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VP/Cover | Kate Valdez: Never Retreating Back

VP/Cover | Kate Valdez: Never Retreating Back

Every person has a shell. It feels warm, snug, and safe. But, the thing about the shell, it keeps you from being your true and best self. Filled with anxiety and self-doubt, anyone can acknowledge that coming out of it would be hard. Vacating would mean mentally facing tall jagged columns of rocks, humid thick fog, and a colossal gateway fastened with thousands of locks. Then, outside awaits a number of opinionated voices to hear that will make anyone hunch back in fear. All you would want to do is go back into the shell that keeps you in a tight and secure hug. However, each one of us has to come out of our shells at some point. Kate Valdez did just that. And, you know what, she may never retreat back. 

VP/Cover: Kate Valdez | Never Retreating Back

Experiencing the collective slump

A lot of people were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. And, some of those effects resulted in invisible ways. The number of people struggling with their mental health spiked during the pandemic and it caused them to inch back into their shells. Unfortunately, this happened to Kate Valdez, too. She didn’t really tell anyone about it. But, the global crisis forced her anxiety and insecurities to make themselves known.

Kung overthinker ako noon, mas naging worse pa siya. To the level na ayoko nang makita ‘yung sarili ko sa pictures. Naging self-conscious ako na feeling ko I’m not beautiful enough. Na-feel ko na I’m not good enough sa lahat ng bagay na ginagawa ko. I felt insecure.

[If I was an overthinker then, it got even worse to the level that I didn’t want to see myself in pictures. I became so self-conscious that I felt like I’m not beautiful enough or I’m not good enough in everything I do. I felt insecure]

The weeks turned to months which, then, became years. Now, the cases in the Philippines have finally reached the point where the government has announced that the country is prepared once the World Health Organization lifts the global health emergency. A lot of Filipinos feel relieved and happy about this piece of good news, Kate Valdez included. And, she noted that receiving a role for a new project from her home network definitely pulled her out of her slump.

At the time, Kate was burrowed deeply into her shell. Although she would peek once in a while, she would always draw back inside. Thankfully, it became a sign for her to grasp her own hands, have an encouraging conversation in front of a mirror, and pull herself back into reality and back to work.

Malaki rin ‘yung naging advantage ng show na Unica Hija sa akin. Talagang nahila niya ako of being too comfortable sa comfort zone ko. Eto talaga ‘yung show (na nag-encourage sa akin) na ‘Kate, you have to get out of there. Kailangan mong umalis diyan. Alam kong kaya mo ‘to. Let’s go. Let’s do this!’

[Unica Hija became a huge advantage. It pulled me out of being too comfortable inside my comfort zone. This show became the push that I needed to get out and I told myself, ‘Kate, you have to get out of there. You need to leave. I know you can do this. Let’s go. Let’s do this!]

She heard a resounding boom of celebration as she dove her way out of her shell and her comfort zone. Kate Valdez realized that if she hadn’t received the role for the science-fiction series, she would have probably remained inside. Although she acknowledged that she still has her safe space, she still couldn’t believe that she was able to get out of it.

Grabbing the hand that finally pulled her out

As a child, all Kate wanted to be when she grows up was to be a model. Eventually, she tried going to an audition for a clothing brand. Coincidentally, on the other hand, an agent from GMA Network invited her to audition for a talent search. At the time, she couldn’t believe it. Even at such a young age, she didn’t think she would be able to do it.

Inisip ko ‘yun. ‘Artista? Parang hindi naman ako pasok sa level ng pagiging artista, parang hanggang dito lang ako. Parang hindi ko kaya…’ ‘Yung mga napapanuod ko, nagpe-perform sa television, sumasayaw. Hindi ko rin alam na kaya ko pala. I mean, sumasayaw naman ako before. Active ako sa mga school programs. Pero hindi ko alam na kaya ko pala ‘to, na pwede pala. So, after one week, ’Sige, you know what? I’m bored. Sige, tara.’

