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Words: JANNIELYN ANN BIGTAS
Photos, video, and design: JESSICA BARTOLOME
Production: JAMIL SANTOS

October 31, 2018

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CHYNNA ORTALEZA IS GOOD. Sure, over the last 12 hours, she had to attend to a sick daughter, iron out an issue in her new career managing a record label, and tape for an episode of GMA-7 primetime series Victor Magtanggol, but Chynna has never been better.

“I have Victor Magtanggol, and I’m a mother and a wife. But you have to adjust to the flow of life. It’s highly tiring but you have to adaptive or else, liliit ka na naman. Babalik na naman ba tayo du’n?” she tells GMA News Online.

 It’s a Saturday afternoon and she looks fresh and easy in her white turtleneck sleeveless top beneath her black hoodie that read "OC Records" on the left-hand side of her chest. She has on a relaxed pair of nude pants and black birks. Chynna was barefaced, as requested.

She looks relaxed and comfortable in her own skin, which was not always the case in the past.

“Before I’d be like why? Why [would] they [want] that, [me without makeup]? They’re gonna put it on the ano, people are gonna judge me. [But] now, I’m comfortable with that,” she says.

It’s a highly liberating feeling too. “Even if I walk in and [you’ll] be ‘Is that her?’ Well, it’s totally me, Lara Serena Roque — Chynna Ortaleza Cipriano, this is me. And ‘yan, ang saya lang ng pakiramdam.”

Now 35, Chynna has been doing the onscreen thing for a long time. She started with a gig as a junior reporter in “5 and Up” in the early ‘90s. In 1999, Chynna returned to TV as Mimi on the teen-oriented show “Click,” and she never left.

All through her 20’s, Chynna was a constant presence on our television sets, appearing in one project after another. Which is why it was a surprise to hear her describe that decade as tumultuous.

“I was such in an unhealthy state,” Chynna says. “I couldn’t even see the positive side of it during that time. I was always complaining and I wasn’t happy [with] what I was doing.”

THE DREAM, REALLY, WAS TO BECOME a broadcast journalist, preferably at the same venerable media outfit that produced “5 and Up.”

“I had this vision… I wanted to go to U.P., study broadcasting, be an intern on Probe, and then start working from there. And if I were given a chance to become a reporter for Probe or for the news, then that would be like, my path. But life had other plans,” she says.

At the time, Chynna was a Communication Arts student in UST. It was her dad who made the point about how she could parlay the opportunities onscreen to get to where she wanted.  

“He asked, ‘What do you think you’re going to do after, when you graduate?’ I said, I’ll probably be a production assistant,” she says.  

Sabi niya, ‘Why go through that when you can actually accelerate yourself? You can be an actress and at the same time, learn the ropes’.”

And so she did. From a weekly taping schedule, she started taping four times a week. But while this may seem like showbiz success, it only made Chynna feel like she was getting off-course.

After being cast as Mimi on “Click” in 1999, Chynna was never gone from television.

“You know when you’re a kid, you’re not as open as you should be. You feel like, ‘Ah, but I have to reach that to follow my sense of success,’” she says.

“There was the struggle with feelings of ‘I’m so baduy.’ Or the thought of people my age laughing at me because nobody saw that in me, that I’ll be part of show business. It was the farthest thing from anyone’s mind.”

She prodded on. Chynna starred in projects like “La Vendetta” and tried her hand at hosting on “SOP.”

But the industry was incredibly competitive and unforgiving. “I had to go through ‘You’re not pretty enough’ or ‘You look too childish,’ ‘You have uneven teeth,’ all these things — ‘Make your chest bigger so you can get roles.’

“It’s a constant struggle for me. This is not just because of show business… I was highly insecure,” Chynna admits. “I’d always second guess my abilities and hide under the facade of, ‘I’m good at what I do,’ or, ‘I have excellent grades.’”

BY THE TIME SHE HIT 30, that little chip in her heart had turned into a full-on erosion. In 2013, while shooting the GMA fantasy series “Adarna,” Chynna broke down.

While crying on the set, her coach and friend Yan Yuzon approached her, talked to her, and helped her realize a few truths: It wasn’t about the roles given to her. It was her frustration of not being able to do things she wanted to do, or the things she knew she could offer.

“It was really the current state of my being at that point. I think, even if they gave me a freakin’ big ass role, I’d still be unhappy,” Chynna says. She recalls an important point Yan raised: nothing stopped her from pursuing other projects.  

“That’s when I said, ‘T— ina tama na.’ Alam mo ‘yon? It was getting way out of hand. Tama na. You don’t need daily acts of affirmation to say that you’re a good person, or that you’re good in your field,” Chynna says of that enlightening period.

