If Gerald Anderson had his way, last 2009 would have gone on forever.
"Parang ayaw ko matapos ang 2009," he told Ruel Bayani, his mentor, director of Gerald's breakout teleserye Tayong Dalawa, primetime TV drama's phenomenal success last year. It was in a private gathering at Bayani's house, the year was about to end, and the actor was, to use Direk Ruel's term, nagsesenti.
"Sabi niya it was the year that everything changed. It was the year the false perceptions were changed. The year he gained respect, admiration. The year that saw his metamorphosis."
The director stops himself and quickly tells us that the last sentence is already his, not Gerald's. Just to add a little more drama to his apprentice's yearend musings.
In truth, there is no need to make 2009 even more dramatic for the 20-year old heartthrob. The year began with the tailend of the youth-oriented series My Only Hope which he topbilled with Kim Chiu and other young upstarts.
Before audiences could take a breather from the young actor's presence on the small screen, Tayong Dalawa premiered in February. The teleserye, its multi-layered plot and plot twists hanging on the main premise of two Philippine Air Force soldiers who don't just share a name—David Garcia Jr—but also the same father, was a big hit.
The soap premiered February 2 on ABS-CBN and garnered a 28.3 viewer's share (according to the TNS survey) against GMA 7's Dingdong Dantes and Marian Rivera's telenovela Babaeng Hinugot Sa Aking Tadyang which came in second at 26.3.
It may have been a close fight but throughout the series' run, Tayong Dalawa was able to stand unmoved on its timeslot, even as the competing station scampered to change their programming four times.
The rest of the year would see the 20-year old actor mining his "Action Drama Prince" tag into a more action-oriented project (Agimat, the weekly series based on the films of Ramon Revilla, premiered with Gerald as Tiagong Akyat), beefing up his portfolio of product endorsements (before 2009 ended, he has lent his name, face and image to 15 brands, among them SMART, Fit n Rite and Enervon Multivitamins), and making a splash in print and new media.
In September 2009, he landed the cover of Cosmopolitan Magazine's 10 Hottest Bachelors Issue, which the year before was graced by Dingdong Dantes.
Just before the month ended came an unexpected honor. A day after the Ondoy floods caused major devastation in many areas in Manila, photographs of Gerald Anderson swimming in the murky waters of his village, up on the roof of a car checking for neighbours trapped in their houses, flooded blogsites and news sites in the Internet.
Newspapers and TV quickly picked up the story, and much as he insisted that people stop calling him a hero ("I was just doing the natural thing," he told YES!), he already had that most covetable of adjectives many celebrities would kill for to be attached to their name: mabango.
And here it is now, just as he wished. Only in the first month of 2010, and it seems the success of '09 has smoothly spilled over. ABS-CBN's first big teleserye of the year Kung Tayo'y Magkakalayo which premiered in January 18 has his name up there with screen partner Kim Chiu and Kris Aquino.
The following Wednesday, Star Cinema's opening salvo for the new decade, the youth romantic comedy Paano Na Kaya, which again stars him and ka-loveteam Kim, opened to a gross of P10M.
Before the opening week of his movie ended, before the first month of the new year began, he had quietly shot a new TVC for major shampoo brand, Clear, easily placing him in the same pedestal as current Clear endorsers Jericho Rosales, Dingdong Dantes and Piolo Pascual.
For an actor who has only been in the business for three years, Gerald Anderson's success could sound overwhelming. It becomes even more overwhelming when you get the privilege to visit his house, a tall, modern structure that stands on a 312 square-meter property in an exclusive village in Quezon City. Built from his own earnings, the P3 million lot he paid for in cash in 2008.
We asked him if he ever felt too young for the amount of success he's gained this early in his life and career. "Hindi naman," he says, "Iniisip ko na, oo, young ako, marami na akong nagawa pero marami pa akong gustong gawin. Marami pang mangyayari. Or, gusto ko malayo pa 'yong mararating ko."
THE SURPRISE STORY. To think that in 2005, he wouldn't have imagined any of this when he said yes to actor Joross Gamboa's invitation to join the dance group that performs with the Star Circle Quest alum in performances around the country.
Gerald was 14 then and was living with his mother and younger brother in General Santos City.
One afternoon, on the way home with his buddies, they chanced upon a show featuring Joross and screen partner Roxanne Guinoo. They came down from the tricycle and made their way backstage. "Ta's nagpa-picture ako kay Joross at kay Roxanne," Gerald recalls to us the first time we sit down for an interview at the Star Magic office in ABS-CBN.
Joross introduced the young tisoy to his then manager Jun Reyes, and soon after Gerald was convincing his mother to let him go to Manila.
"'Baka may pag-asa ka,'" Gerald remembers Jun telling him then. "So no'ng una siyempre di ba, kung bata ka ta's sinabihan ka ng gano'n, medyo 'Wow, sige, sige, try ko, try ko."
Never mind that he didn't know how to dance, and one dance routine took him one week to perfect. "Sobrang sakit ng ulo ng mga kasama ko kasi paulit-ulit kami. Sobrang tigas katawan, ayoko talaga sumayaw."
He was in it for the adventure, never mind that he only earned P500 per show. "Para sa amin dati malaki na 'yon," he says. He loved the trips, the long drives to places as far as Abra, riding on a bus with no aircondition. He loved staying in the hotels where Joross stays and making new friends.
