Photography: Stephen Capuchino
Situated right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the booming business and commercial district of Greenbelt in Makati City is an upscale and exclusive condominium complex, where the bubbly and energetic Rufa Mae Quinto resides.
People may say that the peaceful vibe of the 40-year-old comedienne’s condo is in stark contrast to her wacky personality on screen. But for Rufa Mae, being surrounded by tranquility and quietude suits her fine as a working mother to her two-year-old daughter, whom she and her husband Trevor Magallanes have named Alexandria Athena.
While having her house photo shoot with StarStudio.ph one early Thursday afternoon, Rufa Mae has to excuse herself to attend to her little one this siesta time. She gently tells us to tone down our voices so Athena can sleep soundly.
Rufa Mae then returns to face the lights and lenses of our photographer. With every click, she doesn’t only smile and pose effortlessly, but she also supplies the comic relief in the room. She has the humorous lines for every flash of the camera—to everyone’s delight!
“Coffee, tea, or me?” she offers to no one in particular. “Huwag kayong mag-alala. Makakaraos din tayo!”
We can’t contain our laughter each time Rufa Mae delivers a punch line, which, given her long years in showbiz, comes naturally to her.
“Heto ’yung strength ko, ’yung mag-entertain, magpatawa,” she says. “Kasi pag tumatawa lahat, ako rin natatawa. Ang saya, di ba? Kesa naman ’yung magmukmok tayo lahat sa mga bahay at ma-bore. Imbis na maging losyang, mag-pictorial na lang tayo!”
“So, ’yun lang,” she adds, laughing. “Paligayahin ang tao, and the TF [talent fee] will follow! It is my duty to entertain. May budget, pero nauuna ’yung passion.”
With humor as her strength and weapon in life, Rufa Mae has remained vivacious both on-and-off-screen in all her years in showbiz.
BACK IN THE DAY
Rufa Mae takes us back to the time when she was a little kid, and we come to understand why the comedienne has such a cheerful persona.
“Active ako, eh, masayahing bata ako,” she narrates. “Mahilig ako [noon] maglaro sa labas. Patintero, nag-gymnast ako, aktibo talaga. Mas more of outdoor ako [like] swimming, running.”
She explains that she gravitated towards the outdoors because, unlike today, there weren’t techie gadgets then. Thus, playing in the street and making gymnastic moves became her pastime.
However, the young Rufa Mae never aspired to be in show business because of her shyness, and she had different goals in mind.
“Gusto ko sana noon, corporate,” she says, revealing her original career path. “Mag-aral para makatulong sa pamilya. Maging manager [o kaya] flight attendant. ’Yung talagang nakabihis na parang newscaster, gano’n. ’Yung naka-Americana. Kasi [noon iniisip ko] na saan pa ba ako pupunta? Alangan naman sa basura, di ba?” she adds, chuckling. “Siyempre, sa corporate, di ba? ’Tapos, hindi ko naisip na puwede pala ako mag-artista. Hindi ko naman talaga kasi pangarap sumikat. Gusto kong kumita.”
Looking back now, she believes it was simply destiny that brought her to showbiz. After being a model for different print ads and TV commercials at the age of 15, she was discovered and soon landed a spot in the iconic variety show That’s Entertainment in 1994.
GO, GO, GO WITH THE FLOW
Back then, Rufa Mae was a young and simple upstart. But she took her work seriously by putting all her focus on what she’s been tasked to do until she accomplishes it. Twenty-five years later, the-now movie and TV veteran has kept that work ethic.
“Basta kung ano ’yung trabaho, ’yun na’ yun. Wala akong issue,” she says. “Gano’n pa din [ako], hindi nagbago. Basta matapos na ’to, mas masaya. Wala ng arte kasi tatagal pa. Gusto ko pag nandoon na, tuloy-tuloy.”
Rufa Mae in Gloria, Gloria Labandera (1997). Photo from iWant TV.
With that kind of mindset, Rufa Mae became sort of a magnet to work opportunities and acting breaks. After taking a bow in That’s Entertainment, she signed up with Viva Films, which then gave her projects that saw her rising from a bit player to supporting character, and finally to lead star. In 1997 alone, she made about nine movies, including her launching film, Gloria, Gloria Labandera.
Photo from iWant TV.
Soon, Rufa Mae became a household name with her hit comedy starrers Booba (2001) and Super B (2002) that both showcase her witty one-liners, such as “Go, Go, Go!” and “Todo na ’to!” She now tells us that the latter one-liner was inspired by her experiences in filming movies and television series.
Official poster of Booba (2001) . Photo from Amazon.com.