“I had to take that. It was my crossroad, and it was probably the best year of my life kasi I decided to accept myself.”

With a decade’s worth of experience, she lined up to audition for films — for Cinemalaya’s 10th year, in 2014, specifically. “I had to take courage, so even if alam ko, ano nga ako eh, false mayabang. Sobrang fragile sa loob, takot na takot ma-reject, but I had to take courage. I had to remind myself that getting rejected doesn’t make you less of a person.”

She tried out and got a callback for a minor character in the film #Y. Chynna only had four scenes, but her role was pivotal — and as it would turn out, it was pivotal in more ways than one. 

Du’n na nag-start mag-change yung attitude ko. I remembered what my dad said, ‘No small roles. Take it on and make it your own.’” 

It didn’t take long before the universe began to reward Chynna’s courage. Director Joel Lamangan called her for another role — for another Cinemalaya movie, in fact; “Hustisya” had her working with none other than Nora Aunor.

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CHYNNA GETS EMOTIONAL when she starts talking about Joel Lamangan.

“He was the only one who inquired. During that time, ito ‘yung pabagsak, talagang he was the only director who was kind enough to inquire and book continuously,” she says. 

Direk Joel’s belief in her became a constant reminder for Chynna: “It’s not easy to impress that artist. So for him to believe in you, [I] shouldn’t lose hope. Don’t lose hope. ‘That’s Joel Lamangan, Chynna.’” 

It also allowed Chynna to embrace her craft as an actor more fully. 

“All the blocks I put in terms of acting… I was blocking a lot of things because, ‘Oh, I didn’t want to anger my boyfriend.’ Or ‘I’m not comfortable with that.’ These are false lies you tell yourself because you just want to keep yourself small,” Chynna says.

These, she realized, were lies she told herself to combat her insecurities. Lies that she finally learned to stop.

“Look, we can’t be perfect, you just have to live with the fact that you can’t be perfect. But as long as you do your best, or you believe that you’re doing good sa ibang tao, then that’s what matters,” she says. 

By learning to become more vulnerable, Chynna found a path to sunshine. She’s made peace with herself and landed even better roles.

And that led her to do things she thought she would never do: get married (to her best friend, musician and actor Kean Cipriano, in 2015) and become a mother (to daughter Stellar, who was born in 2016). 

"I told Kean, that’s why pala before I’d always shun the idea of getting married or having children. Because of how broken I was. When I started appreciating myself, nu’ng nabuo ako ulit, that’s when it just came very, very easy," Chynna says.

Chynna married her best friend, actor and musician Kean Cipriano, in 2015, and they had their church wedding in 2017. They are parents to daughter Stellar, born in 2016.

THESE DAYS, SHE EVEN MANAGES A RECORD LABEL, adding to her daily mix of responsibilities. Chynna and Kean own OC Records, with five artists in its current roster — Unique, Rice Lucido, Earl Generao, Frizzle Anne, and Bita and the Botflies. The slant really is to help and encourage independent artists to own their freedom.

“You need to own your freedom as an artist and not be scared about the things you want to express. Don’t ever think it’s not good enough or that it’s ugly, or nobody’s gonna listen kasi these are gifts that are given to you eh… it’s divinely given, whoever it is that you believe in,” Chynna says. 

She pauses to consider how her experience with a rough 20s has become a boon for her in dealing with her OC Records artists. 

“Maybe that’s why I had to go through it, so I’d be able to understand and help and just be patient with them and just encourage and encourage,” she says. 

It’s a tough enough job for anyone — especially when coupled with her show business commitments, and her role as a wife and mother. It’s one that requires her to always be the bigger person, and occasionally issue herself a note to be kind, be kind, be kind. 

“You have to widen yourself, hindi puwedeng nandiyan ka lang. Even if sometimes feeling mo may araw na bibigay ka, [you have to] go through it and expand. ‘You’re a universe within yourself, expand,’” Chynna says. 

Daily meditation helps. 

“Every day, kailangan ko ‘yon i-remind sa sarili ko para at least kahit papano may traction ako ng positivity," she says.  

“You really have to give yourself some time to be comfortable with yourself, alone, and talk kindly to yourself always. So that at the end of the day, when you exude that kind of balance and that kindness, then everybody feels that kind of energy from you. So it bounces back.” 

But here’s the thing: it doesn’t only bounce back. 

Turning her attention to her daughter Stellar, Chynna says she wants to expose her to “good things, to the things the world has to offer, the sense of adventure.” That quickly becomes apparent. 

More than bouncing back, things have actually come together for Chynna: her painful past, her experiences in show business, her newfound role in music, her persona as a wife, and finally a mother. Chynna Ortaleza is whole.