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Meet the New Girl Gang: Ylona Garcia and Andrea Brillantes

They're tougher than you think.
IMAGE Mark Jesalva ART Clare Magno

Growing up in the age of the internet, bullies can be on a whole other level of hate. We sit down with two of the Philippines' brightest young stars and talk about what it's like being famous in a time when you can be liked and hated in equal measure.

Trending teenage queens Ylona Garcia, 14, and Andrea Brillantes, 13 look like they've gotten the celebrity bit down pat. Posed and poised for the camera, straight from the makeup chair, you'd think they've been doing this their whole life. You almost forget that they're just like any young teen—awkward and silly—until they break out into a funny face and giggle their way through a layout.

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Andrea was just 3 years old when she knew in her heart that she was going to be a celebrity. She excitedly recounts, "Simula nung 3 years old ako, gusto ko nang maging artista, maging singer. 3 years old pa lang ako, marami na akong gustong gawin."

And that's exactly what she did. In just a few years, she's managed to appear on various TV shows such as Goin' Bulilit, Maalala Mo Kaya, E-Boy, and Wansapanataym before landing her breakout role on Annaliza. Possibly inspired by the local celebrities she looked up to growing up like Kim Chiu, Bea Alonzo, and Liza Soberano, she showed everyone that she's got what it takes to make it on a TV show.

This was not the case for Pinoy Big Brother housemate Ylona. At first, showbiz was not something she saw herself getting involved in. But growing up, watching some of her favorite artists like Demi Lovato, Christina Aguilera, and Beyonce, she slowly got to the point that she "really wanted to make this a career."

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Ylona hasn't been in the celeb circuit very long, but she's already done a solo digital concert and dropped her debut album, My Name is Ylona Garcia, exclusively on digital streaming service Spotify as one of its Spotlight artists. Not surprising as the local artists she looks up to are Kim Chiu, Sarah Geronimo, Gary Valenciano, Martin Nievera, and Maja Salvador.

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With about 3M followers between them on Instagram alone, we talk about how the internet has become both a good and bad thing when it comes to criticism.

With comments being thrown at them almost real-time, Andrea says, "The advantage is maraming pumupuri sa'yo so you feel good about yourself." It makes her happy when fans say, "Uy, napasayo mo ako. Inspiration ka!" For Ylona, it lets her form a connection with her fans. "When they comment, I know more who they are as a person. Which is what I like, I like to be more close to my fans," she shares.

But social media can be a double-edged sword, of course. Andrea is no stranger to bashers. She says, "Kasi sa social media iba na talaga 'yung cyber bullying eh. Grabe sila magsalita. Noon, nagbabasa ako ng mga hate comments. Pero ngayon, hindi na." While she has learned to ignore the hate, she knows that it can still affect how other people perceive her. She explains, "Puede sila mag-comment na 'Ay, ang pangit naman niyan.' Tapos maayawan ka ng ibang tao na parang, 'uy, marami nag-h-hate sa kanya.'"

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Like seasoned social media mavens, though, these two know exactly how to handle their bashers online. Andrea believes that you shouldn't mind them because that's exactly what they want. 

"Bakit mo sila papansinin? Gusto nila diba maging malungkot ka dahil sa kanila? 'Di wag mo bigay. 'Wag mo ibigay yung gusto nila. 'Wag mo hayaan mag-mukha kang miserable sa harap nila." —Andrea Brillantes

But what happens when they cross the line? Andrea says to defend yourself but don't become a bully yourself. "'Wag ka magsabi ng mean things about sa kanila kasi para maging ikaw din sila, para ka ding naging bully." Haters are there because of two things: they're jealous of you or they just don't like you. And if you did something wrong, Andrea says to own up to your mistake and just say sorry. But at the end of the day, you'll just have to deal with the fact that you cannot please everybody. Andrea muses, "Kung may haters ka, edi okay, tanggapin mo. Kasi meron tayo kanya-kanyang opinion, kung ayaw nila sayo, edi okay. Pero marami din naman may gusto sa'yo. Wala din naman tayo magagawa; hindi naman natin ma-c-control 'yung comments nila."

