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We’re Calling It: Gabbi Garcia Is GMA’s Next Big Star

by Jamina F. Nitura | Jan 12, 2022

Where most fold under the weight of pressure, the 23-year-old thrives in it. It’s exactly the kind of push she needs to reach further heights when it comes to her career.

Gabbi Garcia’s soul is starbright and sun-kissed. It seems inclined always towards the dazzling twinkle of camera flashes, airport tarmacs just before dusk, and canary-hued diamond crowns. Devoted fans of the actress know her long standing dream of becoming a beauty queen—and the childhood fantasy still endures, just waiting for the perfect timing—but before acting eventually won over, she originally wanted to become a pilot. 

Flight school never seemed far-fetched for Gabbi—her mother is a flight attendant and some of her ninongs are themselves aircraft pilots. At a young age, she had imagined herself as the skirt-clad woman on deck, cruising among clouds at altitudes far out of reach.

In the end, Gabbi never left the ground. This version of herself jettisoned into the next universe when she found another talent to spend her time on: getting all the handouts at Christmas parties. Gabbi was that kid; At family gatherings, her relatives never had to coax her with the promise of a little more than lunch money if she sang and danced for them. She’d part through all the whining hubbub and step up to the spotlight herself, volunteering a performance that would easily sweep all the red envelopes into her extroverted little hands. 


While Gabbi wasn’t meant to maneuver a giant hunk of metal underneath the stars, it’s been made clear that she was always destined to be one. Philippine TV networks are often defined by the names in their roster, and there’s no denying that Gabbi Garcia is synonymous to the GMA brand along with a select few of its acting bigwigs that need no mention or introduction. Although she has more years ahead of her before she can sit at the table with her veteran counterparts like Marian Rivera, Heart Evangelista, and Jennylyn Mercado—all of whom she admires dearly—the 23-year-old is at least well on her way, invitation brimming with possibilities at her back pocket.

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Gabbi Garcia for January 2022

Under Pressure

Propped up by GMA to be one of its next big talents this 2022, Gabbi is obviously ecstatic and grateful for the trust, but she knows well not to take it lightly. As the old superhero adage goes, with great power comes great responsibility, and it’s definitely a saying Gabbi’s turned into her own personal mantra, one she’s able to rework and bring into every situation. This time around, her line goes, With great opportunities come big responsibilities.” 

Apart from GMA executives, it was also star maker Johnny Manahan, famously known as Mr. M, who saw the iridescent shine in Gabbi. Handpicked by the showbiz magnate, she squandered no time gleaning nuggets of wisdom from him, which turned out to be less about her craft and more about how she carries herself off screen: that she should take responsibility for everything she does and to be adult enough to handle her own actions. Talent, after all, can only get you far, but a good attitude fosters bonds with people willing to join you for the ride—and Gabbi has little problem with both.


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Most celebrities are amiable to work with. They know the social protocols—to throw enough smiles and engage in enough small talk that’ll keep them from the ire of entitled internet trolls complaining about their “lack of courtesy.” Gabbi, however, is an extrovert who isn’t shy about her penchant for chatting up just about anyone within speaking range. The way she does this isn’t uncomfortable either; she’ll match your energy in such an affable manner that it’ll probably take her just 10 seconds to convince you to want to be her friend—whether you’re a person or a full-grown horse, it doesn’t really matter.


"Pressure is really good for me. I work at my best when I’m under pressure, so it makes me motivated, and it makes me less relaxed. I know there are more great things coming, so it keeps me moving."

In Greek mythology, she’d be a child of Apollo—one of those kids with an enviable, natural gold tan, strutting around an open field with a pleasant aplomb that dispenses in whisps among the people around her. She could have leveraged the afternoon heat that soon swallowed the cold breeze at our shoot location at Ybonita Farm and Villas in Batangas, but not once did she complain or rush for it to end. 


Gabbi’s self-assured vigor, both during our photoshoot and going into this new path, doesn’t lie in the fact that she feels no pressure—because she does—but in the belief that she can make something great out of it. “Just being in the industry, the pressure has always been there,” she admits to Preview. “But I think [I feel more] excitement and also I really value the opportunity given…Pressure is really good for me. I work at my best when I’m under pressure, so it makes me motivated, and it makes me less relaxed. I know there are more great things coming, so it keeps me moving.”


