It was a hard & tough journey
(The Philippine Star) - December 8, 2015 - 9:00am

The sequel to One More Chance was one project I was so unsure about in the beginning. I think it will be safe to say that I shared this same sentiment with my leading lady Bea Alonzo, our director Cathy Garcia-Molina, and, our writers Ate Carmi Raymundo and Ate Vanessa Valdez.

One More Chance is considered a modern classic. Why do we have to touch it? That was the collective sentiment before we announced that we were doing the sequel to the movie.

It was a long, emotional discussion, but when we, as a team, decided to push through with the project, we committed to it.

The journey towards A Second Chance was hard and tough simply because it’s a sequel. And it’s a sequel to such a beloved movie. How do you top what they call a “modern classic”?

This is, after all, not just any other movie. This is the story of Popoy and Basha. Popoy and Basha who seem to have taken a life of their own outside of these two films, beyond me and Bea. Popoy and Basha —  the cinematic patron saints of enduring love.

Since the expectations were high, the project demanded more from everyone. In A Second Chance, we bared our hearts and souls, gave the best of ourselves, and sometimes brought out the worst in each other in the process. But we were all in this together, answering “what if” and embracing “what is” about the work we produced.

It is, undeniably, one of the most trying projects for me. But seeing the audience’s very warm reception to it makes all the stress, sleepless nights and hard work worth it. I am moved by the public’s love for Popoy and Basha, and for their appreciation of a film that tries to truthfully depict marriage with all its delights and difficulties.

Bea and I did our best to take good care of these characters, and we appreciate that the audience took time off to show their love for their story, and for our work.

Thus, my heart is full of gratitude. My heart is full of hope. My heart is full of joy.

And joy is one of my favorite words as it is a word I will always associate with Bea.

You see, it’s Bea’s joyful disposition that makes her so lovable and makes her shine on screen. Of course, she has an excellent work ethic, and she is a great actress, but it’s her positive energy that makes her sparkle.

What makes her even more remarkable is her capacity for optimism after all the hardships she’s gone through in life. I have been witness to some of her more trying moments and I am amazed at how she constantly consciously chooses joy.

Not just joy, actually. Kindness as well. Bea is one of the most genuinely kind people I know. She sees goodness and beauty in people and situations that seem to offer very little of that. I see how her loved ones, fans and co-workers are drawn to her warmth, how she manifests concern for anyone and everyone. Many times, over the course of the last 13 years, she would see good in me that even I am not aware I possess.

Maybe that’s why our partnership has lasted this long — Bea’s cheerfulness and kindness have made her resilient, capable of putting up with me through all my dark periods and seasons of crazy. That has endeared her to me even more.

I’m saying all these positive things about Bea now but I’m sure she’ll be the first to say that I haven’t always been like this. We haven’t always been like this.

Every time we are asked about the evolution of our relationship, I am amazed by how Bea always talks about our beginnings with extraordinary detail — our first meeting; how awkward we were; specific moments in time when I made her feel intimidated, insignificant, incompetent. She even remembers when exactly we exchanged phone numbers in an effort to finally be friends offcam.

Then, I try very hard to remember everything. Bits and pieces of the past flash through my mind, but they are all a blur. I sometimes wonder if I should have paid more attention to these moments in the past.

But what is clear to me is the kind of partnership that we have now — it is one of mutual respect and support, and one full of possibilities.

I recently heard Bea say that she felt that in the early years of our team-up that I would have preferred a different partner. I was quick to counter her simply because it wasn’t true, at least on my end. Just like her, I was also a relative newbie then. I was just 19 and had only been a working actor for five years. I was still learning the craft, just like her.

More than her talent, I was impressed by her grit and daring. She was only 14 or 15 then and yet she was willing to tackle the role of a 21-year-old law student. Did this kid know what she was getting herself into?

I did not want to act opposite another leading lady, especially after I had seen what great work we were doing and how the fans loved it. Despite our success though, I barely made an effort to reach out to Bea at that time. In hindsight, I still do not understand my younger self. Why had I given her such a hard time? Why had I not talked to her more? Why wasn’t I more pleasant? Bakit nga ba?

Okay, I admit, my avoidance of young Bea was part of my efforts to be a good boyfriend to my then-girlfriend, something which present-day Bea finds amusing and immature. Also, I didn’t want to be perceived as being too chummy with my underage leading lady, especially when the trend then was to date your loveteam partner for real.

Things changed, admittedly, after my relationship ended. I found myself more open to having conversations and hanging out with Bea who brought out the kid in me. With her, I was just a kid, growing up alongside her, discovering who I really am.

And with her, I found a partner who cared about the story and our characters as much as I did. She and I both acknowledge that our success is hinged largely on the great material we’ve been blessed with over the years.

Our relationship has not always been smooth-sailing. We’ve had our share of disagreements and disappointments. But still, I find that I work best with Bea, and most of my best work has been with Bea. There are materials that I know I can pull off only with her by my side. She is a big part of my life as an actor and for that I am truly thankful to her.

To be honest, working with her makes my job both easy and challenging. Our time apart has made Bea a more intelligent and capable actress. I remember observing her during The Mistress and feeling overwhelmed by how quickly she can get in and out of character, and still manage to deliver an authentic and emotional performance. I remember thinking, “She’s become so good at this and I still don’t know what the hell I’m doing.”

I am always happy to give her praise whenever I am amazed by her performance. I thought she did some sophisticated work in Four Sisters and a Wedding. Her role was so layered and complex and I couldn’t think of any other actress who could pull that off. Bea’s handling of that confrontation scene towards the end of that movie was just spectacular.

I am also unafraid to call her out on interests that I feel will distract her from mastering her craft. Earlier this year, she told me about her desire to pursue an activity that I felt actors just do not and should not do. I felt that it would be a waste of her talent and time to go down this path, especially since there are already so few actors who are as passionate about the craft as she is.

When we were younger, I used to have ready and smart explanations as to why Bea and I never became romantically involved. “She’s too young.” “It’s the work that matters.” “It hasn’t happened yet, or it might never happen and that’s fine.” Now, Bea and I are just both in agreement that had we been a couple offscreen, we might not have been as successful because a failed romance would not have allowed us to work effectively with each other.

Our loveteam is a forced marriage of sorts — we did not choose to be paired with one another, but we chose to make it work. Of late, I have pondered how both our lives are constantly connecting, disconnecting and reconnecting, our individual destinies intersecting and influencing each other. By fate and by choice, we have become inextricable parts of each other’s lives.

And I would not have it any other way.

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