Abelardo Dennis Florencio Ho never imagined he'd become famous one day and be known as Dennis Trillo.
"Never, e," he said, and up to this point, still quite disbelievingly. "Kasi hindi yun yung personality ko, e. Tahimik ako at mahiyain."
Most people he got to work with would second the motion. Judy Ann Santos, who had a commercial and a movie with Dennis, described her former leading man as "matahimik." Heart Evangelista, the actor's leading lady in Mano Po 6: My Mother's Love, said her partner is "mahiyain."
But it's a different story once the camera starts rolling.
This 26-year-old actor takes his craft seriously, and has so far bagged ten acting awards.
"Ngayon kasi, sobrang in-embrace ko na siya, e," he told PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal). "Kumbaga, hindi na siya hanapbuhay. Parang destined na ako para dito sa field na ito, and feeling ko wala na akong kailangan gawin kundi i-improve lang siya every time I have a project.
"Mahal ko na kung ano mang meron ako sa estado ko ngayon bilang artista, so ang gusto ko na lang ay i-maintain ito or pagandahin pa or i-improve ko yung kaya kong gawin."
But about ten years ago, this wasn't his conviction.
The commercial model turned actor said, "Ever since I was a kid, wala talaga akong ambisyon. Feeling ko, lucky ako lang kasi andiyan palagi yung parents ko para mag-support sa akin..."
BEFORE HE BECAME FAMOUS. Dennis was a regular student taking up International Studies in Miriam College when a talent scout spotted him.
"Before Popoy [Caritativo, his manager], meron pa akong isang agent. Nag-vi-VTR , go-sees, pero hindi ako natatanggap," he recalled.
He just tried, but never became lucky. Unlike the other showbiz stars, the then college student had to work his entry into showbiz.
Dennis continued, "Bihira lang ako matanggap sa mga commercials dahil sobrang mahiyain ko. Yung agent ko na yun, pina-workshop niya ako sa Actors Workshop Foundation and after noon, medyo natuto na ako ng konti."
(Actors Workshop Foundation, according to its website, is a 24-year-old non-stock, non-profit foundation organized by a dynamic group of professional actors—Leo Martinez, Gina Alajar, and Malou de Guzman, to name a few who train potential actors.
He became visible on television commercials, then landed bit roles in the ABS-CBN series Pangako sa 'Yo and Sa Dulo ng Walang Hanggan. When he transferred to GMA-7, his career began taking off.
"Dito ako dinala ng hangin, e," the Darna star mused. "Kumbaga hindi ko pinangarap maging artista pero at the back of my mind nung bata ako, di ko alam kung anong mangyayari sa akin, pero alam ko na meron akong patutunguhan. Ito na yun."
Dennis sounded resolute when he uttered the last line. And that's his focus now. Career, plus his family, ranks first in his list of priorities. When we asked him about his lovelife, he just shook his head.
LOVE VERSUS CAREER. He stated, "Ngayon? Wala talaga, zero talaga...Ang oras ko, nauubos sa spending time with my kid, sa family ko, friends, at sa work. Kasi ngayon, sobrang daming trabaho—may StarStruck pa, movies 'tapos sinenovela, meron pa yung mga TV special.
"So ngayon, nag-i-enjoy ako kasama ng mga friends ko, and enough na yung nabibigay sa 'kin na joy ng anak ko, kaya hindi ko na masyadong hinahanap yung magkaroon ng girlfriend or ng serious relationship."
Love, based on his experience, complicates his showbiz career.
The heartthrob realized that, "Every time na ma-involve ako with someone, parang na-a-out of control ako. Nawawala yung focus ko sa mga dapat mapagtuunan ng pansin. Happy na ako na ganito muna."
The actor has had three publicized relationships so far.
There's Carlene Aguilar, whom he describes as "responsible, very pleasant, and has a very strong personality. The former beauty queen is the mom of his first son, Calix Andreas. Their separation was one of the most controversial news items in 2007. Today he's glad that "we're friends."