Even when he auditioned for the first Pinoy Big Brother (PBB) Teen Edition, which to many young wannabes is a sure way to enter show biz big time, he won the producers over not by showing talent or a determination to please.
"What was really good about him," says Laurenti Dyogi, ABS-CBN Business Head and director of the reality show, "Pag nagre-react siya very animated, spontaneous, big reaction, bibo. Kasi ang dami naman guwapo diyan, dami naman naga-audition na guwapo, e. Kung wala kang personality, mahirap. Especially for a reality program. You need to have spunk and personality to be remarkable in a reality program."
Being one of the big winners in the PBB Finale in 2006 didn't change the boy's outlook towards the new world he found himself in. As opposed to his screen partner Kim who wanted to jump head on to work after coming out of the Big Brother house, Gerald remained the kid who became a backup dancer on his own harmless dare. "Para lang akong naglalaro no'n," he says.
Even when Star Cinema already cast him as one of the main leads in the youth-oriented musical First Day High in 2006. "Ginawa ko lang," Gerald recalls. 'May shoot? O sige punta ko.' Hindi siya ano e, wala akong, 'Ano gagawin ko dito sa eksenang 'to? Ano 'yong acting ko? Ano 'yong puwede ko ipakita na bago? Wala. Akala ko requirement lang na kailangan mong tanggapin 'yong role na 'to. Ngayon parang may mga roles, may mga shows na 'Wag na 'yan kasi parang nagawa ko na 'yan.' E, no'ng araw akala ko, 'Ay may show, sige tara!'"
Somewhere between playing a brooding, rebellious son in My Only Hope and essaying the role of a righteous military officer longing for the attention of his dad in Tayong Dalawa, something happened to Gerald Anderson.
He grew up.
Suddenly the young man was rolling his sleeves and stepping up to the plate. "No'ng tine-taping namin 'yong My Only Hope, talagang sabi ko trabaho na 'to. Hanapbuhay na 'to. 'Yong role na binigay nila sa 'kin, iba 'yong role ko do'n e, emo na...hindi ako, e. 'Yong mga dating roles ko medyo, 'Ako yan, a!' Ito hindi, e. So pinag-aralan ko. Gusto ko ibahin itsura ko, nagpa-balbas ako, mas naging seryoso ako."
In 2008, as soon as he began taping Tayong Dalawa, he knew playtime was over when ABS-CBN entrusted him with easily the most challenging project of his young career. "Story conference pa lang sobra na 'kong excited no'ng sinabi sa aking magiging military ako. Wow. Dream role ko talaga. Mentally, kailangan ko talaga mag-focus sa role na ito, kailangan ko talaga ayusin lahat."
Especially when he saw Gina Pareno, Cherry Pie Picache, Alessandra de Rossi and Coco Martin on the set.
"Of course, alam natin na siya [Gerald] 'yong pinakamahina doon," says Ruel Bayani, "sa lahat na ''yon, and you all see them in one dining table."
Ruel held his hand in this new exciting ordeal. "Ang mga isa sa mga una namin kinunan [na mga eksena sa] PMA [Philippine Military Academy]. So doon pa lang sa PMA, sa Baguio pa lang kami, inalalayan na. 'Ito, ganito, observe mo 'to, ito pinagdadaanan nila 'to, this and that.'
"Doon pa lang naramdaman ko na, we were in the PMA and I noticed that he wasn't just funny, he was a person. He was a young man na nilalabanan 'yong mga takot niya, hinaharap niya 'yong challenge, ine-embrace niya 'yong situation. Na ito na 'yong big opportunity na kapag sinayang niya maaring pagsisihan niya."
It would take a while before the director would notice the unravelling Gerald. "Noong una,I usually make note of corrections, para ma-improve. Noong huli, wala na. Nakasabay na. Siguro tatanungin mo ko, 'Kailan mo naramdaman na makakasabay siya?'
"From PMA alam ko na makakasabay siya, because nakita ko na 'yong determination, that he wants to rise above the limitations and that he sees this opportunity. Nakita ko na 'yon. Sabi ko, 'Oh, oh, he's going to surprise us.' True enough.
"Kasi sorry ha...I mean, what is so surprising about Coco Martin being a good actor? He is a good actor. We got him because he is a very good actor, di ba? Sa akin ang pinaka-surprise story diyan si Gerald, di ba?
"Kim was the lead star of My Girl. Everybody loved her in My Girl. People knew she was a brilliant actress who can move from comedy to drama with equal ease. Masyadong buong-buo ang pagka-bilib kay Kim ng buong network. So 'yong transformation ni Gerald [in Tayong Dalawa] is really something na remarkable."
Erick Salud, who directed Gerald in the teleserye My Girl, the weekly drama, LoveSpell, Gerald's first bite into acting, and now in Kung Tayo'y Magkakalayo, noticed a similar change in the young actor.
"Sobrang nakikita ko sa kanyang sobrang mabusisi na siya. ''Di ba ganito , Direk' Ganyan ganyan. 'Direk, can I add ganyan-ganyan? Can I add this one?'
"'Basta ano lang ha! Ganito ka lang ha. Eto lang ang character mo. Within this you can add to make it more exciting. 'Yan, papanoorin mo siya.'
"Tapos, after every take, after previewing ha, hindi pa siya nakuntento. There's a monitor on the set e, tapos ipe-preview mo 'yan 'tapos hindi pa siya diyan magkakasya pupunta pa siya doon sa tent namin kung sa'n 'yong system ng monitor. Do'n pa siya magpe-preview ulit."
