Decided and deserving, this re-ascension by all means reminds us why Carlo Aquino is a man of truth and permanence in an otherwise challenged world.
We have come to realize, sometimes as if a cold slab of marble hitting us square in the face, that nothing is ever really certain in life. But even amidst a cloak of uncertainty, there will be that aha moment when everything clicks, everything falls into place, and finally, everything makes sense. Whether we acknowledge when the proverbial light bulb is switched on, further illuminating the creeping darkness of that improbability, or not, it is present in our day-to-day, pulling us forward in the trajectory of our lives.
It happens a lot in the movies, either as in-your-face as an actual stop-in-your-tracks kind of scenario, or something as more subtle as a flick of a gaze that paints the face of the actor from not knowing to fully grasping his circumstance. The moment Carlo Aquino comes into full view in the very first teaser dropped for the film, Exes Baggage, it was obvious why it received the reaction it did. But that was just the precipice of the emotionally gutting ride that was the silver screen reunion project with Angelica Panganiban, an added layer to the mainstream’s penchant for reliving nostalgia.
A study of modern-day relationships, the politics and the psychology that comes along with it, the movie stretched and tested Carlo Aquino’s mettle in the craft. While it something that was of no question, considering his sterling professional resume that glows with bonds that include the likes of Vilma Santos, Roderick Paulate, Chito Roño, Marilou Diaz-Abaya, his turn as Nix in Exes Baggage resonated with an audience that have at some point thought, processed, and felt the way he did. In the final scene, an emotionally loaded tug-of-war that was treated as open-ended, as if it were an audible gasp of breath taken from you just before the cinema house lights revealed faces with red, puffy eyes, highlighted by streaks of tears down the cheeks, the caliber of Carlo Aquino’s subtlety and progression of emotions sealed his comeback effort of sorts—with much aplomb if we say so ourselves.
But make no mistake about it: Carlo Aquino never really went anywhere.
He was always just there, but perhaps we forgot about him.
“I always joke about it with my friends that this is either my resurgence or my farewell tour,” he says with a laugh. “Either way, nagpapa-salamat ako. Malaking bagay ‘yung Exes Baggage with Angge. Siguro dahil hopeless romantic ang mga Pinoy kaya siguro nag-translate ng ganun sa box office. Basta itong nakaraang taon was a year of many firsts: Maging lead actor sa isang romantic movie, na never ko in-expect na magagawa ko, makapag-international screening, magkaroon ng tatlong movie in a year, makapag-concert with Matteo Guiduicelli. If you look back sa naging karera ko, ‘pag nagretiro ako, baka last year ang isa sa mga highlights.”
It may seem a little too premature to talk about a highlight reel at this stage of his professional life, but we get it, especially since the industry he has found tenure is one that is temperamental and tempestuous in nature. Not too long ago, he himself was relegated as just another working actor past his early prime. “I never really considered myself as relevant. May mga taon na na-question ko ‘yung sarili ko as an actor. Para dito ba ako? Pero [I realized] being able to do what I love for many decades has been a blessing. It’s an industry of uncertainty, lalo ngayon ang dami na gusto mag-artista,” he ponders. “I guess along the way, just be appreciative, ‘yung mga pagkakataon na binibigay sa’yo, ‘yung mga failures, make friends, do great, at importante na na-e-enjoy mo ‘yung ginagawa mo kahit mahirap.”
This keen sense of self-awareness is something that is necessarily accorded every bright-eyed, eager, and earnest young actor raring to make a dent in the hard-pressed industry. It is, however, learned as one traverses the journey, forming some sort of armor that callouses one from the onslaught of many an attack, usually of the figurative sort. While this holds true for Carlo, it is something that roots itself even further in his life’s timeline. “Tinuruan akong maunawaan ang responsibilidad,” he says, as a matter of fact. “Ang gusto ko lang naman maayos na makapagtustos sa mga magulang ko. Makapagtustos ng walang tinatapakan. Magbigay ng respeto sa tao, mula sa pinakamataas hanggang pinakababang posisyon. Makatulong kahit papano na walang hinihinging kapalit. Hindi sa lahat ng oras nagagawa ko ‘yun dahil tao din naman ako. Pero ‘yun lang ako gusto ko.”