There's Cristine Reyes. He says they clicked because "halos pareho kami" and they're both "tahimik." Despite their on-and-off relationship for about two years, he has nice words for the Starstruck alumna. "She's very simple and loving," he affirms.
There's Pauleen Luna, the most recent lady in his life. They worked in GMA-7's Adik Sa 'Yo and found the energy of the Eat Bulaga! mainstay disarming. He adds, "She's bubbly, makulit." But after more than two months of dating, and even before they could officially announce that they were indeed an item, they called it quits.
So, at present, the Chinese mestizo guy is single. He's been vocal though about his huge crush on Heart Evangelista, his Mano Po 6 leading lady.
His eyes smiled when he said, "Sobrang saya ko na nakasama ko siya dito sa Mano Po. Nakagawa kami ng movie 'tapos magkasama pa kami sa Beijing, so parang ano pa ang hihilingin mo, di ba?"
Onscreen, the chemistry of Dennis and Heart is indubitable; but off the camera, they can't be qualified as good friends yet. During the film's trip to China's capital, he would sit closely beside his leading lady. They would chat, especially when the press people were not around. But once the recorders were turned on, they would both say, "Focus is on career."
MANO PO 6 EXPERIENCE. Their first movie project has just opened in cinemas, and Dennis feels very lucky to be part of the star-studded cast.
"Ang dami kong first time dito. First time ko sa Beijing. First time ko makakita ng snow. First time ko makasama si Heart sa movie. First time ko makatrabaho si Sharon Cuneta," he related.
Despite the accolades he reaped as a celebrity, Dennis acted like a fan in front of the Megastar. In the Beijing Film Studio, where a few scenes were shot, he approached the host-singer-actress, "Ma'am Sharon, puwede po bang magpa-picture?" And the lead star of the movie replied, "Sure."
Dennis said about his experience in working with Sharon, "It makes me very proud as an actor. Feeling ko napakalaking fulfillment nun sa 'kin na makatrabaho ang Megastar, na nung bata pa lang ako, kinalakihan ko yung mga pelikula niya."
Would you believe that one of his favorite local movies is "Maging Sino Ka Man"? And the bad-boy image of Robin Padilla, Sharon's leading man in that film, is what he considers one of the most interesting roles.
It's quite similar to his dubious character in this year's MMFF (Metro Manila Film Festival) entry of Regal Films.
Dennis revealed, "Dito sa Mano Po, iba yung role kasi may pagka-bad siya, e. Yung image na pino-project niya kapag kasama niya si Heart, medyo goody-goody. Medyo challenging talaga..."
He didn't just accept but assimilated the role of Daniel Chan. He said, "Nanood ako ng movies na feeling ko makaka-relate ako, yung mga makakakuha ako ng mga pointers at reference. 'Tapos binabasa ko nang maigi yung script from start to end. Nagtatanong din ako kay Direk kung ano gusto niyang makita dito para at least, pagdating ng eksena, hindi na ako mangangapa-ngapa. Knowing direk Joel [Lamangan], siyempre kapag andun ka na sa set, kailangan alam mo na kung ano yung gagawin mo. So beforehand, nagtatanong ako sa kanya kung gaano ba kasama? Or ano ba yung extent nung character? Gaano siya ka-involved kay Heart? Gaano siya ka-involved sa parents niya?"
The result, based on our film review, is impressive. You'll see a different Dennis Trillo in Mano Po 6.
What would be a dream role for him?
"As much as possible kasi, yung mga gusto kong pino-portray na roles ay yung kakaiba, yung wala pang nakakagawa. Kapag kakaiba yun, yung mas tumatatak sa audience. Yung first time nila makakita and kapag ganun kasi, mas malaki yung impact, mas hindi nila makakalimutan. So I see to it na yung mga ginagawa kong roles, yung mga ganung types talaga."
His answer clearly explained why for his film debut, Aishite Imasu 1941: Mahal Kita (2004), he didn't mind playing a cross-dressing spy. Film critics, award-giving bodies, and Pinoy audiences truly noticed him. And since then, there's no turning back.
"Ito na yung destiny ko and hindi ko na alam yung gagawin ko kung wala ako dito," he ended.