But all these new appreciation for a much-improved Gerald Anderson may seem a little much even for a believer like Ruel Bayani.
After all, as mentor and close friend, he is aware that Gerald is already more likeable, and real, than the next celebrity. "They're not the kind of actors na natsi-chismis na nagsusuka sa pavement ng Embassy or nakitang umiinom sa isang bar. The thing with them kasi is they're really authentic na wholesome stars. Hindi product ng engineer, manipulation ng mga producers, managers," says Ruel. "'Yan na siya. Siya 'yan.
"Hindi effort to project this kind of image kasi hindi 'yon malayo [from who they are] and I believe kaya din nagre-respond 'yong mga tao sa pagka-boy-next-door niya kasi walang dina-damage control-walang anak, walang other family, walang skeletons in the closet."
Gerald may not have dirty secrets to hide but he does have a story yet to be told. If actors always bring up that word pinaghuhugutan, the young man, and not many people know this, has a well of his own.
FROM OLONGAPO TO TEXAS. Gerald Randolph Anderson Jr. was born at Subic Naval Base in Zambales on March 7, 1989, three years before the American defense facility officially closed. His father, Randolph Sr., nicknamed Randy, an American, was then an officer in the admiral staff and was in training for the U.S. Navy.
Gerald's mother, Evangeline Opsima, nicknamed Vangie, is a native of General Santos City, best known these days as Manny Pacquiao's hometown, located in the province of South Cotabato, Mindanao.
At a young age, Vangie left GenSan for Manila to look for work in the big city. She got a job as a kundoktora for the Manila Transit buses plying the Alabang-Muntinlupa route. "Kaso lang, humininto ako," she recalls. "Lagi naiiwan ang sapatos ko." She also worked as a security guard and was at one time stationed at the Makati public market.
Lured by a friend to try her luck in Olongapo, go-getter Vangie soon found herself adjusting again to a new environment, which turned out to be stranger than Manila. "Primero, takot ako sa Olongapo, kasi wala ka makikita, puro mga higante," she says, referring to the droves of American military men roaming the city. "Pero pangarap ko din na mag-asawa ako ng Amerikano."
It was in Olongapo that she met Randy Anderson.
When the handsome and strapping American met the petite, dusky Filipina, she was already running a modest beauty parlor in the city. "She's a beautiful woman," says Randy, when we interview him in his condominium unit in Makati. "She was very, very pretty. Smart. Good businessperson. The thing that always catches your eye is, she really knew how to dress, take care of herself."
Indeed, even at 52, the woman knows how to present herself, and has her own distinct way with clothing. The first time YES! catches a glimpse of Mommy Vangie in her son's house, her hair is still covered in pink rollers. When she finally sits down with us after cooking a feast, the rollers have come off, her tresses are properly curled, and she's wearing a knee-length military-green vest.
Underneath the vest is a white tube top, with just a little of her black brassiere peeking. Her feet are shod in black gladiator sandals with gold grommets.
In the early days of their acquaintance, Randy would drop by Vangie's shop to get a manicure or just to have his fingernails clipped. After a while, he began bringing her roses. "Kasi istayl 'yan doon, e, dala-dala ng roses 'yong mga Kano," Mommy Vangie tells us in her thick Visayan accent. "Wala kang makikita sa mga Pilipinong ganyan. Kano lang may bitbit laging roses."
Randy—whom Vangie these days refers to only as Kano, at least when talking to us—soon learned that the woman to whom he was bringing roses had a five-year-old love child named Ricalyn. Still, he continued to pursue the spunky Visayan lass, and they went out on a few dates.
But work took Randy back to the United States several times. Finally, when he got stationed in Hawaii, he sent for her, and the two got married in a Honolulu Court on April 22, 1986. He was 36, she was 26.
A few months later, the newlyweds were back in Olongapo. Randy was again stationed at the naval base, and the enterprising Vangie was soon running a few beauty parlors and tailoring shops. "She's quite the business person, you know," Randy quips.
The couple would live in and out of the base itself—in the navy housing for a while, and then in a house downtown. Gerald Jr. came along in '89, and a second child, Kenneth, would come two years later.
The Andersons managed to stay in Olongapo despite the devastation caused by the June 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, but the decision to close U.S. military bases (the Subic base was officially turned over to the Philippine government on November 24, 1992) left Randy, then still a member of the U.S. Navy, with no choice but to migrate to the United States with his family.
"I left first," Randy says. "Gerald and I left first. Me and him, that was fun." They would live first in San Antonio, Texas, where Randy bought a 30,000-square-foot house for the family.
Gerald has a faint memory of this house, but he remembers being bowled over by its sheer size. "Nag-stay kami do'n for two years lang, gano'n, so hindi ko na maalaala 'yong bahay. Sobrang laki talaga. Ang ganda! Dream house ng nanay ko. E, sa Texas kami no'n, mainit. Ayaw niya do'n. Ayaw ng mama ko do'n kasi mainit daw. Sabi ng papa ko, 'E, di ba galing ka GenSan? Mainit sa GenSan, a.'"
His father remembers the young Gerald as a shy but stylish young boy with a passion for sports. "He was a good kid," Daddy Randy says. "He got into trouble like every kid does. He was caught one time trying to skip school, climbing over a wall, and he was about to jump and they caught him. Just normal stuff. He was a good kid, and he always did like his clothes. I'm kind of a slob."
