Sanya Lopez: Staying grounded, staying smart
by James Patrick Anarcon
Aug 16, 2019

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Sanya Lopez was a nobody, by showbiz standards, when she landed the coveted role of Danaya in the 2016 remake of the fantasy series Encantadia.

As it was with the original GMA-7 series, the network's remake was a success. And it ended happily, too, most especially for Sanya.

After Encantadia, she was given lead roles in three successive teleseryes: Haplos (2017), Cain at Abel (2018), and Dahil sa Pag-ibig (2019), which began in May and is still going strong this August.

Grateful for the opportunities, Sanya tells (Philippine Entertainment Portal), "Nakakakilabot na nangyayari sa akin ito, ito na yung tiwalang 'binibigay sa akin ng GMA."

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Recalling the four years she was doing bit roles in various Kapuso teleseryes, Sanya cannot believe she is one of the busiest stars in the Kapuso stable today.

Without a trace of bitterness, the 23-year-old says, "May na-experience kasi akong hindi maganda na ginawa sa akin dati noong extra ako.

"May mga pinagtatawanan ako, pinalabas ako sa tent... sa init ng araw, tanghaling tapat doon ako sa labas... kahit naman nasa tent ako, walang aircon. Okay lang naman."

As’s Main Attraction for August, Sanya is clearly enthusiastic about her shoot and interview. She is also charmingly honest. She tells that she has not entirely put behind the unpleasant memories, but largely because she wants to be reminded not to let success get into her head.

In her words, "Okay lang naman, kumbaga siguro, iniisip ko na lang, noong panahon na yun, kung hindi pinaramdam sa akin yun, baka ang laki-laki ng ulo ko.

"Lalo na ganito yung binigay ng GMA sa akin. Hindi ito yung dapat maging way na, 'Ay, kailangan kong yabangan, kailangan kong mag-ganito, kailangan kong mag-attitude.'

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"Wala yun dun. Hindi nakikita yung pagiging magaling mo sa attitude na ganun, e.

"Sabi ko nga, ang tao, dapat pare-pareho ang tingin mo sa kanila. Ganun lagi.

"Kung anuman siya, kung katulong siya, janitor man siya, artista man siya, at president man siya. Iisa lang dapat ang trato mo, ganun.

"Kasi hindi natin alam. Ako nga, hindi ko nga in-expect na magiging artista ako.

"Lagi kong iniisip, kailangan mong pagdaanan yung mga bagay na ito para matutunan mong kapag 'binigay sa 'yo ito, mas masarap makuha yung mga bagay na pinaghirapan talaga at naramdaman mo yung hirap."

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Sanya was very young and terribly inexperienced in the ways of the world when she landed her first acting gig as a bit player in the GMA-7 teleserye, Magdalena, in 2012.

It was a rape scene that required Bodie Cruz, the son of Tirso Cruz III, to kiss her.

She recalls, "Sobrang bata ko lang talaga doon, fourteen years old lang yata ako doon.

“Actually, yun yata yung pinaka-first kiss ko, hindi nasabi sa akin!

"Siyempre, kapag extra ka, hindi mo naman in-e-expect lahat, sasabihin sa 'yo.

"So ito yung rape scene—si Bodie, bigla akong hinalikan, hindi sinabi sa akin so naging totoo yung iyak ko doon!"

That should have been better handled by the director, but Sanya proved she was a real trouper at 14.

At 23, she can say, "Siyempre, alam mo naman, kapag artista ka, wala ka dapat inarte, e, di ba?

"So kung ano yung ipagawa...hindi naman ako nagsisisi. Hindi ko naman ina-ano yun na as against me.

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"Kumbaga parang, kasi artista ka nga, e, so aktingan lang ito.

"Kapag naapektuhan ka, e, di maganda sa scene yon. After noon, wala na."

With Sanya giving her best shot in every role she played, no matter how small or insignificant, she was bound to get noticed.

