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YES! (Philippines) - - Contents - KI­RAY

Ki­ray’s bed­room on the third floor is a scene straight from Bikini Bot­tom, the fic­tional un­der­sea town where Spongebob Squarepants lives. The bright yel­low sponge is Ki­ray’s fa­vorite car­toon char­ac­ter— even if, the come­di­enne ad­mits, she hasn’t ac­tu­ally watched the epony­mous an­i­mated show. “Pa­borito ko lang ’yong mukha niya, pero naa-an­noy ako sa boses niya. Nakakairita!”

Nearly every­thing in the room is cus­tom­ized, start­ing from the hand-painted walls to the themed fur­ni­ture. Shown here are Ki­ray’s bed and cabinet, gifts from two very spe­cial peo­ple in her life—her “Nanay” Mari­cel So­ri­ano and “Tatay” Ogie Diaz.

Ask any­one in Punta, Santa Ana, Manila, where the ac­tress Ki­ray Celis lives, and they will prob­a­bly lead you to the right place: a bright yel­low, four-story abode, only ac­ces­si­ble through a nar­row al­ley­way. At the gate, a piece of pa­per con­firms that it is, in­deed, the Celis Res­i­dence.

Un­like other celebri­ties, Ki­ray does not mind other peo­ple know­ing her ad­dress. The 22-year-old come­di­enne and her fam­ily have lived in Punta for all of their lives, and on the day of our visit, the gate is ajar.

We are wel­comed into the home by Ki­ray’s Mama Me­riam, a fit woman with cropped hair and a love for Zumba danc­ing. We pass by the kitchen, where Ki­ray’s Papa Jonathan is pre­par­ing a big lunch of siomai and other scrump­tious ulam. He’s a tal­ented cook, says Mama Me­riam, and it’s proven a half-hour later, when lunchtime comes around.

Within a few min­utes, Ki­ray de­scends from the third floor, where her bed­room is lo­cated. Dressed in sim­ple T-shirt and shorts, she greets the en­tire team warmly and joins us on the ex­pan­sive sofa set, putting her feet up to make her­self com­fort­able. This is, af­ter all, her own home—not a rented apart­ment, but a home that is truly hers, one she bought with her own money. Be­fore this, she and her fam­ily lived in a small place with only one bed­room. Now, they live in a house with five.

“Hindi namin akalain na gan­ito siya kalaki para sa fam­ily namin, na tig-iisa kam­ing kuwarto,” the ac­tress-come­di­enne says as she looks around the liv­ing room. “Ang gusto lang kasi namin, sar­il­ing ba­hay. Pero more than ’yon ang ’bini­gay sa amin. This is too much for us ac­tu­ally.”

Not that it’s a bad thing. Dur­ing our in­ter­view, Ki­ray ap­pears re­laxed, con­tent—and happy, proudly and openly happy. And why wouldn’t she be? At age 22, she has built a spa­cious home for her fam­ily. For an ac­tress who has been work­ing since the age of three, that’s cer­tainly some­thing to be happy about.


Be­fore she was known as Ki­ray, the young girl from Punta was known as Jo­hanna—a name pat­terned af­ter the names of her Papa Jonathan and her el­der sib­lings Jo­hanes and Jayson (who now goes by the name Jho­pay). A younger brother, named Joemir, fol­lowed eight years later.

Be­cause money was tight, the young fam­ily all slept in one tiny room, with barely enough space for a cou­ple and sev­eral kids. But liv­ing in close prox­im­ity to each other made the fam­ily tightknit—to the point that they couldn’t bear to be away from each other for more than a few days. In fact, that was the rea­son why Jo­hanna, then three years old, wanted to go on tele­vi­sion—par­tic­u­larly, on the now- de­funct noon­time show Ma­gan­dang Tang­hali Bayan ( MTB).