[I thought about it. ‘An actress? I don’t think I can be an actress. I don’t think I can do it.’ The people that I watch, they perform on television. They dance. I didn’t think I can do the same thing that they do. Although I know how to dance as I was an active participant in school programs. But, I didn’t think I can do this, that it was possible for me to do this. So, after one week, I just decided to do it, ‘You know what, I’m bored? Come on, let’s go.’]

It took four weeks and Kate Valdez finally decided to give up and go back into the pretty little shell that she made for herself. Amazingly, when she was about to give up, GMA Network finally called her back to sign a contract under them. When she heard about it, she sat quietly for a while and her mom even came over just to ask if she was alright.

Na-stuck talaga ako for hours, talagang nakatulala lang ako. Sabi ni mama, ‘Malungkot ka ba? Parang hindi ka masaya.’ So, sabi ko, ‘Teka lang, ma. Nagpo-process pa sa akin. Totoo ba ‘to?’ Hindi ko naisip na i-pursue ‘to. I just wanted to try it out.

[I was stuck there for hours, just staring into nothing. Mama asked, ‘Are you sad? Why do you look like you’re unhappy?’ I replied, ‘Wait a little bit, ma. My mind is still processing this. Is this real?’ I didn’t think to pursue acting. I just wanted to try it out.]

This was a new step towards her coming out of her shell. After that, she went with the flow and attended workshops. Eventually, she just started acting without even realizing that she was already on her way up the ladder. Although she initially just wanted to try it out, taking a risk and facing the unknown became a huge step for, at the time, a teenage girl like her.

Receiving a new piece for an ongoing puzzle

Kate Valdez currently stars in a science-fiction series Unica Hija. Notably, this is her first-ever role as the protagonist. The show received a lot of positive feedback due to its uniqueness, especially in the Philippine entertainment industry. A genetic engineer experienced the death of his only daughter. He, then, decided to come up with a daring plan to bring her back with human cloning. As the titular character, she portrays two (or maybe even more) characters in the series.

First time kong… kailangan mag-mukhang kawawa. This is really something else. As in, kakaiba siya. Parang, ‘Grabe, ito pala ‘yung nararanasan ng mga bida?’ Now, I know!

[This is my first time… to look pitiful. This is really something else. It was so strange. I finally thought, ‘So, this is what a bida usually experiences? Now, I know!]

Up until this show, she would usually portray antagonist roles that she admitted fit her facial features. Aside from her role in Unica Hija, she also shared that her home network has started giving her behaviorally-toned-down characters. That way, she wouldn’t be boxed up or typecasted into similar kontrabida roles.

Hindi ko akalain na maaawa sila sa akin. Paano ko sila maco-convince na kawawa ako? Kasi mukha akong kontrabida, especially my features, diba?

[I didn’t think they would pity my character. How could I convince people to pity me? Because I look like a kontrabida, especially my features, right?]

This new type of role is new for Kate Valdez. And, that was obvious, especially with her filmography. However, she felt happy with the feedback that she received from both regular and occasional viewers. With the validation, she finally believed that she could pull off both bida and kontrabida roles. She even hoped for a role in the future where the bida becomes a stronger equivalent of the character through development.

There was a point in the past when she would feel stressed about the feedback that she receives as a kontrabida. But, as she continues to feel more confident about herself and her skill as an actress, she realized that she should be happy about it. If people felt compelled to send her negative comments, she wouldn’t think of it as a big deal anymore.

Before, big deal siya. Pero, ngayon, natutuwa na ako. It’s because, ‘yun nga ‘yung response ng tao dahil nga effective ka.

[Before, it was a big deal. But, now, I feel happy about it. That’s the response of a viewer because you were effective in the role.]

Leveling up yesterday’s dream

Kate Valdez is credited for a lot of acting roles. She started her acting career in 2015 and as of 2023, at 22 years old, she already has at least 29 credits on her resumé. She has worked with a lot of prominent actors and actresses, some of them are even dubbed as veterans. Recounting this, she relayed the thoughts that would usually go through her head.

