Following her journey from bright-eyed wonder to a young woman shaped by life’s experiences, Maris Racal wants you to know that she is not who you think she is. Just hear her out.
In case you didn’t know, Maris Racal will always make things happen.
Much like the many conversations we’ve had on the virtual plane in the course of the nearly two years of being limited by the pandemic, certain requisites had to be ensured before even beginning. “Can you hear me?” asks Maris Racal from the other end of the screen. It is mostly dark in the corner she found space to sit on, with just a fraction of light revealing her face, but even with the unintended shroud of mystery and third world internet struggles, her sense of cheer and charm was penetrating the digital constraints and making the wait more bearable, but also real. And that is saying a lot, because as it is, she is already very relatable as a person. “Wait, let me fix this,” she says, realizing that her voice has been garbled. In an attempt to carry on, there were tapping noises heard, presumably a last ditch effort to figure out the app-based technical difficulty before dropping out of the call momentarily.
“I’m back, sorry. I just had to restart on my end,” she explains, her voice beckoning from a rectangle of black not too long after. “A few seconds pass and Maris Racal is back in focus, her smile beaming through as if nothing happened. By now it becomes apparent that she is a go-getter, and Zoom aside, she has always been since the beginning of her career.
“My seven years in the industry? It wasn’t easy. ‘Yung pag launch sa akin, hindi talaga naka-line up ‘yung life ko. Every project na dumadating sa akin, I had to do my best kasi hindi ako sure kung hanggang kelan ako sa industry na ‘to. I had to make sure na every project, ‘yun ‘yung best work ko, rather than just chill ka lang knowing you have an upcoming project. Bata pa lang ako, nacha-challenge na ako day by day,” Maris Racal recalls. “I’m a go-getter and I make opportunities for myself like making music, releasing songs, producing music videos. It’s also a way for me to show people my other side, that I’m not just an artista. Kasi to be honest, mahirap mag-transition na kilala ka ng tao bilang artista and mag-release ka ng music. It’s hard to be taken seriously sa music scene.”
The Journey So Far
It is hard to believe that for someone like Maris Racal, who by all accounts in the entertainment space is considered a success at her young age, would find it hard to do what she really wants. Whether we don’t realize it or care to admit it, sitting on the other side of the business of entertainment as an ardent audience doesn’t excuse us from contributing to the collateral of assumptions and expectations that has become part and parcel of every wide-eyed ingénue’s stake to a claim over a reasonable fraction of the industry they have long dreamt to be part of. From impossible standards to a more concerning drumming of skewed projections, a lot are piled up on these people we elect to a pedestal almost unreachable. What was once a chase of passion and dreams become marred with what we think of them that we forget that they are human beings, too—and in this particular case, young ones at that.
“Growing up, nape-pressure ako sa image, sa perception, sa perfection. Ako, this is my observation lang, kasi when you’re like that, you get more projects, you get more brands, you get more roles—you’ll be favored more. Tinry ko siya, na-pressure ako to fit in. But na-realize ko, hindi siya masaya. Hindi masaya maging perfect.” This is also why for her, she appreciates that the world is becoming a bit more open to who people are really beyond their larger than life personalities.
“Yeah, I think very important ngayon for people to have someone to look up to na totoo,” she reasons. “Nakakatuwa to be this way, being different from before. Mas maraming tao and bata na nai-inspire seeing the changes sa akin and I often get messages na natutuwa sila sa mga posts ko na funny. So, na-realize ko, I’m on the right track, kasi before, natatakot talaga ako sabihin what’s on my mind. Parang feeling ko, marami akong mao-offend or matu-turn off na fans. Ngayon, I’m just glad maraming celebrities na ganun, kaya parang nakakagaan.”
This profession isn’t unfounded, especially in the paradigm of the internet and social media where the reach is almost too easy and the lines between have been blurred too much. “’Yung natutunan ko is to find balance in everything,” says the self-confessed “tambay ng internet.” In fact, in perhaps her way to sober up from the machinations of social media, the actress has found great joy in spending an inordinate amount of time on TikTok. “It makes me feel normal talaga. Walang pressure ‘yung pagiging relatable. ‘Yung requirement lang is to be true and be yourself. So, I feel very happy na maraming tao na nakaka-relate sa ganon.”
Come As You Are
While this access has carved them to be more human and vulnerable, it has also siphoned the life out of them, often forcing them to get lost in the process—and not even in an artistically proficient way. “What I learned is that you don’t have to share everything, the things that are precious to you,” she says in one of our old conversations.
But with a good head on her shoulders, Maris Racal was able to sort through this curious facet of her growing up, one that many young women her age aren’t necessarily privy to, at least to the exponential degree her stature necessitates. Rather than be swayed by the emotions of these moments, she has remained steadfast, anchoring herself on her family, friends, and ehem, boyfriend, values and principles, and as it goes without saying, her music.
“Life ko talaga siya,” she begins to explain. “In my world, it’s my freedom of expression, like you can give life to your imagination, to your feelings, and what you’re feeling at the moment. In any song that I release, it comes from my heart talaga and my experiences.”
Hear Her Out
Over the years, especially amid the pandemic, Maris Racal really leaned in on music. “Aside from letting people grow with me sa music ko, I also grow with music. And nagbibigay siya ng direction sa life ko: where I want to go, what I need to move on from. It’s my safe space,” she says, this time with a distinct warmth coloring her voice.
