Alden & now

Jose Paolo S. dela Cruz - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - On Nov. 18, as all eyes were trained on the APEC Summit, as tempers were strained by the “trAPEC” jams, PeopleAsia was cooking up a secret shoot in New Manila, Quezon City. It was an exciting moment, what with the subjects being two of the hottest stars of today: PeopleAsia’s People’s Choice Awardees Alden Richards and Maine Mendoza, the coo-some twosome of Eat Bulaga!’s phenomenal Kalyeserye.

As early as 12 noon, throngs of fans had already huddled on the grounds of the Sampaguita Gardens at 36 Valencia St., where the shoot was set to take place. Alden, whom I was going to interview, was set to arrive at 2 p.m., after his stint on Eat Bulaga! had wrapped up.

It wasn’t always like this for the hottest male commodity on Philippine showbiz of late, I reckoned. Not even close.

I first heard of Alden through my late mother and a teenage cousin in early 2013, as they obsessed for a time on a soap titled Mundo Mo’y Akin, which starred Alden and his then love team Louise delos Reyes, along with Jaclyn Jose, Angelika dela Cruz and Sunshine Dizon. Alden was a second-stringer in the series, but my mother already noted that the boy could act. My teenage cousin was all about his dimples.

In the same year, I met Alden in an event for one of the major malls in Makati. Again, he wasn’t the star of the occasion, but actor Piolo Pascual and singer Nikki Gil. Alden, who was with fellow GMA star Bea Binene, was a little more than a warm body at that time. Yet he stood and chatted with a few reporters in some corner of the ballroom of the now soon-to-close InterContinental Hotel in Makati; he was impeccably mannered and highly likeable. I asked him for a video message for my cousin, who was celebrating her birthday around that time, and he obliged, rather excitedly, even.

Back then I could tell that there was a certain eloquence to him. He may not be a typical Ingglisero but he sounded smart, even when he talked in Filipino.

Fast-forward to that day in Sampaguita Gardens, when he had already broken social media records and had become one of the most sought-after celebrity endorsers of our time. The first question in my mind: has stardom changed him?

At around 2:30 p.m., Alden and his entourage finally arrived. As expected, the fans who had gathered on the grounds swarmed at him with their own individual agenda (picture, handshake, autograph, all of the above). And Alden, like the young star I first met two years ago, showcased the same enthusiasm in interacting with his fans. He accommodated each and every request on his way in, until the staff of PeopleAsia intervened and put a halt on the fanfare.

“I owe it to them, without our fans, we wouldn’t be enjoying this kind of success,” said Alden, when he was asked if he ever got tired of it. He also relayed that with his newfound fame, he has let go of basic luxuries such as going to the mall, where it’s impossible for him to go incognito. But he’s not complaining. “I’ve never felt like these are sacrifices. In fact, I just feel grateful that the people — the AlDub Nation — are supporting us. I never expected it would go this far but with their support, we made it, we’ve become part of something historic,” he would later tell me, referring to the success of their recent show at the Philippine Arena, which saw more than 50,000 fans gather to watch the couple’s first dance.

Even with his obvious good looks and porcelain skin (marred ever so slightly by a pockmark on his cheek), Alden isn’t immune to the things that men fawn over — sneakers. His eyes lit up as stylist Jay Sarmiento took out sneakers from certain lifestyle brands, immediately inspecting them up close.

Five years into showbiz and one can see that Alden has been trained well by the GMA Artist Center. At the shoot, he was cordial and courteous, with “po” and “opo” never escaping his vocabulary when talking to people more senior than him. More importantly, he looked and sounded genuine, which isn’t something you can always say for those who light up the marquee.

During the interview, Alden answered questions with succinct clarity and enthusiasm. He spoke of his late mother (Rosario Reyes Faulkerson) fondly, and of his siblings and father (Richard Faulkerson) protectively. Alden still paused when he spoke of his mom and I could almost feel the lump on his throat. Yet he soldiered on to answer my questions. “My life is a memory of her,” he would poetically reveal, once the lump had cleared.

I will also remember how Alden, at some point in the interview, asked me the meaning of English words in my questions that he couldn’t understand. They were not big words, to be quite honest, but Alden deemed it wiser to ask than pretend to know better. He did so without a hint of embarrassment, only cute semi-apologetic laughter. He just wanted to learn. And perhaps it is that same attitude that has guided him in his career. “I’ve still got a lot to learn as an artist. In drama, I really look up to Christopher de Leon, John Lloyd Cruz. In comedy, of course it would have to be Tito Sen (Sen. Tito Sotto), Vic (Sotto) and Joey (de Leon),” he said.   

When Maine and Alden met in the master bedroom of Sampaguita Gardens, staff members of the magazine, who closely followed the onscreen couple, couldn’t help but swoon. Maine’s husky, petite beauty and Alden’s tisoy, 5’10” features were definitely a match made for movie heaven. (Speaking of movies, their MMFF entry, My Bebe Love, where Maine won Best Supporting Actress, had already broken records at the box office.)

On his way out, a new group of fans had gathered to ask for photos. And in true Alden fashion, he obliged with hearty gratitude. Some things definitely never change.

(PeopleAsia’s December 2015-January 2016 issue was sold out in newsstands 48 hours after its release, with the last few copies remaining in PeopleAsia’s Makati office. Please call 892-1854 and look for Bong.)




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