In Her Own Terms

When it comes to choosing projects, Gabbi’s her own manager. She’s careful about the dramas she says yes to and the brands she associates with. No story she decides to tell is told without meaning.I am a very aligned person and I'm very stern and straightforward, I guess. I’m gonna say what I think works best for me, and what I think doesn’t work for me,” she explains. The young actress is most drawn to “remarkable” narratives, ones that, one way or the other, comment on the state of the world off camera.

2016 was an opportune year for Gabbi as it was the year Encantadia aired. A reboot of the 2005 cult classic of the same name—inarguably one of GMA’s greatest hits—the fantasy drama’s lightning recall just from its name alone practically ensured a boost in popularity for its main cast even before it launched. Of course, no one stood to benefit more from this than Gabbi (who played Alena), the youngest and newest of the four Sang’gres, then just 16 years old when they started filming the show.


Encantadia wasn’t handed to Gabbi on a silver platter, though. She had to audition for it—chose to audition for it, in fact, not just because of the massive footprint it left on Philippine TV culture over a decade ago, but precisely because of the escapism it gave its world-weary viewers. More than that, it’s also where she gathered enough self-confidence to eventually share with her legions of social media followers. “Alena kasi is a very loving person… I was very vocal noong 2017 about self-love because that was what she was going through at that time. So I learned how to love myself even more because of that character,” Gabbi tells Preview.


Gone is the sheltered 15-year-old ingenue who entered the entertainment world eager to play princess on the red carpet. As she grew up in the industry, what she once thought of as a career tinted in glitz and glam slowly peeled away its layers of sheen to reveal the truth of it all: that acting is a business.

This surge in self-confidence in the actress would only crystallize in the coming years. Just last October 2021, Gabbi made headlines for flaunting her bikini figure with the caption #FlatandProud to refer to her flat chest, an insecurity she admittedly felt was unbecoming in her high school years. “I couldn’t wrap my head around it, na how come all of my classmates are developing already? [I thought] ‘Is there something lacking [with me]? May nagawa ba akong mali when I was a kid? Why was it like this?’ I didn’t understand it,” says Gabbi. 


Luckily, she had built around herself a community that made her realize otherwise. “As much as we see the brutal side of the industry, there are also good people who will lift you up,” the actress shares. “Because of the support I’ve been getting from my fans, from my family, from my friends, from my team, nag-transform yung negative energy into something that would really be inspiring for others. So now it’s really rewarding when people comment on my photos na parang ‘[I’m] so inspired kasi I’m also flat-chested/I’m also morena/I’m also like this.’ It’s nice to be one of those images for the youth today [who will show you that] it’s okay to love yourself.”


Part and parcel of learning to love herself is knowing exactly what she wants for her career. Gone is the sheltered 15-year-old ingenue who entered the entertainment world eager to play princess on the red carpet. As she grew up in the industrya world that forced her to mature faster than her peerswhat she once thought of as a career tinted in glitz and glam slowly peeled away its layers of sheen to reveal the truth of it all: that acting is a business. “I was culture-shocked by everything…It’s not all pagandahan. People here are smart,” Gabbi revealed. It’s just like any other business, she says, except here, she’s the product. “So you have to know how to market yourself, how to build yourself, how to hone your skills.” 

Make no mistake, though, because there’s nothing manufactured about the GMA star. What she puts out there is as authentic as what she chooses to keep to herself. “Our choices are our power…We’re also humans and we wanna keep it real, too. And I think that’s also the beauty of social media. We can also just upload what we want and not upload what we don’t want.”


While Philippine show biz has fostered an obsession with love teams, for Gabbi, developing as an actress means taking the road less traveled. She’s well-aware that stars who’ve been paired together for years have flourished perfectly fine beside each other, but as someone who admittedly draws her energy from other people, Gabbi grows best when she’s not anchored to one place. She first publicly expressed this intent in 2019, and now, three years later, she continues to stick to her guns.