“Wala akong pan­garap mag-artista,” the come­di­enne ex­plains. “Pan­garap ko no’n, mak­abayad kami ng upa. At saka mak­a­bili kami ng ba­hay. Kasi pumunta no’n ng ibang bansa ang papa ko. Kasi sa so­brang close na nam­ing fam­ily, hindi namin kayang maghiwa-hi­walay. Hindi namin kayang malayo. Si Papa ’yong ku­sang umuwi dito, kasi nga hindi na niya kaya.”

At the time, MTB had a seg­ment called “Munt­ing Miss U,” a pageant for girls aged five and above. Jo­hanna, de­scribed by her Mama Me­riam as “maliit” and “madal­dal,” wanted badly to get on the show. So mom and daugh­ter went all the way from Punta to ABS- CBN in Que­zon City, where they joined a sea of other au­di­tion­ees.

Though Mama Me­riam be­lieved in her daugh­ter, her hopes be­gan to sink as she watched other au­di­tion­ees get­ting re­jected one by one. But faced with a long com­mute home, she de­cided to stay on. She banked on her tod­dler’s charisma and sent Ki­ray to the stage.

Ki­ray re­mem­bers that fateful au­di­tion clearly: “Ang alam ko lang no’n, ku­manta. Kasi naririnig ko ang ki­nakanta ng mga las­ing­gero sa tabi namin. ’Tapos, nakak­abisado ko siya agad-agad. ’Tapos,

no’ng nag‑au­di­tion ako, hindi pa ’ko ’pinasa agad kasi three years old lang ako.”

But what Ki­ray lacked in age, the young Jo­hanna made up for in unique­ness. The tod­dler got the judges’ at­ten­tion with her per­for­mances of En­gel­bert Humperdinck’s Six­ties hits, “Quando, Quando, Quando” (the English ver­sion of an Ital­ian pop song in the bossa nova style) and “Love Me with All of Your Heart,” songs she had learned from her las­ing­gero neigh­bors.

Her reper­toire sur­prised the judges— but in a wel­come way. “Nag­u­lat sila na parang, ‘Bakit gano’n ’yong ki­nakanta niya?’” Ki­ray re­calls. “’Tapos, parang sabi no’ng ibang staff, ‘Sige, ipa­sok mo na ’yan, mukhang bibo siya,’ ganyan, ganyan.”

The bi­bong bata’s en­ter­tain­ing tal­ent brought her all the way to the “Munt­ing Miss U” grand fi­nals. But she fell short of the crown when she threw a tantrum and re­fused to an­swer dur­ing the ques­tio­nand-an­swer por­tion of the pro­gram.

Win­ner or not, the young singer had made her mark on the view­ing pub­lic— and the MTB cast. She be­came a reg­u­lar on the noon­time show, and was also in the cast of Pera o Bay­ong (Not da TV), the movie based on MTB’s most pop­u­lar seg­ment, “Pera o Bay­ong.” She was also given a nick­name: Ki­ray. Be­cause of her pop­u­lar­ity, the young Ki­ray was also given roles in Wansapanataym, the fan­tasy an­thol­ogy for chil­dren. But un­like singing, which came nat­u­rally to her, act­ing was no easy task.

“Ang bobo kong umarte, hindi ako marunong,” Ki­ray laughs. “Kanta lang ta­laga ’yong alam ko. Kaya parang hindi rin ta­laga nag­tu­loy ’yong ca­reer ko no’ng bagets.”

At that point, the young girl fo­cused on her stud­ies at St. Paul Col­lege of Makati, a pri­vate Catholic school. Ki­ray’s tu­ition was paid for by a nun who had seen her on MTB.

“Pi­naaral ako ng madre hang­gang Grade 4,” Ki­ray says. “Hang­gang sa na‑stop ako, kasi na­matay siya. Pero bago ako makali­pat ng school, bago ako makaalis ng St. Paul, may tu­mawag kay Mama. Gusto daw akong makita ni Di­rek Bobot, go-see para sa Goin’ Bulilit.”