The afternoon we interview him, Randy seems like a well-put-together gentleman at 61, wearing a checkered polo shirt tucked in a belted brown pair of trousers, with black leather shoes—not a slob, at all.
But he says his son "still complains" about the way his father dresses, although Gerald was glad to see him at the premiere of Paano Na Kaya "when I had my suit on."
Daddy Randy adds that Gerald "always liked to wear, not expensive, but nice, clean clothes, and likes to have his hair combed."
"Every summer nagpapakulay ako ng buhok," Gerald says when we ask him about some childhood photographs we have seen, where he had lighter streaks on his hair. "Wala lang, para maiba."
We bring this up with his father. It turns out that while it was Vangie who was the trained beautician in the family, it was Randy who would color Gerald's hair—and Kenneth's.
Randy says, quite proudly: "One time, Vangie had come back to work, and Kenneth and Gerald were with me, the three of us there. The fad was to color in the little streaks and stuff, so I did it myself. Because in the States, it was very expensive. So we put the plastic wrap and folded it. They came out good. I sat him down in the chair and we put the bleach and the color. They used to like that, to be stylish, both of 'em.
"Not overboard. Not prissy. Because one thing that Gerald likes is sports. He went to middle school there [in the U.S.]. He was on the basketball team, he was on the football team. It was funny, because he was small. He's big now, but compared to lots of American kids—the kids that go for football are the big kids. But he would jump around, very aggressive. 'Coach, give me the ball! Give me the ball!' He's still like that when he plays basketball. He really, really plays, puts his heart in it."
KANSAS TIANGGE. After Randy retired from the U.S. Navy in 1995, he sold the house in San Antonio and decided to move the family to Kansas City, Missouri. Not far from their new house, Vangie set up an all-Filipino merchandise shop called Tatak Pilipino Oriental Market, which sold a host of Philippine-made products, from canned goods to batik fabrics to orinolas—"pati pang-gadgad ng halo-halo," Mommy Vangie recalls.
"Lahat ng produkto kong ibinebenta, kinukuha ko dito sa Pilipinas," she tells YES! "Every year, umuuwi ako talaga. Every year talaga, nandito ako."
Sometimes she would bring one or two of the kids with her on these trips to her home country, while Randy stayed on in the U.S. to work.
The Kansas City address the Andersons settled in was a middle-class neighborhood and not, as his elder son remembers it, a ghetto community. "Ghetto would mean low class," Randy points out. " It was not a fancy place, but you have to remember that Missouri is not New York or Los Angeles or even Manila. A lot of people are rural, they come from the country. It was a middle-class neighborhood we lived in. It wasn't a ghetto, or the slum. It wasn't drug dealers on the street, but it wasn't the best place."
"Naalala ko nakatira kami sa... Dito, pag townhouse, akala mo maganda. E, do'n hindi. Isang malaking bahay siya, pero dalawang pamilya ang nakatira. Pangit talaga. Kami lang ng dad ko nando'n, kasi 'yong kapatid ko, nandito sa Pinas."
The family would soon move to Springfield, Missouri, a more picturesque albeit provincial town, where Daddy Randy's mother and brother also lived. Randy had found a new job—as the information technology (IT) director of a local theme park called Wonders of Wildlife Museum and Aquarium. "Umasenso kami nang konti," says Gerald, smiling.
In Springfield, the Andersons had a new house with a sprawling backyard, where Gerald could keep pet dogs.
"The other thing about Gerald that you may or may not know is he loves dogs," Daddy Randy says, then adds, laughing: "And so, he had two dogs, and if he had his way he'd have ten dogs. But we narrowed it down, we had two dogs. We had a big backyard they could run in. It was a nice place. We had lots of friends there. We were happy to be out of the big city, in a small town. The three of us would go out to the country, go down the river with a canoe, with a little boat."
Sometimes Daddy Randy would take his two boys to work. They loved looking at the sharks in the museum and playing by the tanks. At other times, his dad would take Gerald to auctions of used cars.
"I sold used cars," Randy tells YES! "Anderson Auto Sales. I had a little car dealership. I would have three or four or five cars on the lot. I would take RJ up there to the auction. The way you buy cars is they have a big auction, and [the car] comes by and you bid 50 dollars, a hundred dollars, 'Okay, sold for 600!'
"RJ was really good at picking out cars, and he was only eight years old! So the car would come around and come up here and stuff, and all the people around it would start bidding. And he would go, 'No.' He would go, 'Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!'"
Most of the time, the cars Randy drove around in were among the used cars he was trying to sell. Gerald recalls a particularly hideous car his dad once tried to pick him up with.
"May kotse kami, pero sobrang luma, sobrang pangit," Gerald says. "Ayaw ko talaga sumakay do'n. Minsan, gusto ng tatay ko ihatid ako sa school. Sabi ko, huwag na, magsu-schoolbus na lang ako."
When Randy showed up in it, Gerald was aghast. "What is that piece of junk?" he said. It was a blue Plymouth so old and worn-out the paint was already peeling.
"Sometimes we drive nice cars, too," Randy recalls. "And he'd be happy to see me come pick him up in an RX7 or something nice. We had a big pick-up truck one time with big chrome wheels—like a 'monster truck' they call it—and he was proud to show off in that.
"Sometimes I drove a Hyundai for a couple of weeks. He loves anything with wheels.