“At the start of the pandemic, my escape was music, especially K-pop and nag-release pa si Lady Gaga ng Chromatica and si Arianna…‘yung mga ganung music. Para akong nadadala in a different world. It really made me happy. And then nung December, napaisip ako, anong mangyayari sa music ko? I have a lot of acoustic songs sa, sabi nga ni Taylor Swift, vault,” details Maris Racal of her musical and storytelling. “Na-pressure din ako with my age. When will I release all these songs? Why not now? Release ko na and make a statement and maybe, mas marami pang makikinig sa music ko.”
So, Maris Racal just went on ahead, making and releasing music she wants, one that is truly reflective of the headspace that she is right now and most importantly, herself. “Well, It got me here,” she says of her go-getter attitude, which she really invoked with her music. “Mas confident na ako to take risks. Also, magandang factor siya sa character development, or for me at least, because I don’t want to settle for anything less anymore. Now, everything that I release is at least on the horizon of perfection.” Come as you are, as they say.
Make no mistake about it though, Maris Racal is not in the business of seeking perfection. In fact it is farthest from her vision, because right now, she is happy and comfortable with the ease of being just herself. “There are moments na fini-figure ko pa ako, kasi everyday, I think I’m changing. Mahirap din i-grasp ‘yung moment na itong hulma na ‘to, ako na talaga ‘to. But there are days na may gusto akong ibahin. It’s an everyday struggle,” she says. “But I’m thankful I have my family, my boyfriend, my workmates, my best friend, Sue, to remind me who I am. It’s not just you, but the people around you, sila ‘yung nakakatulong to remind you who you are and who you want to become.”
If It Makes You Happy
Much of her confidence in music, especially in exploring a new sound and genre, she credits to her being true to herself, and of course, to her boyfriend, Rico Blanco. “’Yung nangyari kasi sa relationship namin, ginawa niya akong mas comfortable sa music dahil ‘yun ‘yung life niya, ‘di iba? Mas tinulungan niya akong ‘wag ma-intimidate sa studio, to be who I am whenever I enter the studio, to tell the truth whenever I’m writing. With things like that, natutulungan niya ako sa music and songwriting ko,” Maris Racal reveals.
Of course, we know how the story goes by now. From a dream to simply collaborate and share music manifested on Twitter, destiny (or whatever you choose to believe) worked its way into bringing their paths together, artistically at first. “That part was very unexpected, hindi namin sinadya ‘yun,” swears Maris Racal. “But before I met him, I knew for sure that he would love one of my songs. Confident ako sa mga songs na nasulat ko. So, I was so excited to meet him, but I never got the chance. Four years later, I told our common friend, ‘Please parinig mo na kay Rico ‘yung mga kanta ko.’ And then nung nag-meet na kami, tama nga, nagustuhan niya. Nakakatawa na ‘yun ‘yung unang collaboration namin, which is Abot Langit. After, ‘di namin na-expect ‘yung mga nangyari.”
Heaven sent as it was, everything else that transpired was an offshoot of her really going after what she wants. With her focus, grit, and drive, the singer and songwriter turned passion and possibility into reality. In everything that has transpired for Maris Racal, she goes back to her intentions. “’Yan ‘yung parang crowning moment. Not in a narcissistic way, but ‘yung na-reach ko ‘yung goal ko na ma-inspire and mamulat ‘yung tao sa songs ko like Ate Sandali. Reading those comments or messages, parang, ‘Yes, I did it,’ she shares.
Just like the music she listens to and has included in the so-called soundtrack of her life, Maris Racal is happy that people are finding joy in her pursuits of pop such as Ate Sandali and her latest release, Asa Naman. “Hindi naman specific. For the artist, kung ito ‘yung goal mo for the people, it’s beyond your control,” she says. “So, nakakilig siya for me na pwede pala nagluluto, nagwo-work out, nagme-makeup tapos magpapatugtog ng [songs ko.]”
This happiness she extracts from her music has expanded into her life, and right now, she just can’t help but smile, on the good days, at least. “To be honest, simple things na lang talaga,” she says of what else makes her happy these days. “Parang ang common na sabihin na happiness is a state of mind, but for me, mas magiging happy ka when you accept that things are constantly changing. Alam mo ‘yung ‘wag ka na lang mag-expect. But of course, you have to have vision and goals. You have to understand that life is going to happen–may mawawala sa’yo, may dadating sa’yo. When you accept that, you will find happiness.”
At this point, Maris Racal is done chasing perfection. Instead, she is just going to seek out what brings her joy—her dog, her boyfriend, music and morning messages from her family. It might seem impossible, especially for someone barely in the quarter of her life, but for everything this go-getter is and has, she did that.
Creative Direction and Cover story ANGELO RAMIREZ DE CARTAGENA
Art Direction KENNETH DIMAANO
Photography ANDREA BELDUA
Fashion and Beauty Direction, Styling LYN ALUMNO
Makeup GERY PENASO
Hair JA FELICIANO
Illustrations BELLA CANLAS and LYN ALUMNO
Footwear by CROCS
Special thanks to AMPLIFIED ENTERTAINMENT and BALCONY ENTERTAINMENT
CONTINUE READING: WITH ATE SANDALI, MARIS RACAL IS SHOWING A MORE P-POP SIDE OF HERSELF