By then, Ki­ray was 10 years old, far from the tiny tod­dler who once made the na­tion laugh with her hys­ter­i­cal, tiny-voiced ren­di­tions of juke­box hits. But at the go- see, Di­rek Edgar “Bobot” Mor­tiz only had to take one look at Ki­ray to come to a de­ci­sion. “Walang ’pina­gawa sa akin,” the ac­tress re­calls. “Pa­sok ako kaa­gad.”

Ki­ray was soon joined by other kid stars, in­clud­ing Ju­lia Montes, Kathryn Bernardo, Nash Aguas, Shar­lene San Pe­dro, and Miles Ocampo. Later, their group would be called Goin’ Bulilit Batch 1, the pi­o­neers of a com­edy show with a novel twist: al­most all the cast mem­bers would be kids.

Bulilit Ki­ray didn’t know it then, but she had just reached a defin­ing mo­ment in her show­biz ca­reer. The fu­ture was bright for the charis­matic young girl.


For four years, Ki­ray was a main­stay in Goin’ Bulilit, the kiddie com­edy show that was by then con­sid­ered a launch­pad for young tal­ents. The funny girl grad­u­ated from the show in 2009, and with her grad­u­a­tion came a re­al­iza­tion— that she could act, af­ter all.

In 2010, Ki­ray was cast in ABS- CBN’s re­make of Mara Clara, which brought young ac­tresses Kathryn Bernardo and Ju­lia Montes to the fore. The show was a big hit. As Kathryn and Ju­lia rose to star­dom, Ki­ray proved her­self a wor­thy ac­tress, ca­pa­ble of roles that veered away from her for­mer image as a come­di­enne.

In the years that fol­lowed, Ki­ray be­came a fa­mil­iar face on tele­vi­sion, play­ing nu­anced roles in the teenage shows Grow­ing Up and Luv U. She also tack­led parts in the an­tholo­gies Maalaala Mo Kaya and Wansapanataym. The teen built a ca­reer upon a steady string of sup­port­ing roles, which al­lowed her to sup­port her fam­ily. She felt blessed. But never in her wildest dreams did she think that she would soon be­come what ev­ery artista craves to be: a bida.

The year was 2015. Ki­ray was sup­posed to star in The Prenup, star­ring Jen­ny­lyn Mer­cado and Sam Milby.

“So­brang saya ko, kasi so­brang crush ko ta­laga si Kuya Sam, so­brang crush ko,” she re­calls. “Biglang all of a sud­den, nag‑text sila sa akin na hindi na raw ako matu­tu­loy. Ilili­pat daw ako sa ka­bi­lang movie.

“Sabi ko, ‘Bakit? Gusto ko nga si Sam.’ Sabi nila, ‘Hindi, mas ma­g­a­nda ’tong ma­pupun­ta­han mo, prom­ise.’

“Then I re­al­ized na parang akala mo, kaya ka hindi nat­u­loy kay Sam is malas ka na or parang hindi nakatakda, may mas ma­g­a­nda palang darat­ing para sa ’yo— which is, ’yon nga, ’yong Love Is Blind.”

The ro­man­tic com­edy Love Is Blind, a Re­gal film writ­ten and di­rected by Ja­son Paul Laxa­m­ana, marked Ki­ray’s first-ever lead role in a film, with not only one but two lead­ing men: Derek Ram­say Spongebob is not the only car­toon char­ac­ter Ki­ray loves. She also has an af­fec­tion for Stitch, a mis­chievous blue alien and one of the lead char­ac­ters in the 2002 Disney an­i­mated film Lilo & Stitch.

“Si Stitch, pina­panood ko na dati pa, no’ng bata pa ’ko,” Ki­ray says. “Fa­vorite ko rin si Stitch, pero mas ma­hal ko si Spongebob. At saka, kung ip­in­tura mo kasi si Stitch, na­pakahi­rap sig­uro no’n.” and Kean Cipri­ano. Ki­ray played Fe, a woman who gives a love po­tion to the man of her dreams, only to find that she’s been look­ing for love in all the wrong places.