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And one of those who did was the late German "Kuya Germs" Moreno. Discovering Sanya, the famous star maker included her in his late-night show, Walang Tulugan with the Master Showman.

Others at GMA-7 were also watching, it turned out.

How else could she have been given the role of best friend of Barbie Forteza in the popular afternoon series The Half Sisters(2014)? It was definitely a step-up in her budding acting career.

In fact, even before the show ended in 2016, GMA Artist Center offered her a management contract.

This was also the time when the network was gathering its stars for the remake of Encantadia.

There were whispers, and Sanya remembers, "May nagsabi sa akin, 'Uy alam mo bagay ka, mag-Enca,’ ganun.

"Tapos sabi niya, 'Pwede ka yung alitaptap,' yun yung sabi niya sa akin.

"Sabi ko, 'Uy, sige po!' Tuwang-tuwa na ako nun.

"'Sige sige! Mag-ano ako, mag-dama, Muyak,' parang ganun."

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Muyak was one of the little creatures called lambanas that served as dama or assistant to the Sang'gres, royalty in the kingdom of Encantadia. Nancy Castiglione was Muyak in the 2005 version; Klea Pineda played the role in the 2016 remake.


Sanya does not give herself enough credit for her Encantadia auditions.

Well, she started with very limited expectations. She simply hoped to pass the test for one of the lambanas.

Fact is, even in the audition's first stages, she was already asked to read the lines of supporting characters in Encantadia.

The Kapuso actress recalls, "Bale five times po akong nag-audition.

"So, yung una parang pina-try muna sa akin, si Agane at saka si Gurna."

Agane and Gurna are the villainous characters in the series.

"Yun talaga yung pina-try sa akin, ‘tapos pina-memorize sa akin yung halos lahat ng script, pwera lang sa lalaki.

“Pinag-aralan ko lang talaga siya, ‘tapos pinalitan, sabi, 'Ay, sorry Sanya, ang try mo na lang pala si Mira. Si Lira na lang si Thea Tolentino.

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"Tapos sabi ko, 'Sige, so kaming dalawa ni Thea,' hanggang sinabing, 'Ay, sige, change natin. Ikaw si Lira, siya si Mira.'"

Lira and Mira, being the daughters of the Sang'gres, were important roles played by Jennylyn Mercado and Yasmien Kurdi, respectively, in the 2005 version.

Then another change happened in the audition when both Sanya and Thea were tested for the major role of Danaya, along with Louise delos Reyes and Ritz Azul plus established Kapuso stars.

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Danaya, played by Diana Zubiri in the original Encantadia, was one of the Sang'gres and is the keeper of the earth gem.

And then, in a sudden twist of events, Sanya found herself auditioning alone for the coveted role of Danaya—and she got it!


But the real moment for Sanya was yet to come.

When her name began surfacing as the Danaya of the 2016 version, not all Encantadiks—aka Encantadia fans—were convinced.

She was a newbie, after all, and not a minted actress like Glaiza de Castro, Kylie Padilla, and Gabbi Garcia, who would play the other three Sang'gres.

Sanya narrates how the role almost slipped away from her.

"Dumating pa sa point na nagkaroon pa ulit ng something. Siguro dahil may mga kumalat na nag-bash sa akin, kung sino ba ako, da who.

"Medyo parang kumakalat na. So, parang hindi maganda yung result sa kanila. Hindi ko rin naman maano kasi malaki yung role ni Danaya sa Encantadia. So, hindi ko maaalis sa kanila na medyo mag-doubt, di ba?"

Sanya was asked by management to audition again, and she doubled her efforts to show once and for all that Danaya was meant for her.

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"Sa pang-limang beses, doon na sinabi na, 'Ikaw na talaga.'

"Ang dami kong nakalaban that time, pero grabe na yung dasal ko, na sabi ko, 'Lord, kung sa akin ito, sa akin talaga ito.'"

When the revived series finally aired, Danaya silenced the bashers among Encantadia fans.

And as the story went, much like in the original version, Danaya became the crowd favorite.