"Look at what he does now with cars, he's got the Expedition customized, he had the Patrol customized. He's got, what, three cars now? He hid one from me. He doesn't tell me because I said, 'Don't. You got enough cars. Stop.' But he loves cars. And luckily I think he got rid of his motorcycle. I told him not here. I think he got rid of it."
But life for the Anderson boys wasn't always about running with the dogs in the backyard and weekend trips down the river. In the small Vangie enterprise, Gerald became an important asset. He would volunteer to be her trabahador. "Siya talaga laborer ko," she says, sounding proud of her son's goodness and generosity.
Gerald, she says, was around eight or nine years old then. "Kumbaga ba kargador ko siya. Totoo 'yan! Bukas kami ng tindahan ko, siya na kaagad mag-open ng store ko, ayusin 'yong cash register ko, ayusin 'yong stocks ko."
Apart from having the store, Vangie would put up a makeshift market on weekends in small towns down south, two hours away from where they lived, populated by a lot of Filipinos. "What (Vangie) would do," recalls Randy, "she would pack up some things on Friday night—we had a big trailer, you know—she'd pack up all the different products, then we would take that trailer down south, then she would stop at her friend's house and then all the neighbors, they'd bring bangus and everything they could not get (in the U.S.), and all the Filipinos would come, from miles around, would come there and buy stuff, turn it into market day. Somebody would bring pancit, they'd cook lechon, and make it into a once-a-month association, Filipino day."
Gerald and Kenneth would join their parents in these trips and help out.
"(Gerald) would help me a lot," recalls Randy, "set up like a cover, a tent, set up the tables. He was hardworking. His brother was, too. We used to enjoy that kind of stuff."
"Siya ang pinakapagod na bata don na maano ko," says Vangie of her eldest son. "Dahil pag galing kami ibang lugar, siya mag-linis ng mga cooler, siya magbaba sa sasakyan. Si Gerald, ano talaga siya, working hard na bata. Tapos pag may mga namimili na senior citizen doon—alam mo mga matatanda doon paugod-ugod na maglakad—siya agad 'yan, buhatin niya agad sa likod niya 50 kilos, sakay niya sa trunk ng tao."
The young actor remembers all these, too. Remembers the drives to different homes of senior Filipinos and picking up their packed balikbayan boxes, loading them in the family van and then making the trip, with his mom or dad, to a dock in Chicago or Dallas where the boxes will be loaded to a ship going to the Philippines.
"Mahilig ako sa mga physically demanding na trabaho," says Gerald. "Mas gusto ko 'yon kaysa sa puyat. Mas okey na magbubuhat ako ng mabibigat, 'wag lang puyat. Pero wala, sa puyat ako napunta."
Helping out his mom didn't seem like work to him. "Hindi kasi parang kapag gusto ko, gusto ko talagang tumulong. Gusto ko ako ang gagawa ng trabaho na 'yan kaysa sa ibang tao. Kumbaga mag-hire sila ng ibang tao, kunyari kaibigan ko, may kaibigan ako na mas malaki sa akin tapos sasabihin ng mom ko, 'Puwede ikaw na lang?' Pero hindi ako papayag. Dapat ako kasi para sa mom ko, para sa gusto niya."
The guy tells us these in such a straightforward manner that, while it could easily come off as bragging or contrived or saccharine, it surprisingly sounds genuine. Had his mom been listening—at this point Mommy Vangie was downstairs, and we were at the entertainment room in the last of our three-session interviews with her famous son—she would have been tearing.
The day before, as we sat down with her in the dining room, she quickly welled up when we mentioned Gerald's recollection of fetching her from her job in a printing press in Missouri. He would be in a bike and they would go home together, Vangie riding on the back, clasping her son's shoulders, her feet firm on the step knots.
Vangie's job there was to wait for newspapers to come out of the machine ("Agawin sa machine para hindi kainin," she says), and then pile them together with the rest of the day's deliveries. Like her son, she volunteered for everything. "Kahit hindi ako marunong pero sabi ko 'I know that!' para taas na agad ang posisyon ko." In a matter of three months, she was promoted to supervisor—and was already taking a car to work.
One afternoon, as she was about to drive home from the factory, she noticed she had a flat tire. "So tinawagan ko siya (Gerald), 'Boy, I need your help, something wrong of my tire.' 'Okay ma, I'll be there.'
"Pagdating niya, tainga niya parang kamatis, pulang-pula."
It was winter.
"Sabi ko, why don't you wear a jacket son?' 'I'll hurry, ma, para lang kita ma-catch talaga kasi it's almost dark.'
"Alam mo nakita ko si Gerald 'yong tainga niya. Sabi ko, 'Boy, why don't you put something in your ear?' Isip-isip ko kasi yong mga kalabaw do'n, mga baka do'n, pag nagtagal sa lamig kusang nalalaglag ang tainga. Nung nakita ko 'yong anak ko tumawid tapos naka-bike lang kasi yong gulong ko flat, hindi ko kayang anuhin.
"Alam mo, siya ang gumapang do'n, nagpalit siya ng gulong. Sabi niya, 'You're thirsty?' Malamig naman, hindi mo naman talaga maramdaman din ang uhaw, pero dinalhan pa rin niya ako. Totoo 'yon! Nagdala siya ng jar na maliit, kinabit niya sa bike niya." Here, Vangie's voice would break. "Sabi niya, I want you to drink water, Ma."