It was a story writ­ten es­pe­cially for Ki­ray, whose comedic in­ter­pre­ta­tions of lovesick women had be­come a hit with au­di­ences. But even when she had the script of Love Is Blind in her hands, she couldn’t be­lieve that she had been en­trusted with a lead role.

“Kasi buong movie, akin ta­laga. Kuwento ko pa. Ti­nanong ko sila, ‘Sig­u­rado po ba ta­laga kayo?’”

Though the pres­sure was on, Ki­ray didn’t al­low her­self to feel it. The young ac­tress car­ried on as usual, tack­ling the role as she would tackle any other. Her mind­set at the time was “just go with the flow.”

“Kasi hindi ko ma­g­a­gawa nang maayos ’yong trabaho ko kung tatakutin ko ’yong sar­ili ko,” she ex­plains.

The only things she pre­pared for were her kiss­ing scenes with her two lead­ing men, who also hap­pened to be older than her. Ki­ray, a self-pro­claimed “dala­gang Pilip­ina,” felt so ner­vous to the point that she was shak­ing dur­ing the shoot­ing. Then 19, she had only done one kiss­ing scene be­fore, and that was with Arjo Atayde, who was in the same age group as she was. Kiss­ing one of her kuyas proved a chal­lenge.

“Oh my God, hindi pa ako ready,” she re­calls telling her­self on the day they shot the kiss­ing scenes.

“Awk­ward, lalo na paulit-ulit. Kasi, pag movie, ang daming anggulo. Sabi ko, ‘Diyos ko, Lord, ano ba ’to?’ Kahit parang paghan­daan ko, pag may nakikita na akong lumalapit na mukha sa mukha ko, parang hindi ko na kaya... ‘Di­rek…’”

The ac­tress now laughs at the mem­ory. She adds: “Hindi ako nan­didiri, but in a way, nag­mu­mukha akong diri, kasi nga ninener­biyos ako.”

It was also dur­ing this time that the girl who al­ways wanted to be a bida re­al­ized that be­ing a lead star was not as fun as she thought it would be.

“Nakakatuwa mag­ing bida, pero la­hat ng pres­sure, nando’n na, e. Pag hindi ku­mita, pag walang nanood, la­hat ng pagod… Alam mo ’yong tapos na sila, packed up na ’yong mga kasama mo— ikaw, la­hat pa ng ek­sena nasa sa ’yo? Nakaka­pagod, grabe.

“My God, gan­ito pala ’yong feel­ing ng bida. Mas masaya pa rin ’yong hindi. Mas ma­bilis, mas hindi pagod. At saka ’yong bida, sila ta­laga ’yong kailan­gang mag-pro­mote nang mag-pro­mote no’ng pe­likula, e, ng show. Pero pag kasama ka lang, pag part ka lang, kahit hindi ka pumunta. Hindi ka na­man ha­hanapin.”

And yet, Ki­ray per­se­vered. She put in the hard work and the long hours, and psyched her­self for her two kiss­ing scenes with her hunky co-stars. It all paid off when Love Is Blind opened in the­aters in 2016—and be­came a box-of­fice hit. Sud­denly, Ki­ray un­der­stood how good it felt to be a lead ac­tress.

“Ang saya namin no’n. Lalo na ako, kasi ang pan­git sa paki­ram­dam na may flopey ka na movie, na hindi ku­mita. At least ’yon, akin. I owned it. I claimed it.

Nag­ing suc­cess­ful ta­laga siya.”

The film’s suc­cess was so great that Ki­ray was im­me­di­ately of­fered an­other lead role, this time in I Love You to Death, a hor­ror-com­edy where she would be paired with En­chong Dee. Of all her lead­ing men, Ki­ray notes that En­chong was the one who is “grabe hu­ma­lik.” Their film en­joyed mod­er­ate suc­cess, in spite of the fact that pi­rated copies started cir­cu­lat­ing on­line, only a short while af­ter it was re­leased in the­aters.

