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COVER:Team relate

MANILA, Philippines - Aren’t they too hot to be getting their hearts broken?”

Prime Cruz’s anti-hugot bid Can We Still Be Friends premiered on the same day as the Minions movie and somebody in the packed movie theater just had to question the choice of actors in an overly loud voice. In the first frame, Gerald Anderson and Arci Muñoz are at home watching a movie — looking positively sculpted and glowing — and it’s anything but “Netflix and chill” in this scene, an undercurrent of conflict bubbling just below the surface that not even calamansi instant pancit canton can quell.

It’s not a completely naïve observation. As top-of-mind Philippine box office hits would have it, to be believable, you have to have the boy-next-door vulnerability of a John Lloyd Cruz. If that were true in real life, Arci Muñoz’s bombshell vivaciousness and Gerald Anderson’s classic rugged machismo would eliminate all chances of their precious hearts getting torn out and charred in a slow burn or dramatically shattered beyond repair. But love is a two-way street and they have had their hearts broken. Their very experiences make Digs and Sam so real, it’s hard to believe that they weren’t the first choice for these roles.

Gerald and Arci have a history. Their pairing in Dan Villegas’ Always Be My Maybe, where a player meets his game changer, mirrored modern-day sticky dating situations; it was a success.

Gerald’s new audience

Gerald, along with a much-publicized reunion with his first reel and real love Kim Chiu in Ikaw Lang Ang Iibigin, also his one shot at sparking friendship with an old flame — with success, fortunately — drew a new audience. (The opportunity has yet to come with his other famous ex Maja Salvador.)

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Between him and Arci, Gerald, the opposite of Digs the manchild who refuses to change and adult, is the wise one, the one who’s had the luxury of time to examine what was good and what went wrong from a distance. “Kung paano maging maayos ang isang tao kahit wala na kayo sa relationship, ang importante wag kalimutan ang good memories nyo. Kung ano mali mo pag nasa isang relationship, kahit iba’t iba naman ang tao, wag na ulitin pag nasa ibang relationship ka na ulit,” he shares in this quick remote interview with Arci where we caught the two during the wee hours, in transit between regional mall shows.

Gerald, who has grown into himself as an actor and a man, is free of the confines of a love team and is living dating-life bliss with Bea Alonzo, his travel and workout buddy. “Showbiz din siya so dynamic namin is relax lang and very understanding. Alam naming gaano ka-busy at hirap ang oras. Importante ang trabaho sa bawat isa sa amin,” he says.

Arci’s new footing

Arci, the StarStruck alum to Gerald’s Pinoy Big Brother, in an industry that didn’t quite know what box to brand her with, has a prolific filmography, working non-stop since 2005 and persevering even in bit supporting roles when she wasn’t performing with rock band Philia as vocalist.  She has since become the voice of modern young Filipinas in love and in life in her films. She knows it, admitting, “Taga hugot talaga ako.”

In Can We Still Be Friends, Sam and Digs first meet in an arcade eyeball (millennials: this is aughts-speak for meetups), knowing each other only by their usernames Rocket Girl and Dazed Boy. Sam, the responsible one in the relationship and a creative agency professional, grows up with her eye out to where the grass is greener. Her role had already been passed around to other actresses in the past two years since the script was finished. When Arci got the script, it had only been a few months since she broke off a four-year relationship with rock band Mr. Bones and the Boneyard Circus front man Badi del Rosario in January. (Badi is also the son of Prince Jefri Bolkiah of Brunei.) It was like she was reading her memories.

Method acting

“Pag ginagawa namin ni Ge, nag flashback talaga. Pag may instruction si Direk Prime, sinasabi ko pwede baguhin ko ng kaunti? Kasi ganito ang na experience ko. Ganito na ganito. Pwede bigyan ko ng ganitong atake? Tingin ko makaka-relate mga tao dito pramis,” Arci shares.

“I really did fight for the relationship kasi mahal ko yung tao. Ang dami nang reasons para bumitaw ako pero hangga’t sa bigyan ako ng taong ‘yon ng isang rason para mag-stay ako, I will stay. Napagod na ako. Yung tao na yun ang nag bigay sa akin ng rason para lumayo,” Arci opens up, and it was like it was Sam talking. With each tear and tirade that Sam shot at Digs, Arci felt catharsis.

“Before the movie, sabi ko sa sarili ko na hindi ako ready maging friend ang ex ko, but while filming the movie nag flashback sa akin memories namin, our happy moments. After filming the movie, honestly, I felt like I was ready to be friends with my ex again.” She realized she had moved on.

Off-Screen Bliss

Arci is dating again — a long-time, non-showbiz friend who she had just started to see in a different light. “I see myself in him; kung paano ako sa ex ko dati, siya naman ganoon sa akin. Feeling ko siya mag tutuwid sa akin. Masasabi ko na I’m really happy now.”

Off-screen, Gerald was in on these developments. He says with a knowing laugh, “Very open siya. Sinasabi niya lahat sa akin.”

When the cameras roll, there isn’t just chemistry between them but an understanding as well. Sam and Digs were playful when they were happy. Arci served up depths of emotion in her frustrations and longing to which Gerald responded with sensitivity as Digs would go from angry to hopeless. They don’t need to bank on an “are they/are they not” charade; instead, they’re friends and each other’s confidants. That’s why they’re so relatable.

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Tweet the author @marbbiedoll.


Produced by DAVID MILAN



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