THI IS NOT A DREAM

Scout - - COVER STORY - Groom­ing by Jett Tor­re­vil­las Hair by Rhenz Penequito Shot at Whites­pace

The day I am to in­ter­view Ruru Madrid is the day af­ter the Os­cars in Cal­i­for­nia,

which is about 11,000 kilo­me­ters away from our shoot lo­ca­tion. It’s a Tues­day in Makati, a bright but fa­tigued city. Its res­i­dents rise early. It is just an­other week­day.

We’re clearly on the cusp of sum­mer, but the sights sug­gest fall, a prospect that doesn’t be­long to us. It’s 34° with no cloud in sight. On my way to the lo­ca­tion, I as­cer­tain it’s not au­tumn. The loose ob­jects I see swirling above pedes­trian’s heads are garbage. I make out a burger wrap­per, maybe a cup, among the dry leaves.

On asong Tamo, ow­ers are be­ing ar­ranged, lights erected. I’ve ar­rived and the SCOUT team is pre­par­ing for the shoot. The lo­ca­tion is an event space on the bur­geon­ing street, the ad­dress of ad­ver­tis­ing agen­cies, art gal­leries, car deal­er­ships. It is very busy. We are in a tall ware­house painted white, and there are ferns, loose kalachuchi, celosias on a ta­ble. There is a large print of a desert scene splayed out on the oor.

It’s been an hour since call time, and the food has beat Ruru to set. Burg­ers are handed out for lunch. There’s chat­ting while we wait. There’s talk of Ruru com­ing from a shoot, be­ing ex­hausted. There’s a text about an ac­ci­dent on Or­ti­gas, al­legedly in­volv­ing a truck. The de­tails are am­bigu­ous, as they are about things that hap­pen of­ten enough.

Ruru ar­rives, is brought to the en­trance by a black ve­hi­cle. He’s much taller than I an­tic­i­pated. To say that he’s of princely stature would not be wholly in­ac­cu­rate. He’s been cast as roy­alty be­fore. He was named af­ter a datu from Zam­boanga, named Ruru Ki­ram. Later, Ruru tells me he’s never met his name­sake. He has only been to Zam­boanga once.He shakes hands with the men on set, touches cheeks with the women. Af­ter the nec­es­sary niceties, Ruru is whisked away to hair and makeup on the sec­ond oor of the lo­ca­tion. He’s cor­dial, pa­tient in his chair. He in­dulges per­sonal ques­tions. Ruru tells me about 26- hour work­days, fam­ily, and what it’s like to be in bill­boards at 20 years old.“I wasn’t born in Zam­boanga,” he says, clear­ing the air, nd­ing my mis­in­for­ma­tion a lit­tle funny. In pub­lished pro les, Ruru is in­tro­duced as a per­son from Min­danao, born in Zam­boanga Sibugay. He tells me this is in­ac­cu­rate, be­cause he was born in Makati. The news of his false ori­gin must have come from con­fused press, or per­haps PR gone awry. Ruru broke out onto the lo­cal celebrity scene, was “dis­cov­ered,” when he was just 14, on a GMA Net­work show called Pro­tégé. Con­tes­tants on that show rep­re­sent cities across the Philip­pines, a sort of pageant-for­mat con­test. The young as­pi­rants com­pete in teams ac­cord­ing to re­gion.

Ruru ex­plains that he was the Zam­boanga con­tin­gent de­spite be­ing a Manileño be­cause all the spots in the cap­i­tal were taken. “Wala nang slots sa Mega Manila,” Ruru re­counts. “They asked me kung ano prov­ince ng par­ents ko. My mom is from Zam­boanga so sabi [nila], okay, pwede ka nam­ing ila­gay doon sa Zam­boanga.” Ruru seems aware of the ar­range­ment’s silli­ness. He can laugh at the fact, six years af­ter his rst stroke of luck. He was 14 then, per­haps too young to com­pre­hend the failed at­tempt at re­gional di­ver­sity. Per­haps he knew it wouldn’t have made much of a dif­fer­ence.

In his mind, he was suc­ceed­ing on a long-stand­ing dream, one he’s had since he was a child. “Bata pa lang ako gusto ko na mag­ing ac­tion star eh. ‘ Yun ang pan­garap ko,” he con des. Ruru be­trays a fas­ci­na­tion with fame com­mon to his gen­er­a­tion. It’s com­mon to me, my friends, and all the peo­ple I meet, whose names I can’t re­mem­ber.

At an early age, Ruru recogni ed the need to claim signi cance, to be­come some­thing, to go viral. The dif­fer­ence be­tween me and Ruru is the abil­ity to ad­mit it. And per­haps be­cause of his stately ap­pear­ance, the dim­pled smile that launched a thou­sand “Ru­runatics,” Ruru made some­thing of that nag­ging com­pul­sion and was dis­cov­ered.

