Rita Avila on being a director’s wife, inspiring kids through books
We respect each other’s personal space,” said actress Rita Avila to describe what it’s like to be a wife and sometimes a coworker to TV and film director FM Reyes.
“We’re both artists. We agreed early on that whenever he is writing something, he would need to be alone. I’m also like that when I’m working on a project. But when we’re not working, we’re together at home. He is really a homebody. I’m the one who would always think of reasons to go out,” Avila told Inquirer Entertainment in a recent interview.
Reyes is the man behind the highly successful series “Linlang,” which features Kim Chiu, Paulo Avelino and JM de Guzman, and is currently streaming on Prime Video. He also directed “In His Mother’s Eyes,” the reunion project of Maricel Soriano and Roderick Paulate, which opened in cinemas on Nov. 29.
“He admitted to feeling the pressure, especially because ‘In His Mother’s Eyes’ is his first big-screen project. I’ve long been telling him to try directing movies. Maricel and Dick (Paulate’s nickname) encouraged him, and they were impressed with what he did on this one. I’m grateful to the two of them. I’m glad he did his first film with them because he and the two have so much respect for each other. Nakakatuwa,” the proud wife said.
As for “Linlang,” Avila thought her husband didn’t feel too confident with his work on the series in the beginning. “Whenever I would ask him if it was any good, he would just shrug his shoulders or sometimes say, ‘I don’t know.’ When I got to watch it, I thought he did great—and so did the Filipino audiences who saw it and couldn’t stop talking about it,” said Avila.
Working with Reyes is a tricky matter for Avila. While she is impressed with his skill as a director, collaborating with her husband would sometimes lead to heartaches for her, because “mean people will always have something to say, even though I was an actress long before I got married to him.”
She then recalled the time she agreed to be a last-minute replacement in a project that Reyes was directing. “I didn’t feel confident doing it because I wasn’t given enough time to read the script, and it was an early morning shoot. When he told me, ‘Very good!’ after shooting a scene, I heard someone say, ‘Of course, she’s his wife!’ Some people can be mean like that. I’ve learned to deal with them through the years.”
Avila said she would avoid working with him as much as possible. In fact, she worked exclusively for GMA 7 for 10 years, while Reyes was a TV director for rival ABS-CBN. However, in 2020, the couple became involved in the top-rating Kapamilya drama “Ang sa Iyo ay Akin.” Once again, Avila had to go public to say that “my husband and I are not a package deal.”
“Whenever a production that Eric (Reyes’ real name) was part of would try to cast me, he would say, ‘You should talk to her directly or contact her manager.’ Also, I would remind him that when we’re on the set, I’m not his wife but his actor. We can’t be seen eating lunch together, unless we’re part of a group. We’ve had to set boundaries,” she explained.
Avila said being with Reyes has taught her a lot, especially about the life of those working behind the cameras. “I used to just go to the set as an actor. I wasn’t aware of how difficult work was for the staff and crew and how doubly tired they always were at the end of each work day,” she recalled.
Even at home, Avila said she would sometimes find herself brainstorming with her husband. “We’d be surprised that we’ve already come up with a story or a concept. Both of us are very creative. That’s why he understood [my attachment to] my dolls and was very encouraging while I was writing my children’s books,” she said.
In 2006, Avila released her first book, “8 Ways to Comfort with Grace,” a guide to consoling people who lost a loved one. This was after she lost her 3-week-old son Ellia Jesu. She also published four books under her “The Invisible Wings” series. “A priest at the St. Pauls Publication once told me, ‘Don’t you have dolls? Why don’t you turn them into characters that tell stories with values?’” she recalled. Avila released three more books under the publishing company Mindmaster.
This interview was conducted after she appeared as a celebrity storyteller at the Inquirer’s 2023 Read-Along Festival, which carried the theme “Stories of Inspirational People.” Prior to this, Avila read regularly to kids under the Cribs Foundation. “I would also bring children’s books to them. I set aside my book royalties to Cribs,” she said.
“I encourage parents to read books with their kids,” she continued. “Time is very important to children. It’s ideal that they grow up knowing that their parents had time for them. As for kids, I always tell them that they have their own choices, that the life they have today can still change. They can still choose to live differently and be a better person.”