January 22 was no ordinary day for Sheila Dela Paz and Irene Lu, two lucky PEPsters whose wishes were granted by PEP's anniversary promo "PEP-a-Wish."
"Grabe, ‘di ko pa din mapaniwala na nanalo ako. Parang dream come true talaga ‘to," the winners exclaimed.
And what was the winning wish?
To meet Marian Rivera in person.
THE RIDE. The taping of Marimar that day was set in Carmenville Subdivision, Angeles, Pampanga.
On the way to the venue, Sheila and Irene were very excited. They're loyal PEPsters and devoted fans of the television series Marimar.
"Grabe, sobra akong fan talaga ng Marimar na parati akong nanonood habang binubuntis ko yung anak ko. Kay Marimar ko nga pinaglihi kaya maputi at maganda din ang labas ng baby ko," Sheila, now a mom of three, beamed.
Irene, an insurance broker, is also a passionate watcher of the teleserye. Despite her hectic schedule, she makes sure that she comes home on time to catch Marimar.
"Mga anak ko nga, parati nang nagrereklamo kasi ako ang kaagaw nila sa remote control kapag Marimar na ang palabas. Pero kami ng asawa ko, sobra kaming fan kaya ang family ko nagiging Marimar addict na."
And they instantly clicked. They talked nonstop: about their personal lives, celebrities, and everything showbiz from PEP. They even revealed their PEP usernames.
THE VISIT. It was a rainy afternoon, but the weather did not dampen the spirits of the winners.
"Totoo na ba ito? Sobrang maiinggit sigurado yung mga anak ko. Sayang lang may pasok sila, di ko maisama," said Sheila disbelievingly. Her husband, who accompanied her, couldn't help but agree.
A sight of newly-built houses in Carmenville Subdivision greeted Irene, Sheila, and the staff and crew of PEP and FANATXT. One of the houses was where Sergio Santibañez, the character of Dingdong Dantes in the said television series, lives.
The two excited moms were first toured around the set of Marimar. And as a big bonus, they caught more than a glimpse of the other cast members as well—Dingdong Dantes, Richard Gomez, Paolo Paraiso, Sheena Halili, andArthur Solinap—who were inside the house seriously studying their scripts.
While they were waiting for their idol, Sheila and Irene got some pointers from GMA NMI segment producer Mike Factor on how to deliver their spiels for the webisode.
And when the camera began rolling, Irene and Sheila did things effortlessly. "Magaling sila, madali naman turuan, hindi nahihiya. Few takes lang naman ang ginawa namin," said direk Mike.
MEETING ANGELIKA. About 2:00 pm, they proceeded to the dressing room of ...guess who? The nemesis of Marimar: Angelika.
Katrina Halili was reading her script and having her hair and make-up done at the same time, when Irene and Sheila arrived. And contrary to her wicked character in the television series, Katrina was actually charming and warm.
She got up from her chair and said hello to the winners. And the winners were starstruck. "You're so sexy, ang ganda," uttered Irene.
After a quick chat and photo session, Katrina's make-up session had to be resumed, so she said goodbye to the two PEPsters.
Irene said, "I didn't know that Katrina pala is really funny and a very nice girl. Kasi she portrays this kontrabida in Marimar, iba pala siya in person."
MOMENT WITH MARIMAR. The set's big star, who was effortlessly pretty in her green colored tee and khaki slacks, was having her first meal for the day when Irene and Sheila spotted her.
Just the sight of Marian Rivera made the two winners ecstatic.
"'Pinaglilihi kita sa anak ko..." Sheila told Marian before tears welled up in her eyes. "Sobra ang starstruck ko, sorry ha, napaiyak tuloy ako."
Marian said in jest, "Baka mawalan na ako ng career kapag lumabas iyan."
The bubbly Marian hugged her warmly.
Irene was also overwhelmed, "You're so much prettier in person, I admire your very wholesome character."
Marian graciously accepted Irene's praise.
After the brief introduction came the question and answer portion. Irene, who looked more relaxed, told Marian, "First time kong ginawa ito [Q&A with Marian]. First time kong ginawa talaga. Sobrang honored ako."
One of the questions thrown in was about Marian's next project. "Ikaw ba ang magiging next Dyesebel? Pinagtatalunan kasi namin ‘to sa PEP community."
Marimar answered, "Ay, nako, abangan n'yo na lang yun. Hindi ko pa kasi alam pero sigurado, magiging maganda yung cast ng Dyesebel."
Irene asked Marian to compare her two leading men, Dingdong Dantes for Marimar (and Dyesebel) and Richard Gutierrez for the movie, My Best Friend's Girlfriend.
Marian replied, "Actually, si Dong [Dingdong's nickname] kasi, sa sobrang tagal na ng Marimar, sobrang wala talaga kaming wall. As in transparent kami... Yung kay Richard, noong start pa lang ng movie namin, nagkahulihan na kami ng loob. Parehas kami ng mga favorite na pagkain. Yun yung bonding naming pareho.
"Parehas sila. Kaya mahirap i-compare si Richard kay Dingdong. Iba yung personality nila. Pero pareho silang wow para sa akin."
After the chatting and picture-taking, Marian thanked the winners and all the PEPsters who continue to support her: "Maraming salamat talaga sa lahat ng nagtatanggol sa akin sa mga intriga na nababasa ko sa PEP. Sana patuloy pa din ang pagsuporta n'yo sa akin at sa pagtiwala nyo."
The winners left with a promise that they will protect Marian from those people who will try to bring her down.
When PEP asked Marian how she would describe the meet and greet with the PEPsters, she said: "Siyempre maligaya ako at gusto nila akong makita at nabigyan ko sila ng kasiyahan."
Joyce Bernal, the busy director of Marimar, took time to thank the PEPsters who visited the set. She said, "Maraming salamat at nagpunta kayo dito, masaya kami at napasaya namin kayo. Abangan ninyo na lang ang mga susunod na proyekto na gagawin ko."
As for Irene and Sheila, no words could adequately describe how the moment with Marimar gave them so much joy.
"It's my first time pero nakakatuwa yung experience," Irene told PEP. "Saka I guess, it's very thrilling talaga. The things that we went through parang hindi yun yung ine-expect ko. It's much more than what I expected. So, overall, I really love it and sasabihin ko na ultimate na iyon. Kasi I don't think I could go through this again, di ba? Kasi siyempre, it's not going to be the same, if ever there will be another chance, kasi hindi pareho yung mga tao, hindi pareho yung mga cast."
Sheila added, "Talagang mahirap yung ginagawa nila. Talagang ngayon lang ako nakakita ng ganoon. 'Tapos, ang panget pa ng panahon. Yung experience ko, nilagay ko yung sarili ko sa sitwasyon nila. Parang hindi ko kaya. Parang ang hirap. Ganoon yung pagpapasalamat nila kapag na-appreciate ng mga fans nila yung ginawaga nila. Ang hirap ng trabaho nila actually."
Indeed, it was a PEP wish come true!
(PEP wishes to thank Fanatxt, www.igma.tv, and the cast and crew of Marimar. And if the PEPsters want to chat with their Marimar idols via phone, text MARIAN, or DINGDONG, or KATRINA to 4627.)