TomCar fever hits L.A.
Raymond Lo (The Philippine Star) - October 3, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - TomCar fever officially hit Los Angeles this past weekend. The hot pair of Tom Rodriguez and Carla Abellana brought heat to the city just when the temperature started to cool down after two weeks of oppressive heat. It’s the first week of the fall season and the weather is about 10 degrees cooler than the previous week but the arrival of Tom and Carla to L.A. may have brought the temperature a notch higher.

This writer’s observation is not scientific however. I base it on the amount of “likes” and “instant reposts” my Instagram account had last Saturday when I was Instagramming from the show billed as Kapusong Pinoy sa LA — an event organized by the GMA network to thank their subscribers and supporters for the support the network has enjoyed for nearly a decade now. Next year, the Kapuso network is planning to hold a bigger event to celebrate its  first decade in North America.

Tom and Carla headlined the sold-out show. The 1,400-plus capacity of the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Theater was so full that this writer was only given an extra ticket at the last minute (literally minutes after the pre-show had begun) and was given a seat near the back of the theater. It was so far from the stage that I did not bother to find my seat. Good thing, a good friend who was friends with a show sponsor had seats close to the stage and I was able to steal a seat two rows from the stage.

Julie Anne San Jose, who has such a beautiful, beautiful voice, anchored the singing part of the show (along with Tom who, this writer just learned, started out his career as a member of a boy band). Comedian Betong Sumaya (and his Antonietta character) was the crowd favorite all night with his funny and wholesome jokes while teen actor Miguel Tanfelix elicited lots of shrieks for himself from star-struck (pun intended) fans himself. Both Betong and Miguel were first-time visitors to Los Angeles.

On Friday night, the group met with LA-based press and had an hour-long press conference. This writer had a short chat with Tom after. The handsome actor, who turned 27 last Oct. 1, gamely answered this writer’s questions on his recent headline-hogging Bench appearance, his birthday wishes and his thoughts on his career.

The first question, of course, was whether the near striptease that sent social media into a wild frenzy was planned.

“No, it wasn’t planned,” he said in reply. “I was so nervous backstage. When they called my name out, you go out there and you go on autopilot. You just block everything and you just react to what’s happening.”

What prompted the tease?

Wala,” he replied. “The energy of the crowd siguro. It was amazing! That’s the one thing that I can’t quite quantify or put into word the feeling of the energy you get from the audience, especially with that many people — it really drives your performance!”

For those who are curious, those few seconds of teasing from Tom didn’t come easy for him. He had to prepare hard for it.

“I can tell you it’s been one of the most challenging things in my life and I’m happy to say that I surpassed that challenge,” he shared.

He revealed that he was so nervous leading to the event because he couldn’t find enough time to physically prepare for the underwear show. Tom, on top of his daily soap My Destiny, was recently tapped by GMA to host the weekly game show Don’t Lose The Money — a sample game of which was showcased during Saturday’s show.

“I bought a set of work-out equipment that I would take with me to tapings and I would work out on the set. When you don’t have sleep, your muscles don’t grow anymore so my trainer helped me out with my diet.”

For a few weeks, Tom cut sodium and sugar from his diet and even went to the extent of cutting water from his diet two days prior to the show. He said that he couldn’t wait for the show to be over so he could finally have a good meal. But then the unthinkable happened: The show had to be delayed by a day due to heavy flooding in the city.

“We were ready to eat that night and all of us were excited,” he recalled. “Iba sa amin gusto spaghetti, lechon. Ako, personally, lechon ang nasa list ko. So we had to go through another day of starvation and water-deprivation. Grabe! I thought it wouldn’t be possible. And kaya pala, lahat kakayanin.”

All his preparations proved to be worth it in the end because he must have received the biggest applause and media coverage out of everyone who participated. And it’s a good thing when it happens to a good man like Tom. He deserves it.

Tom’s rise in the industry did not happen overnight. He was first introduced as one of the housemates in the ABS-CBN show Pinoy Big Brother. He went on to star in a few soaps, joined a boy band and starred in a few independent films. His first film appearance was in Chris Martinez’s Here Comes The Bride (one of this writer’s favorite contemporary Filipino comedies) and it was followed by a few more. His biggest break was when he landed the role of Vincent in the hit GMA soap My Husband’s Lover. Since then, he has been steadily charting his ascent to the top of his career.

Tom turned 27 last Wednesday and this writer asked him what his birthday wish was.

“My birthday wish? Ito na, natupad na,” he remarked. “To see my mom and my dad and my brothers and sisters.”

And what are his thoughts on turning 27?

“More security for my family. I am doing these for my family. For my mom and dad, I’d like to make their future really secure, especially they’re getting up there in age. I’d really like them to retire closer to my nephews and nieces.”

And how close is he to his dream?

“Getting there,” he humbly replied. “I am starting to get there. I am very happy that, through GMA and my manager, my dreams are coming to a fruition and realization.”

Many observed that Tom has this sense of humility and sincerity about him that makes you want to root for him. He is a good man, a good actor and perhaps a superstar-in-the-making.

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