I de­cide not to ask him about his re­la­tion­ship with Gabbi Gar­cia, a fre­quent co-star with a blos­som­ing ca­reer at their shared net­work. He and Gabbi have por­trayed each other’s love in­ter­ests, but re­cently, the ro­mance has plateaued, and the dis­tance has piqued in­ter­est. I’m fa­mil­iar with the canned re­sponse: He’s said in in­ter­views that they were pur­su­ing their own projects, grow­ing as ac­tors. It is noth­ing per­sonal.

In­stead, I ask him about the ca­reer he seems par­tic­u­lar about ad­vanc­ing, and where he in­tends to take it. Ruru tells me about vet­ting roles, en­gag­ing with his scripts. He tells me that the only tele­vi­sion he watches is his own shows. He tells me he missed the Os­cars.

“Nasa tap­ing, eh,” he says, re­fer­ring to a shoot for the show

Sher­lock Jr., in which he plays the tit­u­lar role. The shoot be­gan at seven in the morn­ing Philip­pine time, the day be­fore our in­ter­view. It’s the same shoot he came from be­fore ours, the rea­son why he was late. Tap­ing for Sher­lock Jr. wrapped at 9:00 AM the day of his shoot with SCOUT. I think of the ow­ers ar­ranged by stylist Mav Bernardo and pho­tog­ra­pher Cenon No­rial III. I am re­lieved he got a bit of sleep.

Around-the-clock tap­ing comes with the job. [...] Good health ap­pears to be the co­pi­ous price of be­com­ing some­body.

He says he re­grets miss­ing the Os­car nom­i­nees. “‘ Yung mga nanalo, for ex­am­ple, Dunkirk, hindi ko nga na­panood ‘ yun, even if so­brang fan ako ni Harry Styles,” Ruru says. “These past few months parang hindi ako masyado nakaka- watch ng movies dahil [sa] tap­ing.” Around-the- clock tap­ing comes with the job, re­garded as just an­other oc­cu­pa­tional haz­ard by our work­ing ac­tors. Good health ap­pears to be the co­pi­ous price of be­com­ing some­body.

One wouldn’t be able to tell by look­ing at Ruru, who works out three to four times a week. “So­brang into mar­tial arts ako. I do muay thai, box­ing, jiu- jitsu,” he says. He does this in be­tween reg­u­lar shoots for Sher­lock Jr., which oc­cupy three days per week.

“We’re work­ing for more than 24 hours a day, and we’re do­ing a lot of things, not just one show,” Ruru says about his work en­gage­ments. He does not com­plain, even ap­pear­ing em­pa­thetic to the setup. “On the other side kasi, I think, once

magka­roon kami ng cut­off, kun­yari sabi­hin natin 12 work­ing hours lang. Feel­ing ko malu­lugi ‘yung pro­duc­tion. Kasi so­brang daming bin­aba­yaran.” Ruru is hard-pressed to imag­ine an en­ter­tain­ment industry that’s sus­tained by hu­mane work­ing hours. “So baka ang mang­yari diyan,” he spec­u­lates, “‘ yung mga artista dito sa Pilip­inas nag­dudub na lang ng mga shows ng mga Ko­re­ans.” De­spite the ills of his industry, Ruru seems in­tent on stay­ing. His long-term goal, his place in the big pic­ture, is the di­rec­tor’s chair. “‘ Pag matanda na ako,” Ruru says, “gusto ko gu­mawa ng

pe­likula. I’ve al­ways wanted to be a lm­maker, di­rec­tor, scriptwriter.” He at­tributes the dream to the time he’s spent in the industry. It’s been six years since Pro­tégé. “Dito na ako tu­manda eh,” he says, be­fore I com­ment that he’s nowhere near old at 20. He gamely re­con­sid­ers. “Dito ako lumaki.”

Ruru is sent back to the makeup room be­fore the shoot can start. The stylist has re­quested stub­ble, per­haps to add di­men­sion to the face, per­haps to make it look a lit­tle older. Hair is painted on to his chin. Ruru is still in his jeans and red Hen­ley tee, the clothes he wore to set. He looks young and speaks even younger, all dreams and work­out rou­tines.

Among the bill­boards on Guadalupe, the part of EDSA that runs over the Pasig River, there is a photo of Ruru and Marco Gum­abao, his friend and co-ac­tor. They are pos­ing for lo­cal cloth­ing brand Bench. Ruru is ec­static about the bill­board. He tells me it’s his rst one. In the photo, the set­ting is a beach, and the two men are walk­ing up the shore, in jeans.

Ruru ap­pears dif­fer­ent now, only a few months af­ter. He’s cut his hair shorter. Di­rec­tor’s orders; the cut was nec­es­sary for the role. Ruru is nd­ing him­self in the lofty po­si­tion of get­ting ex­actly what he wants. He is now earn­ing his keep. He is work­ing into the morn­ings. He is too busy to make out the trash in the air.

There is magic be­ing as­sem­bled around him, but to him, it is just an­other set. Ruru is present, com­mit­ted, and a lit­tle ex­hausted. But that mat­ters lit­tle for now. There’s an­other shoot wait­ing.

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