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Which is how Ylona deals with haters. Her 3-step plan to dealing with bullies: Love them, laugh, and just don't react.

"Don't say anything because it'll only make it worse. Don't react, don't do anything. Just smile and just love yourself." —Ylona Garcia

These headstrong ladies are definitely unfazed by naysayers and still have so many dream projects waiting in the wings. Andrea's being a hybrid of two mythical creatures. "Darbel! Dyesebel and Darna. Dyesebel sa umaga, Darna sa gabi," she excitedly narrates. While Ylona still a little unsure about the specifics but convinced that it's definitely the comedy horror genre, she shares, "I've always wanted to take on the role of a vampire or a spy." Both are definitely not taking the easy route. Andrea insists, "Gusto ko 'yung mahirap. Kahit ano, basta challenging." Ylona adds, "I want to take on a role where I'm all hands-on, and do all these stunts."

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They've still got a long road ahead of them but they've already learned so much along the way. Here's what Andrea and Ylona have to say to themselves if they could talk to themselves before they joined showbiz.

 

"Ylona, don’t take things too seriously, work hard, focus, and no boyfriend!"

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"Bago ka maging artista, tandaan mo at dapat alam mo, madami mag-jujudge sa'yo. Madami mag-h-hate sa'yo. Kung ano man pinagdadaanan mo ngayon, 'wag ka mag-give up. Ito yung gusto mo, ito yung mahal mo. Wag ka mag-give up kahit na andami demonyo na nand'yan. Alisin mo nalang sila sa isip mo at dapat maging strong ka kasi dadating din ang araw mo. Pak ganern!"

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Check out what went down at our cover shoot by hitting the play button below!

Make sure to grab a copy of the November 2016 issue out on stands now and available on Apple Newsstand, Buqo, and Zinio. Tag us when you post on social media and use the hash tag #CandyGirlsForever. We'd love to hear what you thought of the issue!

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About the author
Macy Alcaraz
Former Editor in Chief, candymag.com
When she's not busy online, she's in the kitchen on a mission to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
VIEW OTHER ARTICLES FROM Macy

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Katherine Go 8 hours ago

Cold Food

The most thrilling and delightful moment of any school day is opening up your baon during breaks. There is always so much excitement in unveiling your homemade meal and snacks housed inside matching heat-insulating containers. Because preparing packed meals is an age-old tradition of showing parental love, loved ones pour effort into curating a nutritious meal accompanied by a selection of side dishes, desserts, and beverages daily; it reminds us that we are being taken care of, even from far away.

Baon plays a significant role in a Filipino childhood. Almost every Filipino child comes to school with baon made especially for them by their parents or household helpers. Even Filipinos in the labor force continue to bring baon for varying reasons: to save money, recycle leftovers, cater to personal taste, or attend to special needs. Nonetheless, eating your baon is a heart-warming experience that allows Filipinos to bring a piece of home along with them wherever they go.

Even other cultures practice making packed lunch. In Japan, mothers create bento--Japanese meals in partitioned boxes. Because of the popularity of bento, trends have emerged, such as the Kyaraben, or character-themed bento. Naturally, Japanese parents and students began competing for who had the cutest and tastiest bento, and this is similar to what I have witnessed in my own childhood. I remember seeing my classmates sharing their snacks and lunches. They would compare and boast about their parents' or yayas’ cooking. In my case, I never had the chance to join in the competition or indulge in homemade cooking. Up until this day, I have never brought any baon to school.

For a long time, I envied others. As trivial or petty as it may seem, not having baon became a problem for my grade school self. During that time, I had to sit in a separate cafeteria away from my friends because the kids who bought food were assigned to sit elsewhere. You could consider me spoiled, but I wanted to experience something most kids did. I had food at home, so what made it so hard to bring some with me to school?

Now that I am on my final year in high school I have come to realize the benefits of purchasing my own food. Since I spent on food everyday, I learned to budget my allowance at a young age. Over the years, I learned to practice self-control whenever I wanted to eat more greasy fries and drink sweetened beverages. I have tasted the strangest viands at the school cafeterias, and I have repeatedly satiated myself over my latest delicious discoveries. Despite the struggles, I am thankful that I have never had baon because of what I have learned. Not to mention, I never had to experience eating cold food.

