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Andrea Brillantes and Francine Diaz Have More in Common Than You Think

On-screen, the two play bitter rivals. IRL, they’re fast friends, bonded by their love for their craft and a determination to dream big.

by Krista Garcia | Aug 8, 2019

Andrea Brillantes and Francine Diaz are, in fact, your average teenagers—except they also happen to be two of the biggest stars on Philippine television.

On any given weekday morning, a typical teenager would be doing any of these things: checking out the latest K-pop updates online, chatting about movies, or simply hanging out with their friends. This is exactly what we found Andrea Brillantes and Francine Diaz doing on the day of their Preview cover shoot. The two play bitter rivals on TV, but IRL, they became fast friends—in fact, they refer to each other as each others' “girlfriend.” Andrea quips, “Kami talaga yung love team.”

This was not a typical hangout for the two, mind you—they were at a fashion shoot, hard at work. Currently, the challenge at hand was to coax their co-star to be still enough for a few more frames, which was tricky, since the aforementioned co-star was a real, live duck. 

While the adults surrounding them flinched every time Nido the duck did so much as quack or flap his wings, these two girls were unfazed, even giving their co-cover star a pet name. At one point, upon the photographer’s request, Andrea gamely picked up the duck, and almost immediately, he calmed down in her arms.

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Click! And we got our shot.


Andrea Brillantes and Francine Diaz for Preview.ph August 2019

The duck (unharmed) was gently led out of the set. The two girls just continued to smile serenely as we moved on to other layouts. It’s as if they’re telling us, “See? We got this under control.” In fact, just a few moments later, the two had moved on from the whole duck situation. They were already taking selfies of each other, breaking into dance routines, and laughing about inside jokes that only the two of them understood. 

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They were just like typical teenagers—only they’re currently two of the biggest stars on Philippine television, too.

The Golden Ticket

Andrea and Francine are the lead stars of Kadenang Ginto, the afternoon soap opera on ABS-CBN that’s the current talk of the town. Week on week, it consistently dominates its timeslot, earning audience share ratings in the 20-something percentile, according to data from Kantar Media.


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The soap’s plot revolves around the bitter feud between Romina (Beauty Gonzalez) and Daniela (Dimples Romana), two women who are tied together by their connection to a wealthy businessman. Romina is a secretary who falls in love with a man who accepts her wholeheartedly. Daniela, meanwhile, is a daughter threatened by the presence of a new woman in her father’s life.

Now on its third season and nearing its first anniversary on air, the show's spotlight vacillates between the grownups and their kids: Romina’s daughter Cassie (played by Francine) and Daniela’s daughter Marga (played by Andrea). The two teens face off on their own stage, in one of the most cutthroat battlegrounds of all—high school. 

Why is Kadenang Ginto such a hit? At first glance, it’s classic Mara Clara fare, updated with plaid skirts and knee-high socks. But don’t assume that it’s a mere remake of a been-there-done-that hit. Though there are the classic tropes of wealth-grabbing, rivalries, and unrequited love, it’s not your usual poor protagonist weepfest: Cassie, for one, never lets Marga win more than once in a row. According to Francine, there are more revelations and twists to watch out for in the coming months. 

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The ongoing love triangles and juicy comebacks have generated quite a few memes in the online circuit. All of last month, it was impossible to miss a “You do note” reference from every brand page run by a social media manager who studied the trend hijacking playbook (we’re not one to point fingers, though; we’re right on board with our own video of the girls reading a couple of memes, which you better keep your eyes peeled for!). 

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And because it’s 2019, we are guessing (perhaps rightly) that the show’s popularity is further bolstered by the Instagram generation’s fascination with Andrea and Francine—two beautiful girls whose stories of rising to stardom are soap opera-worthy in their own right. 


Twin Destiny

Onscreen, they play rivals who clash because of their different backgrounds. In real life, Andrea and Francine’s backgrounds are so uncannily similar, with a few exceptions. 