The job at the printing press was just one of two or three jobs that Vangie would take on in Springfield, Missouri. While Randy Anderson had stable employment and a retirement pension, Vangie went on ahead and worked as if her life depended on a single paycheck. "''Yan ang sinasabing 'Ang gabi gawin mong araw, and araw gawin mong gabi,'" she says. "Totoo 'yan. Sa akin nangyari 'yan."
Vangie was born to a poor family in Gensan. Her father was an electrician, her mother ran a small dry goods store. Vangie was the sixth in a brood of ten.
Used to working since she was young (as a kid, she would make yema at home or buy candies from the grocery store and sell them to her classmates in school), hard labor was the only lifestyle she knew.
In the U.S., apart from running the stores and taking on other jobs—at one point, she was getting checks from three different employers a month—after a working day, she would resist going straight to bed. "Mamlantsa muna mga damit ng Kano. Sapatos linisan ko muna, kasi isusuot niya pa tomorrow. Medyas, kasi kung pabayaan ko naman pag naka-dekuwatro hindi magka-partner, sama ng repleksyon sa asawa."
"Mama ko 'kala mo yaya sa tatay ko kasi lahat ginagawa," Gerald recalls.
Although she says she needed to take on several jobs at a time because she has always been independent and wanted her own money, and because she needed to continue supporting her family in Gensan, she would eventually admit that sometimes she does take a satisfaction in slaving herself.
"Sanay talaga ako maglaba, mag-armidol," she says. "Ako lang din talaga nagbibigay ng hirap sa sarili ko."
When Randy would see her washing their clothes by hand, he would ask why she doesn't just use the washing machine. "You spend too much time daw," she recalls. "Sabi ko, just leave me alone. Dahil happy ako doon."
In truth, it was a struggle to be happy. What she longed for really was to do these things, tend to her store, do her motherly chores, wash clothes, starch them, take care of her kids—in her native land. She longed to be back home in General Santos. She did dream of marrying an American as a young woman but she would add, albeit as a joke, "Pero nung nag-asawa na hindi pala masarap."
"Pero may mga parts naman na masarap?" we ask.
"Wala na kasi nakarating na ako sa Amerika, nakakain na ako ng turkey. Hindi pala masarap, uwi na lang ako sa Pilipinas," she says, laughing, acting like a little girl tired of the same old candy.
"Siyempre hindi ko rin masisisi dahil yong Pinoy talaga hahanapin mo talaga 'yong Pinas," says Gerald. "'Yong mama ko, kung gusto n'yo ng example ng isang Pinay, Pinay na Pinay talaga 'yong mama ko. Na-miss niya talaga yong 'Pinas. At kung nandun siya (sa U.S.) para siyang yaya talaga. Alagaan kami. Wala siyang personal life. May mga kaibigan pero hindi masyado. Nung nasa Gensan, sobrang saya niya do'n."
Randy Sr knew very well of his wife's aversion to staying longer in America. "She doesn't want to. In fact, she never became a citizen. She never did want to live in the States. I mean, she'd live there, she'd work there but she was never... She was happy there but she wasn't, you know.
"I mean some people go there, they don't ever wanna come back but she never gave up the Philippines as her home. She never gave up that she would come back here and live. She never became a U.S. citizen. She didn't want to. She was qualified. She could have become a citizen. It was easy. We were married for 22 years! But she just didn't want to. That was before dual citizenship came along. She wanted to be a Filipino. And I didn't push her if that's what she wants."
Vangie says she stayed in the U.S. for 13 years—although she would frequently visit the Philippines—and in the marriage for longer, because of the kids.
"I had a stormy relationship with [Gerald's] mother," says Randy, "that's the best way to describe it."
"Parehong Pilipino nga nagkagano'n, how much more kami na dalawa ang culture namin?" says Vangie. "Tsaka meron siyang sariling style, meron din akong sariling style so we're not getting along talaga 'yon. Unless lang kung ikaw naman ay babaeng sunud-sunuran ka, maybe magkasundo kayo. Pero may sarili akong prinsipyo, may sarili akong style. Kaya nga hindi ako maano na ano kasi kilala no'n ako. Mabubuhay ako talaga. Aresgadang tao ito."
Even Gerald says he was used to seeing her mom ("Maliit lang 'yon pero feisty 'yon," he says, describing Vangie) and dad fight when he was a kid. "Minsan pag nag-aaway mga magulang ko pinapaalis kami ng mama ko sa bahay, kami ng tatay ko. Kasi magkamukha kami ng tatay ko, so pag galit siya sa tatay ko, galit siya sa akin. Kung galit siya sa akin, galit siya sa tatay ko. Minsan nandu'n kami sa van for one week, natutulog kami sa parking lot. Minsan one week. Naalala ko 'yon one week nasa van kami. Eh buti 'yong van namin malaki, ta's may kama. Do'n kami natutulog one week. 'Puwede na kaming bumalik?' 'Oo puwede na.' After one week, away na naman, alis na naman kami."
Gerald's recollection of this is surprisingly without a tinge of sadness or regret. In fact, he tells this story in the same unruffled tone as when he was recounting to us the day his dad came up to their doorstep in the crappy, old Plymouth. When we mention this memory of their days in the van to Randy Sr, the old man turns quiet, and we sense a look of worry for his son who might have spoke more than he should. "But he seems to recall it with fondness, like it was funny," we tell him.
