The rivalry between Kapuso heartthrobs Dingdong Dantes andRichard Gutierrez intensified after the controversial Blackout, Bench's denimand underwear fashion show held last July 25 at the Araneta Coliseum.
Although both Dingdong and Richard were given well-deserved importanceduring the show—Dingdong was the highlight of the Bench Body portion whileRichard's walk on the ramp was the finale—some viewers believe that Dingdong made agreater impact than Richard. This prompted others to compare the response between the two Kapuso leading men, and therefore cry foul over what they perceive was injustice to the one who got lesser attention.
The most vocal among them is none other than Richard'smom, the incomparable Annabelle Rama. She lamented what she felt was"unfair" exposure of her son during the fashion event—Richard was covered withdark makeup, no name flashed on the screen to identify thecelebrities taking on the catwalk, etc.
On Dingdong and Richard's part, both young actors feltsatisfied with their performance onstage. They also agree that there's nothing toargue or fight about since they both did their best to satisfy the audience's expectations.
Words were already said and feelings were hurt. But forDingdong, this controversy will not change his friendship withRichard.
"Sa tagal na naming kilala ang isa't isa, itong ganitong mgabagay, I don't think makakaapekto sa aming dalawa," said Dingdong during hisgrand launch as the newest celebrity endorser of Belo Medical Group last Sundaynight, August 3, at NBC Tent in The Fort, Taguig City.
He added, "He has better things to do and I have betterthings to do. So instead of wasting energy or contemplating things thatdon't really exist, let's just do our jobs."
But did he anticipate that things would go so far?
"Hindi rin, kasi kahit yung sinasabi nilang response, hindiko rin naman nakita dun sa stage mismo, e, dahil naka-focus talaga ako [sapagrampa]," Dingdong replied.
Dingdong also believes there is nothing to settle sincehe has no problem with Richard.
What can he say about the observation of some people thatthe response of the audience inside the Big Dome was based on the gimmicks ofthe celebrity models? In Dingdong's case, he dropped his pants to show hisunderwear.
"Kasi, unang-una, I'm the Bench Body [underwear] endorser.Kasi may jeans naman ‘yan, may damit... Basta ako po ay in-assign sa Bench Body,so talagang karapat-dapat lang na mag-underwear. In fact, hindi naman the wholetime nakaganun ako, e. So, yun lang yung isa sa mga pinag-usapan. Siyempre, itwas also my idea because ‘pag hinaluan mo na ng art diyan at saka ng factor ofexcitement, yun ang kinalabasan," he explained.
Has he talked with Bench owner Ben Chan about the issues thatare coming out?
"Ako, after that, I detached myself personally," saidDingdong. "Kasi ang concern ko lang naman talaga nung gabing ‘yon, e, makarampaako na hindi ako tumataob, o hindi ako nadadapa."
What can he say about those who defended him, like RichardGomez?
"Kasi I'm sure that they will speak from the heart, kung anoyung nakita nila, kung ano yung paniniwala nila. And people have differentbeliefs. Marami din naman akong versions na narinig, hindi naman lahat, e, puroganito lang ang sinasabi, may mga iba ring sinasabi. Kung ano yung opinyonnila, kung ano yung interpretasyon nila, nirerespeto ko ‘yon.
"The show, it involves thousands of Filipinos inside theDome and hindi naman lahat ng hilig nila ay pare-pareho. So, kanya-kanya lang‘yan. For those who believe in me, thank you very much. Kumbaga, gusto ko langsabihin na hindi nabale-wala ang paghihirap ko."
What was his reaction to the statements of Annabelle Rama?
"Kung meron man siyang sinasabi, naiintindihan ko namansiya. I do not take it against her," Dingdong replied.
Although Richard started his career as a child star, alongwith twin brother Raymond Gutierrez, he took a long break from showbiz andreturned as a teen star via GMA-7's Click in 2001. That time, Dingdong wasalready making a name for himself as a romantic leading man in theprimetime soap Sana Ay Ikaw Na Nga after graduating from teeny-bopper roles inAnna Karenina and T.G.I.S.
Dingdong is four years older than Richard; Dingdong turned28 last August 2 while Richard is now 24. Aside from belonging to the samenetwork, Dingdong had the chance to direct Richard in some of the episodes ofKakabaka Adventures, a defunct teen-horror show in GMA-7. They also had thechance to work together in SOP, although both eventually decided to leave the show.
So, it can be said that Dingdong and Richard have alreadydeveloped a friendship through the years. But does Dingdong really considerRichard a friend?
"Oo," he answered. "Isa siya talaga sa mga taong humahangaako. Magmula nang mag-umpisa siya, I was there when he started. I'm very proudand happy how he handled it [his career]."
Dingdong admitted that he has yet to talk to Richard afterthe issue between them came out. But does he have anything to say to Richard?"'Pag nagkita na lang kami. Mas maganda kung personalyung pag-uusap namin dahil ever since before naman, kumbaga, maganda naman angpagkakilala namin sa isa't isa," said Dingdong, before adding that nothing willchange between them.