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Team behind Maria Clara at Ibarra reveals who stands out best among impressive cast

by Bong Godinez
Jan 23, 2023
Maria Clara at Ibarra stars Dennis Trillo, Julie Anne San Jose, Barbie Imperial, Juancho Trivino, and Andrea Torres
Who among the cast of Maria Clara at Ibarra left a lasting impression on the creative team behind the hit Kapuso prime-time series? Seen in the photos (clockwise): Dennis Trillo's transformation as Simon, Julie Anne San Jose as Maria Clara, Barbie Forteza as Klay, David Licauco as Fidel, Dennis and Julie Anne's kissing scene, Juancho Trivino as Padre Salvi, Andrea Torres as Sisa, and Barbie and David's kilig scene,
PHOTO/S: Maria Clara at Ibarra

Maria Clara at Ibarra will transition from Noli Me Tangere to El Filibusterismo, a new chapter of the hit series starting on Monday, January 23, 2023.

First published in 1891 in Ghent, Belgium, and written by Filipino hero Jose Rizal, El Filibusterismo picks up from where Noli Me Tangere leaves off.

Crisostomo Ibarra returns to the Philippines 13 years after fleeing to escape persecution by Spanish authorities.

This time, Crisostomo goes by the name of Simoun — a mysterious, demoniacal jeweler from Cuba out to provoke a mass uprising to liberate the Philippines from colonial rule.

El Filibusterismo has a darker tone centering on revenge and revolution, a drastic departure from the romantic and hopeful elements present in Noli Me Tangere.

For ardent viewers, the passage to the world of El Filibusterismo means saying goodbye to some of the characters they’ve come to love and hate since the show’s debut on October 3, 2022.


This kind of affinity is a tribute to the dedication of the actors in breathing life convincingly into their respective roles

In November of last year, (Philippine Entertainment Portal) spoke to the team behind Maria Clara at Ibarra to learn more about the historical fantasy series.

The interview was for PEP’s Anatomy of a History Serye feature.

READ: "Noli yarn?" How GMA-7's hit teleserye Maria Clara at Ibarra came about

READ: Maria Clara at Ibarra's X factor: great storytelling, stellar cast, big-budget production

During the conversation, everyone agreed that all the cast members—from the minor to major characters — performed superbly, which contributed greatly to the show’s success.

But even so, the team also shared their thoughts on who among the actors in the series in their opinion emerged to be a revelation.

Juancho Triviño’s shift from bida to villain

Actor Juancho Triviño has earned both the ire and admiration of viewers for his portrayal of the cunning Padre Salvi who orchestrated the downfall of the telenobela's protagonist Crisostomo Ibarra.


Juancho relished taking on the role of a villain for Maria Clara at Ibarra, according to head writer J-mee Katanyag who witnessed the actor's transformation each time he immersed himself into the character of the hated priest.

Smiled J-mee, “Talagang in-embrace niya kaya kitang-kita mo na tumatagos sa eksena niya na talagang ano ito, it’s a craft—yung character, the role, the icon.

"He embraced even the hair, and the look, the eye bags. Wala siyang pakialam kung guwapo siya o hindi basta ma-deliver niya yung role niya at yung purpose niya dun sa kuwento

“So nagustuhan ko rin yung shift ng mindset ni Juancho in taking up this role and yun tumatagos sa work niya na napapanood natin ngayon.”

Director Zig Dulay likewise gave props to Juancho’s compelling depiction of the sickly but despicable parish priest of San Diego.

Zig raved, “Sa totoong buhay iba siya doon sa dini-describe nung libro pero na-embody niya yung character.


“Naniniwala ka sa kanya, nagagalit ka sa kanya, nakakapagpalabas siya ng emosyon na dapat maramdaman ng audience.

“That way ang effective, na parang ‘Ay, ang galing niya ha, in fairness,’ ganun.”

Juancho Trivino


The production team only had one name in mind for the lead role of Crisostomo Ibarra: Dennis Trillo.