Still, it was a won­der­ful year for Ki­ray, who never dreamt that she could be­come a bida in two full flicks within the same year.

“Taon ko ’yon,” she says of 2016. “Kasi, sa ta­gal-ta­gal kong artista, sabi nga nila, ngayon lang du­mat­ing ’yong pina­pan­garap ng la­hat ng artista—mag­ing bida, mag­ing unang pan­galan sa poster, ’yong pinaka­malak­ing mukha sa poster. Alam mo ’yon?”


Since 2016, Ki­ray has been blessed with an un­end­ing list of projects, which has al­lowed her to build her brand-new home in Punta. For the past two years, she has used her tal­ent fee to pur­chase con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als. And now that the house is up, the hard­work­ing ac­tress can fi­nally sit back, re­lax, and in­dulge in a few lux­u­ries just for her­self.

“Mahilig kasi ako sa damit, e,” the ac­tress openly ad­mits. “So­brang hilig ko sa damit, which is bagay na­man kasi sa trabaho ko.”

But more than hav­ing a siz­able wardrobe, Ki­ray rev­els in the fact that she can fi­nally spend her money on what­ever she wants. Be­fore, she would turn over all her earn­ings to Mama Me­riam, who man­ages the fam­ily’s fi­nances. Though most of Ki­ray’s earn­ings still go to sup­port­ing her fam­ily, the ac­tress now main­tains a sav­ings ac­count of her own.

“Alam mo, ang sarap nga sa paki­ram­dam na hindi na ’ko nag­pa­paalam na ‘Ma, puwede ba akong bu­mili ng gan­ito?’ Kasi may pera na ’ko, e. Ang sarap sa feel­ing

na you can do what­ever you want, you can go sa mga gusto mong pupun­ta­han, ganyan. You can buy any­thing.”

And there’s one more thing she can do, now that she has built a home for her folks: have a boyfriend.

“Sin­abi sa akin ni Mommy noon na ‘Hindi ka muna puwe­deng mag-boyfriend, bili ka muna ng ba­hay.’ Kasi takot sina Mama na parang pag nag-boyfriend ka, mag­bubun­tis ka kaa­gad.

“Sabi ko, ‘Sige, prom­ise, pag naka­bili ako ng ba­hay…’ Wala na­man akong balak mag-boyfriend, though. ’ Tapos, no’ng nagk­aba­hay na, I met some­one na parang hindi ko na­man in-ex­pect na gusto kong mag-boyfriend, pero parang meron.”

There’s a hint of kilig in the ac­tress’s voice as she talks about that “some­one,” a 23-year-old busi­ness­man who she says makes her feel happy and in­spired.

“Iba kasi ’yong feel­ing na nag-boyfriend ka kasi gusto mo lang, at iba ’yong feel­ing na nag-boyfriend ka kasi ma­hal mo ta­laga. So, do’n ako sa ma­hal ko ta­laga,” she says, smil­ing widely.

“Medyo dala­gang Pilip­ina kasi ako. Ayoko ng mga para lang magka-boyfriend ako, o, sige, il­a­ban natin ’to. Hindi gano’n. Saka hindi kasi ako sanay na may ’pinag­ma­malaki ako sa mga taong may boyfriend ako.

“Pero sa kanya, very proud ako. Pero ayokong sabi­hin ’yong pan­galan niya kasi he’s a pri­vate per­son. Hindi rin na­man siya artista.”

Lovelife, check. But what about home life? How has it changed now that Ki­ray and her fam­ily have a place to call their own?

“Ac­tu­ally, na-re­al­ize ko, ’yong mga taong mahi­hi­rap or maykaya lang, mas close sila sa pam­ilya nila. Kasi sa maliit na ba­hay, wala kang masyadong ma­g­a­gawa kundi makipag-usap sa mga ka­p­atid mo. Magkikita’t magkikita ta­laga kayo.”

