Glaiza De Castro has a fire burning inside and it finally got the spark it needed.
As if the youth of this millennium don’t have enough to deal with already. A scorching earth is shifting the tides of the quintessential childhood many have become accustomed to in the past generation into a new generation of problem solvers. Social issues are far from what they had been half a century ago, and it seems that the classic adages associated with hard work and the New World dream has finally run its course. In a time of disillusionment, relief is sought in the social awareness of the youth—especially from one acknowledged as a role model to many.
One may consider Glaiza De Castro at the denouement of her climactic performance in Liway in this
year’s Cinemalaya, but it seems that the role had been incubating just in time for her. For one, she has been known to portray strong female characters and even progressive roles. She’s played a lesbian in a successful television series that expanded her perspective of gay people and played a justice-starved character with Lara Croft-esque abilities in a recently concluded drama. “Dito ako nae-excite, dito ako nai-inspire. Because personally, yung personality ko, di pa gaano kalakas or I think andun lang siya all along pero di ko pa nae-embrace, di ko pa siya nare-realize yung power na meron ako or kung ano kaya ko gawin. But through these roles, through Liway, through Contessa… napu-push ako sa isang place kung saan ko nakikita sarili ko sa future na ‘Eto ka, ito pa yung kaya mong gawin.’ ”
Motivated by Necessity
While acting was never a prioritized passion (singing had been her first love) and had only been a means to augment the family income, De Castro admits that her attitude towards the art has evolved. “Now, I know what to do. But I think there’s something more than just entertaining but more of telling stories.” She goes on that her acting serves a deeper purpose. “Yun na pinaka purpose. Hindi naman siya for accolades, or recognition, or fame, or whatever. As much as possible, para sa akin, gusto ko may deeper meaning rather than making money out of it.”
Despite being armed with an idealistic outlook on life, Glaiza still stands firmly on reality. She quotes her grandfather who taught her the core of her values, “Pangaral ni lolo: yung magandang simulain, huwag kakalimutin. Unconsciously na-imbibe ko yung principles niya pagdating sa trabaho, sa buhay in general. Kasi laging hinahanap ng isip mo kung ano yung tama at yung magandang simula, yun yung tamang gawin. Kunwari sa trabaho, pagbubutihin mo ba? Di naman sa pagiging magaling ang tama eh. Sa attitude mo rin towards work, yung pakikitungo mo sa ibang tao. Lahat naman tayo may pinagdadaanan na struggles sa fields na pinili natin at na-realize ko na yung field na to, dito na ako,
wala na kawala. So expand ko na lang siya.”
The Spark that Left It Burning
For her role as the title character in Liway, her readings have also offered her a varied outlook on the local social landscape. “May pinabagong interpretasyon ako ngayon ng NPA at ng Philippine Society and Revolution.” A tweet of an excerpt of the book caught the attention of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ founder and Philippine Society and Revolution author Jose Maria Sison. On the other hand, Cecilia Flores-Oebanda, “Commander Liway” herself, advised De Castro, “Sabi niya ‘May panibagong perception na yung tao sa ‘yo as an actor. Research ka din kung ano pa pwede mo gawin kasi importante na maging aware ka sa kung ano tingin ng tao sa ‘yo ngayon kasi pwede to mapunta sa hindi mo inaasahang diskusyon.’ Parang sinasabi niya na mag-ingat ako at mag-research ako. Para sa ‘kin, naging reminder siya na huwag ka basta-basta magsasalita or huwag ka pumanig sa ibang bagay na hindi mo naiintindihan pa. So I remain neutral but it opened up some new perspectives, but I wouldn’t say I’m a total supporter of one organization.”
Delving outside comfort zones and prodding into unfamiliar territory, more often than not, imparts a
lesson. But with De Castro, it seems that coveted light bulb moment has been there all along, it only needed a faint push for it to manifest into action. “I think voicing out my opinions is one of the things I’m slowly learning. Not everyone can understand, hindi lahat ng tao isa lang ang pagunawa sa isang topic o subject so kapag may na-voice out ka na isang opinion, asahan mo na hindi ikaw yung tama, asahan mo na may magsasabi na hindi ganyan. So, may consequences and I think whatever the consequences are, naging ready ako dun [before I voice out] opinion ko, aware ako sa magiging kalalabasan nun and I wouldn’t retract it. Hindi ko siya pagsisisihan.”
But even before playing Liway, De Castro was naturally aware of the social landscape of her motherland.