Kapag may nakakatrabaho ako na napapanuod ko lang dati on-screen, naiisip ko nalang na, ‘Kate, ano ba ‘tong pinasok mo?’

[Whenever I would work with someone who I was only used to watching on television in the past, I would ask myself, ‘Kate, what did you get yourself into?’]

As she continues to take another step out of her shell, she finds herself in an idyllic and seemingly unreal world.

Ngayon ko lang talaga mas na-realize ko na eto na pala talaga ‘yung gagawin ko. Eto na talaga ‘yun. Ilang years ‘yun, ha. From 2015? Sa ilang years na ‘yun, akala ko nananaginip lang ako. I’m still living in my dreams.

[I only just finally realized that this is what I’m meant to do. This is it. It took how many years for me to even do so. From 2015? For all those years, I just thought that maybe I was just dreaming. I’m still living in my dreams.]

As an actress, she puts herself in the shoes of the character that she portrays. Kate Valdez feels so fortunate to be able to express herself through these characters. Normally, when a person feels down in the dumps, they would find someone to talk to. However, for her and for so many actors and actresses, they can express these emotions in real-time.

We are so fortunate to be able to express ourselves sa mga characters na pino-portray namin… Naeexpress namin ‘yung mga nararamdaman namin in the moment. Pwede naming gamitin ‘yun para maka-help ma-release ‘yung emosyon na nararamdaman namin. And, it’s valid! We’re getting paid and at the same time, nakaka-connect ka sa mga tao. Nakaka-relate sila.

[We are so fortunate to be able to express ourselves through the characters that we portray… We can express what we feel in the moment. And, we can use our characters’ stories to release these emotions. And, it’s valid! We’re getting paid and at the same time, we can connect with people. They can relate.]

Being “the” dream

Kate Valdez has shown a lot of talent ever since she started acting from Destiny Rose to Encantadia to Onanay to Sahaya to Anak ni Waray vs. Anak ni Biday, and now Unica Hija. She gave us a peek at her creative process when becoming and embodying these characters.

Sabi nila, you have to get something na relatable dun sa character even in the slightest percentage. Kapag kontrabida, bakit ba siya naging kontrabida? Bakit ba siya parating galit? Ano ba ‘yung reason kung bakit ganun ‘yung behavior niya? So, kailangan mong kumuha ng connection from yourself and dun sa character. 

[They said that you have to get something relatable from the character, even in the slightest percentage. For a kontrabida, why is she the kontrabida? Why is she always mad? What was the reason behind her behavior? So, you will need to get a connection from within yourself and your character.]

Instead of making antagonist roles pure evil, she creates a reason to turn them morally grey. These kinds of characters represent the very fabric of human nature. Most people want to be better and do good things. However, now and then, we see a bit of hypocrisy in those morals. The duality of morally grey characters makes them more interesting. That’s what she gives to those characters. 

A morally grey character is someone whose morals are ambiguous. They’re neither 100% good nor 100% evil. They oscillate between being the good guy and the villain, thereby roaming in the grey area of human morals. Creators can’t make their characters perfect beings with their morals well-defined and perfectly upright. 

For example, kontrabida siya and lagi siyang galit. Bakit siya laging galit? Because kulang siya sa attention. Kailangan ilagay mo ‘yung sarili mo sa shoes niya. Then, palakihin mo siya.

[For example, she’s an antagonist and she’s always mad. Why is she always mad? Because she is seeking attention. You need to put yourself in her shoes. Then, build her up.]

Viewers applauded GMA Network’s move on releasing creative teleseryes. These include the historical fiction Maria Clara at Ibarra and the science fiction drama Unica Hja. As mentioned above, as of this writing, she stars in said sci-fi fic. When asked about how she feels to be included in such a project, she expressed her delight about it.

