BEFORE LANDING the most coveted role as Danay in encantadia, Sanya Lopez was a nobody, by showbiz standards.
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…
“Nakakakilabot na nangyayari sa akin ito, ito na yung tiwalang ‘binibigay sa akin ng GMA.”
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.
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.’ 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.”
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. 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. 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!’ Tuwangtuwa na ako nun. ’Sige sige! Mag-ano ako, mag-dama, Muyak,’ parang ganun.”
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. 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.
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.”
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.
“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.
“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!’”
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?