"Well, man, I'm glad he thought it was fun," he tells us. "If we had some kind of an argument or something rather than...just let everybody cool down. So me and him and his brother sometimes, we get in our big van, this was a conversion van, very nice, had a bed in it, had TV, everything was in there. And we would go camping, but we would go and sleep in the van. We'd go somewhere and sleep in the van. We'd turn it into a little trip. We'd eat in a restaurant and so forth. And then the next morning we would come back and it'll be okay. Because, you know, it's not good to argue with kids there. Me and her, we were not physical or anything, but it's better not to argue around the kids. I was always, 'Okay, you win, fine,' you know? And then just let her cool down and come back in the morning."
But despite being aware of her parents' troubled relationship, the boy Gerald knew better. "Pero mahal na mahal ng tatay ko 'yong nanay ko," he tells us. "Tsaka ganu'n din mama ko."
Randy Anderson had a plan for his family, and it did involve going back to the Philippines. "What I said was when I hit 55 years old, I'm done. Go back to the Philippines, got money, enough money, got my retirement money, pension, we'll live in Mindanao. She was getting a little farm together, we had our house and lot in a subdivision and she came back and she worked on that because I didn't want to work 'til I was really old. I said 55, we come back we can enjoy it."
But before he could finally retire, his wife had already gone back to her beloved hometown. And while Randy, Gerald and Kenneth knew that it was just going to be another one of her visits to Gensan, Vangie knew in her heart she was home for good. "Sabi ko lang, babalik ako," Vangie tells us. "Eh si Gerald ipon-ipon ko ang mga sulat sa akin. 'Ma, miss you, Ma.' 'Ma, this is what happening in the school.' ' Ma, like this like that.'"
Randy would send her return tickets several times but they would all be for nought. Finally, he decided to make the trip to General Santos, bringing the kids with him, with the intention of luring their mother back to the U.S. The reunion with her sons filled Vangie with joy, but she knew it will be temporary. When the time came that the Andersons were to board the plane back to the U.S., she pretended she was indeed coming with her boys—up to the airport. The truth is, apart from the fact that she knew she was staying, her U.S. visa by then had already expired.
"Pagdating sa gano'n, hinold na ako dahil overstaying na daw ako sa Pilipinas," Vangie recounts. "So masaya pa rin ako, sumama pa rin ako (sa airport) dahil ayoko 'yong mga bata iyak nang iyak, hindi naman talaga ako aalis. Hindi ko rin pinapakita na happy ako para hindi masaktan ang mga bata. 'Umalis na lang kayo, try ko ang visa ko makasunod ako sa Amerika.'"
But Gerald wouldn't let go of his mother. The way Vangie tells it, it was a scene straight out of a teleserye. "Hay, si Gerald talaga kung may kamera kami non para kaming shooting, umiiyak talaga. Sabi ng Kano, 'Let's go, RJ!' 'No, I won't leave mama.'"
His heart breaking at the sight of a tearful Gerald, Randy decided to forget the flight and go back with his wife and kids to General Santos. Two weeks later, Randy Anderson, who had work to come back to in Missouri, would take the flight back to the U.S. alone.
When finally his retirement papers were ready, he returned to the Philippines in 2003. For a brief moment, the couple went back to living in Subic to try and work things out. But, in Randy's words, their stormy relationship made a turn for the worst. In 2005, the two finally agreed to separate.
"We were married for 22 years. We just decided we needed to go our separate ways—I'll probably leave it at that," says Randy, refusing to elaborate. "Lots of reasons, you know, it's never one single reason that people split up. Just different things that came along."
His wife, however, knew from many years back that this is where it was all leading to. She knew she would keep the relationship until Kenneth and Gerald were old enough to understand. "Pinag-usapan namin 'yon. Paglaki ng mga bata, you go your own way, I go my own way."
It broke Gerald's heart, of course.
"Obviously he did not like it," says Randy. "But both the boys understood it. It wasn't something that, suddenly they came home and that daddy wasn't there or mommy wasn't there. No. They didn't accept it right off. They do now, five years now, four years, whatever. They understood it. They understood. Thinking back, those nights that we spend in the van, most people don't do that kind of stuff. They understood that we had differences and we couldn't reconcile those differences. So they understood why we broke up."
"It took a long time, especially the younger boy Kenneth thought that maybe someday we would go home after our camping trip. That I would go back. And then, finally, now after how many years he knows that it's not gonna work. There was a bitter period, a real bitter period but that's over. And so they're happy about that. And I talked to 'em. I told RJ that's our life. Your life starts here. You need to go forward with your life.
"Things that happened to me and his mother is unfortunate, you can be sad about it but it can't control your life. He has his own life to live. And he does, he's adjusted, he's happy. Would he like to have me and his mother standing there together, instead of me here, his mother on the other side? Of course he would. But he has accepted that. He goes and talks to her at the premiere and hugs her, and then he comes to me on the other side and hugs me. You see what I mean? He's accepted it."
These days, Vangie happily splits her time between Gensan and Manila, still swamping herself with more work than she should handle. Be it seeing to her son's needs at home, or tending to her animal farm in the province—where she also accepts orders for roasted pigs, cows and goats. Whether it's taking care of her orchid garden in her backyard, or overseeing the completion of her house—a gift from Gerald's. She is as busy as ever—but in her own terms, her own turf.
