‘Hearts on Ice’ glides into TV screens by 13 March

The new Kapuso show is top-billed by Xian Lim — who did train to become an ice skater — and Ashley Ortega, a former figure-skating champ

With so much disturbing non-showbiz events and a few ones in showbiz being reported these days in media, it must be the perfect time to go dancing… on ice, the better to chill. We all ought to know that when things turn awful, the tough go dancing. Or have to.

But if you don’t know how to dance on ice, just wait and watch for the Kapuso network’s newest series in which a skating tandem will soon romantically dance on ice.

The series is titled Hearts on Ice, and it’s topbilled by an actor who may be the most romantic and stunningly handsome in current Pinoy showbiz: Xian Lim. Yes, he’s the one equally known as the
real-life sweetheart of actress Kim Chiu who shines glamorously (though sometimes quirkily) in another network, the Kapamilya one.

Xian’s leading lady was a figure skating champ in her pre-teens, and has been “baptized” in showbiz as “Ashley Ortega.” In the figure skating world, she is known by her real name: Ashleigh Marguerretthe Krystalle Nordstrom Samson.

Ortega is from La Union (most Ortegas are from that province). Her mom is Filipino-German. Her dad is a Spanish-Filipino whom she hardly got to know because the man left the family when she was just three years old. She has an older brother and a younger sister. When Ortega turned four, she learned to skate and started competing in Manila.

At the grand media conference for Hearts on Ice on 3 March at GMA 7 Coop Building, Ortega said she has won about 80 gold, silver and bronze medals from international and national competitions. She has also competed in China, Malaysia and Thailand.

Xian Lim and Ashley Ortega.

Better facilities
But Ortega eventually quit competitive figure skating, citing that it was very expensive to continue training. Her family spent for most of her training, which occasionally meant staying for months abroad where there were better facilities for ice skating. They also had to pay for all her coaches — “and it is always better to train under several coaches,” she said.

Almost as soon as she gave up sports, Ortega was recruited into ramp modeling. An executive from GMA 7 saw her in a fashion show and invited her to an audition, along with 14 others. She was the only one who got accepted.

That was in 2012, and her first appearance was in the morning series Cielo de Angelina where she was billed as “Ashleigh Nordstrom.” The series’ lead star was Bea Binene. Ortega was only 12 at that time.

The following year, Ortega was cast in the one-season (13 weeks) series Dormitoryo and GMA 7 began billing her as “Ashley Ortega.” Until 2015, she was still being assigned sweet, innocent roles in many Kapuso series, such as in InstaDad and Oh My Mama.

When she turned 18 in 2016, the network started giving her adult roles in its drama anthologies such as Magpakailanman, Maynila and Dear Uge. In 2017, she played a flirty student in Suwper Ma’am, starring Marian Rivera as a flying superhero.

In 2021, when Ortega entered her 20s, the Kapuso network decided to cast her as a haughty, sexy woman in Legal Wives, topbilled by Dennis Trillo, Alice Dixson and Andrea Torres. The role was that of a kontrabida, and Ortega was actually pleased at the bashing from netizens that her character got.

For some reason, the network didn’t give her a regular partner or put her in a loveteam.

In 2022, she was among the lead cast of Widows’ Web, in a role meant to be bigger than what she had in Legal Wives. The series was publicized as a “suspenserye” since it was about the mysterious death of a rich man whose feisty legitimate wife was portrayed by Ortega. Also in the lead cast were Carmina Villaroel, Vanessa del Moral and Paulene Mendoza.

‘All about love’
The show, which had only 45 episodes, was directed by Jerry Lopez Sineneng and aired from February to April last year. The episodes, however, were taped in 2021 and before the tapings ended, the network already asked Ortega to refresh her figure skating skills. She was told that her next series would be about figure skaters, and she would play the main female lead.
Early publicity about Hearts on Ice mentioned Laurice Guillen as its director. Guillen is familiar with figure skating because one of her daughters used to compete as a skater. That daughter, Ina Feleo, is in the cast of Hearts on Ice, though the series director is Dominic Zapanta.

At the presscon, Zapanta was all praises for his cast, especially Ortega and Lim as lead stars.

Lim trained for four months to become a certified ice skater. There is at least one other professional skater in the cast: Skye Chua, a member of the Philippine National Figure Skating Team. She’s only 19 and stands 5’ 9”. Chua plays the villain in Hearts on Ice. It’s her first acting job, and the network may turn her later into a sweet leading lady.

An ex-beauty queen, Roxanne Allison Agnaonao Baeyens, Miss Earth Philippines 2020, is also in the cast as another villain. Known by her showbiz name “Roxie Smith,” she hails from Benguet and stands 5’5” at age 25.
“Hearts on Ice is all about love,” said Lim at the presscon. There are at least two love stories to follow in the series. Aside from that of Pongay (Ortega) and Enzo (Lim), there are also the ill-starred love affairs among their parents, portrayed by Amy Austria, Rita Avila, Tonton Gutierrez and Lito Pimentel.

No one at the presscon remembered to ask Pimentel how he feels ending up being in two primetime series when Hearts on Ice premieres on 13 March, since his Dirty Linen on ABS-CBN has been running for more than a month now. Happily, though, Hearts on Ice airs not across Dirty Linen but another Kapamilya series that also has “Heart” on its title: Richard Gutierrez’s Iron Heart, a hard-action series with impressive fighting scenes between Gutierrez and Jake Cuenca.

Written by Liberty Trinidad-Villaroman, Marlon Miguel, Brylle Tabora, and Louise Andrei Al-Sheri, Hearts on Ice begins from Pongay and Enzo’s childhood. Pongay is from a low middle-class family while Enzo’s parents own the mall that has an ice skating rink where Pongay will learn to skate.

Michael Martinez, the only Southeast Asian and Filipino ice skater to ever compete in the Olympics, is reportedly guesting in one episode of Hearts on Ice. Martinez has retired from competition.

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