Oracular spectacular: Gabbi Garcia steps into the light

We tend to associate youth with uncertainty. It’s a time of exploration and indecision, throwing everything up against the wall and seeing what sticks.

It’s not every day you meet an 18-year-old as whip-smart and self-assured as Gabbi Garcia. In a conversation, she’s incisive and direct to the point. You get a sense that the young actress and singer hurdled much of the uncertainty of her late teens. Gabbi knows what she wants and she’s out to get it.

She’s been a lifelong performer and she’s committed to stick to the track. “I’ve wanted to perform in front of a crowd ever since I was a kid. I felt like my parents always told me that, ‘You have a spot in the industry when you grow up for sure, you just have to work hard for it,’” she says. “Cause when I was a kid, I was bibo. I always joined contests, I always VTR-ed, and I felt like it’s my safe haven whenever I’m in front of the camera.”

Homecoming queen: American Eagle choker and necklace, Basic Movement skirt, Human sneakers

I witnessed her laser focus as an artist the day I met her. She walked into the studio without any fanfare. She hooked up to the Bluetooth speakers and sat down, ready to work. That means getting dolled up in different looks, and posing gamely for the camera, all the while making time for quick quips in between.

Throughout the photo shoot, she played an all-local playlist with everything from CRWN to Reese Lansangan, stuff she curated. Having been in a band herself, she’s well-versed when it comes to the local music scene. “I feel like people are saying OPM is dead but it’s not, it’s very much alive.”

‘The worst thing for me is that when you wake up and you’re not willing to learn anything anymore,’ Gabbi says.

While she’s gearing up for more work as an actress under the GMA Artist Center, she’s still holding out to make her own R&B soul record. Her dream musical collab? Jess Connelly. “Cause she’s so damn good!” Gabbi exclaims, fangirling a bit. “She has this certain attitude whenever she sings. Whenever she performs, you know it’s her.”

While she’s had a handful of roles in film and TV over the last three years, she made her star-making turn as Sang’gre Alena in last year’s Encantadia reboot alongside Kylie Padilla, Sanya Lopez and Glaiza de Castro. It was a lengthy audition process, but one that paid off for Gabbi, who tells us it was her dream role.

“The role is so empowering,” she said. “It’s more of a girl power thing. I love that. Encantadia showcases that girls could also be warriors, could also defend people, could also stand up for themselves.”

Blown away: Human top, American Eagle pants

At 17, she was the youngest to be cast as one of the elemental princesses, but she played that to her advantage. It’s that raw, youthful approach that helped her walk the line between the Sang’gre’s grit and vulnerability.

The role put her in the spotlight immediately, though she’s keenly aware of the responsibility that comes with that newfound fame. “It amazes me how I could inspire a lot of people at a very young age. It’s such a big responsibility that you’re a public figure at 18 ’cause many people look up to you,” she said. “For me being an artista is not only acting, singing, dancing. It’s about how you influence people.”

That maturity is striking, but she’s quick to credit her parents for keeping her grounded. “I’ve always instilled in my mind that you have to respect your parents and you have to listen to them ‘cause they know best,” Gabbi explained. “They’ve helped me so much in terms of my career, in terms of me remembering to be myself.”

Just like the movies: Human scarf, American Eagle gingham romper and lace top (worn underneath)

In between work, and especially now that Encantadia has finished its nearly year-long run, Gabbi takes the time out to seek new places. She isn’t your typical Instagram tourist, though. She makes a point to immerse herself in the places she goes to — wandering the streets and soaking in the culture of a new city.

She’s headed to Paris next, but her favorite city is New York. “You can see the everyday hustle of all types of people there —how they value their time, how they strive for their dreams,” she said. “It’s their energy, it’s their vibe that inspires me to really go back not only as a tourist, but as someone with a purpose in that city.”

You get the sense that there’s so much ahead of Gabbi. She sees herself as a lifelong learner and traveler, but there’s a grounding that never lets her wanderlust turn into recklessness. She’s never too far off because her natural sense of adventure has a place to anchor back to.

Peek-a-boo: Human hat, American Eagle top

As Gabbi puts it, “The worst thing for me is that when you wake up and you’re not willing to learn anything anymore. I believe that every day is a learning experience, so I don’t think I’m gonna reach that full extent because every day I wanna learn something new.”

By the end of our conversation, I came to grasp that delicate balance she maintains — between spunk and openness, between the rush of a performance and the responsibilities of fame, between flying off and keeping her feet on the ground.

She’s been a warrior princess, so where does she go from there? It’s anybody’s guess. But given how far Gabbi Garcia has come even just at the start of her career, it’s exciting to see where this young wanderer is headed from here on out.

Photos by PAOLO CRODUA
Styled by JED GREGORIO
Make-up by JASON DELOS REYES for NARS COSMETICS
Hair by MARK ANTHONY ROSALES
Produced by MARGA BUENAVENTURA, MAINE MANALANSAN, and INA JACOBE
Sittings by TIN SARTORIO, NEAL P. CORPUS, and JAM PASCUAL
Assisted by GIANNE ENCARNACION
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