Meanwhile, Randy Anderson has found love again in another Filipina from Olongapo. They were married last April 2008 and they have a son. Randy was supposed to go back to the U.S. after his breakup with Gerald's mother but, having found work in the Philippines, chose to stay. "I work for an American company and we have several projects here in the Philippines," he says. "My particular area is education and training which includes some part of the AFP, some corporations but also the Philippine Navy."
When he introduces himself to students in, say, the Villamor training camp, he would have a small slide show about the long history of Andersons in military service. First, he would show a picture of his father who was in the Army Air Corp in WWII. With another click, it would show his picture and he would say he himself was in the United States Navy for 28 years.
And then a brother, Gerald's uncle, who was in the U.S. Army for 22 years. Finally, Gerald's photo would come out, as a uniformed David Garcia Jr. in Tayong Dalawa. "And my son plays a Philippine Air Force on TV."
For his directors, it was his performances and attitude towards work that displayed the new and improved Gerald. But to Gerald himself, his family, and talent handler Nhila Mallari, it was building his own house that turned the boy into a responsible man.
When before he would keep bringing up the subject of getting a new car to Nhila, since moving to his own home, Gerald's concerns have become the next area in the house to improve, or how to pay the bills.
"Mas magaling na ako ngayon. Mas marunong na ako ngayon kaysa noon. Kasi noon akala ko naglalaro lang ako. Pag may pera, sige! Wow! Pero ngayon, siyempre iniisip ko 'yong future, ten years, fifteen years from now.
"Kasi minsan [kapag] naii-stress ako sa taping, nagugulat 'yong mga tao dahil may notebook ako tapos 'yong mga payments, iniisip ko, 'Paano ko babayaran ito?' Hindi ko alam kung paano. So, nagkaroon ako ng notebook. Natuto ako mag-budget kung kailan 'yong mga payments."
"Last year," reports Nhila, "sunod-sunod mga endorsements niya so nabayaran niya nang buo itong bahay. Actually sinasabi niya seven million pero it's more than seven, kasi pag ika-calculate ko talaga mga inilalabas niyang pera, hindi ito seven."
At Star Magic, the talent management and development arm of ABS-CBN, its head Johnny Manahan—also known as Mr. M—has enforced a forced savings account to its stars, in which a bulk of what they earn automatically goes to an account wherein they need to ask for the signature of Manahan or their guardian so they could withdraw money from there.
"Si Mr M, he's very concerned sa kinikita ng mga bata," says Nhila, "Ayaw niya mangyari 'yong mga nangyari sa ibang artista na kasikatan nila, tapos no'ng nalaos walang na-invest."
Manahan has little to worry about Gerald these days. Apart from the house in Quezon City, Gerald is nearly done with paying for the expansion of his mother's house in General Santos.
"Kasi no'ng bata ako pangarap ko talaga magkaro'n ng malaking bahay 'yong nanay ko. Kasi bata pa lang ako 'yon na 'yung pinag-uusapan namin. So ngayon malaki na 'yong bahay niya sa Gensan, malaking-malaki na 'yong bahay niya sa Gensan.
"No'ng maliit ako, maliit pa siya. It's up-and-down na, five bedrooms. Haven't seen it. Nakita ko lang sa picture, matatapos na by March. Buo na pero may mga parts na kailangan pa ayusin. Gusto ko perfect. Gusto ko lang na pag tapos na career ko, lahat-lahat, masasabi ko, nagawa ko ito para sa'yo."
His father, on the other hand, is only worried about keeping Gerald's priorities in place. "He has to enjoy [his work]. He loves this, he loves what he's doing," Randy Anderson says.
"He loves this craft that he's becoming really good at. What I really want to make sure is he keeps his reason, his perspective. The problem with a lot of stars they somehow feel that they're entitled to stuff, they lose touch. They lose touch with reality. They suddenly think they're entitled to special treatment. That's why they go to drugs and alcohol. Because they lose perspective on what reality is. He's not done that. He's not fallen in love with himself. He's kept it very realistic. He knows that he's there for the grace of God. He knows that his fans put him there. He knows that he cannot disappoint his fans."
When we first see Gerald at his house, we catch him having lunch with his personal assistants, handler, and make-up artist in the garage. The scenes that involve him in the Kung Tayo'y Magkakalayo taping had been moved up so he decided to drive home first and wait for a call. He greets us in his white Hanes shirt, black jersey shorts and rubber slippers, and you look at his face and you see a boy, and immediately you feel the disconnect between the positively expensive structure with the guy who TV audiences once saw jump at a sight of a snake in Pinoy Big Brother.
But you continue to watch him traverse his glossy granite tiles, taking you from his living room to his entertainment area, and you see the strong, heavy-looking feet clasping cement, the square, sure shoulders.
You could try punching him and it would be like hitting his narra frontdoor. Only the cute face it seems have remained a boy and everything else, the stance, the demeanor, seemed ripe enough to fit the picture of a man who built his own house.
"Minsan lumalabas lang ako sa bahay ko," says Gerald, "Umuupo lang ako sa harap ng bahay ko tinitingnan ko lang siya for three two hours. Uupo lang ako do'n. Mga kaibigan ko mula Gensan kinakausap ko sila. 'Grabe, isipin mo, 'yong iba kasama mo dito sa bahay, parang, 'Wow, isipin mo nagkaroon ako ng bahay na katulad nito?"
If Gerald Anderson has achieved this much at 20, imagine what this year can bring.