Freeman Cebu Entertainment

Alden Richards: Bullying made me push myself to the limit

Joy Torrejos, Karla Rule - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines — Alden Richards feels more in his element as he dives into his role in “The Gift,” a project that’s close to his heart. In an interview with Cebu media, the Pambansang Bae shared how he gives it more thought when choosing projects, not because of the monster hit that was “Hello, Love, Goodbye” but because of the lessons he’s learned when he had too much on his plate last year.

“When you’re given the opportunity to do a lot of things, medyo hindi mo nabibigyan ng focus yung mga dapat bigyan ng focus. Last year there was ‘Victor Magtanggol’, and then a concert. There was also my daily hosting job on ‘Eat Bulaga!’, and then ‘Sunday Pinasaya’. Now, I’ve learned to take things one at a time,” the actor began.

These days, Alden is all about the weight of the material and what the message will mean to viewers. With offers of other teleserye concepts, Alden said he chose “The Gift” for its heart and relevance. The primetime series, which premiered last month, centers on Sep, a streetsmart and high-spirited vendor whose loss of eyesight will lead to the mysterious ability of perceiving the past and the future.

“I’m choosing projects with purpose. Before, wala akong pipiliin, I’d do anything. But as we grow older and we experience things, we learn na kukunin ko ang good ones than the bad ones. I choose projects as long as they’re inspirational and relevant. Yung hindi ginagawa just for the sake na masabi lang na may ginagawa ka.”

To prepare for his role, Alden visited a charity in Quezon City that cares for the blind. What the actor saw saddened him. Interviewing people who came from a sighted life but were blinded due to different reasons – whether sickness or injury – Alden was able to at least imagine their lives after an immersion that had him blindfolded for 30 minutes and making sense of his environement with the help of a stick.

“Despite their disability, hindi natatapos yung living life with a purpose,” he continued. “I said yes to the project because I want this message to be amplified through the teleserye. Nalungkot ako. I felt that ang laking kawalan ng vision. Of course we take it for granted. Nakakakita tayo, we’re able to hear and speak. Hindi natin talaga mare-realize ang worth ng isang bagay kapag nawala na siya.”

Because Alden feels more at home portraying the simple, hardworking man who wants nothing but the best for his loved ones and looks on the brighter side, he didn’t mind filming in the buzzing streets of Divisoria and other public markets, where droves of fans were ready to claim first dibs on a wave or smile, or if they’re lucky, a selfie with him.

“I really love to be with the people. Kasi andoon ang kulay ng buhay, mas makulay yung angle ng storya. Mas masarap makibagay sa kanila. Kagaya ko po, galing naman din po ako sa hirap. I don’t mind being around people kahit may risk. I love being around them.”

With his passionate fans, it seems scrutiny is part of the package deal when you become Alden’s leading lady. When followers got wind that young actress Mikee Quintos and beauty queen Thia Thomalla would be playing Sep’s love interests in “The Gift,” the two were under fire for not being at par with the actor. Alden acknowledges this, but his response was directed to his co-stars.

“Use it as a healthy push nalang for yourself. Ang sarap sa feeling when they belittle you on social media and you let your success prove them wrong and say the loudest of words that they need to hear. Brush them off. Maganda ang teleserye natin, we’re going to create a story out of this,” Alden told the ladies.

His message for the haters was clear: their mean words do not keep him up at night.

“Kayo lang naman po ang nagdadala niyan. We thank God for the blessing of life and the blessing of talent. At the end of the day, natutulog kami na fulfilled, happy kami kasi we’re able to do things because of your push. Kami, mas makulay ang nagiging buhay namin dahil nagagawa namin ng tama yung trabaho namin. Sana din mahanap nila ang purpose sa buhay nila,” said Alden.

Since he doesn’t condone bullying online, you can bet Alden doesn’t tolerate it on set. His “The Gift” co-star Jean Garcia had revealed in a Manila interview that Alden had been bullied during his days in “Alakdana” – his first ever series which also starred the veteran actress. While he refused to elaborate, he did have a thing or two to say about bullying as a whole.

“Advice to the new ones, regardless of how low you feel, hindi din dapat matapos yung eagerness mo to be a better version of yourself. There’s been a fair share of people criticizing me, saying things they think they know of me, but that didn’t stop me from reaching for something more. Ginamit ko ang criticism, ang pambu-bully na yun para i-push ang sarili ko to my limits,” he said. “So far, that’s the best decision I’ve done.”

If it so happens that a junior actor bullies someone on set, Alden said that he has no qualms in calling out their attention because of his firm belief that no one should belittle another.

“I don’t encourage it on set. Wala tayong karapatan mang-apak ng tao just because we think we’re superior. I don’t and will not encourage it.”


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