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“More bash, more blessings.”

Xander Ford Photo by Kristine Joyce Campaña

CEBU, Philippines — That is all Xander Ford, formerly known as Marlou Arizala before his notorious transformation, has got to say to haters. Those four words have become his default response to anyone who can’t help but pick on him online or even in real life.

Despite sporting a new face with an almost half a million price tag, being with a new management group (Star Image Artists), and  having an entirely new life so to speak, there are things that plastic surgery can’t quite change.

And Xander, of all people, knows this all too well.

Growing up in Bacoor, Cavite, Xander is used to hardship. His parents are no longer together; Xander’s father works as a tricycle driver and has a second family, while his mother works far away at a Manila eatery.

In an interview at The Freeman office, the polarizing celebrity looked back on the days where he had to take care of his two younger siblings, being a takatak boy selling candies and cigarettes on the streets during his high school years, and saving what money they had left for household and school needs.

“Naninibago pa po ako,” the 19-year-old begins, saying that there are things he has to think through before actually doing them as he has now a new image to take care of.

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“Sanay po kasi ako sa squatter na salita at pamumuhay. Naninibago po ako, iniisip ko kung bakit ko pa kailangan gawin ito [showbiz]. Bakit kailangan ko baguhin ito [behavior]. Ngayon dapat mas refined,” he muses.

Xander  trusts he can adjust well in time with the help of his managers.

When asked about how things have changed at home since his transformation, Xander says everything just needs a little getting used to.

“Dati po hindi kami naghihiwalay ng mga kapatid ko, pero ngayon hiwalay po kami. Naiisip ko po minsan na ang lungkot, bakit ko pa kailangan gawin ito kasi gusto ko kasama ko yung mga kapatid ko. Pero siyempre sa hirap ng buhay ngayon mas kailangan ng pera,” shares Xander, thankful that he is slowly beginning to take strides in his dreams of providing for his family with shows and guestings left and right.

Xander thinks he’s become street-smart, having seen the world as it is –how challenging and trying it can be. But it turns out, being “pogi” has its own share of problems.

Aside from people recognizing him and wanting to take videos and photos, Xander says he has to be more cautious, given that any little thing can escalate into a massive issue.

It’s this confidence that netizens can’t quite find peace with. Even before his surgery when he was dubbed unattractive, Marlou Arizala had an air of confidence and spunk about him, a disposition that not a few didn’t find endearing.

Xander says he didn’t dream of becoming a famous celebrity. The social media personality, who looks up to Daniel Padilla and John Lloyd Cruz, says he was more into sports back then. But when he saw how his friends led better lives through viral videos on social media, the first thing that popped into Xander’s head was that it wouldn’t hurt to try.

The young man simply wants to provide for his family, build a successful business of some sort and see where it goes from there.

He also shares that the decision to go under the knife was somehow influenced by celebrity friends who did the same, and that he also wished to change what people thought of him because of his appearance.

Xander identifies as a content creator, and hopes to translate that into a business venture. He was always into writing down ideas for videos, may it be “Expectation Vs Reality” rhetorics, dance videos and even reaction videos. And despite being dubbed as “arrogant,” “feeling gwapo” or “feeling famous,” Xander attributes that image as necessary for his content.

“Siyempre po sa video kailangan astig, kailangan mayabang, feeling cool. Pero content ko lang po yan. Kailangan kasi content ko po yun. Kung hindi ko ginagawa yun, anong makikita ng tao? Wala,” Xander explains.

He also agrees to what fellow online star Medyo Maldito says about him being simply misunderstood. When no one is looking, Xander shares that he is not at all the boisterous persona his videos portray him to be.

However, things took a turn when a video of him dissing Kathryn Bernardo surfaced online, feeding people’s suspicions of his arrogance. Xander has clarified that he hadn’t meant to insult the Teen Queen. He dismisses the video as mere content – but sure enough, Xander has learned his lesson and wishes to speak with Kathryn and her camp regarding the issue. He admits he’s learning to change his ways.

“Biruan lang po yun. Siyempre si Marlou may pagka-komedyante. Wala po akong kaaway ngayon, as in lahat friend ko. Kailangan po talaga behave, maayos yung pananalita. Kung baga umayon sa sistema, magtanong sa manager kung tama ba ito, anong meron dito…” Xander quips.

However, he barks back at people accusing him of using others for popularity. He says that before he became Xander, Marlou was always creating videos and content, and no one can discredit him for that.

He also wants his followers to know that he only has one Facebook page, and further memes and content posted outside of that and his management aren’t legit.

Being used to attacks against his physical features, ideas, and overall personality, Xander has learned to brush things off. The worst that he’s had to deal with were death threats, and absolutely hates it when his family is dragged into the narrative.

Since posting a video of him dancing to “Dazed and Confused” at home during his Marlou days, Xander has been laughed at, was called all sorts of things like “jejemon,” “poor,” “feeling Kpop,” “feeling pogi” and “madungis.” People even called out his house, making fun of how it looked like – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg that is the hate he receives.

But Xander, along with the members of his new group “Teen Trends,” shrugs it all off through an anti-bullying campaign. For someone so antagonized so widely, Xander ironically has thousands of followers

online, with social media users increasing his follower engagement and online traffic regardless of whether they support him or not.

“Pag tinawag akong pangit, thank you. Bakit mo ko sasabihan ng pangit ako kung alam mo sa sarili mo na gwapo ka. Ibig sabihin nun, insecure ka. Natutuwa ako pag may nang bash kasi inuuna nila yung pag-bash kesa sa assignment nila. Mas gusto pa nilang manglait kesa pumasa sa test nila,” says Xander, currently seen on the ABS-CBN sitcom “Home Sweetie Home.”

Xander had pursued a business administration degree but stopped in his first year. Now that he has the means, Xander – who is taking dancing, singing, acting lessons, and plans to take personality development lessons – looks forward to finishing his studies but presses that his main focus at the moment is his career.

“Sana po makabalik ako sa pag-aaral. Pero sa ngayon kailangan pa pong suklian lahat ng pinaghirapan para sa akin.” (FREEMAN)

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