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Andrea was scouted after placing first runner-up in a girls’ pageant; Francine was discovered by a talent scount who spotted her at a bus terminal. While Andrea has already been under Star Magic's management since 2010, it wasn’t until 2013 when she earned her big break as the lead character in the drama series Annaliza. Francine, meanwhile, has always been cast into guest roles as the younger version of various female leads. Kadenang Ginto is her first big break. But that’s where the differences end.

Both started auditioning for acting or modeling roles almost as soon as they learned how to talk. Both have faced their fair share of casting call rejections at go-sees.


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Fact #1: Their moms, who were both present during the shoot, knew from the get-go that their daughters were destined to be big stars. 

Nung buntis ako, nakabasa ako ng libro, na [sabi] if you want something, you have to be specific,” Andrea’s mom, Belle, shares. “So the whole time na buntis ako, nagpi-pray ako na ‘Lord, give me a baby who looks like a doll—with curly hair, fair skin, a beautiful face, and thick eyebrows.’ Specific talaga. And then pinaka-last, at the end of the prayer, every night for the rest of the term, [I pray], ‘Give me a star.’”

And here comes Francine’s mom, Merdick, with her own recollection: “Ang sabi ko sa kanya, ang gusto ko lang naman mangyari sa kanya, yung may mag-sponsor ng damit niya.” Upon the advice of a relative, they would hang out in Greenbelt, in the hopes of being approached by a talent scout “katulad nung kay Heart Evangelista.”

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Fact #2: Both started auditioning for acting or modeling roles almost as soon as they learned how to talk. Both have faced their fair share of casting call rejections at go-sees. Both want nothing more than to provide for their families and to give their parents a comfortable life.

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"Madami nang times na—lalo na nung lagi lang ‘reject’ yung natatanggap koayoko na,” Andrea admits. “Tapos nagiging toxic na, nakaka-apekto na sa health ko. Madami nang times na magsi-CR ako tapos mag-uusap kami ni mama, ‘Tama na, ano, tigil na natin ito.Ang daming ganoon.”

In Francine's case, her mom Merdick says, “Marami kaming pinagdaaan, sobrang hirap. Nung minsan, pinapatigil ko na si Francine kasi nakikita ko na nahihirapan siya. Hindi naman lahat ng tao gugustuhin ka.”

There are many pretty girls and determined moms. Sometimes lines for go-sees would snake so long that it would take up three floors of a mall. Despite these setbacks, however, the two never gave up on their dream.


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The challenges are pretty much a given. After all, there are many pretty girls and determined moms. Sometimes lines for go-sees would snake so long that it would take up three floors of a mall. Despite these setbacks, however, the two never gave up on their dream, and they consider themselves lucky to have this opportunity at their age. 

Ito lang talaga yung alam ko, ito lang yung gusto ko... and super sanay na talaga ako dito,” Andrea says of her craft. “Nagta-trust lang ako sa timing ni God. Kung hindi para sa akin, hindi din talaga para sa akin. Ang dami ko pang dreams. Ang dami ko pang hindi naabot. So gusto ko muna abutin ko lahat yun.

Meanwhile, Francine says, “Hanggang ngayon pa rin po, naninibago ako. Kasi dati po, hindi ganoon yung pag-welcome sa akin ng ibang tao. Pero ngayon, parang kahit saan po ako magpunta, kilala nila ako bilang Cassie... Natutuwa po ako kasi ibig sabihin tumatatak sa kanila yung character ko.”

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Fact #3: The two are in unison in saying that playing their respective roles have helped them become better in their craft. 

Ibang-iba po si Cassie kesa sa dati kong mga roles. Madami po siyang naturo sa akin,” Francine notes. “Seryoso naman po ako sa iba kong roles, pero ito po kasi, para siyang iba sa iba kong roles. Siya po yung nag-iisang character na talagang ibang level na sineseryoso ko.”

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Dahil kay Marga, mas naging mabait ako,” Andrea says. “Kasi super sama ni Marga, like ang toxic ng mind niya, ako na yung napapagod, so ayoko maging ganito, ganyan. [I tell myself,] Blythe, 'wag ka maging ganito. Na-a-appreciate ko friends ko. Kasi si Marga, surrounded siya by fake people.”

