Kapuso actress LJ Reyes, lead kontrabida of Yagit has had, in her words, a balanced year.
She shares that 2014 has been, "masaya, very interesting. Nagkaroon ako ng time to travel with yung mga kapatid ko sa dad ko, nag Holy Week kami sa Vietnam, navisit ko yung mom and sister ko sa New York and then yung trabaho, tuloy-tuloy. Masarap kasi balanced yung year na eto."
She enjoys getting to portray Flora in Yagit because, "yung mga hirit at lines ni Flora, nakakatawa talaga. Natutuwa ako kasi pinaglalaruan namin ni Direk Gina [Alajar] yung character and very thankful nga ako kay Direk Gina na binigyan niya ako ng freedom to play with the character, tapos tinutulungan niya ako. Madalas kasi ako mabigyan ng kontrabida. Eto, iba. Kailangan kong baguhin gestures ko, boses ko."
Has it helped that Yagit stars Chlaui Malayao as Elisa, Zymic Jaranilla as Ding, Judie dela Cruz as Jocelyn, and Jemwell Ventinilla as Tom-tom are all first-time actors?
LJ shares her thoughts, "I think the production, tinuturuan din sila, dine-discipline sila, pinagsasabihan sila, that's very nice tungkol sa production na eto, di nila bine-baby, di pinapalaki yung ulo, kung ano sila nung nag-start kami, hanggang ngayon, ganoon pa rin."
Of her four young co-actors around whom the storyline of Yagit revolves, LJ comments, "nakakatuwa naman kasi ang mga batang yan. In fairness to them, talagang perfect yung pagkapili ni Direk Gina sa kanila...yung characters kasi, unang pagkakita namin sa kanila, sabi ko, saktong Josie, saktong Tom-Tom, Elisa, Ding, perfect sila for their role. Di na kailangan umarte, pero mabilis sila bigyan ng instructions, napakasipag!"
She reveals the only time the kids are out of character, "pag pagod na sila, nakaganyan na lang sila. Pero di sila sinusumpong, walang tantrums."
Along with her fellow adult actors, regardless of their roles onscreen, LJ says they all help and support the kids, "kapag may mga scene na sunod-sunod umiiyak sila, siyempre, sinusuportahan namin sila."
Has it helped LJ to be more maternal to the Yagit kids now that she is a mother to Aki, a growing boy of four?
"I think so, pero mahilig talaga ako sa kids ever since. Di naman problema sa akin ang kids. Yung motherhood kasi, ine-extend niya yung patience mo, as in bongga-bonggang extension!"
Does she allow son Aki to watch Yagit? She reveals an interesting anecdote, "may isang time, napanood niya, sumakto pinapagalitan ko si Chlaui...sinabihan ko kasi yung mga tao sa bahay, huwag niyo ipapanood sa kanya yung Yagit kasi ang sama ng ugali ko dito...sabi niya, 'bakit mo pinapagalitan si Chlaui?'
"Nameet na kasi niya yung mga kids, so Chlaui tawag niya. [Tanong ni Aki], 'anong ginawa niya?'"
She had to of course explain that it was just her role but that like in real life, when Aki does something wrong, he gets disciplined, same like with Chlaui in that scene.
"I would love to do projects that Aki can watch, but then I'm still young, I'm just 26."
Unlike other mommy actors who with their breadth of experience and financial success can afford to say no to projects, LJ says, "ako as an actor, ang dami ko pang gustong i-explore--trying out--ayoko naman i-limit ang sarili ko to just doing these kinds of projects na wholesome, kasi 26 lang ako. As an actor, kailangan mong mag-explore. Para ma-hone mo yung craft mo, yung makagawa ka ng iba-iba."
"Pwede mo naman i-explain sa bata at pwede mo rin i-filter yung papanoorin niya."
ON RAISING HER SON WITH PAULO AVELINO. LJ takes a very modern but informed approach to child-rearing, even in a showbiz world, "ako naniniwala ako na when you raise your kids, hindi dapat sila parang bino-block sa reality. As much as possible, be open to them, explain. Para yung comprehension din nila ma-enhance. Hindi mo kailangan, nasanay tayo sa olden times, na pag ang bata nagtanong, huwag kang magtanong."
