Freeman Cebu Entertainment

Michael De Mesa on his boys and having the best of both worlds

- Vanessa Balbuena - The Philippine Star

CEBU, Philippines - Life won’t likely imitate art for esteemed actor Michael de Mesa. Currently entangled in a soap opera love triangle with son Geoff Eigenmann and young actress Jackie Rice, he says their show’s story arc of father and son fighting for the same woman is a highly improbable scenario for him and any of his three male offsprings. “It’s far-fetched. I know it’s never going to happen.”

If ever, for discussion’s sake, that he did fall in love with the same girl that his son fancies, he says he will most definitely be the one to give way. “I mean, that’s my son. So I will be the one to step aside. If my son really, really loves the girl, I will step aside. Somebody must be willing to sacrifice for the happiness of another.”

The risqué plot of a father-son romantic rivalry aside, what hugely sealed the deal for him to accept the role in GMA-7’s afternoon drama Kasalanan Bang Ibigin Ka? was the chance to work for the first time on television with Geoff, his second to the eldest with ex-wife Gina Alajar, also a highly-respected thespian. He and Geoff had shared screen time in the 2006 film First Day High, but this is their first TV project together. And so far, so good, relates Michael in an interview with Cebu entertainment writers. He’s enjoying every minute of it. No qualms or reservations on his part, whereas Geoff had expressed in his own interviews how it initially felt weird to be throwing lines with his real life dad.

Michael says that what he likes about his character, the divorced Don Jaime, is his search for happiness. “He didn’t find it in his first relationship so he’s struggling to keep his second relationship. He’s hungry for love,” conveys the veteran soap star.

He also came from a failed marriage, highly-publicized at that, and then re-married, but that’s about where the similarity between him and Don Jaime ends, according to Michael. Because unlike Geoff’s character Jake who resents the father for divorcing their mom, there was no drama of that sort among his children in real life — apart from Geoff, includes character actor Ryan Eigenmann who was last seen in GMA-7’s Biritera, and AJ Eigenmann who dabbled in acting for a time but is now a veterinary nurse based in Las Vegas — when he and Gina decided to officially separate. Michael and Gina were granted their annulment in 2006 after 28 years of marital union.

He recalls, “It was very, very different because when we separated, my sons were already of age. My relationship with my children overwhelmed whatever problems we had in the past. No one felt bitter. None of them held grudges. They understood that eventually, it had to happen. They didn’t have a hard time accepting it.”

Their set-up has remained harmonious, so much so that his sons are even close to his present wife Julie Reyes whom he wed last year in California after ten years together, Michael reveals. He was also able to pleasantly work again alongside Gina in TV5’s remake of Valiente, playing husband and wife no less. For their peace and stability rare among broken families, he credits having an open line of communication with all his sons.

“Since time immemorial, I’ve been very honest with them. My life has been an open book, not just in showbiz, but even with them. Especially that I have three boys, I never hid anything,” he says.

Best of Both Worlds

Lest we think he missed out on the experience of having a daughter, Michael actually has an 18-year-old stepdaughter with wife Julie. And who knows, they might be blessed with another one! He says of the matter: “We still do plan to have a baby. If God will give it to us, why not?”

A green card holder, he decided to work on his US citizenship back in 2009, which meant he had to stay in America for a long time to establish residence. He admits part of the reason he also left was to take a respite from showbiz.

Michael describes life back in Orange County, California as totally different from what he was accustomed to in the Philippines. One time, he was invited to perform in an event among Filipinos, and this was where he met his future boss.

“He saw how I was with the people. So when I mentioned to him my plan of migrating, he invited me to come aboard and work for his company. I guess that’s the reason why my boss, who is white, hired me, because he saw my potential. My job there was marketing director of an ambulance company, and I also teach first aid and CPR. So I’m in the healthcare industry. Since I do marketing, I go to the nursing homes where 80% of the work force are made up of Filipinos, so that was an advantage,” he says. 

The 52-year old must have been such an asset, that his boss left his position open for Michael to come back to after his acting commitments in the Philippines are fulfilled. His superior’s go-signal prompted him to answer the call to return to his craft via TV5’s offer in mid-2011 to re-do Valiente.

It was just that one soap he planned on doing, and it would be back to the States and in the arms of his wife for him. But for an actor of his caliber, the other networks were just waiting to snatch up his services, exactly what GMA-7 did. 

A two-year exclusive contract and a separate directing deal with the network will extend his stay a bit longer. For his directing stint, he hints that a certain anthology is coming back, to be helmed by different directors including himself.

Of course, part of the arrangement allows him to fly to the States after wrapping up each project to see his wife. Time with her remains high on his priority. In fact, he gave up a significant part in Atlantis Productions’ theater rendition of Aladdin scheduled end of this year, because he has to be in the States during this time.

Asked if he has possibly any dream roles left, the actor answers that he has already done a lot, so the challenge now is to tackle the same roles given to him in a different way.

Proud Dad

Sure, he has nothing left to prove. Thanks in part to a stellar gene pool of acclaimed actors courtesy of his parents Eddie Mesa and Rosemarie Gil, and siblings Mark and Cheri Gil. Despite these names that his actor-sons have to live up to, Michael would be quick to dismiss the idea of Geoff, or even Ryan, having to feel burdened by the expectations brought by their family tree.

Of Geoff, he says, “He has reached a certain level already as an actor that I’m really proud of. I’ve worked with him before and I’ve seen his past teleseryes, so I’ve seen his growth. He’s grown a lot. I keep telling him that.”

Does he impart to Geoff and Ryan tricks of the trade, picked up from a career that began at 15 years of age? “We talk about it, but Geoff knows his craft. My boys know their craft. There are times when we talk about a certain theme and how to tackle it, but it doesn’t happen all the time because we still like to surprise each other during takes. It’s different when you plan it, because you tend to think a lot. But if you don’t plan and you rely on your instinct and emotions, it’s better because it comes out fresh.”

At the end of the day, what he is proudest with his sons aren’t the rave reviews they receive, or the level of stardom they’ve achieved. What makes him beam in satisfaction is how they “grew up to be respectable, respectful, hardworking, professional and responsible people” adding that, “My boys are mature enough. They already know what to do in life. They are not your typical children that came from a broken home. They’ve accepted it as the reality and they didn’t take it negatively. That’s why our relationship remains healthy.”









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