“Todo na ’to kasi di ba walang umuuwi?” Rufa Mae explains, referring to shooting and taping sessions that last for one straight day, and sometimes more. “Ayaw umuwi ng mga tao. Parang forever ka sa shooting. Hindi ko maintindihan, ang tagal-tagal! So gusto ko sabihin sa mga tao, ‘Bilisan niyo kaya, todo niyo na? ’Yun ’yung naging word ko: ‘Todo niyo na ’yan! ’Tapos tumatawa sila, pero bumilis ’yung mga trabaho nila. So ngayon, lagi nang ganoon. Ang bilis-bilis kapag ako kasama kasi involved lahat, kumikilos. So, doon galing ’yung todo na ’to.”
It may seem like merely one of Rufa Mae’s humorous one-liners, but “Todo na ’to” also encapsulates her perspective in life.
Photo from Amazon,com
“Kailangan lagi mong gawin ’yung the best. Todo, di ba?” she explains. “It says everything. Maraming meaning ’yun. Pati ’yung, ‘Go, Go, Go!’ Marami ring meaning ’yun. Lahat ’yun, kaya ko nasasabi kasi ’yun ’yung feelings ko, at ’yun ’yung pananaw ko sa sarili ko at sa buhay.”
In 2016, Rufa Mae already had plans in joining ABS-CBN via the reality TV show, Pinoy Big Brother: Lucky 7. But she had to back out because of her delicate pregnancy.
After giving birth on February 17, 2017 and resting for a few months, Rufa Mae appeared in the crime-drama anthology Ipaglaban Mo in September that year. It served both as her acting comeback and her debut project in the Kapamilya network.
Rufa Mae marked her Kapamilya stint in 2017 by playing the role of Angie in Ipaglaban Mo. Photo from ABS-CBN Entertainment.
In an interview with push.com.ph, she expressed how she felt at that time. “Ngayon, talagang para dito na talaga ako,” she told the entertainment website. “This is meant to be.”
BEING A KAPAMILYA
Rufa Mae now tells us a few reasons why she turned Kapamilya, one of which is to be able to work with Kapamilya leading men like Piolo Pascual and Coco Martin.
Rufa features Piolo Pascual in one of her vlogs. Screengrabbed from YouTube (Rufa Mae Quinto).
“I want to explore more as an artist,” she points out. “As I’ve said, hindi lang naman para kumita. Malaking factor na din sa akin ’yung masaya ako. Tignan mo, ang saya-saya ko kasi bago lahat, iba-iba, taping [tulad sa] Minute to Win It. Nandiyan sina Luis [Manzano], pati nga si Ogie [Alcasid] nandoon na rin.” (Luis is the host of the game show, Minute to Win It, while Ogie used to be her costar in their past shows, such as the gag show, Bubble Gang.”)
“Ang dami nilang gusto ko makasama,” she beams. “Gusto ko makasama sina Coco, basta lahat sila. Sa tagal ko sa showbiz, it’s about time para maiba naman. ’Yung mga di ko nakakasama sa showbiz before, ngayon, mas maraming chance na makasama ko sila sa trabaho.”
When Rufa Mae signed up with the Kapamilya network, she already had offers to appear in various shows, and she accepted them. She recalls that she was at a salon when one of the producers of the popular Saturday sitcom Home Sweetie Home called to offer her the role of Lia Meneses, who’s one of the newfound friends of lead star Toni Gonzaga’s character, Julie. Rufa Mae immediately said yes.
Rufa Mae with the main cast of Home Sweetie Home. Photo from Instagram (@rufamaequinto).
“Ang saya-saya ko siyempre dahil parang heto na ’to!” she says. “Basta, gusto ko ’yung um-acting. ’Ta’s ’yun, tuloy-tuloy na.”
ABS-CBN paved the way for Rufa Mae to doing different roles, such as an antagonistic aunt in the fantasy series Wansapanataym and a loving yet careless mother in the drama anthology Maalaala Mo Kaya. But Home Sweetie Home really made a distinguishing mark in her Kapamilya journey as it gave her the award for Best Comedy Actress at the 32nd PMPC Star Awards for Television in 2018.
Rufa Mae plays Vivian in her Maalaala Mo Kaya debut. Photo from ABS-CBN Entertainment.
Also in 2018, the actress went back to her starring-role roots through the Cinema One Originals comedy flick, Bagyong Bheverlynn. Her next project is the sci-fi digital series titled Jhon En Martian, costarring with Pepe Herrera and Arci Muñoz, which will soon debut in the streaming service, iWant.
Photo from Popcorn App.
Aside from being a Kapamilya star, Rufa Mae is excited about her new business ventures outside the entertainment field. She recently opened her own wine label she’s named after her darling daughter, Alexandria Wine, which is based in California, U.S.A. She also owns the dental clinic Ecodent in Quezon City.
Photo from Instagram (@ecodentph).
She reveals she’s starting two more businesses, hopefully coming into fruition this year. Despite its challenges, having a business remains one of the many passions of the actress-turned-entrepreneur.
