It was in the late '90s when TV networks brought back intense dramas on television.
During this period, television stations discovered and tapped leading ladies who became the superstars of their generation.
In the early 2000s, viewers developed the teleserye habit, enticing ABS-CBN and GMA-7 to produce more soap operas. This led to a strong demand for new faces as teleserye lead stars.
ABS-CBN and GMA-7 were able to catapult 13 personalities as household names.
Most of them have remained in the limelight. They have managed to go beyond playing central characters by agreeing to play kontrabida roles in TV shows.
Some have ventured into other activities aside from acting and found success outside showbiz.
PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) lists down 13 actresses who are the original teleserye leading ladies, whose projects aired from the late '90s to the early 2000s.
Take note that the actresses included in this list are those who have already top-billed teleseryes even before the boom of fantaseryes and other genres on television.
JUDY ANN SANTOS
Judy Ann Santos got her first taste of doing lead roles in 1988. Back then, she played the title role in Ula: Ang Batang Gubat aired on IBC-13.
In 1992, Judy Ann received a big break in television via ABS-CBN’s afternoon series, Mara Clara, where she shared top billing with Gladys Reyes.
This ABS-CBN teleserye was so immensely popular that it ran for 5 years. It was even moved to a prime-time slot to go against RPN-9's Mexican drama, MariMar, which was also a hit.
When Mara Clara ended in 1997, ABS-CBN immediately tapped Judy Ann to play the title role in Esperanza.
She also had her own drama anthology special, titled The Judy Ann Drama Special, in 1999.
In 2001, Judy Ann reunited with Esperanza co-star Piolo Pascual in the drama series, Sa Puso Ko, Iingatan Ka. It was the first time they worked together as a love team.
She also did the first action-themed drama series, Basta’t Kasama Kita, aired in 2003. In the show, Judy Ann was paired with Robin Padilla.
In 2004, Judy Ann did her first full-length fantasy-drama series when she assumed the title role in Krystala, a superhero.
This Judy Ann Santos TV show might not have received the same success of her previous programs, but it was where she met her husband, Ryan Agoncillo, whom she married in 2009.
Judy Ann also ventured into independent filmmaking by producing Ploning, shown in 2008.
In 2010, ABS-CBN hailed Judy Ann as the "Queen of Pinoy Soap Opera," in line with the network’s celebration of 60 Years of Pinoy Soap Opera.
As part of the celebration, the Kapamilya network aired Judy Ann’s medical drama series, Habang May Buhay, which she had been taping since 2007.
After Habang May Buhay, Judy Ann took a break from showbiz when she got pregnant with son Lucho.
In 2011, when Judy Ann returned to show business, she was tapped to host Junior Master Chef: Pinoy Edition.
In 2013, she returned to acting on TV via Huwag Ka Lang Mawawala. The series became controversial before its finale because Judy Ann decided to end the series, cutting short its run to 12 weeks.
This was after ABS-CBN decided to change the show’s timeslot and place it in the fourth slot, to give way to two new shows.
Instead of placing it in the fourth slot, Judy Ann requested ABS-CBN management to let Huwag Ka Lang Mawawala stay in the third slot, and have an early exit.
In 2015, Judy Ann was supposed to do another teleserye, titled Someone To Watch Over Me. However, she got pregnant with her youngest child, Luna. The project, which already had a pilot week, was eventually shelved.
At present, Judy Ann is busy with her online cooking show, Judy Ann’s Kitchen. She is also set to return to prime-time television via the upcoming fantasy series, Starla.
(To learn more about her ABS-CBN shows, read: ANATOMY OF A PINOY TELESERYE: The stories behind Judy Ann Santos TV shows)
Claudine Barretto started her career in 1992, as part of the youth-oriented gag show, Ang TV.
In 1997, ABS-CBN gave her a big break by giving her her own drama series, Mula sa Puso. She was paired with Rico Yan.
In Claudine’s next show, Saan Ka Man Naroroon, she portrayed the iconic triplets Rosenda, Rosario, and Rosemarie. The series ran from 1999 to 2001.
Her next project, Sa Dulo ng Walang Hanggan, involved the phenomenon of reincarnation, where she played Angelina, a woman from the 1950s, and Angeline, her reincarnated soul in modern times.
