She enters the room, every bit as ivory-skinned and fresh-faced as her larger-than-life billboard versions. Despite her ethereal aura, she is surprisingly down-to-earth. If anyone can pull off casual and classy at the same time, it’s the gorgeously-packaged paradox, Maricar Reyes.
The unica hija and youngest of three siblings, Maricar Concepcion Pozon Reyes was born in Cagayan de Oro to a family neither medically- nor showbiz-inclined. She herself never dreamed of a life in the limelight, describing herself as a nerd and bookworm growing up. Maricar fumbled at her first audition—in Grade 5. “Di ko talaga nakuha. I froze!” she laughs. “Kasi parang, a panel was there, tapos you read the lines. I just literally read the lines, so I didn’t get it!” So she wisely shied away from the stage for a while, opting instead to focus on less attention-grabbing skills, a move that would serve the bright student well later on.
It wasn’t until college that Maricar got her next big break—no lines this time, her mestiza looks spoke volumes enough for her. She was 17 or 18 at the time, and from there, her modeling career did not so much boom as it blossomed, slowly but steadily, on the fringes of her studies. “Every once in a while, I’d get a job. Awa ng Diyos, it worked with school at the same time,” shares the Ateneo biology major.
Asked if she always wanted to be a physician, Dr. Reyes says, “Before I’d say yes, but now that I really analyze it, it was one of those answers when you were a kid, like, ‘I wanna be a teacher, I wanna be a doctor, I wanna be a lawyer.’ I never really thought about it until I was in med school na. Then it was like, ‘Okay, this is hard,’” she laughs. “[But] you fall in love with it.”
After earning her medical degree from the University of Sto. Tomas and getting her license in 2008, the young doctor initially had plans to specialize, “but nothing very concrete or focused.” As a general practitioner, she got a day job with an anti-aging clinic, but she prefers to keep that side of her away from public scrutiny. Medicine, after all, is more of a calling than an occupation, to be practiced quietly, for the protection of patients and the profession.
Right now, Maricar is still a physician-on-call for a select few. “A friend will text me, parang, ‘This is what’s wrong with me, can you help?’” She also joins medical missions whenever she can.
“It was really not expected,” says Maricar of her shift from modeling to acting. “I did a TVC. I think that’s what Mr. M [Johnny Manahan of Star Magic] saw. [He called] my modeling agency. ‘Are you interested?’ I was like, ‘Yeah!’ Kasi it was not offered to everyone.”
The actress’ investment in acting workshops and digging deep into the self paid off, having won in the 2011 Cinema One Originals Digital Film Festival for her role as an idealistic lawyer in Anatomiya ng Korupsyon. It’s a far cry from her first TV role as Candy in I Love Betty La Fea; her stint as a teacher for the youth-oriented Growing Up; or her chilling depiction of vampire Samantha Imperial in the teleserye Imortal. “It’s fun kasi you get to do and explore different sides of your personality,” she gushes.
This avid fan of Vilma Santos recently top billed Nang Dahil sa Pag-ibig, the heart-rending series by ABS-CBN that weaves a thick plot of religious beliefs, family ties and political motives. Playing Agnes Javier, she describes the show: “It’s a love thing, different kinds of love, love for family, love for God, syempre romantic love, the crazy things that happen. It’s drama talaga. But there are some funny things naman, quirkiness.” Since it first aired in March, audience reception has proven that she is a dramatic force to reckon with, able to hold her own alongside co-stars like Piolo Pascual, Jericho Rosales, Cristine Reyes and Christopher de Leon.
“I want my niche to be no niche,” declares the thespian who refuses to be typecast. She opts for roles based on that philosophy. In fact, Maricar’s dream role at the moment is “comedy! I’ve never done anything na parang kenkoy, I wanna try,” she says with a mischievous gleam in her eye.
Offscreen, she dons a different hat, getting involved in advocacies she believes in. “A good friend of mine started a program called Right Start. We started off as a feeding program … Pero at the same time, we taught the mothers how to cook, how to budget, [depending on] the income bracket ng family. I really like things that are long-term, na enduring ’yung change. Not just a temporary fix—which sometimes is needed—but you need to make a change na … magla-last.”
What’s this health advocate’s secret to staying fresh and glowing, despite everything she has on her plate?
She still finds wisdom in her mother’s advice: “I don’t eat oily foods. The stuff that our moms tell us when we’re small, may point din pala ’yun. Drink water, drink juice, don’t eat too much tsitsirya.” She isn’t immune to the occasional temptation, though. “I love to eat chocolate, then chips, then chocolate … but I control it. At the end of the day, you’ll feel it when you’re 40, 50,” she says, the doctor in her surfacing.
Exercise is also crucial. “I am trying to get back to triathlons. I used to do that mga two years ago, but because of showbiz, di ko magawa kasi it involves a lot of training. But I’m trying. Kung hindi man … triathlon, kahit two out of the three. I like [them] individually—the swim, the bike and the run.” Right now she runs twice or thrice a week, and does weights at home to save time.
Of course, everyone envies Maricar’s rosy white complexion—which she maintains with a sound and simple regimen. “When you go out, you have a little makeup, but when you’re at home, you have nothing on but moisturizer. [I’m] strict about sunscreen. Sabi nga diba, you should wear sunscreen even if you don’t go out. I try to do that.” And of course, rest plays a part. “Merong down time! I try to make it a point that Sunday is free, as much as possible.”
Maricar Reyes—model, actress, doctor and philanthropist—is smack in the middle of a collision of worlds, a fact that her enigmatic personality relishes. “There’s a reason all this stuff na seemingly unrelated, parang nagsama-sama.”
Get to know more about Maricar Reyes’ enigmatic personality! Grab a copy of HealthToday’s July issue, out now in bookstores and newsstands.