If we were asked to single out actors we enjoy shooting the breeze with, Benjamin Alves would be on our short list. After all, it isn’t every day that we get to pick the brain of a summa cum laude graduate (with a degree in English Literature) who just happens to look like a movie star.
OK, we didn’t really meet Ben for idle chatter. We wanted to talk to him about GMA 7’s morning soap “Kapag Nahati ang Puso,” about twentysomething mechanic Joaquin Espiritu who’s torn between someone his age (Bea Binene) and an older woman (Sunshine Cruz, who turned 41 last Wednesday).
Joaquin’s situation isn’t all that new to the dashing actor, who told us that he once dated somebody much older. “When I was 20 years old, I used to go out with someone in her early 30s,” he disclosed. “Love isn’t as clearly defined when you’re that age. You just feel the need for someone to take care of you.
“But now that I’m 29 going on 30, there’s that sense of being able to provide for my loved ones and take care of things myself. But it wasn’t hard for me to find Joaquin’s ‘core’ character trait because he loves his family as much as I love mine.”
Blame guilt for Ben’s affectionate nature and effusive love for his parents, who are based in Guam. He explained, “Now that I’m older, I see my parents with a different set of eyes, recalling what they went through for the sake of their children.
“Part of that guilt is because I can’t be with them as often as I want to. In reality, I know I should be here, where my work is. As a family, we’re not as expressive of our feelings for each other, but my mom and I have become more demonstrative after she had a tumor removed in her brain three years ago. When you realize the fleeting nature of life, you tend to appreciate the blessings more.”
Yes, Ben is thankful for the blessings that have been coming his way, although there’s a good reason driving his circumspection. “I was pretty much on my own when I was 16,” he shared. “I excelled in academics out of my need to pay my way through college, because we didn’t have enough money.
No game plan
“I was very shy as a kid, but after watching ‘Milan’ so many times, I wanted to become an actor and be as famous as my uncle (Piolo Pascual). After saving enough money, I decided to relocate here in 2012 but, as a newcomer (he was first known as actor-model Vince Saldaña), I had no idea how to go about it; I had no game plan. I was too naïve to think that stardom would be handed to me on a silver platter. But that wasn’t the reality.
“When I was with Star Magic back in 2005-2006, we were told that we’d be competing with one another. For me, it was just a lot of fun. We would dance every week. I wasn’t really a party animal, because I didn’t have much money then. It was expensive to party!
“Modeling pays well, but it’s not a regular job. If I didn’t have any commercial, I was penniless. From that experience, I learned to be wise with money matters and lived like a miser (laughs). I realized I could live comfortably with any amount I have. Money has never been a driving force that dictated my level of comfort or happiness.”
When we asked Ben to comment about “Kapag Nahati ang Puso” replacing “My Guitar Princess,” starring his girlfriend Julie Anne San Jose, in the Kapuso network’s morning programming, he simply laughed it off.
“I have no control over that, but the irony that both our characters are torn between two lovers isn’t lost on us,” the actor quipped. “For those asking how we ended up together, the common reaction is, ‘Anyare (laughs)? How did that happen?’ Perhaps that’s because of our seemingly disparate personalities. But, to say that a person must have a certain type, I find that limiting.
“Julie and I clicked because she was very open to me, which I found surprising. All of a sudden, we were talking more frequently. I learned that she’s the eldest in her family, and she’s such a good sister to her two younger sisters. They’re very close to their mom, so that’s common ground for us. I always look at how a girl treats the people close to her—that’s important to me. Everything else is secondary. She could be an archaeologist and I, an architect, and we’d still find something that would connect us.”
If he were asked to choose leading ladies he’d like to work with, Ben said that Jennylyn Mercado would be on his wish list. But, among the actresses he has yet to work with, he’d readily choose Jasmine Curtis-Smith, Gabbi Garcia and Sanya Lopez. “It would also be nice to work with Heart Evangelista, Lovi Poe, Carla Abellana and Julie again,” he added.
Was Ben hoping to bank on his facial similarities with Piolo?
“You’re impressionable when you’re 16,” he mused. “So, yes, I wanted to look like him. At that formative age, mentorship is a big deal. He was a mentor; he still is. I don’t know if he sees it that way, but every time I need to make a big decision about my career, I’d always seek his advice in private, because having been in the business for some time now, he’s someone who can see the bigger picture.”
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