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Encantadia was a huge moment for Sanya, so what has changed since then?

"Sobrang laki, kasi siyempre, yung treatment din ng tao sa 'yo, mas naging special, although hindi ko naman hinahanap yun, pero yun yung 'binibigay nila.

"Mas maraming tao yung nakapansin sa 'yo, mas maraming nagmahal sa ’yo.

"Importante lang naman kasi sa akin yung hindi ka magbago, hindi magbago yung tao.

"Kumbaga kung ano ka noon, yun pa rin yun, di ba? Wala dapat nagbabago.

"At saka kung saan ka minahal ng tao, stay mo lang yun… huwag lalaki talaga yung ulo."

Apart from granting her wish to be recognized as an actress, Encantadia has also paved the way for Sanya to achieve her other dream.

"Siyempre, pangarap ko rin magkaroon ng sariling bahay. So sabi ko, 'Sige, bili tayo ng bahay at lupa—ay, lupa lang muna! Yung bahay, sa susunod na kapag kaya na!'"

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Even before Encantadia ended in May 2017, Sanya was already set to topbill her own afternoon drama series, Haplos.

The story conference for her new show happened on a Monday, two days after Encantadia aired its last episode on a Friday.

Rocco Nacino and Pancho Magno, her co-stars in Encantadia, were also tapped to play her leading men. Thea Tolentino was to play the villainess.

Sanya remembers feeling overwhelmed by the breaks coming her way all of a sudden.

She relates, ”Sobrang hindi ako makapaniwala, 'Totoo ba? Bakit? Bakit, Lord?'

"Sabi sa akin ng manager ko, 'Basta importante lang, gawin mo na lang ngayon kung ano yung kailangan mong gawin. Huwag lang lumaki yung ulo mo, kasi maganda yung blessing na 'binibigay sa 'yo.'

"Sobrang saya ko talaga that time na parang, kung iisipin, kailangan ko ng pahinga. Hindi ko inisip yun talaga. Sabi ko, 'Hindi, kailangan natin ito.'

"Maraming artista, di ba, na talagang nagpapakahirap para magkaroon ng ganitong break?

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"Sabi ko, 'Kailangan kong i-appreciate at alagaan kung ano yung 'binigay sa akin.'"

Sanya reveals she felt panicky when, coming down from her high moments, she realized she would be on her own, without her Sang'gre sisters, in her new show.

"Talagang nagkaroon ako ng parang, 'Paano ko kakayanin kung ako lang mag-isa?'

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"Kasi sa Encantadia, apat kami, e. Parang iniisip ko, though nandito naman si Thea, nandito naman yung mga kasama ko, pero siyempre hindi mo pwedeng i-depende yung sarili mo sa kanila, di ba?

"Still, ikaw pa rin yung titignan, na isa ka sa nagdadala nitong show na ito at kailangan mong i-prove sa amin na karapat dapat ka dito sa show na ito. So, sabi ko, 'Shocks, kailangan ko talaga siyang galingan, hindi ako pwedeng magpaprente-prente or i-relax ko lang yung sarili ko.'"

With her resolve, Sanya recovered quickly from her initial anxiety and gave her first starring role in a teleserye a sterling performance.

Haplos did well in the ratings, and by the time it ended in February 2018, Sanya was set to do her first major movie, the sexy flick Wild and Free with Derrick Monasterio.

The movie called for rough, intimate scenes with Derrick, another challenge for Sanya.

It was not quite a replay of her first acting experience as a rape victim in Magdalena, but the intensity and the depiction of scenes that were totally out of her depth were the same.

Sanya—whose birthday is August 9, was 21 when she did the movie; she was single and NBSB (No Boyfriend Since Birth).

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She says, "Medyo ano rin sa akin yun, hindi madali talaga.

"Kasi noong umpisa na nag-usap kami, hindi namin in-expect na ganito kalalabasan kasi sa script di naman ganun.

"So, siguro, mas pinaganda lang ng director namin kaya mas naging intense pa.

