For Men

What’s it all about, Alfie?

WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT, ALFIE? - Alfred Vargas - Philstar.com
What’s it all about, Alfie?

Things I learned before I turned 41: On life and acting

Hi. My name is Alfredo Paolo Dumlao Vargas III. Most people know me as Alfred Vargas. But my family, childhood friends, teachers, and neighbors who have known me since I was a kid call me Alfie.

I was born on the 24th of October 1979 as the third child of Freddie and Ching Vargas. There were no ultrasound machines then to determine the baby’s gender, so just imagine the anticipation and suspense my parents felt before I was born!

This was true especially for my dad, who was outright anxious. He already had two lovely daughters, Vanessa and Veronica, and he grateful for that, but he also wanted a son to carry his name (he had another son, Patrick, after me, so he was very happy). Delivery day came and when the doctor lifted me straight from my mother’s womb and pronounced the triumphant “It’s a boy!” my dad was so ecstatic he punched the innocent walls of Cardinal Santos Medical Center so hard he almost broke his knuckles.

My parents named me Alfie after that famous song by Dionne Warwick. It is my first time to use this name in public. For this column, Alfred will step aside so that you can get to know Alfie, the side of me very few people know. I’m opening up.

While I know I have yet to learn so many more things about life, and that this column will not pretend to give absolute solutions to all sorts of problems, I am thrilled to share my story to every single reader out there curious to know what it is like to ride this big, rare adventure where politics, showbiz, advocacies and family life come into full play.

Who knows, we might just have a lot in common? And no matter how unique my stories seem to be, we might just be going through the same things after all? the value of having someone who listens to you and shares some good advice can do wonders.

For the first time, let me share with you what’s it all about.

Today I turn 41. Forty-one years in this life is no mean feat. Time flew by unforgivingly fast and knowledge took its time in revealing itself. Luckily, I was able to befriend both, at least most of the time. My tactic was: to just keep an open mind and embrace all the experiences. At one point, I got tired of “learning from my own mistakes” so I developed a keen eye on trying to learn from other people’s mistakes—and their successes, too. Some lessons, though, are still best learned on your own.

Here are the 41 lessons I’d like to share with you about life, love and being 41.

Lessons on life

Back to when I was in second grade, I one day arrived home crying. I wanted to rush to my room in our rented townhouse at Loyola Heights so that no one would see me in tears.

I didn’t notice my dad was already in the dining room as I made my way upstairs. He arrived a few minutes before I did, fresh from his usual afternoon golf. He followed me to my room after a few minutes and sat on the bed beside me. He asked me what happened.

Some mestizo guys from school were calling me “negro,” I told him. He answered, “Ok lang yan, anak. Huwag kang magpapaapekto sa mga ganyan.” I was surprised to hear this from him, a very strong and no-nonsense kind of man.

I was expecting him to say something like “fight back” or “vindicate yourself.” So I asked, “Po? Ano po ibig niyong sabihin, hayaan ko na lang po sila?” And he said, “Bakit, nakarinig ka na ba ng ‘tall, white, and handsome’?” then laughed a bit. “Be proud of your color. Ipagmalaki mo ang pagkakayumanggi mo. Mana ka kasi sa daddy mo. Parehas tayong maitim, malakas ang dating!” said my dad, with a naughty laugh. “Balang araw, ikaw ang magiging ‘tall, dark, and handsome,’ kaya dapat kumain ka nang marami para tumangkad ka,” he added. I smiled and felt a lot better.

For my dad, I was already dark… and handsome, so to take my time to grow taller without taking revenge on bullies instead became my immediate goal.

Did the kids at school bully me again? Yes. But my confidence started to grow after that one special afternoon with dad. Soon enough, the bullying stopped because everyone noticed the positive change in me. Alfie started to believe in himself and have confidence.

Among all the other things I learned about life from thereon, there were three of the most important lessons I’ve learned from Dad that day:

First is that it’s up to you how to put things into perspective.
Second, embrace who you are.
And third, there are many ways to handle adversity, and it doesn’t always have to be head-on.