In 2004, Claudine top-billed ABS-CBN’s first fantaserye, Marina, where she played a mermaid.
Claudine also played the lead role in the 2005 drama series, Ikaw Ang Lahat Sa Akin, where she worked with Bea Alonzo and John Lloyd Cruz.
She then took a break from showbiz when she married Raymart Santiago in 2006, and got pregnant with their first-born son, Santino.
After giving birth, Claudine went on to do the shows Walang Kapalit (2007), Maligno (2008), and Iisa Pa Lamang (2008).
The last show, Iisa Pa Lamang, also became controversial during its final episodes.
This is because Claudine allegedly caused delays in the show’s last few taping days. However, she denied this in an interview, and said that the production really had to use doubles because of time constraint.
In 2009, it was announced that Claudine’s next project will be a teleserye with her sister, Gretchen Barretto, which was aptly titled Magkapatid.
Unfortunately, Claudine did not push through with the project because she decided to leave ABS-CBN and transfer to GMA-7 in November 2009.
In the Kapuso network, Claudine was able to do her own drama anthology titled Claudine, aired in 2010, and the 2011 fantasy series, Iglot.
Iglot also became controversial towards the end of its run. Allegedly, the show was cut short because of Claudine, who was facing personal problems back then.
Claudine’s contract with GMA-7 was not renewed, and she took a hiatus from showbiz.
In 2015, Claudine made a comeback to her original mother studio, ABS-CBN, via the Star Cinema film, Etiquette for Mistresses.
Claudine’s loyal fans thought that this would jumpstart her comeback to ABS-CBN. However, she surprised everyone when she did TV5 and VIVA's TV remake of Bakit Manipis Ang Ulap? in 2016.
After the short-lived drama series, Claudine was seen again in ABS-CBN’s Christmas episode of Maalaala Mo Kaya in 2016.
Her last TV appearance was in an interview with Jessica Soho in GMA-7’s magazine-lifestyle show, Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho in 2018.
Kristine Hermosa started her career with ABS-CBN's Talent Center in the late '90s. Her first major role in a drama series was in the 1998 weekly miniseries, Sa Sandaling Kailangan Mo Ako, where she figured in a love triangle with Marvin Agustin and Piolo Pascual.
In 2000, ABS-CBN gave her a big break on television when she was assigned to top-bill the teleserye, Pangako Sa 'Yo, where she was first paired with ex-boyfriend Jericho Rosales.
The show was a success that it became the first teleserye to be distributed in other countries such as Malaysia, Kenya, and Singapore. This paved the way for other Pinoy drama shows to be aired and appreciated in Asian countries.
After Pangako Sa 'Yo, Kristine and Jericho did the prime-time series, Sana'y Wala Nang Wakas. Through this ABS-CBN teleserye, management and fans saw the potential of her team-up with Diether Ocampo, who also became her ex-boyfriend.
Kristine's other projects include: Till Death Do Us Part (2005), Gulong ng Palad (2006), Prinsesa ng Banyera (2007), Dahil May Isang Ikaw (2009), and Noah (2010).
In 2010, in the middle of doing Noah, Kristine left the series to take a break from showbiz and prepare for her wedding to Oyo Sotto.
In 2013, Kristine was offered to do a remake of Pangako Sa 'Yo. However, Oyo advised Kristine to decline it as she was being offered a mother role.
In 2016, Kristine returned to showbiz via the sitcom, Hay Bahay!, aired on GMA-7. She got to work with husband Oyo and father-in-law, Vic Sotto.
When the sitcom ended in 2017, Kristine returned to ABS-CBN. She appeared in the 2018 fantasy show Bagani. It was also the first time Kristine accepted both a mother and a kontrabida role.
Gladys Reyes started her career as a movie child actress.
In 1992, in her teens, Gladys became a soap opera star when she shared top billing with Judy Ann Santos in the ABS-CBN drama series, Mara Clara. Gladys gained fame for playing Clara the kontrabida.
The success of Mara Clara, which was proven by its five-year run on television, catapulted Gladys into stardom.
In 1997, Gladys signed up with VIVA Television to do the prime-time series Ikaw Na Sana, aired on GMA-7. This time, she played kontrabida to Angelu de Leon, and became the third wheel to Angelu’s love team with Bobby Andrews.
This was followed by another VIVA-GMA-7 co-production, Ganyan Kita Kamahal, where she played kontrabida to Carmina Villarroel.
In 1999, Gladys returned to ABS-CBN and portrayed the villain to Claudine Barretto’s triplet characters in Saan Ka Man Naroroon.
Since then, Gladys would do projects for both ABS-CBN and GMA-7.
Some of the projects she did for GMA-7 were: Marinara (2004), Bakekang (2006), LaLola (2008), Kambal Sirena (2014), Little Nanay (2015), and Inday Will Always Love You (2018).
For ABS-CBN, Gladys took part in the teleseryes: Sa Dulo ng Walang Hanggan (2001), Recuerdo de Amor (2002), Habang May Buhay (2010), Guns and Roses (2011), and Wako Wako (2012).
Currently, Gladys is a kontrabida in the Kapuso political romantic-comedy, TODA One I Love.
ANGELU DE LEON
Angelu de Leon started her career in ABS-CBN’s Ang TV in 1994, but received her big break when she joined the VIVA stable in 1995. She was then assigned to top-bill the youth-oriented series, TGIS.
It was in TGIS where she found her perennial onscreen partner, Bobby Andrews. They would later top-bill their own drama series, Ikaw Na Sana, in 1997.
Ikaw Na Sana also proved to be a success, after VIVA decided to do a movie version under its defunct film outfit, NEO Films.
Angelu was supposed to play the lead actress in the next VIVA TV series, Ganyan Kita Kamahal. However, she had to leave show business when she pregnant to her child with ex-boyfriend Joko Diaz.
In 2000, Angelu staged a comeback on television and on the big screen. She was one of the lead actresses in VIVA TV and IBC-13’s drama series, May Bukas Pa.
GMA-7 later included her in its teleserye, Sana Ay Ikaw Na Nga, starring Tanya Garcia and Dingdong Dantes. The show would mark her reunion with Bobby, but this time, she played a kontrabida.
After Sana Ay Ikaw Na Nga, Angelu took a break from showbiz when she got pregnant with her second child.
In 2004, when she returned to showbiz, she played kontrabida to Iza Calzado in Te Amo: Maging Sino Ka Man.
In 2006, Angelu returned to ABS-CBN to do a mother role in Super Inggo, as Makisig Morales’s adoptive mother.
In 2009, Angelu became a Kapuso again to play kontrabida in Ang Babaeng Hinugot Sa Aking Tadyang, as third wheel to Dingdong Dantes and Marian Rivera.
Angelu then received two offers from ABS-CBN in 2010, one was for Midnight Phantom, and the second was for Mara Clara, both of which were mother roles. However, she decided to stay with GMA-7.
Angelu would later do more mother roles in GMA-7 shows, as either the mom of the lead actress, or the main kontrabida.
In 2012, Angelu reprised her TGIS role in its GMA-produced spin-off, Teen Gen.
Angelu currently stars in the afternoon drama, Inagaw na Bituin, as the adoptive mother of Kyline Alcantara.
Jolina Magdangal was a graduate of Ang TV before she landed roles in teleseryes.
Her first appearance in a teleserye was a guest role in Esperanza, as the love team partner of Marvin Agustin.
When Esperanza ended in 1999, Jolina and Marvin top-billed its replacement program, Labs Ko Si Babe, which is known as the first romantic-comedy series on Philippine TV.
In 2002, Jolina decided to leave ABS-CBN and transfer to GMA-7.
In GMA-7, Jolina top-billed the drama series Narito Ang Puso Ko, where she was paired with James Blanco.
Jolina also hosted the reality-based artista search, StarStruck, for four seasons.
In 2006, Jolina top-billed the first ever GMA-7 series shot abroad, I Luv NY, which reunited her with Marvin Agustin.
In 2013, Jolina was in the middle of doing the drama series Mundo Mo’y Akin when she got pregnant. This became the reason why she had to take a break from doing the series. However, after getting enough bed rest, Jolina was able to return to the show before its finale.
In 2014, Jolina returned to her original mother station, ABS-CBN, where she did the afternoon drama series, Flordeliza, aired in 2015.
She was supposed to star with Toni Gonzaga, Sam Milby, and Piolo Pascual in another series, Written In Our Stars, in 2016. However, Toni got pregnant, which is why the project was shelved.
Since 2016, Jolina has been hosting the morning program, Magandang Buhay.
Sunshine Dizon started her career as a child actress in the '80s.
In the '90s, she got a break when VIVA tapped her to top-bill its weekly afternoon drama series, Anna Karenina, along with Antoinette Taus and Kim delos Santos.
In 2001, Sunshine top-billed the prime-time series, Ikaw Lang Ang Mamahalin, along with Angelika dela Cruz. The project served as a follow-up to their successful miniseries, Umulan Man O Umaraw.
However, in the middle of the series, Sunshine was killed in the show. Reports back then said that she left the show because she had a feud with Angelika.
Both did not deny that they had a feud back then, but apparently, the real reason why Sunshine was pulled out of the show was because her manager did not want her to portray a kontrabida role.
For this reaskn, GMA-7 assigned her to do Kung Mawawala Ka, a political drama series that also featured Eddie Garcia in the lead.
In 2005, Sunshine landed a breakthrough role in her career by becoming the kontrabida in the fantasy series, Encantadia.
In the show, she portrayed Pirena, the keeper of the fire gem.
This was later followed by a title role, when she top-billed the remake of Bakekang, a '70s film starring Nora Aunor, where the central character of the story is mocked for her physical appearance.
Sunshi e also did the prime-time shows Impostora and La Vendetta, both aired in 2007.
In 2008, Sunshine was supposed to do the afternoon series Gaano Kadalas Ang Minsan? She already taped the pilot week of the series, but she had to be pull out due to sickness.
This also happened in 2009, when she top-billed the remake of Tinik sa Dibdib.
She then took a hiatus from show business after she got married to Timothy Tan and gave birth to two children.
In 2013, Sunshine returned to doing teleseryes via the 2013 prime-time series, Mundo Mo’y Akin. This reunited her with former onscreen rival, Angelika dela Cruz.
In 2016, Sunshine top-billed the top-rating afternoon series, Ika-6 Na Utos, which spawned viral memes online because of its confrontation scenes.
At present, Sunshine is the lead actress of GMA-7's afternoon teleserye, Inagaw na Bituin, which she co-stars with Angelika dela Cruz and Angelu de Leon.
She is also set to be seen in the fantasy series, Mystified, which will be streamed on local streaming site, iFlix.
The series reunites Sunshine with her Encantadia co-stars, Iza Calzado, Karylle, and Diana Zubiri.
ANGELIKA DELA CRUZ
Angelika dela Cruz was introduced to the viewing public through the 1996 film, Nights of Serafina.
This landed her a role in the second book of the '90s drama series, Mara Clara, where she worked with Judy Ann Santos and Gladys Reyes.
After Mara Clara ended in 1997, Angelika was included in Judy Ann's follow-up series, Esperanza.
Angelika was also paired with Jericho Rosales in the weekly horror series, OkaTokat.
In the middle of the series, however, Angelika was killed off in the show. It was after she decided to leave ABS-CBN and accept GMA-7's offer.
When she transferred to GMA-7, Angelika was added in the cast of its prime-time series, Di Ba't Ikaw, starring Jessa Zaragoza.
She also played important roles in the weekly shows Click, Liwanag sa Hatinggabi, and Pintados, all aired in 1999.
In 2000, Angelika received a big break in her career when GMA-7 tapped her to play the lead role in the miniseries, Umulan Man O Umaraw, with Sunshine Dizon.
The success of the show in the ratings game led Angelika and Sunshine to top-bill the first Kapuso teleserye under GMA Telebabad, Ikaw Lang Ang Mamahalin, in 2001.
This was followed by another drama series, Habang Kapiling Ka, in 2002.
When Habang Kapiling Ka ended in 2003, Angelika surprised everyone when she decided to return to her original mother studio, ABS-CBN. She was included in the then-ongoing prime-time series, Sana'y Wala Nang Wakas.
After Sana'y Wala Nang Wakas, Angelika was included in the cast of Ikaw Ang Lahat Sa Akin in 2005, where she worked with Claudine Barretto, Diether Ocampo, Bea Alonzo, and John Lloyd Cruz.
In 2006, Angelika did a breakthrough move in her career when, for the first time, she accepted a kontrabida role. It was for the ABS-CBN remake of the hit Sharon Cuneta movie, Bituing Walang Ningning.
Angelika was assigned to do the character of Lavinia Arguelles, the role first portrayed by Cherie Gil who uttered the iconic line, "You're nothing, but a second-rate trying hard copycat!"
After Bituing Walang Ningning, Angelika was supposed to be included in Judy Ann Santos's teleserye, Ysabella. However, she turned it down after the character sketch was changed.
When the role was first offered to her, Angelika was supposed to play a comedic role similar to what she did in Sana'y Wala Nang Wakas, but the character was later changed into a kontrabida.
She was later seen in the 2007 afternoon series, Prinsesa ng Banyera, where she shared top billing with Kristine Hermosa. But then, in the middle of the series, Angelika's character was killed. This was after she decided to return to GMA-7.
She officially signed a contract with the Kapuso network in 2008.
In GMA-7, Angelika did a mix of bida and kontrabida roles in her drama shows.
At present, she is part of the afternoon series, Inagaw na Bituin, where she plays a kontrabida role to Sunshine Dizon.
Iza Calzado's first foray into doing teleseryes happened in 2002, via Kung Mawawala Ka, where she played a kontrabida to Sunshine Dizon and Cogie Domingo.
In 2004, Iza received a break on television when GMA-7 tapped her to play the lead actress in the series Te Amo, Maging Sino Ka Man.
She was chosen as the leading lady of Argentinian actor Segundo Cernadas, who became popular in the Philippines after his drama series, Monica Brava, aired in the Kapuso network.
She also hosted the shows 3R: Respect, Relax, Respond and At Your Service: Star Power in 2005.
In 2005, Iza played the breakthrough role of Amihan in the hit fantasy series, Encantadia. It is now considered as one of her most iconic roles.
This was followed by another fantasy series, Atlantika, in 2006.
Iza's other TV projects include: Impostora (2007), Joaquin Bordado (2008), All About Eve (2009), Kaya Kong Abutin Ang Langit (2009), Beauty Queen (2010), and I Heart You Pare (2011).
Iza also ventured into mentoring and judging artista hopefuls via the fifth season of StarStruck in 2009.
In 2011, Iza transferred to ABS-CBN. Her first drama series was Kahit Puso'y Masugatan, aired in 2012.
In 2014, Iza first did a mother role, when she played the mom of Andrea Brillantes in Hawak Kamay. She also played mom to Julia Barretto, JK Labajo, and Hanah Vito in A Love To Last. It was Iza's first kontrabida role in a teleserye after more than 10 years.
Iza's most recent project was the recently concluded TV series, Ngayon at Kailanman, starring Julia Barretto and Joshua Garcia.
She is also part of the iFlix original series, Mystified, which reunites her with Encantadia co-stars Sunshine Dizon, Karylle, and Diana Zubiri.
Tanya Garcia started her career in the '90s in ABS-CBN. Her first teleserye appearance was on the prime-time show, Esperanza.
After her stint in the show ended, Tanya signed up with VIVA Artists Agency, who transferred her to GMA-7 in 2000. Her first teleserye with the Kapuso network was Anna Karenina, where she was paired with Dingdong Dantes after Antoinette Taus left the show.
Tanya and Dingdong's love team earned a following, prompting GMA-7 to give them their own drama series, Sana Ay Ikaw Na Nga. This was followed by another drama series, Twin Hearts.
In 2005, Tanya and Dingdong parted ways. Tanya was then assigned to do the afternoon series, Agos.
In 2007, Tanya did a kontrabida role for the first time, as an evil stepmother in the fantasy series, Super Twins.
In the middle of the series, Tanya had to leave the show after her delicate pregnancy with her first child with Mark Lapid. She eventually took a break from show business.
In 2011, Tanya returned to acting by playing the mother of Barbie Forteza in the remake of Ikaw Lang Ang Mamahalin. This was followed by more mother roles with GMA-7.
In 2015, Tanya returned to ABS-CBN via an episode of Maalaala Mo Kaya. This was followed by appearances in the Kapamilya teleseryes Ningning, La Luna Sangre, and The Blood Sisters.
At present, Tanya is not doing any teleserye, but she keeps her followers updated about her family life via Instagram.
Carmina Villarroel began her career in the '80s, starring in sitcoms and movies, but she debuted as a soap opera star in the late '90s.
It was when she left ABS-CBN and signed up with VIVA Artists Agency.
Her first break in a teleserye came in 1998, when she was tapped to replace Angelu de Leon in the prime-time series, Ganyan Kita Kamahal, produced by VIVA Television and aired in GMA-7.
The series was short-lived, but VIVA tapped Carmina to play one of the lead roles in its adult-themed drama series, Halik sa Apoy, with Ynez Veneracion.
After Halik sa Apoy ended in early 1999, Carmina returned to ABS-CBN and played a kontrabida role in Esperanza, as a vengeful woman seeking to wreak havoc on the life of Esperanza (Judy Ann Santos).
In 2001, Carmina played leading lady to Diether Ocampo in the afternoon series, Recuerdo de Amor.
After the series, Carmina focused on doing hosting jobs.
In 2004, Carmina returned to GMA-7 and played a kontrabida role in Narito Ang Puso Ko, starring Jolina Magdangal.
Carmina first portrayed a mother role in the 2005 fantasy series, Mulawin, as mother to Richard Gutierrez.
This was followed by mother roles in her next projects: Majika (2006), Mga Mata ni Anghelita (2007). She was able to do these shows while hosting the morning talk show, SiS.
In 2011, Carmina returned to ABS-CBN where she played major roles in the drama shows Lorenzo's Time (2012), May Isang Pangarap (2013), Got To Believe (2013), Bridges of Love (2015), Doble Kara (2015-2017), and Till I Met You (2016).
In 2017, Carmina returned to GMA-7 and played mother to Bianca Umali, Pauline Mendoza, and Kyline Alcantara in the top-rating series, Kambal, Karibal.
At present, Carmina plays the mother of Barbie Forteza and Mika dela Cruz in the trending teleserye, Kara Mia.
Donna Cruz was originally a singer and a movie star under VIVA.
In 1995, when VIVA first forayed into producing drama series, they chose Donna to top-bill its prime-time series, Villa Quintana, where she was paired with Keempee de Leon.
Villa Quintana is known to be the first drama series aired on the prime-time slot during that time.
After doing the drama series, Donna decided to leave showbiz after settling down with husband, Yong Larrazabal, who is based in Cebu.
Still, Donna would come back to do TV guestings in ABS-CBN and GMA-7.
Her last appearance in a drama show happened in 2011, when she played a guest role in the Kapuso early prime-time series, Daldalita.
Prior to becoming a recording artist, Jessa Zaragoza was first part of That's Entertainment.
In 1995, she was part of the prime-time series, Villa Quintana, starring Donna Cruz and Keempee de Leon. Jessa played the role of Patrice Quintana.
One of her most iconic scenes in the show was when she fell down the grand staircase of the Quintana mansion.
In 1999, GMA-7 tapped Jessa to top-bill its first network-produced drama series, Di Ba't Ikaw. The teleserye was roughly based on Jessa's hit song which she recorded in 1997. In the series, she figured in a love triangle with Jao Mapa and Jomari Yllana.
After the show's short run, Jessa transferred to ABS-CBN to do more singles and an album.
In 2002, she was tapped to play a supporting role in the musical-drama series, Bituin, starring Nora Aunor, Cherie Gil, Carol Banawa, and Desiree del Valle.
Jessa left the show in the middle of its run when she got pregnant with her first-born daughter, Jayda Avanzado.
In 2009, Jessa returned to doing a drama series via the GMA-7 remake of Rosalinda, where she played a kontrabida. She was also part of ABS-CBN's 2010 musical series, iDOL.
Jessa's last three teleseryes were: Kokak (2011), Cielo de Angelina (2012), and Paraiso Ko'y Ikaw (2014).
Jessa might have taken a break from doing teleseryes, but she is still a part of the Kapuso sitcom, Pepito Manaloto.