Although a heavy weight was put on her shoulders, she pointed out that this was a good kind of pressure. She was used to being in her comfort zone. And, she got used to being the kontrabida. At the time, she thought that was it. She was always going to be one. However, the network gave her a protagonist role that truly made her conclude the fact that they believed in her.

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Naisip ko na lang na maybe may nakita silang potential sa akin na I can do it, na pwede akong mag-bloom into something that hindi ko ineexpect.

[I just thought that maybe they saw a potential in me that I can do it, that I can bloom into something that I didn’t expect.]

Katulad ng Unica Hija, nakikita ko ‘yung progress, na naho-hook ‘yung mga tao. It’s like… Wow, it’s magic. Wala akong masasabi sa sarili ko kundi, ‘Wow, kinaya ko. Congratulations, Kate. You did it!’

[Just like Unica Hija, I keep seeing the progress and the way people get hooked. It’s like… Wow, it’s magic. I don’t know what else to say but, ‘Wow, I did it. Congratulations, Kate. You did it!’]

Kate Valdez pats herself on the shoulder as she notes that it’s actually important to congratulate one’s self once in a while. Because you did it and you should be proud. You impressed somebody with what you did. So, you have to be impressed with yourself, too.

A message to herself

During the interview that I had with her, I could see the growth that she definitely had as she continues to ameliorate through the years. She started as a fifteen-year-old teenager, trying new things. She is now a twenty-two-year-old young woman who has impressed a lot of regular and occasional viewers. With that said, I wondered what message she could have had for her younger and older self.

To the fifteen-year-old Kate Valdez

Bebe… congratulations! Alam ko masaya ka sa mga maliliit na bagay na nangyayari sa’yo at the moment. Pero alam kong hindi mo ineexpect ‘to. I just want to say, ‘We did it!’ And, just so you know, I am so proud of you. Sobra. Kung anong ginagawa mo ngayon, kung sino ka, kung ano ang nagpapasaya sa’yo, huwag mong kakalimutan ‘yan. To remind you again, maraming nagmamahal sa’yo and ang dami pang magmamahal sa’yo. Just keep it up! And, I love you so much.

[Bebe… congratulations! I know you’re happy with the small things that are happening at the moment. But, I know you don’t expect this. I just want to say, ‘We did it!’ And, just so you know, I am so proud of you. So so proud. Whatever it is that you’re doing, whoever you are right now, and whichever it is that is making you happy, don’t forget those. And, to remind you again, there are so many people who love and there are many more who will do, too. Just keep it up! And, I love you so much.]

To the twenty-eight-year-old Kate Valdez

2028… Siguro for now, wala ka pang jowa? Meron man o wala, I just want to say na sana kung anong ginagawa mo ngayon na masaya ka and that you’re contented. Importante ‘yun. I hope you’re successful now and you’re traveling more. And, you’re helping a lot of people hindi lang sa ginagawa mong craft pero sa ibang bagay. I hope na you don’t overwork yourself. Just take your time and enjoy every bit of it. Enjoy mo lang. Mag-travel ka, kumain ka ng mga gusto mong kainin. Huwag mo idepende lahat ng decisions mo sa life sa opinyon ng iba. Kung alam mong walang nasasaktan na ibang tao, just do it. Live freely and happily.

[2028… Maybe, at this point, you still don’t have a partner? Whether you have one or not, I just want to say that whatever you’re doing right now, I hope you’re happy and that you’re content. That’s important. I hope you’re successful now and you’re traveling more. And, you’re helping a lot of people not only with your craft but with other things, too. I hope you don’t overwork yourself. Just take your time and enjoy every bit of it. Just enjoy it. Go ahead and travel, and eat the food that you want to eat. Don’t depend on your decisions in life on the opinion of others. If you know you’re not hurting anyone else, just do it. Live freely and happily.]

Going beyond the shell

Before we ended the interview, I decided to come clean. During the entire day, I was hiding something from her and I didn’t reveal it until this moment. I finally decided to tell her that we actually have a mutual friend named Mikey Sutton, the Filipino-American writer and now the Executive Producer behind the fantasy-thriller comic book, DREAMWALKER. In case you didn’t know, Kate Valdez is the face of the said comic book. And, Mikey and I met because of her.

