For Ruru Madrid, entering show biz once felt like shooting for the moon. Never did he imagine that he would one day see his face on a billboard along Edsa.
“Back then, we would pass by Edsa and GMA 7 on our way to auditions for commercials. I dreamed of being part of the network. Pero ‘di lagi nakukuha,” he told the Inquirer in a recent online press conference for the midseason of “Lolong,” the action-fantasy primetime series he currently headlines.
Ruru was in Seoul, South Korea, for another project when the billboard was put up in the GMA headquarters prior to the show’s premiere last July 4. But seeing the photos was enough to make Ruru feel emotional. “Friends sent me photos of the billboard and I couldn’t help but cry. I didn’t get to see it in person, so I felt a little sad. But it still feels great,” he said.
That moment had the 24-year-old actor looking back on his early days in the industry, and his first break as the winner of the talent show “Protégé” in 2012. “Akala ko suntok sa buwan. I was so thin then. I didn’t have any talent—I didn’t know how to act, dance or sing. All I had was grit. Kapal ng mukha,” he recalled, laughing.
But as he gained more experience, he realized that these things can actually be learned. Add good attitude and work ethic into the equation and you get a solid recipe for success. “I eventually discovered that talents can be honed. But the love for the craft should come from within,” he said. “Loving what you do can start a domino effect. You also have to know how to interact with people.”
While in Korea, where he stayed from Jan. 26 to Aug. 11 for the coming local adaptation “Running Man,” Ruru encountered Filipinos who turned out to be fans of “Lolong.”
“We were taping around Namsan Tower when a group of Pinoys came, calling me ‘Lolong.’ They told me that they watch the show. They had photos taken with me,” he said. “I feel happy knowing Filipinos abroad get to watch the show.”
It was difficult being overseas during the premiere of one of his career’s biggest projects. But thanks to digital platforms, Ruru can still catch up and see what fans have been saying about him and the show.
“I was ‘team online’ while in Korea. Even if I was tired after taping, I would watch the show on livestream. My ‘Running Man’ costars Buboy [Villar] and Kokoy [de Santos] watched the pilot episode with me. My family and friends in the Philippines also made sure to show their support,” he said.
“There was a moment where I was just sitting, staring at the sky and thanking God, that, finally, it was happening. People can now see what we had worked hard for. It has yet to sink in,” he said.
While he hadn’t had the chance to celebrate yet, Ruru did get a much-needed surprise from his girlfriend, Bianca Umali, who flew to Korea unannounced. “I had been taping in Korea for a month by that time, so I was already starting to feel a bit homesick. And then, she surprised me. Nawala ‘yung pagod ko,” he said.
In “Lolong,” Ruru portrays the titular character, who grows up in a rural village called Tumahan. There, he develops an affinity for animals and crocodiles—a trait unique to the persecuted Atubaw tribe, whose few remaining members are imbued with reptilian powers. The series’ new arc will usher in new characters to be played by Vin Abrenica, Alma Concepcion, Thea Tolentino, Lucho Ayala and Rafael Rosell.
Hoping to make up for lost time, Ruru said he will soon be joining his leading ladies, Arra San Agustin and Shaira Diaz, in Davao City for a regional show. “I wasn’t in the Philippines to promote the show early on, so I’m thankful to Arra and Shaira who went out to promote,” he said.
Ruru is grateful for the people’s warm reception and the good ratings the show is enjoying. “I would still be happy, regardless of its success, because I know I gave my all to this project. I made new friends. I learned a lot from my colleagues,” he said. “I’m happy that aside from entertainment, the show also educates people about the environment.”
Working with actors who are generous with their knowledge, Ruru said, makes him want to pay it forward. “I have a new goal. I want to be able to inspire others, because that’s what I see from my coactors. They share what they know with me. And I also want to do that for the younger actors,” he said.
“At the beginning of my career, my goal was to earn money. Now, I no longer feel that acting is work. I do it because I love it,” he said.
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