But liv­ing in a five-bed­room home is a dif­fer­ent story. Ki­ray says that there are pros and cons to mov­ing to a big­ger home, which al­lows res­i­dents their own pri­vate space.

“Ka­pag magkaka­away kami, hindi puwe­deng hindi ako bum­aba ng kuwarto. Puwe­deng hindi ako ku­main, alam mo ’yon? Pero dito kasi, pag okey kami, ang sarap ku­main, kasi sabay-sabay kami ku­makain. Un­like kasi sa ba­hay namin dati, bilog ang ta­ble, ’tapos dalawa lang ’yong pinaka-max na puwe­deng ku­main. Ngayon, sabay-sabay na kam­ing nakakakain.”

The new house def­i­nitely has more pros than cons for Ki­ray, who can now rest easy know­ing that the mem­bers of her fam­ily have a com­fort­able place to go home to af­ter a long day, a place where they can eat and bond to­gether as a fam­ily.

For the funny ac­tress, the word bread­win­ner is a source of pride. And now that she has built a home for her loved ones, she’s hop­ing that some­day she can build one for her­self, too.

“Ngayon na naibili ko na ng ba­hay ’yong fam­ily ko, I want rin a condo or town­house or a new house for my­self, kasi I’m get­ting older… I mean, di ba? Hindi ko alam kung ano ang mangya­yari sa life ko. Kung bukas, artista pa ba ako. Kung bukas, ano na ang mangya­yari.”

Ki­ray knows how fickle show­biz can be. One day you’re at the top, and an­other day you’re a bit player, or if worst comes to worst, your star doesn’t shine any­more. But she hopes that in the next few years, she can con­tinue with the only work she has known since she was three years old—mak­ing peo­ple laugh with her own brand of charisma and com­edy.

“So­brang ma­hal ko ta­laga ’yong trabaho ko,” she says. “So, I can’t imag­ine life nang hindi ko gi­na­gawa la­hat ng mga bagay all over again, sim­ula pagk­a­bata ko hang­gang ngayon.” shoot pro­ducer irene mis­lang hair & makeup muriel vega perez stylist sid­ney yap as­sis­taNt stylist ar­benn sar­d­ual

Since Ki­ray en­tered show­biz at the ten­der age of three, she has been cheered on by her num­ber one sup­porter— her Mama Me­riam. The sup­port­ive mom de­scribes her daugh­ter as “mabait,” a tire­less worker who serves as the main bread­win­ner of the fam­ily. On...

The Celis fam­ily is a tight bunch—a fact that shows within the four blue walls of their liv­ing room on the sec­ond floor of their home. Their re­uphol­stered sofa set, which is a gift from Ki­ray’s “Mama” Vice Ganda, can eas­ily seat all 11 mem­bers of the...

The Spongebob theme ex­tends into the bath­room, which also houses Ki­ray’s col­lec­tion of lug­gage and back­packs. The spick-and-span room is main­tained by the ac­tress her­self, who ad­mits to be­ing “maarte” when it comes to com­fort rooms. “Pag naligo ako,...

Ki­ray’s van­ity ta­ble is filled to the brim with liq­uid lip­sticks and per­fume, but not much else. The ta­ble is bare of other makeup prod­ucts such as eyeshadow pal­ettes or blushes. “Hindi kasi ta­laga ako marunong mag-makeup,” Ki­ray can­didly ad­mits....

Ki­ray takes pride in hav­ing a new home that can com­fort­ably fit all 11 mem­bers of her fam­ily—Mama Me­riam, Papa Jonathan, sib­lings Jo­hanes, Jho­pay, and Joemir, sis­ters‑in‑law Je­nie Evs and Jhen, and pa­mangkins Harsh­wish, Rizk­wish, and Lu­cian. The big...


The rooftop deck has be­come the per­fect venue for par­ties and fam­ily re­unions. It can fit the Celis fam­ily and all their rel­a­tives, who all also live in Punta.

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