These are the many other lessons about life I’ve learned from then on:

  1. Faith in God gives meaning and purpose to human life. I got this from the JCI Creed. I’ve been active in the Capitol Jaycees organization since 2009.
  2. Find your WHY, the true meaning and core purpose of your life. There’s actually a workshop on how to discover it. Mine is “to bring hope and inspiration to others so that, together, we can create positive change.” What’s yours? I wake up every day reciting my WHY. Life will never be the same the moment you know your WHY.
  3. Good relationships define your life and happiness. Go for meaningful relationships, not transactional ones.
  4. Win the first hour of everyday for yourself. Starting your day well puts you in a position to end the day even better.
  5. Be with people who believe in you. Don’t waste time with other people who will pull you down.
  6. We all have the same 24 hours a day. How you use yours will spell the difference between success and failure.
  7. Multi-tasking is overrated. You’ll end up doing a bunch of half-baked tasks. Try single tasking. Finish what’s important first then move on to the next task. It’s actually more effective and productive.
  8. A key part of finding balance in life is defining your non-negotiables. Mine is God, family, work, service to others and all other things, in that order. I strictly enforce this on myself. It makes my days a lot simpler. These are my priorities in life. I’m quite lucky that numbers three and four are one and the same.
  9. Schedule your vacations ahead. It’s something to always look forward to and motivate you, especially during times of stress.
    Alfred Vargas and family
    Alfie with wife Jasmine and children

  10. Enjoy being 41 when you are 41. Some enjoy 41 when they’re 21. Others enjoy 21 when they’re 41—not a good idea. I’ve known people who travel this unfortunate path. Learn from the past and plan for the future! But never forget to live in the moment, the now!
  11. Listen to music. If you get its language, it can magically communicate more effectively than a conversation or a book. I understood this language more when I started collecting vinyl records. It has a certain analogue feel that is unexplainably sweet like candy to the soul.
  12. Someone will betray you from time to time, it’s part of life. But whatever happens, never betray your principles.
  13. Revenge does not pay. Forgive but not forget. Forgiveness is more for yourself, for your own peace.
  14. Education is a lifelong endeavor. The moment you think that you’ve learned enough is the moment you have stopped evolving as a human being. The moment you stop evolving is the moment you stop living.
  15. One best friend is enough. To have two is to have the world. They are not perfect. But keep them still. Real friends are hard to come by nowadays. Love them.

Lessons on being an actor

I am an accidental actor. I had a totally different plan carved out for me. At 18, I was determined to follow the footsteps of my mother and become a lawyer. That’s why I took Management Economics. But fate had a different plan for me. I suddenly found myself bitten by the acting bug in one of our plays in English 101.

In college, I joined Tanghalang Ateneo, a theater group, and soon enough, my acting “career” began. I played Orsino in Shakespeare’s “12th Night” and was given many other roles. From a “taumbayan” and foot soldier extra, to a convincing kontrabida, and finally to lead roles, I was able to learn quite a lot in the art of acting. I was so in love with the theater that I slept on the center of the empty stage of Rizal Mini Theatre during my long breaks, with my thick economics books as my pillow. I loved the silence of it when empty. And I loved the applause from a genuine audience every performance night.

Unfortunately, I was immature then, trying hard to grow up. My life was full of drama, from family to financial challenges, to adolescence. Acting became my refuge. And the theatre became my home. It saved me.

I have tried and thrived from stage to radio to television to film acting. I wouldn’t be who I am today if it were not for the lessons I e learned as an actor, as an artist.

  1. Take the meaningful route career-wise, not the shortcut. There will be plenty of tempting shortcuts along the way. You’ll miss the whole journey if you take shortcuts. It’s all about the journey, not the destination.
  2. Indecent proposals come by the dozen. It is what it is. INDECENT. Never-ever even consider it.
  3. Don’t work out for selfies. Work out for self-love and it will all work out better. Use vanity to achieve longevity. Work out for well-being’s sake.
  4. Nobody owes you anything. Do not blame your producer or network or the press or others for your failures. You are responsible for yourself and all you have and will achieve. At the end of the day, you will get what you deserve.
  5. Acting is reacting.
  6. Luck is for the unprepared. If you pay your dues and you are prepared, you are actually inviting good fortune. One of the worst things that can happen to you is that when a big break comes along and you find yourself unprepared to seize the opportunity. Do not wait for that big break. Prepare for it!

Read next week’s column to continue reading about the 41 life lessons I want to share with you. There I will share personal insights I’ve learned as a public servant, husband and father. Who knows, you might just be able to relate with one or two?

See you next week so I can tell you more of what it’s all about.


You may reach me via email [email protected] for comments, suggestions and questions, or on my Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or YouTube pages.






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