Said head writer Suzette Doctolero, “Hindi na ko nagugulat kay Dennis dahil pang ilang beses ko na nakatrabaho siya and every time siya yung ika-cast na artista na male lead, alam ko kung anong kayang ibigay ni Dennis.

“Laging isang malaking blessing every time I work with him.”

Dennis Trillo as Ibarra


One particular cast member though caught the eye and admiration of Suzette: Julie Anne San Jose.

“Pero isang revelation sa akin sa Maria Clara at Ibarra is si Julie as Maria Clara.

“Ang gusto ko kay Julie ay kung paano naipakita niya si Maria Clara bilang babae nung sinaunang panahon na relihiyosa.

"At the same time, nandudoon yung pagiging de klase, yung mayaman na babae na nakapag-aral sa kumbento noong sinaunag panahon, naibigay ni Julie yung ganun sa kanya.

“Maliit siya na ano [bagay] pero kitang-kita ko talaga ang difference.”

Julie Anne San Jose as Maria Clara


Since the interview, Julie Anne as Maria Clara has wowed viewers with her exceptional performance as the plot thickened.

Julie Anne, much to her credit, has imbibed Maria Clara’s demure personality as depicted in the novel while lending the character fortitude and steely resolve.

Through Julie Anne, viewers gain a new perspective on Maria Clara, a far cry from the ultra-conservative and timid character implied by Rizal.

"Tahimik siya [Maria Clara] pero powerful siya. Hindi siya nagsasalita pero puro paloob," said Zig about Julie Anne's portrayal of Maria Clara.

"Nakikita mo sa mga mata niya, doon sa mga detalye, doon sa mga nuances niya."

Moreover, Julie Anne's memorable performances in the series have proved her mettle as a serious actress toe-to-toe with her more seasoned co-stars like Tirso Cruz III, Juan Rodrigo, Ces Quesada, and Dennis Trillo.

Tirso Cruz III as Padre Damaso


Who would forget Maria Clara’s intense confrontation with her biological father Padre Damaso, her heartbreaking goodbye sealed with a kiss to her embattled fiancé Crisostomo Ibarra, and her agonizing screams while calling out Crisostomo’s name with the assumption of his death?

Said Suzette, “Si Julie nakasama ko na iyan sa Masterclass, nakasama ko na rin sa ibang shows so alam ko yung difference ng character ni Julie tsaka yung character ni Maria [Clara] at ang layo, extreme talaga.

“So isa siya dun sa hinahangaan ko doon sa show.”


Simply put, some actors are meant to portray roles that are seemingly tailor-made for them.

In the case of Maria Clara at Ibarra, the spunky Gen Z character of Klay Infantes belongs to no other than the Kapuso young star Barbie Forteza.

The series certifies what everyone knows about Barbie — that she is a great, versatile actress.


GMA-7's Vice President for Drama Cheryl Ching-Sy said Barbie is a big part of the reason why Maria Clara at Ibarra has been reaping it in.

“Kaya siya nagre-rate is kasi nagre-resonate sa audience, and she’s such a good actress. Yun ang dahilan kung ba’t nagre-rate yung program.

“Although alam ko namang magaling siya, but ito, parang ito talaga ang nag-semento na, 'Wow! Si Barbie talaga!'

“Isa siya sa pinakamagaling sa generation niya, di ba? Kaya niya mag-shift, 'pag drama iyak na iyak ka, pagka comedy naman, natatawa ka.”

Barbie Forteza and David Licauco on Maria Clara at Ibarra


Suzette, who thought of the time-traveling Gen Z twist to incorporate into Rizal’s novels for the teleserye, shared Cheryl’s view.

She said, “First time ko nakatrabaho si Barbie and na-realize ko na, ‘Ah, kaya na niya.

“Kaya niya yung isang multi-dimensional na character, kaya niyang dalhin ang isang show.