With both parents who were working for various companies, she noticed the disparities between social classes and between employee and employer. “Dahil natatakot tayo mawalan ng trabaho o source ng pagkakakitaan, iinda na lang natin hanggang hindi na natin kaya. Hindi natin pwede i-keep na lang, lalabas at lalabas kung may mali.” Despite her sweet demeanor, De Castro speaks of change with a passion. She knows there is injustice in the system and accepts it with such grace while keeping a keen eye on it. “Di mo siya pwede iinda na lang eh kahit pa sabihin natin na ‘hindi kaya ko’, yung natural reaction ay ikwento o i-share. At sa tao na yun kung pagkatapos na niya ilabas, magiging okey na siya o mag-iiba na lang siya ng ruta. But for me, di pa ko dumadating sa point na alam ko ruta ko. I’m still trying to figure out where I’m going but one thing is clear: gusto ko yung ginagawa ko but yung sistema na meron siya, minsan naiisip ko, ‘ito lang ba yung meron na sistema? Baka meron pang ibang pwedeng gawin.’ ”
The Millennial Katipunera
She’s not asking for a revolution or anything immediate and radical. In fact, she believes that change in society first and foremost starts with one’s perspective. “Nagsisimula talaga sa yo. Pag laging pa outward, pag lagi mong ibe-blame ang mga elemento sa paligid mo na cause ng isang bagay na hindi tama, mapapagod ka lang eh. Kasi lagi’t-laging merong di katulad ng prinsipyo mo so kung gusto mo magbago, dapat magmula yun sa sarili mo.” And true enough, like most of us who trudge through the gallows of this reality, it’s easy to blame the environment for a general pessimism. But De Castro gets by, accepting reality as it is and chooses instead to focus improving herself, and thus, improving those around her inadvertently. She’s got Katipunera blood, after all.
She speaks about how Felix Galura, one of the key elements in the Philippine Revolution who stayed on the sidelines, is an ancestor on her father’s side. This knowledge inspires her and even motivates her. “Parang wow may linya kaming Katipunero. Pwedeng kunin ng inspirasyon sa mga ginagawa namin. Feeling ko din sa lahat ng mga tao na hindi naman nakikipaglaban pero tini-try ayusin ang established na sistema, laging may consequences.”
On Practicality and Impromptu Travels
Naturally, she’s an explorer at heart and travels as much as she can. However, like every strategist, she is calculated in her actions, even when it comes to her travels. She owns a travel agency called Galura Travels that offers affordable and hassle-free trips both locally and internationally. They take care of everything from accommodations to visas. She admits she’s a practical traveler, so little details like these are easily overlooked for the idea of leisure but she points out the importance of organization and pre-booking. “Pag nag travel ka, importante din ang timing. Maganda din na kino-consider mo yung preparations. Pero minsan pinipikit mo na lang pero nagfa-fall into place naman.”
Of all her trips (she recently went sky diving in Australia and attended the famed Fuji Rock Festival), her favorite so far had surprisingly been the one that was most impromptu—a backpacking trip with her friend Angelica Panganiban to Bhutan, Nepal. “Ibang experience siya kasi isa siya sa mga trips namin na talagang pupunta ka dun para hindi mag-relax. Pupunta ka dun to immerse yourself in a different culture at magpagod.” She cites that Nepal was like no other country she had ever visited because of its simplicity. “Ang ganda ng feeling na sa isang lugar ka na hindi siya industrialized, di siya commercialized. Yung pini-preserve talaga yung country dahil ayaw ng [king] ma-exploit yung bansa nila. Yung sinasabi nila one of the happiest places on earth kasi feeling ko sa sobrang simple ng buhay nila, di na nila kailangan ng magarbong lifestyle para masabi nila na asensado silang bansa. They focus on gross national happiness, hindi yung income o kinikita ng isang bansa.”
It’s her strong character not just as an actress and in the roles she plays, but as herself in general that easily attracts those who admire her. Simply put, she’s an empowering presence and she’s taking all the right steps, albeit slowly, in pushing for her dreams and even her advocacies. One of the UN Women’s ambassadors for Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces, she’s held a number of successful gigs and talks in the past called “Babae Power” that not only aimed to inspire other artists but also to empower women to speak up. “Nung nabuo yung advocacy na yun, it’s making women aware of their right to speak up if it’s not comfortable or if it’s offending them. It’s also building a safe community for the women and encouraging them to share their experiences. So, para ma-prevent yung mga taong gumagawa, mga
nagka-catcall. It’s not just for the women, but for the guys as well. Just because people do it on a regular basis doesn’t mean na okey siya. So that’s the goal of UN Safe Cities.”