For the actor and consummate artist (he also dabbles in music and photography as creative outlets), the goal was and is simple: “Isa lang plano ko noon, huwag tumigil magtrabaho ‘cause I can’t afford to not have a job.” So, while the opportunities for work fell through the cracks of hierarchy of the new, next, and now, Carlo Aquino figured out an equilibrium, forging paths outside what he had known just so he could extend his lifeline outside television and films. “Nagkaron ako ng negosyo, tarp printing and food truck. Kami ng pinsan ko and friends nag-i-install ng mga tarp noon for my nanay-nanayan, Gio Medina. Malaki din natulong niya sa akin,” he recalls. “Pero umaarte pa din naman ako with GMA and TV5. Never ko pina-plano na mag lay-low or anything. Isa din siguro ‘yun sa binigay ng Dad ko sa akin, kung papano siya magtrabaho.”
THIS TIME AGAIN
Today, he is working just as hard, if not harder than he has ever before, with his calendar being packed to the brim. He isn’t complaining, of course. In fact, he is relishing every second an opportunity comes his way. “Visibility is a key factor siguro sa nangyayari sa karera ko,” he contemplates. “’Yung dati kasi, yes, gumagawa ako ng mga TV shows, pero ‘yung ngayon kasi nakikita nila ako sa TV, sa out-of-town shows, and movies.” It has been quite the ride, and by all accounts necessary, he is in it for the long haul. “Ano ba ang pagiging artist?’ he asks “Being able to create something from nothing? Pagiging collaborative? Hindi ko kasi alam. Basta ako mahal ko ‘yung ginagawa ko at gusto kong gawin ito hangga’t kaya ko at hangga’t binibigyan ako ng pagkakataon.”
Being an actor, especially one that is decisive and deliberate as he is, takes so much from a person. It is a challenge, sure. But Carlo Aquino is more than up for whatever his craft calls for. “I do [shows and] movies na sa tingin ko will make me better as an actor, na macha-challenge ako. Although madami din akong natanggihan noon na napagsisihan ko dahil akala ko I won’t be able to deliver,” he says, a tone of regret lacing something that was otherwise a surefooted conversation that has hit confident strides. “I just want people to feel and be inspired through my work.” Not letting this get to him, he just sees to it now that he is constantly and consistently creating. “’Yung pagkakataon na makapaglikha, makakilala ng iba’t ibang tao, [that’s the most fulfilling to me as an actor]. Noon kasi, iwas ako sa tao. Hindi ako masyado ma-interact. Ngayon, mas nagiging open na ako sa mga pagkakataon, sa mga bagong tao na nakikila ko. At para magawa mo ‘yung bagay na gusto mo at maka-apekto sa ibang tao, malaking bagay para sa aming mga artista ‘yun.”
In the end, it all funnels to a human desire to be remembered. While some are privileged to leave a legacy, others work at carving out a space where they can make their own mark. Carlo, as he is poised for even greater things, is one who can take a shot a legacy. “It’s actually nice to be remembered,” he muses. “I [just] haven’t thought that way ahead.” While it isn’t in the immediate periphery of his thoughts as of now, he is instead moving towards the horizon of possibilities, mapping out the future in which he will tread with the same certainty he extracts from his work.
It is clear why his star deserves this shot at the packed hemisphere glittered with glowing constellations, and it is such a shame the world has let it coast on by for a while. Well, if anything, this interface has reminded us why he matters and will continue to do so in the years to come. There will be no forgetting this time, not anymore.
Watch Carlo Aquino’s MEGA Man March 2019 cover come to life below: