Among the thousands of girls who auditioned for the much-coveted role of Maria Flordeluna, 11-year old Eliza Pineda earned the two-thumbs up from Direk Jerry Sineneng to give justice to the challenging role.
On November 10, Eliza Pineda was formally presented to the members of the press in an intimate gathering at Cheapsteaks restaurant in the ABS-CBN compound. "For several months, we conducted auditions [and] siya [Eliza] yung napili ni Direk Jerry kasi siya yung may acting abilities and angelic face. Sa kanya kami nagtrust na makaka-relate yung audience," shares executive producer Myleen Ongkiko.
After Eliza's noticeable performance as the daughter of Judy Ann Santos and Piolo Pascual in the movie Till There Was You, the young girl was tapped to take on a lead role. At such tender age, Eliza has already shown the makings of a dramatic actress.
Eliza recalled the time she informed her parents of her plans to enter showbiz: "Nakita ko po yung tao sa TV. Sabi ko: ‘Mommy gusto ko sumali sa contest sa Munting Miss U' (a segment in the defunct ABS-CBN noontime variety show Magandang Tanghali Bayan). Noong una po akala po [ng parents ko] nag-jo-joke ako. Umiyak ako."
Maria Flordeluna is ABS-CBN's latest addition to the Kapamilya Primetime Bida block. It is a remake based on the radio drama series that was very popular during the late ‘70s. Ongkiko stresses that the storyline for the TV version has already evolved. "Mas modern, mas logical, mas pinalalim."
Ongkiko explains that Maria Flordeluna originated in Cebu and the rights were acquired from the Sakol family of Cebu. She continues: "Ito yung original, nauna pa ito dun sa TV version [entitled Flordeluna, starring Janice de Belen]. Kapag napanood niyo ito, it's Cebu based." Indeed, Cebu's famous scenic spots such as the Mactan Bridge, Lapu-lapu Shrine, and the Sto. Nino cathedral were among the sites featured in the said drama series.
The story of Maria Flordeluna revolves around her mission to keep her family together. "[Maria Flordeluna] is a 10 year-old child [whose father] ay nasa military. Sa isang incident, namatay yung mommy niya. Ang mission niya sa buhay is to keep her family intact," explains Ongkiko.
The youngest in the brood of three girls, Eliza prepared extensively for this role by attending acting workshops. Maria Flordeluna is Eliza's first soap opera in a lead role and she was very thrilled to learn that she was the chosen one. She pointed out: "Maraming beses na rin po ako nag-drama. Yung latest ko po [as] young Bea [Alonzo] sa Maging Sino Ka Man."
Eliza will act opposite veteran stars such as Eula Valdez, Albert Martinez, Johnny Delgado, John Estrada and Vina Morales-who will play the role of Maria Flordeluna's mother.
ABS-CBN's Maria Flordeluna will be shown on primetime TV by the first quarter of 2007.