Islander in the City:


I’ve met John Lloyd Cruz countless times in presscons where I get to ask him assorted questions.

John Lloyd Cruz with Cecile Licad and son Otavio and author after 2016 CCP concert.

Star builder and publicist Ethel Ramos would always introduce me thus: “The next question will come from Pablo Tariman who as we know always ask profound questions. May we remind the gentleman from Catanduanes that this presscon is not about pianos and Cecile Licad. Please confine questions to the subject of John Lloyd Cruz and his film, Honor Thy Father.”

And so I did as told.

Previous to this presscon, John Lloyd played the role of Tarik Kahn, son of an island OFW and a friend from Catanduanes in one episode of Maalaala Mo Kaya (MMK).

His mother, Esperanza Tresvalles from Bato town (Catanduanes) was an island OFW who worked in London and went home without her dream house. I wrote her tragic story in the Philippine Star and the Inquirer and in time, she became the most famous OFW in the island.

When her son Tarik died, the MMK (Maaalala Mo Kaya) staff got in touch if they could do a story on mother and son. I referred them to Tarik’s wife. Reashiela Khan.

MMK finalized the cast thus: John Lloyd Cruz as Tarik Khan, Agot Isidro as Esperanza Tresvalles and Kaye Abad as Mrs. Reashiela Khan.

That the drama anthology made many islanders cry was undeniable.

Matey Alberto from California posted on her face book she could feel the pain of Tarik (superbly acted by actor John Lloyd Cruz) all throughout the teleplay. Ï would say this episode is a great tribute to a much-wounded person and how he coped with his traumatic past.”

Character actress Vangie Labalan who co-starred with Nora Aunor in the award-winning film, Himala said she could feel her chest explode with so much pain for Tresvalles’ son played by Cruz. “The story is heart-wrenching,” she added.

Before the 2015 advance screening of Honor Thy Father during the cocktails, I told John Lloyd, “Did you know the man your portrayed in MMK was my friend?”

“I know,” he said which surprised me.  He said he read all my articles about the mother and son to prepare for his role in MMK. “I was looking for you during the taping of that episode.”

Sadly, the network coordinator only told me about the MMK episode a day before the airing.

Our next meeting was January 28, 2016 at the CCP.

I got the surprise of my life when I saw him watching Cecile Licad with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra.

With him was Ms. Virgie Ramos.

It was an evening of Tchaikovsky’s First and Rachmaninoff’s Second – all great warhorses in piano repertoire.

From where I was seated, I tried to see how the actor was reacting to the pianist.

I could see that his attention went beyond fascination.

He was so focused on the pianist I could see that another Cecile Licad fan was in the making.

During the intermission, I approached him and Ms. Ramos and asked him, “Would you like to meet Ms. Licad after the concert? I will escort and introduce you.”

I was surprised by his reaction. After the Tchaikovsky concerto, I could see excitement all over his face. And I added, “I can give you this book (Rosario Licad’s My Daughter Cecile) and have it autographed.”

“I would be happy to meet her,” the actor said.

And he added, “Thank you for that beautiful review of my film, Honor Thy Father. It meant a lot to me.”

“Oh, you are most welcome,” I answered.

After Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, there was euphoria in the theater. I saw John Lloyd with Ms. Ramos joining the standing ovation.

I have never seen happier faces in a long, long time.

I escorted the actor and his date to the dressing room and even the pianist was surprised.

“Oh it’s you,” she greeted the actor. “I saw your film in California. Was it The Mistress?”

I made the proper introduction and took souvenir pictures. I noticed the actor even volunteered to take pictures of other Licad fans wanting to greet her personally.

But most of all, I saw extreme happiness on his face that night.

John Lloyd later told Millet Mananquil about his first Licad performance: “I was blown away by her performance. It was like watching an actor perform. I don’t know much about music, but my take is on how Cecile affects me emotionally. She took me along on her journey as she performed.”

John Lloyd Cruz with son Elias Modesto. Bonding moment.

That was 2016.

In 2017, he took a sudden and indefinite leave from showbiz.

Occasionally, I would see him watching musicals with Bea Alonzo and documenting theater pieces at the CCP. He was in some art openings and refusing to be interviewed even by showbiz media friends.

He was travelling all over the country without making any showbiz project.

In 2017, I learned he became a father to a bouncing boy named Elias Modesto (mother was former girlfriend Ellen Adarna).

In November 2018, I sent a message to a common friend based in Cebu inviting him to another Cecile Licad concert this time at the historic heritage house called Nelly Garden in Iloilo City.

Initially, he was interested. He requested that his presence should not be announced and the name of the hotel where he was staying should remain confidential.

I told him I can reserve four seats for him and girl friend Ellen and friends.

At the last minute, he could not make it.

I presumed he could not leave his five-month old baby Elias.

Between 2018 and 2019, we lost touch.

When the pandemic struck in 2020, I only learned through his Facebook page that he still travelled a lot in the islands.

He was seen going to the wet market incognito, riding the jeepneys and greeting fans on the streets.

Later, I would see more pictures of him and Elias on the beach and enjoying his 3rd birthday party.

I could see that the actor is going through young fatherhood and enjoying it immensely.

I can only be happy for him.

* * *

The new John Lloyd Cruz. Photo by Steven Doloso from the FB page of John Lloyd Cruz.

In May 2021, FB was in uproar about news of his showbiz comeback.

His face book announced he was now under Crown Artist Management of Maja Salvador with three others in the management.

The welcome video was something fit for royalty.

He was shown riding on a private jet with welcome carpet as he descended from the plane.

A vintage yellow car awaited him and he drove it himself.

This was followed by endless photo ops with new manager, Maja Salvador.

In June, he was in the frequent company of TV host Willie Revillame who gave him a grand welcome at the Araneta Coliseum. The actor was emotional.

In July, it was made official: he was now part of GMA family along with his long-time screen sweetheart, Bea Alonzo.

After all the exclusive interviews, he took a respite from all the comeback euphoria and chose a radio interview that focused on his life and less of showbiz.

He made it clear that his desire was just to come back to what’s simple and what’s natural.

To be sure, four years are indeed a long time to be isolated from the work he has learned to love for two decades.

And yes, he was raring to work again.

But beyond his screen roles, he is keen on fulfilling is real life role. I can see him figuring out a beautiful dream for his son Elias Modesto.

Yes, he is also ready to love again.

What did he learn from being alone all those years he was away from showbiz?

Said he: “Nang tumahimik na lahat, doon mo talaga maririnig yong dapat mong marinig.”

Which in a manner of speaking is: “When you finally get the silence that you badly need, you realize this is the time you can really pay attention to what you need to hear.”



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