No Rivalry

Perhaps these similarities explain how they got along so well right away. It came so naturally, in fact, that both girls can’t pinpoint exactly how their friendship started. “Hindi ko po alam kung paano nag-start yung friendship namin, basta isang araw, okay na po kami,” Francine shares. “Pareho po kami ng mga gusto pagdating sa movies, sa food... And kahit random po pinag-uusapan namin, nagkaka-sundo po kami.”

Nagta-trust lang ako sa timing ni God. Kung hindi para sa akin, hindi din talaga para sa akin. Ang dami ko pang dreams. Ang dami ko pang hindi naabot. So gusto ko muna abutin ko lahat yun.” - Andrea


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Nakaka-miss nga din nung una, nung kaming dalawa lang, kasi ngayon may boys naAng dami naming girl time dati,” Andrea reveals. “It can go [from] deep talks [to] super lutang talks, like—paanong nagawa ang mundo, bakit tayo ginawa,” Andrea shares.

The two evidently have nothing but admiration for each other as well. 

Napaka-galing lang po ni Andrea umarte sa totoo lang. Lahat po ng kasama ko, sobrang galing po nila umarte,” Francine says. “So sabi ko kahit kalahati man lang, kailangan ma-reach ko yung acting skills nila. Masaya po siya katrabaho. Ma-joke siya, jolly, and energetic.”

Andrea is equally effusive when talking about her co-star. “Proud ako kay Francine, kasi first niya ito. Dati, hiyang-hiya siya, pero ngayon, nagsasampalan na kami,” Andrea says. “Happy din ako kasi nagkaroon din ako ng bagong friend.”

"Dati po, hindi ganoon yung pag-welcome sa akin ng ibang tao. Pero ngayon, parang kahit saan po ako magpunta, kilala nila ako bilang Cassie... Natutuwa po ako kasi ibig sabihin tumatatak sa kanila yung character ko.” - Francine


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Has their friendship ever hindered them from carrying out their most intense scenes? “Alam namin na work lang siya. Alam namin na scene lang, alam namin na role lang siya, and ibang-iba naman kami sa roles namin. Tagal na din namin ginagawa yun, nasanay na kami. Pero lagi kami nagso-sorry sa isa’t isa bago kami mag-take,” Andrea explains. 

Their moms testify to the genuine camaraderie of the two. We saw firsthand how they were comfortable with each other, holding hands, leaning one’s head on the other’s shoulder, or turning to the camera on perfect cue. They were cheering each other on during their individual layouts, and even bursting into impromptu dance moves in between takes (we later on discovered that it was a choreography they were rehearsing for an upcoming show).

Sobra silang magkaibigan,” confirms Zen Roncal, their road manager from Star Magic. “Pag may show, backstage, naglalaro, hindi nila naiisip how big yung influence nila, na ang dami na nilang followers at fans. Tapos kapag nakasalang na sila onstage, bigay todo naman. In fairness to them. They both want people to be happy.”

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Perhaps in the future, their paths will diverge as they grow into their own niches. In fact, we’re rooting for them to be individual stars in their own right. But for now, it’s fun being an audience member to their no-frills, uncomplicated friendship. In an industry filled with intrigues and mistrust, it’s refreshing to see these two on-screen rivals just being themselves and getting along, caring less about the future and more about making each present moment count.

Produced by Marj Ramos

Photographed by Koji Arboleda

Art Directed by Bacs Arcebal

Styled by Danae Dipon

Fashion Direction by Steph Sison

Beauty Direction by Nicole Arcano

Makeup by Jason delos Reyes (Francine) and Jelly Eugenio (Andrea)

Hair by Jaymar Lahaylahay (Francine) and Mong Amado (Andrea)

Nails by Vangie Coleco of Nailandia

Set Design by Aren Dale Santos of ADSET Production

*Disclaimer: No animals were hurt in the production of this shoot.

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