So far, life is truly a bliss for Rufa Mae, both in and out of the showbiz. “Lagi naman akong maraming projects. Kaya ako, dito lang me,” she says, her eyes shining.
ONE TRUE LOVE
Beyond her showbiz commitments and business ventures, Rufa Mae focuses on her starring role in the hearts of her two great loves: her husband Trevor Magallanes and their daughter Athena Alexandria.
Photo from Instagram (@rufamaequinto).
The happy wife takes us back to her first meeting with her hubby, and can’t help comparing their moments together from scenes in some Hollywood romantic comedy films, such as Crazy Rich Asians.
Rufa Mae and Trevor’s love story began one normal day in 2016. It was January 2. She was then on a vacation in the U.S. state of California. While talking to a cousin via the FaceTime phone app, she was suddenly introduced to him, who’s an American born to a Filipino father and Chinese mother. Although she found him attractive, she was having reservations about going out with him.
She now shares the thoughts running in her mind then: “Sabi ko, ‘Ang pogi. Baka mamaya, pagkaisahan lang ako nito,’ ’Tsaka ang layo-layo [niya], uuwi na ko sa Philippines. Ayoko na [ulit] pumunta ng America. Pero, ’pinapakilala siya ng pinsan ko kasi accountant daw, may pinag-aralan, cum laude, nag-Air Force. Pasok! Di lang galing kung saan-saan. Kaso, inisip ko baka magamit lang ako ulit, masaktan. ’Yung mga ganoong bagay. Parang ayaw ko na. Serious na ’ko, gusto ko na ’yung forever na makakasama na pampamilya.”
Photo from Nice Print Photo.
With those thoughts in mind, Rufa Mae simply shrugged off their initial interaction, but it did not stop there. Trevor continued pursuing her by texting a few days later to ask her out on a date, to which she finally agreed.
As fate would have it, the actress’s return flight to the Philippines was rescheduled and her tapings back home were cancelled. Thus, she believed it was really destiny that brought her and Trevor together. After their first date, they hung out together every single day until it was time for her to finally leave. This prompted both of them to reveal their true feelings to each other.
Rufa Mae can’t forget their moment of shared confession. It was January 9 at a bar in San Francisco, California. Amid the bright lights, Rufa Mae and Trevor danced to every tune and enjoyed their drinks. They then stared into each other’s eyes, and tears flowed.
Photo from Instagram (@rufamaequinto).
She gets nostalgic as she tells us: “Kahit hindi kayo nag-u-usap, ’yung feeling na nagtitinginan kayo, ’ta’s [sinabi niyang] mahal na mahal ka niya hanggang sa yumakap na lang ako ’ta’s sinabihan ko siyang, ‘I love you, too.’”
She goes on with her kilig story: “Iyak lang ako nang iyak. Biro mo, San Francisco downtown, ang ganda-ganda ’ta’s iyak lang ako nang iyak. Hanggang nasa bahay na kami, tulog na siya, umiiyak pa rin ako.”
“Alam mo ’yung ganoong love? May gano’n pala talaga,” she says in reflection. “Tatak na talaga. ’Yung ganoong level. I never felt that ever in my life.”
Screengrabbed from YouTube (ABS-CBN Entertainment)>
With their love blossoming, they began talking about marriage a month into their relationship. They agreed on having a civil wedding. But they had to change their plans, so they ended up throwing an engagement party instead. Rufa Mae flew back to the Philippines to fulfill her work commitments, and Trevor followed suit to plan their wedding. On November 25, 2016, they exchanged marriage vows in a Christian ceremony held at the Blue Leaf Cosmopolitan in Quezon City.
Photo from TeenaBarretto.com
Less than three months later, Rufa Mae gave birth to Athena, and their domestic bliss was temporarily cut short because Trevor had to go back to the U.S. to work and set up their home there.
“Gano’n na rin naman life namin. Dito at doon na,” Rufa Mae explains on their family setup. “May house doon, may house dito. Hindi ko rin kaya ’yung naka-steady lang dito. Kaya condo lang ako kasi gusto ko pumunta kung saan-saan. ’Tsaka, siyempre anak ko, American citizen. Gusto ko siya mabigyan ng home doon. Para pag laki niya, puwede siyang pumili kung dito o doon.”
Photo from ABS-CBN News.
That is why in the meantime, while Trevor is abroad, Rufa Mae stays here with Athena and visits him in San Francisco from time to time. In May, for instance, mother and daughter will be U.S.-bound to be with the head of the family in celebration of the comedienne’s 41st birthday. She also reveals her and her husband’s plans to have Baby Number 2!
“Medyo konting sacrifice, tiis-tiis,” Rufa Mae says on their long-distance setup. “Pero, meron naman kaming bahay doon forever.”