She shares how she learned to discipline Aki from various sources like psychology books and articles, "mayroon kaming warning 1, 2, 3 ni Aki kapag nagmi-misbehave siya. Hanger [palo], kapag may ginawa siya na hindi talaga maganda. You never use your hand, kasi the hand is for touching, loving, caressing, ganoon. Nakakatuwa kasi may iba rin akong mom friends, nag-she-share kami ng mga nababasa namin, yung mga ate ko, mommy, ganoon."
Over the past two holiday seasons, Aki has been able to spend time with both his mom and his dad, Paulo Avelino.
LJ shares how very open her son is with her, "okay naman siya and nagsasabi naman siya if he wants to see his dad, hinahanap siya."
The Kapuso actress describes how open the line of communication is between her and Kapamilya star Paulo, "kapag may free time, susunduin niya si Aki, minsan nag-oovernight na si Aki sa kanya, close sila, ever since naman. Kahit si Pau, minsan siya mag-tetext sa akin na wala siyang work, baka daw pwedeng sunduin si Aki, ganoon."
Unlike other couples who have separated and share custody of children under strict schedules, theirs is a very fluid, dynamic kind of sharing, "Oo, anytime, walang bilangan kasi sabi ko sa kanya, pag-uusapan lang naman yun, madali naman pag-usapan."
Now that Aki is older and more aware of the situation between his mom and dad, does he pressure LJ into looking for another partner?
LJ relates, "wala naman ganoon, pero nakakatawa siya, pinost ko eto sa Instagram before. Nag coinbearer siya sa friend ko na kinasal, sabi niya, on the way to the wedding, mommy, punta tayo ng wedding? Wedding mo? Sabi ko, ay anak, hindi, walang groom! Sabi niya, ako na lang groom mo. Ang cute.
"Alam ko di niya nage-gets, pero ang cute ng pagkasabi niya."
LJ says it is open and honest communication between her and her son that has allowed Aki to be well-adjusted to their set-up because "ever since naman nung nag-separate kami ni Pau, in-explain ko sa kanya na what it means. Sabi ko, even though we don't live together anymore, we still love him the same. We're still family."
She adds, "feeling ko, hindi siya naghahanap ng parang father figure or another family kasi feeling ko, nararamdaman niya na love siya."
ON BEING LINKED TO JC DE VERA. LJ also clarifies write-ups linking her to JC de Vera, another Kapamilya actor who was previously with GMA-7.
She says they have gone out, "minsan with friends, oo, nakita kami, so di ko pwedeng i-deny yun, may instances lang na puro friends, tapos may friends na may kids, ganoon lang, very casual."
She says about JC, "ngayon friends kami."
LJ then adds: "Hindi pa talaga ako ready na pumasok into any relationship kasi sobrang busy ko talaga as in. Grabe. Nagulat din ako sa schedule ko."
LJ THE STUDENT. She is working on a part in an upcoming CCP Filipino adaptation of Dangerous Liasons while targeting to finish her thesis and degree of BA Economics from De La Salle University aside from finishing her lead role work on an indie film directed by Jun Lana titled Anino sa Likod ng Buwan.
She shares how she has managed to stay enrolled, "LOA lang, kapag tight ang schedule, ang pinakamatagal na stop ko is when I had Aki, very slowly ko tina-take yung subjects, e, four subjects per term, kaya natatagalan ako."
Once she graduates from DLSU, she intends to rest for a bit before proceeding with a Masters degree.
Why does she believe in finishing her education even at 26 years old, an age when stars like her don't think of studying anymore?
"I just wanna put up businesses. Ang pinaka-gusto ko talaga is pastry shop. Pero in the future pa yan kasi gusto ko pa rin mag-aral ng culinary, ang dami kong gusto kong gawin." Right now she already has a spa business.
The LJ Reyes we met during the recent set visit of Yagit is a different LJ from years gone by.
Is she ready to settle down? She laughs loudly before answering, "dati, nung bata ako, feeling ko kapag 25 matanda na. Nung dumating na ako ng 25, in denial na ako, bata pa ako! It's better to build on your future muna, tapos kapag stable ka na talaga, saka na. Mahirap naman yung pasok lang ng pasok."