In 2018, Kate had an interview with Sir Mikey where he expressed how she could make the jump to Hollywood. At the time, I was working for an entertainment news website and this interview caught my eye. When I read it, I completely agreed with his sentiment of recommending her to play Kate Bishop in a Marvel movie. As a way to show that I agreed with his opinion, I decided to write my own analysis in an article about it.

Because, for me, if Valdez auditioned to play Kate Bishop, she would portray it as a badass woman fit for the character. I viewed the young Hawkeye as a young woman that distances herself from the usual stereotypes attached to women in comics as she retains her own personhood. Of course, in 2021, the role would go to another actress of Filipina blood, Hailee Steinfeld. However, at the time, we still didn’t know who could portray the character. 

But, that is how I met Mikey Sutton. We connected through Facebook and I told him about my growing interest in comic books. Then, Marvel came out with a Filipina superhero that almost drowned my social media feed – Wave. That’s where I saw the whole #KateForWave campaign which people still post about now.

Mid-2020, Mikey revealed that he was working on a comic book that featured Kate Valdez as the inspiration behind the main character. That’s when and how I found out about DREAMWALKER. With the first and second volumes being sold all around the world with her face on the cover, I wondered how Kate Valdez feels about her acting skills, and her specifically, going beyond the Philippines and reaching international audiences.

At the moment, if ginagawa mo siya, kailangan i-free mo ‘yung isip from anything. Kasi hindi mo mabibigay ‘yung kailangan ng character at sa trabaho. And, to think na maraming pwedeng makanuod and makakita now and in the future?

[At the moment, you have to free your mind from anything. Because, if not, you won’t be able to give yourself to the character and to the craft. And, to think, there are so many people who will see and watch it now and in the future.]

With the help of the people around me, I think kaya naman. Kaya ko siya. Pero, siyempre, gusto kong ma-stretch pa siya para polished. Mag-undergo ng workshops and training para hindi ako mangapa. Kasi ngayon nalang ulit ako nagkaroon ng show. Kumbaga parang lighter na ngayon nalang ulit nag-spark. I have to regain the spark ng pag-arte, humarap sa camera. Kasi, sa totoo lang, ‘pag may camera ninenerbyos pa rin ako. Hindi siya nawawala. Pero, it helps me. With the help of guidance, I think I can achieve it more.

[With the help of the people around me, I think I can do it. I can do it. But, of course, I want to stretch it more to make it polished. I want to undergo more workshops and training. That way, I wouldn’t be going in blind. Especially, since this is the first time in a long while that I have a show. It’s kind of like a lighter that just sparked once again. I have to regain the spark of acting and facing the camera once more. To tell you the truth, I still get nervous when there is a camera around. It won’t go away. But, it helps me. With the help of guidance, I think I can achieve it more.]

And, I truly think she will. Because just like I said, every person has a shell. It feels warm, snug, and safe. Despite the horrifying elements that await outside, each one of us has to come out of it at some point. And, Kate Valdez did just that. She came out of her shell and she is never retreating back.

Publisher | Richie de Quina & Gwynn Crisostomo
Editor-in-Chief | John Luke Chica
Senior Editor | Rapha Garcia and Angela Baltan
PR & Advertising Manager |  Josh Austria
Digital Manager | Allen Esteban
Words by Angela Baltan

Producer | Josh Austria
Photographer | Gellovee White
Film by | Mhygsz Gomez II
Makeup | Paige Seneres
Hair Stylist | Bhelle Alba
Stylist | Rob Lim
Assistant Stylist | Miguelle Borja
Studio | Prowess Supremacy Production Inc.

Special thanks to Sparkle GMA Artist Center, Salo-Salo Together, Jas Baldoza and Boyet Santos of Prowess Supremacy Production Inc.

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