She addresses her husband as if he’s in the condo with us during the photo shoot and interview. “Kaya gawin mo lang kung ano gusto mo diyan, Trevor! Basta buy mo tayong balur, ha?”
Photo from Facebook (Teena Barretto Events).
For his part, Trevor sends Rufa Mae pictures of homes they can possibly live in once their whole family gets to settle in the United States. She shows us some of those photos, which make our jaws drop because of his expensive taste in homes.
The Home Sweetie Home actress also shows us Trevor’s message about missing their daughter’s second birthday party, which took place last February 18 at a fast-food chain in Taguig City.
She then reads the message to us: “I miss you guys so much. I hate having to miss Athena’s birthday party. I know it’s hard for you guys. I’m doing everything. I’m about to make sure that it’s worth it. I hope you guys understand that I’m doing all this so you can have a house here. My plan is I will be able to buy a house for us. My plan is to support you.”
Photo from Instagram (@vina_morales).
Truly, her husband works really hard for them to have a good life in U.S. when the comedienne retires from show business. That is why Rufa Mae explains that despite being in a long-distance relationship with her hubby, it’s all going to be okay because he promises bigger things for the family.
At the same time, Rufa Mae tells her husband not to think about money too much and focus instead on having their family together, especially since Athena needs her father to be by her side, too.
“I don’t like that kind of thinking, money will come,” she recalls telling her husband. “’Yung daughter natin, di pa naman niya kailangan lahat ’yan. Mas importanteng nandiyan ka sa kanya as a father figure, kasi naghahanap, nalulungkot, umiiyak.”
Rufa Mae happily reports that Trevor has assured her that being a father figure to Athena never leaves his mind. “Okey, sinisigurado ko lang!” she says, laughing. “Mas importante sa akin na buo ang pamilya namin.”
Rufa Mae’s eyes continue to shine when the topic turns to her daughter, Athena. “She’s very sweet,” says the first-time mom. “Mabait naman siya, pero may temper lang kapag napagod. Two years old na, may sarili ng kakulitan. Gusto niya, maging independent. ’Ta’s ang liksi-liksi, magaling kumanta. Para siyang artista din! Kaya nga sabi ko ‘Sige. May TF [talent fee] ka na din!’”
Photo from Instagram (@rufamaequinto).
The actress, who was already pushing 40 when she had a child, goes on explaining how her story gives hope to other women. “Na-inspire ’yung iba,” she explains. “Naging wholesome na, nangangarap na rin magka-anak. Nagkakaasa pa rin magka-anak, ’yung mga ganoong bagay?”
Another thing that makes her happy these days is her closeness to her daughter. “Naging strong din kaming mag-ina kasi nga ’yung daddy niya, nasa States,” she says. “Okey naman kami, so maganda, masaya.”
Photo from Instagram (@rufamaequinto).
When asked how she bonds with Athena, she shows us pictures of her daughter all dolled up and wearing elegant dresses. She also considers herself the little girl’s main playmate, as evidenced by a video of them doing one of their past-time activities: racing with toy bikes! The two look cute bonding together at the rooftop of their condominium, just like two best friends.
“Ang sarap din, para kang may best friend,” Rufa Mae says about having a daughter. “Refreshing. Ngayon talaga, parang meron akong purpose. Hindi masyadong mababaw ang purpose ko.”
Photo from Instagram (@rufamaequinto).
Rufa Mae remains focused on her motherly duties, guiding her daughter into becoming a better person. “Binabantayan ko rin siya mabuti kasi baka ’yung pagkatao niya mag-iba,” she explains. “Napansin ko kasi, pag di mo natutukan, may mga paniniwala silang akala nila tama. So, ikalalakihan nila ’yun. Habang mas maaga, nababantayan at nako-correct mo agad nang maayos, hangga’t kaya. Kung hindi, wala tayong magagawa pero at least, as a mother, nagawa ko ’yung duty ko.”
Rufa Mae notes that kids tend to veer away from their parents when they reach the age of ten years old. That is why when asked what advice she’d give to Athena when the little girl grows up, she simply wishes Athena would be a good person.
“Sana maging mabuti siyang bata. God fearing, sumunod sa magulang,” she says. “Maging mabait sa magulang, at sana maging beauty queen siya.”
With a booming showbiz career in the Kapamilya network, a hardworking husband, and an adorable daughter, Rufa Mae has a truly blessed life.
For the virtual “todo na tour” of the comedienne’s lovely condo unit in Makati, scroll down for the photos—and get ready to be mesmerized. Go, go, go!
Art Direction: Alfred Amado
Hair & Make-Up: Jean Pineda
Stylist: Clifford Ponce
Photographer's Associate/Interior Photography: Tony Valete
Interns: Arjelyn Raagas, Marcus Recinto