"Parang mas nilagyan namin na 'O, hindi lang basta kapag meron kayong love scene… so lagyan natin ng ibang flavor.'

“Kumbaga alam na ng tao na ganito nangyayari, bigyan natin ng iba, so yun. Nakakakaba rin yun, ha!"

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In her next project a few months after Wild and Free, Sanya found herself playing leading lady in Cain and Abel, a dramaserye starring GMA 7’s Primetime King Dingdong Dantes and Drama King Dennis Trillo.

Working with the two biggest Kapuso stars was a dizzying moment for Sanya.

She says, “Thankful akong nakatrabaho ko sina Kuya Dong at Dennis doon, kakaibang level yun for me.

"At saka natutunan ko kung paano sila, napakabait. Kaya sabi ko, kaya pala ganito yung narating nila, kung bakit sila yung mga hari ng GMA.

“Kasi nga, ganun yung trato nila sa lahat. Walang attitude, I swear."

The teleserye was also her first exposure to the reality of network competition in the ratings game.

Cain and Abelfirst aired in November 2018 against FPJ's Ang Probinsyano, ABS-CBN’s action series that has been reigning over the same time slot since 2015.

Unable to measure up, despite its big-name stars, the show folded after 13 weeks.

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It was a humbling experience for Sanya.

But, she rationalizes, "I think naman, nangyayari naman din talaga yun, e kasi yung kalaban namin mahirap naman talagang kalabanin.

"Kumbaga, nandoon lang kami para enjoyin yung nangyayari doon sa show.

"'Binibigay namin pare-pareho yung kailangan namin ibigay para sa show na yun.

"I think, kung nangyari man yun, wala, e. Yung show kasi sa kabila, matagal na nagsimula at minahal talaga ng maraming tao.

"Kumbaga kami, nag-start pa lang kaya mahirap talagang pantayan yung sa kabila."

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Two months after Cain at Abel ended in February 2019, Sanya was again busy with the afternoon series Dahil sa Pag-ibig.

It is her current project where she co-stars with Benjamin Alves, Winwyn Marquez, and Pancho Magno.

Dahil sa Pag-ibig has been a top-rater in the afternoon block since it started airing in May 2019 and, according to Sanya, her role as Mariel turned out to be a surprise for her.

"Hindi na yung tipong mabait, iyak ka lang nang iyak. Pagkaharap mo ikaw yung api, di ba?

"Iba na yung gusto ng audience ngayon, e, ng mga televiewers. Parang mas gusto nila na palaban na yung bida ngayon."

Like her character, Sanya is also "palaban" where her career is concerned.

She has come this far and she will stop at nothing to improve her craft, especially now that GMA-7 continues to entrust Sanya with big projects.

"Ako kasi, parang iniisip ko nga, ang daming pwedeng bigyan ng role na 'binibigay sa akin, pero yung tiwalang binibigay sa akin ng GMA, grabe.

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"Kumbaga, kapag tinatanong ako, 'Anong birthday wish mo?' Sabi ko, parang naibigay na yata sa akin, e. Ang importante lang naman sa akin ay yung tiwala ng network. Di ba, ang hirap makuha noon sa dami niyong artista?"

Does she have any more wishes, say, a boyfriend, perhaps?

Without batting an eyelash, Sanya answers, "Hindi! Hindi pa sa ngayon.

"Ang hirap isingit ng boyfriend na yan. Kumbaga, paano mo isisingit, e, tignan mo nga, ang ganda- ganda ng blessing na binibigay sa 'yo.

"Okay lang naman may mang-inspire sa 'yo, pero ang hirap din kasi yung hindi mo maibigay yung time mo doon sa magiging partner mo if ever, di ba?"

And for the guy out there mooning for her, Sanya has a tall order. She wants him to be like her brother, Jak Roberto, who is in a relationship with Barbie Forteza.

She says, "Iniisip ko, sana yung guy na ma-pa-partner sa akin or magiging future boyfriend ko, sana ganito yung ugali niya kay kuya.