Choosing between dreams and practicality is never easy. My CETs season just ended with the release of the UPCAT results. Anxious as I logged on the website, I started to think about what would happen if I didn't pass UP. Ever since I was six years old, I fixated on the idea that I will become an iska, serving the country and studying at my dream school, which is UP. I strived and studied hard for the UPCAT, sacrificing a lot of things like hang-outs and gala weekends for reviews.

Throughout my CETs journey, I started seeing myself studying only in UP, and while there were no results yet, my friends and I already started planning our lives around the fact that we're gonna study in UP. It was a big deal for me, my friends and my family that I get the chance to study in UP since it's so far from my hometown which is Benguet, and better yet, it's a very well known university.

January 2020 came and universities started releasing CETs results. I was expecting my DCAT and ACET results that month. I passed DCAT but brushed it off because even though I liked the school, I never really saw myself studying there. Same thoughts with Ateneo, since it never really crossed my mind that I might study in ADMU. In fact, Ateneo was never really a choice for me, I only took it just to have another choice in case I failed the UPCAT. I also applied for financial aid not because I was really planning on studying there, but more of "para lang sure na may college ako". I know it's a bad thing but they were just my back-up schools because my main goal was really UP.

One Friday afternoon, ACET results came out. I passed, managed to get a scholarship, and in that moment, my plans just started to crumble.

Seeing that I got a 100% tuition and fees discount, free dorm fees, and an additional book allowance got me into considering studying to Ateneo. Suddenly, I got torn between UP, my dream school, and Ateneo, which offers so much more.

As the months passed, and after talking to my parents, my plans and decisions got more jumbled and messy. I still wanted to go to UP even if there were no results yet but Ateneo offering so much would mean a lesser burden to my parents in terms of finances.

Even though my parents told me that they'll support me no matter where I choose to go, the practicality that Ateneo offers in terms of finances was not an easy thing to waive. Sometimes I would laugh at the fact that I'd spend less on a private school than on a state university. Talking to my friends helped somehow, but they also have various opinions about the two universities. I managed to tell myself to hold off the problem until UPCAT results get released, and so I did.

UP released the UPCAT results and seeing that I passed made me scream and cry, literally. At that moment, all I was thinking was that I passed my dream school and I'm officially a QC college student.

My parents were so proud of me even though they got scared because I screamed, but ultimately, they were happy for me. The next day, I sat down, stared at my UPCAT and ACET results, and told myself that I needed to decide. This was the hardest part. I tried deciding using the pros and cons method but it didn't really work. Talking to my parents also didn't help because they'd support me either way, so their judgement was not a factor at all. I also had the same course in both schools so that wasn't a big help. I was 99% close to letting go of my dream university and decide to go to Ateneo.

I weighed options and Ateneo was the cheaper and more practical option. I also started to see myself studying as a blue eagle, roaming around the campus etc. And financially, I didn't need to worry much except for food. At that point, I started to really like the idea of going to Ateneo more than studying in UP. But then, as the weeks went by, the Ateneo Plan started to lose my interest.

I realized that studying in Ateneo would be a great opportunity, but not something that will really make me happy. The finances and all would be so much better but I wouldn't be happy and content, and I felt that Ateneo couldn't give me everything that I wanted and needed. Then a light bulb lit up.

As I was imagining myself at UP, I ultimately felt that happiness and content that I didn't feel with Ateneo. I realized that, if I didn't study in UP, I know later in my life, I would regret it. I would regret not choosing my dream university because I didn't choose what would make me happy.

In short, I chose my dream over practicality. I know that I would be successful in both tracks, but I simply chose my dream because it is where I'm happier and more content. Besides, we can make our dreams practical but not all the time can the practical choice equate to our dreams. So to those having a hard time choosing between dreams and practicality, weigh it out and always remember to put yourself and your happiness first. And of course, choose the choice that you know you'll not regret later on.

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