eep­ing mil­lions of in­di­vid­u­als glued to their screens and at the edge of their seats can’t be easy, af­ter all. Left to its own de­vices, the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try, es­pe­cially our own, has a habit of tak­ing on new tal­ents and test­ing the waters for mass ap­peal, or the un­canny crit­i­cal dar­ling. These tal­ents feed the line. Only a hand­ful of fresh-faced teen idols are able to in­cite the re­sponse nec­es­sary to pro­pel them to star­dom, and this ex­clu­sive club forms the ear­marks of a gen­er­a­tion. ilma San­tos, Rico an, and Scout cover girl Nadine Lus­tre are just some of the lucky ones. hen we think about speci c eras of pop cul­ture, they’re the ones that we remember.

To the club that thou­sands of new tal­ents strive for, it seems Ron­nie lonte was given an all-ac­cess pass. For a mo­ment, right at the end, just as re­lief started to set­tle at the close of 2016, all eyes were on the smug-faced new­comer. He was by all means a star on the rise, but the end of last year hitched wag­ons to Ron­nie’s as­cent and se­cured his place as one to watch. Serv­ing top billing on two lms of the Metro Manila Film Fes­ti­val si­mul­ta­ne­ously can do that to a young ac­tor’s career. Still, Ron­nie’s was a new name, one that rang like a tune and com­manded at­ten­tion. Snappy and mem­o­rable, his was the kind of moniker that agents pitched in meet­ings, be­cause a pretty name is just as im­por­tant as a pretty face. But Ron­nie rthur lcan­tara lonte has been his name for 20 years, since he was born in Biñan, La­guna. His name is real, and de­spite a mad­den­ing on­set of suc­cess, so is he.

Such is Ron­nie when I meet him one af­ter­noon in scolta, the con­crete-laden busi­ness dis­trict now mak­ing a quiet lit­tle resur­gence. Peo­ple tend to get antsy when wait­ing for stars, and our pro­duc­tion team is seek­ing so­lace from the swel­ter­ing heat by the bar stools of Fred’s, a lo­cal bar with an alarm­ingly early open­ing time at the ground oor of First United Build­ing, while ex­chang­ing ca­sual ban­ter about our sub­ject.

Maalala Mo aya Ron­nie’s work and his his­tory pre­cede him. hen he ap­pears at the shoot, bear­ing a tight grin on his face and plenty of charm, the team and I be­come alert, watch­ing as he apol­o­gizes pro­fusely for be­ing late and shakes hands with ev­ery­one on lo­ca­tion. ith ev­ery terse in­tro­duc­tion, he says his name “Ron­nie.

very­one is on their toes, all rec­og­niz­ing Ron­nie as the man who starred in two MMFF lms last year, the ac­tor pegged in his in­dus­try as one to watch. Be­cause of his height, Ron­nie looks ag­ile and im­pos­ing, and he walks with a loose gait, with move­ments that are ex­ag­ger­ated but grace­ful in a way that only an ath­lete’s are. He looks con dent, and dare I say, even a lit­tle ex­cited. He looks con­vinc­ingly like he is happy to be there, dodg­ing the Manila heat with us. He and I head straight to a quiet cor­ner of the bar. s we walk, Ron­nie nds a grain of rice from break­fast on his shirt and icks it off with­out pause. he ex­plains to me, laugh­ing. There’s no blind­ing aura of bravado around him, no ag­gres­sive smack of per­fume as we walk. Ron­nie looks stun­ningly or­di­nary.

I re­al­ize that the ac­tor in­tro­duc­ing him­self to me is far from what I ex­pected. Given the tor­ren­tial fame he’s had to deal with, I would have un­der­stood a bit of cock­i­ness, or the oc­ca­sional re­quest for some thing or other from his as­sis­tants. But Ron­nie holds his own. He talks with­out en­cum­brance, ca­su­ally and with­out re­gard for ap­pear­ances. Maybe it’s too soon to tell, but it seems he hasn’t changed much since his start in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try two years ago.

We met Ron­nie Alonte one day, and found a fast-ris­ing young star still at­tached to his small-town roots

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