This year, Gabbi is stepping into the shoes of LJ, a production designer and the lead character of her upcoming show, titled Love You Stranger, with her real-life boyfriend Khalil Ramos. Despite having played love interests multiple times already, the actress reiterates she and Khalil aren’t a love team, or at least they aren’t locked in a contract that obligates them to only star opposite the other. That makes all the difference for Gabbi who then makes it clear she still wouldn’t mind acting alongside her beau over and over again. It’s the freedom of choice of it all, and when it comes down to it, it seems that the couple of four years has no trouble constantly choosing each other.


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More than the romance though, Gabbi’s investment in Love You Stranger is hinged on the crucial story it portrays. Aside from delving into Filipino folklore, the series will also tackle mental health in the form of Gabbi’s mother on the show who will struggle with Schizophrenia. “We’re very very careful,” Gabbi assures. “We have a psychiatrist on board with us para very very accurate lahat ng sasabihin namin. Kasi of course, it’s a very sensitive topic and we also want to spread proper awareness so we’re also taking things slowly but surely.”


Gabbi is true to her emotions and she sees no point in acting tough when she can’t, because sometimes negativity does get to her. The girl’s not made of stone. “Sometimes I cry,” admits Gabbi.

What Doesn’t Kill You

To paraphrase Gabbi’s go-to mantra, with heightened popularity comes more attention, and considering GMA’s increased push for the actress, the more eyes turn to her, the more susceptible she is to the unwarranted vitriol of haters. Dealing with bashers is nothing new to Gabbi. She’s active on every social media platform—Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, she does it all—and as someone who’s known to be hands-on with both her work and image, all the love from adoring fans in her comments section can’t save her from reading the harsh words typed by haters that slip past the cracks.

Gabbi is true to her emotions and she sees no point in acting tough when she can’t, because sometimes negativity does get to her. The girl’s not made of stone. She remains in awe of celebrities who’ve managed to wrap themselves in the seal-tight armor of indifference, and though most of the comments she can just laugh off, it’s simply not always the case. Those that take it to a personal level are the hardest to ignore. “Sometimes I cry,” admits Gabbi, “I’m a very emotional person. Sometimes it has advantages and disadvantages and this time it's a disadvantage…So I turn to my family, my friends, and to Khalil [and tell them] ‘Oh my god this is so frustrating, I don’t understand why people are like this.'”


Chinoiserie Dress, MARK TAMAYO

But as much as Gabbi allows herself to dig deep into her feelings, she now knows when to step back, too, and somehow finds it in herself to offer her own sympathies. “[I] look at the bigger picture na baka that person’s going through something, I don’t know ‘di ba? It brings me back to the reality that these people really are not the people who matter in your life. So, I’m okay.” Instead of dwelling on it, this newer version of Gabbi—who’s successfully transitioned from a wide-eyed teen actress to a full-fledged leading lady—has taught herself to turn the fire into fuel. “It just hurts for a few minutes but after that, I find myself even more hungry in honing my skills, in showing that I am deserving.”


It’s become abundantly clear that Gabbi’s eight-year run in show biz has been leading her to the start of this momentous era where promise calls out to her at every turn. From where she stands, she’s nothing if not ready to take up more space and tell more stories of importance, and no matter where she’s headed, you can bet she’s going to need a bigger spotlight. 


Produced by Jam Nitura

Photographed by Borgy Angeles

Art Direction by Bacs Arcebal

Beauty Direction by Nicole Arcano

Fashion Direction by Sofia de Aros

Co-Produced by Em Enriquez

Sittings Editor Steph Sison

Styled by Bryan Laroza, Bea Guerrero, and Miguel Daquilang of Team Ryuji Shiomitsu

Makeup by Jason Delos Reyes


Hair by Jan Edrosolan

Words by Jam Nitura

Shot on location at Ybonita Farm and Villas

*This cover was produced last year, prior to the implementation of Alert Level 3 in Metro Manila. All shoot attendees were tested and were negative of COVID-19 at the time of the production. Safety protocols and social distancing were implemented during the photo shoot.

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

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