"Sobrang sweet kasi, parang ma-effort, laging nag-su-surprise.

"Parang siya yung guy na sabi ko, 'Sana siya. Sana ganun sa ugali ni Kuya ko.'"

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She then describes herself as a Maria Clara, someone who prefers an old-fashioned courtship.

"Oo, gusto ng hinaharana, gusto ng pinag-e-effortan ng bulaklak. Charot lang!"

But with everything so hunky-dory in her career, it seems Sanya will stick to the NBSB tag for quite a bit of time.


Q: Best role she has played and why?

Sanya: Best role, Encantadia pa rin, Danaya. Gusto ko kasi talaga action, so yun lang naman, pero lahat naman ng role na 'binigay sa akin, maganda, iba-iba.

Q: What is she willing to do for love?

Sanya: Siguro kaya ko lang ibigay sa kanya yung pagmamahal lang talaga na kaya kong ibigay sa kanya. Siguro mag-e-effort ako, kaya kong ibigay sa kanya yung, kumbaga kung girlfriend man, kaya kong ibigay sa kanya lahat yung time, gagawa ako ng panahon para sa kanya, ganun. Hindi ko pa kasi masabi talaga, ang hirap.

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Q: Sweetest thing her Kuya Jak has ever done for her?

Sanya: Sobrang simple lang nito. Basta one time, galing akong workout and then super luto yung kapatid ko. Sabi ko, 'Anong ginawa mo?' Sabi niya, 'May natutunan ako doon sa isang show,' sa Mars yata, sabi niya, 'Try mo ang sarap.'

Parang sandwich lang na egg sandwich na may something. Basta iba, na may maraming cheese, ganun. Nag-effort siya. In fairness, bago sa akin yun. Parang, first time nangyari sa akin noon.

Sabi niya, 'Sa lahat-lahat ba naman, ito ba namang sandwich lang makakapagpa-ano sa akin sa 'yo, yung makakapag pa-touch?'

Noong time na yun, parang sobrang sweet ng kapatid ko, hindi ko alam kung anong nakain niya. Medyo matagal gawin yung sandwich na yun, e. Parang tuna, egg, and ganito, pinagsama-sama niya.

Sabi ko, 'Uy first time mo ako ginawan ng ganyan, ha.' Kaya siguro di ko makalimutan yun.

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Q: What is she like as a sister?

Sanya: Makulit, pasaway, pero kapag kailangan mo ako, nandiyan ako para sa 'yo, ganun. At saka maraming pinaglalaban at bida-bida rin talaga sa kapatid niya lang, pero kung kailangan mo ng kausap, nandito lang ako para sa 'yo.

Q: What is she like as an actress?

Sanya: Siguro sobrang dedicated lang talaga ako. Naka-focus ako lagi sa trabaho ko. Kumbaga masyado akong perfectionist minsan pagdating sa trabaho. Minsan na-fu-frustrate ako kapag hindi ko naibibigay, yung feeling ko, kulang, or nakukulangan ako. Kaya medyo perfectionist ako, e. Medyo problem ko yun minsan, pero pinipilit ko i-conquer.

Q: How will she describe herself behind the camera?

Sanya: Sobrang simple, kalog, bakla, ganyan. Minsan jologs. Jologs talaga ako, e, kumbaga di ko mai-aalis yun. Hindi sosyal. Mas masaya ako sa mga bagay na simple lang, ganun.

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SHOOT PRODUCERS: James Patrick Anarcon and Rommel Llanes



HAIR, MAKE-UP, and STYLING: Sanya Lopez

VIDEO PRODUCERS: John Henri Mariano, Mart Francisco

VIDEO EDITOR: John Henri Mariano

Special Thanks to Yani Cardino and Kyla Paler of GMA Corporate Communications

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Sanya Lopez looks back at the days she was an extra on the set, just quietly waiting inside a tent for a call, until the day she landed a coveted role in a GMA-7 drama series.
PHOTO/S: Jay Tablante
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