“Siya si Klay mismo. Siya si Klay na sa bawat eksena — kaya niyang umiyak, tumawa at patawanin ang audience, kaya niya yun.”

Supervising Producer Helen Sese, meanwhile, recalled working with Barbie more than a decade ago and couldn’t help but marvel at her growth as an actress.

“Kasi huling nakatrabaho ko siya before pa yata sa Tween Hearts so sobrang tagal na nung huli ko siyang nakatrabaho,” smiled Helen, referring to the 2010 drama romance series aired on GMA-7.

She continued, “Kaya nung ito na nasa Maria Clara at Ibarra na siya, ang laki nung nakita kong improvement in terms of her acting, kaya siya talaga.”


Like Suzette, it was also Zig’s first time to work with Barbie, and was pleasantly surprised by her depth.

Zig elaborated, “Mahusay pala talaga siya na parang kaya niyang ikanto-kanto, kaya niyang mag-shift-shift doon sa loob ng eksena and at the same time nagre-remain pa rin yung truthfulness ng emotion.

“Nakukuha ka pa rin niya na kahit na halimbawa ang haba ng eksena, ito yung hinihingi ng emosyon na ito, kakabig siya sa ganitong emosyon.

"Kakabig siya at hindi lang yung hinihingi ng eksena na yun ang ibibigay niya kundi yung sarili niyang interpretasyon din, paano niya ito aatakihin

“Sobrang husay niya.”


Zig stressed that the success enjoyed by Maria Clara at Ibarra was a collective effort by the people working in front and behind the camera.

He applauded all the cast members for their commitment, enabling them to portray their roles realistically day in and day out.


This was proven by the individual and group awards and nominations that Maria Clara at Ibarra continues to earn from several award-giving bodies.

“Halos lahat magaling sila. Nagma-matter din sa akin na maliban dun sa main characters, yung support ng mga maliliit na characters," said Zig, who also praised Andrea Torres' riveting take on Sisa and David Licauco's palpable chemistry with Barbie, and the effect of their team-up dubbed "FiLay" on the series.

"Nung una maliit lang yung mga eksena nila, pero sa mga nuances nila, magaling talaga sina Barbie at David, kahit mga simpleng tinginan lang nagku-connect yung mga mata nila. May nake-create na something," beamed Zig.

Rocco Nacino as Elias


Even Rocco Nacino's portrayal as Elias made a mark as the story highlights the struggles in the world of Noli.

But aside from the reliable actors of GMA-7, Direk Zig was proud of how Maria Clara at Ibarra also showcased other talented artists in the industry.

He also commended child stars Kian Co and Stanley Abuloc for their remarkable performances as Crispin and Basilio.

Zig added, “Nagwu-work sa akin na may mga characters na susulpot at sumusulpot na hindi pa masyadong familiar yung industriya kasi nakakadagdag dun sa pagiging totoo ng mundo parang ganun.

"Parang si Crispin at Basilio, hindi naman mga mainstream actors, mga nagte-theater na bata pero dahil hindi tayo familiar sa kanila, baka totoong sila sina Crispin at Basilio ‘di ba?

“Parang ganun e, may naidadagdag na bagong flavor yung mga nangyayari dun sa mga gobernadorcillo, kapitana, parang ganun so nakaka-contribute sila.

“Baka totoo nga itong San Diego na ito, baka totoo nga itong Noli Me Tangere na ito naitutulong yan nung mga maliliit na characters doon sa loob ng mga eksena.”



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Who among the cast of Maria Clara at Ibarra left a lasting impression on the creative team behind the hit Kapuso prime-time series? Seen in the photos (clockwise): Dennis Trillo's transformation as Simon, Julie Anne San Jose as Maria Clara, Barbie Forteza as Klay, David Licauco as Fidel, Dennis and Julie Anne's kissing scene, Juancho Trivino as Padre Salvi, Andrea Torres as Sisa, and Barbie and David's kilig scene,
PHOTO/S: Maria Clara at Ibarra
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