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Phillip & that Christian spirit

Nothing beats going back to a first love, especially when you’ve been away from each other for years. That’s why Phillip Salvador is on Cloud Nine, now that he’s finally back in moviemaking, via Viva Films’ Metro filmfest entry Baler.

 “It’s great to be back!” he rhapsodizes.

Eight years of absence from local cinema (his last film was Kaaway Hanggang Wakas in 2000 with Edu Manzano) has fanned the flames of acting desire in Phillip once more. He describes himself as “gigil na gigil” for all things that look, smell and breathe local cinema.

“I miss my craft,” admits Phillip, who plays Anne Curtis’ father in Baler. “I really miss doing films, everything in it. I’m hungry for more. Inisip ko na lang noon na I’m passing through a storm, but I hang on.”

Hanging on meant watching movies, even if it pained Phillip to see he should be the one up there on the big screen instead of another actor. It meant hoping that one day, he will not only star in a movie, he will have a vehicle to vent all that passion for acting raring to spill over in some meaningful film.

The hope became a self-fulfilling prophecy. First, Phillip did the GMA 7 teleserye Verano. Then, he hopped over to ABS-CBN for Maalaala Mo Kaya, where he co-starred with Gretchen Barretto.

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Today, his hands are so full, Phillip spent his 55th birthday last Aug. 21 shuttling between the Baler presscon at Hyatt Hotel and shooting for his other starrer, For The First Time, with Richard Gutierrez and KC Concepcion.

Dapper in his crisp Barong Tagalog, like the rest of Baler’s male cast, including its director, Mark Meily and screenwriter Roy Iglesias were, Phillip didn’t look a bit sleep-deprived. Phillip had only enough time to talk with a few members of the press, say a few words at the start of the presscon, and beat a path to the exit.

He may have hardly slept a wink after his friends gave him an asalto on the eve of his birthday. But Phillip managed to look as fresh as someone who just stepped out of the shower. The deluge of blessings shows in his ready smile and glowing skin.

“With the Lord’s grace, kahit pagod at puyat, maganda pa rin ang feeling ko,” he says. “I’m glad na kinuha ulit ako ni Kuya Vic (del Rosario, Viva Entertainment big boss). Sa Viva ako nagsimula. Action and drama movies ang ginawa ko.”

Now that he’s back in Viva, where he has done such landmark films as Balweg, Abner Afuang and others, Phillip has gone full circle in his career. He is just as happy in his personal life.

The proud dad keeps a picture of two-year-old Pics (for Phillip the Evangelist Israel Christ Salvador) his son by wife Emma in his wallet. And he shows his youngest child’s photo to friends every chance he gets.

Turns out the boy staring so innocently at you in the photo has something else in common with his father besides a bloodline. Phillip and Pics have the same birthday.

The meaning of Pics’ name also mirrors Phillip’s deepened faith. “I’ve been praying hard for a long time for a film like Baler: epic, highly challenging. In all those years I wasn’t doing movies, I just let go and let Him take over. I’m still with Him,” he explains.

This child-like reliance on blessings from above is paying off. Phillip may already be a star. But he still can’t help but feel how lucky he is acting with the person he feels will be the future Phillip Salvador of local cinema: Jericho Rosales.

It may be Phillip’s first time to work with Jericho, who plays a half-indio, half-Spanish soldier of the Spanish troop in Baler. But Phillip feels he has seen enough of Jericho’s acting to get his (Phillip) thumbs-up. Beside, like Phillip, Jericho also dabbles in action and drama. This explains why the more senior actor sees himself in Jericho.

Another young actor who made it to Phillip’s most-admired list is Richard Gutierrez. Hearing Phillip rave about Richard makes you think Annabelle Rama and Eddie Gutierrez’s son is God’s gift to the future of local cinema. “I can see how much Richard wants to grow as an actor,” observes Phillip. “Richard

wants to experiment. He wants to stretch himself to the limit. I told him never to stop being hungry if he wants to grow in his craft. I also told him it’s okay to mix drama with action.”

Words of wisdom from an actor who’s been there, done that, but refuses to say, “I know it all, so I can put up my feet on a cushioned pillow and watch the world go by.”

Phillip will always want to be in the middle of camera action, doing what he was born to do, and what he loves best. No wonder, after a drought of eight years as an actor, Phillip is back in fighting form. And, like an athlete in tiptop shape, he will continue flexing his acting muscles, not necessarily on screen, but off it. Phillip will continue watching films and lose himself in the world of actors who love their craft as much as he does.

Phillip is proving it now. And he will prove it time and again, not only to the audience, but most of all, to himself. The actor in him will make sure of that.

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