ako everytime na dumarating ako sa set. Ayokong magkaroon pa ng kwento sa akin na dumi-diva ako sa set kasi wala na akong ganang pumasok.

"Huwag na nating patagalin yung kasamaan ng ugali, tapusin na lang natin ito kasi hindi na siya healthy para sa lahat."

STARLA

Today, Judy Ann looks forward to the airing of her next TV show, the upcoming Kapamilya prime-time series, Starla.

Through this show produced by Dreamscape Entertainment, Judy Ann says that people will see a different side of her in this kiddie-themed drama.

Judy Ann has yet to divulge more details, except that her character is more of a bida-kontrabida type.

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She says, "Happy ako kasi para may iba namang makita yung tao. Expectorant [expected] na yung umpisa pa lang, mahirap ka na, inaapi ka."

Playing a rich kontrabida, Judy Ann quips, "Magastos itong show na ito, ha! Magastos sa costume, magastos sa mga paandar, pero fashionista ka!

"On that note, parang ito na ata yung huli kong teleseryeng dapat mayaman ako!

"Balik na lang ako ulit sa api-apihan at mahirap para duster-duster lang. Walang make-up, walang hair para kalma lang!

"Pero for a change, ngayon lang ako umaabala sa look.

"Mahirap pala maging maldita. Masakit siya sa leeg!"

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Starla is a fantasy show whose main target market is children.

This is the reason why Judy Ann looks forward to watching the show with her kids Yohan, Lucho, and Luna.

"Fantasy siya, pambata, so, excited ako na mapanood din siya ng mga anak ko.

"Yun nga lang, maninibago sila because mommy is not a good person doon sa simula!"

In the next part of Anatomy of a Teleserye 3, Judy Ann Santos opens up about the changes she observed in doing teleseryes and her relationship with her mother network for 27 years, ABS-CBN.

Click here to read the other installments of PEP.ph ANATOMY Series:

ANATOMY OF A PINOY TELESERYE 2

PART 1: ANATOMY OF A PINOY TELESERYE: From the point of view of GMA-7 actresses

PART 2: ANATOMY OF A PINOY TELESERYE: GMA-7 actresses open up about dealing with TV ratings

PART 3: ANATOMY OF A PINOY TELESERYE: Sunshine, Angelu talk about loyalty; Angelika dela Cruz comments on shelved projects

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ANATOMY OF A PINOY TELESERYE 1

PART 1: ANATOMY OF A PINOY TELESERYE: How do ABS-CBN and GMA-7 produce their teleseryes?

PART 2: ANATOMY OF A PINOY TELESERYE: The Making of GMA-7's Encantadia, Ika-6 Na Utos

PART 3: ANATOMY OF A PINOY TELESERYE: The Making of La Luna Sangre, Wildflower

ANATOMY OF A VARIETY SHOW

ANATOMY OF A VARIETY SHOW: GMA-7's Studio 7

Special Thanks to Rommel Gonzales and Mary Jane Buencamino

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Ever wondered what went on behind-the-scenes of Judy Ann Santos's TV shows? In this PEP.ph special report, Judy Ann tells interesting stories behind some of her unforgettable ABS-CBN teleseryes.
PHOTO/S: ABS-CBN (Judy Ann's photos)
ILLUSTRATION: Jeremiah Idanan
  • This article was created by . Edits have been made by the PEP.ph editors.
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