Miguel Tanfelix: It pays to dream

KAPUSO DAY - Butch S. Raquel - The Philippine Star

Kapuso teen star Miguel Tanfelix is living the dream. From a showbiz hopeful barely a decade ago, he transitioned into a leading man overnight, winning hearts of televiewers via GMA Network’s top-rating drama series Niño — his biggest break yet.

Dati puro guestings lang ako,” he recalls, harking back to his days as a support character. Now Miguel, 15, can hardly find a gap in his otherwise rigid schedule. He is fully loaded this year — in between shooting primetime drama Niño and Sunday sitcom Ismol Family, Miguel keeps busy attending acting workshops to polish his craft. 

It’s really a year of blessings for the teen actor, a primetime prince in the making. I’m very thankful because GMA gave me this chance. I’m also thankful to the Lord because He gave me this blessing,” he says.  

For 10 years, Miguel waited for a lead role. Fresh off a runner-up finish in reality talent search StarStruck Kids in 2004, he never stopped hoping for a career-making project. As a precocious child actor, he played minor roles in various GMA hit series, including Mulawin and Majika. At the onset of his teen career, he was often selected to play young versions of Kapuso prime actors.

Miguel wears his loyalty on his sleeve. “Siguro napamahal na talaga ako sa Kapuso Network. Bata pa lang ako nandito na ko, sobrang napamahal na ako kaya di ko na kayang umalis.”

Then came Niño, a primetime drama requiring meticulous artistry. Miguel’s realistic portrayal of a mentally-handicapped but kind-hearted boy won him a massive following in no time. “Sobrang excited din po ako sa mga susunod pang mangyayari. Of course, I feel pressured also. Pero maganda rin yung pressure para mas may challenge yung work as artista.”

It all started with a dream. I’ve always wanted to be an actor. Itong nangyayari sa akin, isang pangarap ito. Isang pangarap na natupad, kaya sobrang saya ako, thankful na nangyari ito sa akin.”

In show business, nothing ever comes easy. Miguel admits to have considered abandoning showbiz during the long wait to become a full-time student. Ultimately, he realized that his dreams were stronger than his ideals. “Alam ko naman na mahirap mag-focus sa dalawang bagay, pero ngayon napagsasabay ko naman.”

Now a senior high school student at Cavite School of Life, Miguel is unsure of his collegiate plans. He could be an engineer or a pilot one day, he says — but one thing’s for certain: He is well on his way to being the next best thing. 

It’s largely due to his impressive work on Niño. From his character’s facial expressions, hand gestures, emotional reactions, to line delivery, Miguel seems to have Niño locked down. 

His inspiration: Sean Penn’s titular character in the critically-acclaimed film I Am Sam

“Pinag-aralan ko muna kung paano yung kamay niya, hanggang sa mabuo ko yung Sean Penn na gusto kong makamit,” says Miguel, admitting he watched the film twice and put scenes on playback until he had fully grasped Penn’s behavior. In the film, Penn plays a grown man with the IQ of a seven-year-old. 

It was his director and manager — direk Maryo J. delos Reyes who asked him to study the character. And so Miguel did — quite intensely as a matter of fact, but not fully. Penn’s Sam was simply a muse, says Miguel, never a pattern. It’s better if you create your trademark,” he reasons, citing a similar peg in the Korean tearjerker Miracle on Cell No. 7

With stardom on the horizon, Miguel is acclimatizing to the glitz of showbiz one advice at a time. “Gustong-gusto ko po nakikipag-bonding sa mga veteran actors,” he says excitedly. “Sa kanila ako nakakapulot ng aral. Sila Ms. Gloria (Romero), di po sila madamot sa payo. Sobrang saya ko na isa sila sa mga nakatrabaho ko kasi natututo po ako sa kanila.” 

In Niño, he also observes showbiz old-timers German Moreno, Dante Rivero, Luz Valdez, Flora Gasser and Ces Quesada. 

You can really see how professional they are, how much they love their work, he adds.

His greatest learning from industry greats: Professionalism. Also being on time, studying your script, being respectful, and dealing well     with the production staff and co-stars.

There’s no stopping Miguel this year. Besides bagging the lead role in Niño, he also won a significant role in Ismol Family, a family-oriented Sunday sitcom starring Ryan Agoncillo and Carla Abellana.  

Miguel says the drastic shift from one character to another, in one taping to the next, is a little trying as an actor, but he gets by. “Yun din naman yung gusto kong ipakita, na isa akong versatile actor. Kung ano man yung ipagawa ng director, gusto kong magawa.” It’s precisely why he works doubly hard. On a more comedic note, Miguel shares that he sometimes overlaps the two, slipping in occasional hand gestures from Niño

Right now, he is where he wants to be. Miguel thanks his parents for being hands-on with his career. I always treat them out whenever there’s a new movie showing, he answers a question on how he gives back. “Ako kasi hindi ako ma-bigay na tao, so mas maganda ’pag family bonding ang nagagawa namin kaysa bilhan sila ng material things.”

Miguel knows he has a long way to go, and he is determined to hurdle the challenge. “Noong bata pa ako, laro-laro lang lahat. Ngayon sa Niñonaisip ko na hindi pala ito laro. Isa itong work. Mas naging responsible ako sa work ko kasi di lang ito yung pa-tweetums tweetums,” he reasons. Because it’s a lead role, I’ve become more committed to my work. I’ve become more passionate as an actor because of Niño. Iba yung task na kailangan gampanan.”

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