Caught in the middle of the nail-biting clash between the NBA's L.A. Lakers and Portland Trailblazers and this interview, Richard Gutierrez did not behave like a brat.
The 18-year-old heartthrob (he's now 23) turned the living room TV's volume down as soon as Mama Annabelle Rama asked him to. While his eyes remained glued to the small screen, he answered our unfortunate questions without complaint or the slightest show of irritation. He did not ask for a break even in the crucial last two minutes of the game.
Pretty-boy looks and a charming disposition? What a winning combination.
"Last two minutes na lang naman, e," it is Eddie who speaks, the elder Gutierrez whose gentle presence and gracious smile always stood out even among the male stars of his batch—and now does the same in his home. For even as the two Gutierrezes are as handsome as handsome gets, age has given Eddie the edge on grace. Annabelle whispers it is rare for father and son to catch each other at home.
Sometime in the late '70s, Eddie Gutierrez was convinced his film career was over. He flew to the United States, reconciled with on-and-off girlfriend Annabelle, worked hard, and along with chum Bert Leroy Jr. (Sampaguita Pictures' Stars '66), put up what he now fondly calls his kaldero empire.
But Eddie missed making movies. And he missed home. So back he came, now with Annabelle and their brood of six: Ruffa, Elvis, Rocky, the twins Richard and Raymond, and Richie Paul.
Upon his return, the Susan Roces-Eddie Gutierrez love team was revived, and from there, Eddie The Actor went on to tackle solo roles—as the vile haciendero, the crooked politician, the top villain—not open to him in the old days. Such that, at a ripe 50, Eddie finally received his much-deserved first acting trophy.
Then Eddie The Father saw that even his young twins were taking in their share of adulation. Richard and Raymond, taking advantage of the Pinoy's fascination for anything that comes in pairs, hit box-office jackpot with movies like Kambal Tuko and Takbo, Bills, Takbo.
As child stars go, the boys reached the awkward age of 10, retreated from showbiz, and spent some years studying in the U.S. Then during one vacation, Richard realized he wanted to stay for good.
The game is over; the Lakers win 98-95. Richard is still answering questions.
'Nag-decide ako na dito na lang, eh. Kasi n'ung umuwi ako dito sobrang nag-enjoy ako. Then nag-decide si Raymond na d'un na lang daw siya sa States. Siyempre mahirap, kasi malungkot na wala siya. Parati lang kaming nag-uusap sa phone. Yeah, first time namin na mahiwalay. Nami-miss ko 'yung kakulitan niya. Actually, pareho kaming makulit, mas athletic lang ako sa kanya. At saka mas ma-gimik ako sa kanya..."
Older than Raymond by only a few minutes, Richard combined fun and studies and successfully graduated from La Salle Zobel's high school this year (2002). Shortly after signing an exclusive contract with GMA Network last April, he was cast in "Click." (And his team up with Chynna Ortaleza was born.)
The father is impressed with his son's quick ascent to the rank of teen idol. "These eight months that he's been in the movies, I'm very proud of him. Sa set, he is well behaved. Everybody loves him. He treats everybody nice—from the producer to the crew members. I hear feedback from people from Channel 7 that they like him a lot and that he's well behaved. I've been told that he has improved a lot as an actor. That makes me feel good."
Richard is, of course, not the first of Eddie's sons to follow in his footsteps. Tonton Gutierrez (by Liza Lorena) and Ramon Christopher (by Pilita Corrales) began with teeny-bopper roles before becoming character actors. As fate would have it, Tonton plays Richard's dad in "Habang Kapiling Ka," defunct GMA-7's soap.
"Nagulat kaming dalawa pero okay din kasi parati kaming magka-eksena," Richard says. "Dati mas close kami n'ung mas bata pa kami dahil lagi kaming nagkikita. Ngayon they [Tonton and Monching] just visit. We see them mga twice a month pero sandali lang.
"Bata pa kami n 'ung nalaman namin na may half-brothers kami. Basta sinabi lang sa amin, tapos natanggap namin agad. Pero kami kasi parang normal brothers lang kami. Di naman namin na-feel na half-brothers lang kami."
How is Eddie as father?
"I'm strict when I have to be strict and lenient when I have to be lenient. I become strict 'pag sobra na ang puyat nila o lakwatsa nila. And I'm lenient when they do a good job, and when they behave and they follow the rules..."
"Rewards?" he repeats the question, laughing. "Ang gaganda ng rewards nila— kotse, damit, relos."
Eddie recounts his son Richard's worse offense thus far: "Isang beses, umuwi siya rito, I smelled...he smelled alcohol. That was in 2000. Hindi pa siya bumalik sa showbiz nun. Ayun, nagalit ako sa kanya. I heard that he was drinking tequila, mga gan'un. Sabi ko, 'Kung beer, beer lang, okay lang. Tequila, 'kako, traydor yan eh.' Because when you get tipsy with tequila, talagang hindi mo na alam kung anong ginagawa mo eh."
Richard's tequila incident did not happen again.
"I'm very lucky I have well-behaved kids," says Eddie. "Bihirang-bihira 'yung gan'ung umiinom sila. Well, siguro because of how I live. Ako, I was also an adventurous man in my youth. Pero once I settled down, I made a big change in my life. I wanted to live by example. What they see in me, they follow. Like, I treat people well. On the set, I hug or I talk to them. Even here, I treat all my drivers well and my maids. 'Yun ang nakikita nila sa akin."
To date, Richard, as we all now, is GMA-7's primetime prince. He plays the lead role in top-rating TV series Lupin.