A glint of light in the mirror, a gasp of expletives, and a grasp for the greater unknown, Ruru Madrid finally realizes a definition of self-love that not only makes sense to himself, but is essentially and in complete honesty, all-encompassing.
“Oh shit,” he mutters under his breath, looking around hoping that nobody caught the singular expletive that escaped his mouth the very second he settled into a comfortable sitting position on the cool concrete slopes of the empty skate park we were in the middle of. Quickly shifting into what appeared to be a reverse plank, Ruru Madrid grimaces as he slid the sole of his Converse Chucks, a seasonal leather high-top pair in an electric Barney-like purple shade, revealing what appeared to be a most unwelcome streak of brown. “Oh, shit,” he repeats, this time with an emphasis in punctuation, before letting out a hearty fit of bellied laughter.
At this point, he quickly darts for the nearest puddle of water, splashing with all his might, before shaking off the excess well, excrements on the peripheral growth of grass. Without being fazed by the unexpected and clearly unwelcome smear of muck, he quickly got back on his mark and resumed the shoot as if nothing interrupted the momentum earlier. But before the steady rhythm could stretch out into a willing pace, the skateboard he rode on unscrewed itself, forcing himself to dismount even before he could even attempt a shred.
“Shit happens,” he realizes a little after the amusement settled, pivoting into a moment for deep thought. “I remember, the last time I was ever on a skateboard before today was years ago when I was a kid pa,” he recalls. “The scars on my face were from an accident I met going downhill, which forced my mom to break my board in sheer anger.” Shaking his head at the childish inanity of it all, Ruru Madrid doesn’t shy away from the stories that have shaped him in one way or another, crafting and seemingly perfecting that devil-may-care narrative to his name. “Yes, I mean, everybody says you only live once…that’s true. We do not know what’s going to happen in life. Hindi natin alam kung hanggang kailan lang buhay natin, life is too short. So, kailangan i-enjoy mo na ‘yan hangga’t kaya mo. Kahit sobrang delikado, gagawin ko na lahat—nagmo-motor ako, nagsu-surf ako, kasi hindi naman ako makakapag-dictate ng buhay ko,” he explains, affirming that all those missteps have come with a necessary to learn and grow from. “Ang mga sugat naman naghihilom naman ‘yan at tsaka matututo ka. ‘Di ba nga, nagse-skateboard ako downhill at naaksidente ako, but I still got up. Hindi lang siya matututunan sa simpleng bagay. ‘Pag dating din sa life, pag alam mong ‘di mo pa kaya, ‘wag mo munang sagarin, which is what happened to me then. Sometimes mahilig tayo mag desisyon ng basta-basta, pero hindi natin iniisip na that’s too much or parang hindi pa natin kaya. Kailangan pa natin ng konting training para makaya natin. So, kanina, nakabalik ako mag-skateboard kahit papano.”
Never mind if his first attempt at speeding was met with an unforeseen dismantling or that the sky above quickly shifted from gleaming, glinting sunlight to a looming overcast of dreary gray, but the most important thing is, he finally got the chance to have a go at his childhood pastime, just as fearlessly as he used to.
Walking the green expanse of Circuit Makati, which by now was again bathed in a wash of warm gold, perhaps the day’s last chance to show off as the day was intermittently disturbed by threatening rain showers, seemed like the perfect opportunity to continue the conversation of nostalgia, which Ruru Madrid was only so willing to get back to. “Bata pa lang ako, naalala ko may photo akong nakasuot ako ng Converse Chucks na black. And ganun akong klaseng tao, gagawin ko kung ano kong gustong gawin madumihan pa ‘yan, okay lang. Sobra akong adventurous and ma-explore na tao, and that’s what Converse is all about,” he offers. “With Converse, you know it’s made for someone who’s really out there and doesn’t care, you know? He’ll just do whatever he wants, if it gets dirty or scratched, it’s fine.”
And that’s precisely who Ruru Madrid is: unbothered, unflinching, unapologetic.
Never Too Early
Inscribed on the ink made permanent on his skin are the words: Live with passion. No mere stringing of words together or stamping of a socially acceptable cliché, the young man breathes this maxim, using it as the necessary guiding light to navigating his life’s many swerves.
“Ako kasi to be honest, happy ako sa lahat ng ginagawa ko, happy ako sa kung ano ang binibigay sa akin. Ang gusto ko lang mailabas is kung paano ako ka-passionate sa craft ko, and I think maipapakita ko ‘yun pagka nakakagawa ako ng roles na sobra akong nacha-challenge. Kasi dun ako nag-start eh. I mean, I started sa indie films, and dun kasi, as in walang sugarcoat, walang halong anything—you can do whatever you want. And ‘yun ‘yung gusto ko, which is what I mean to explore,” he begins. “Kasi kapag gumagawa ka ng ganong klaseng projects, matututo ka pa eh. Same thing with music, kasi nga kaka-sign ko lang sa GMA Music. So right now, gusto ko ‘yung ano talaga ‘yung music na gawin ko, para mas totoo.” To live with passion, he says, is to go balls deep into whatever passion besets you, let it consume you, and allow it to thrive from the bounds of your efforts. “I mean, isipin mo na lang, everything na nangyayari sa atin, or ako, sa pagiging artista ko, since bata ako, sobrang gusto ko na kung nasaan ako ngayon,” he says. “At ayokong hayaan na mawala ‘yun, that’s why every time na may ginagawa akong projects, or kahit na simple things, iniisip ko na laging last na ‘yun—that’s why ganun ako ka-passionate sa ginagawa ko.”
This fear that exists when talking about one’s passion isn’t anything new, especially when it furthers into the great lengths people will go to just to make things happen. But what sets it apart in significance from soul to soul is an understanding that goes beyond validation (and often vindicating) victories and reaping recognition. “I mean, I’m scared na mawala siya, but never ako makokontento sa ginagawa ko. And I know it is too early to say that. That’s why ayoko mag-stop mag-learn and mag-explore, kasi feeling ko ‘yun ‘yung nagpu-push sa akin to be better. And that’s my mindset always: kailangan every time may ginagawa ako, lagi akong better. To be honest, I’m very competitive—not with others or mga kasabayan ko. I’m competitive with myself.”
Often this shift in perspective manifests itself when something of great importance is forcibly taken away, which in the context of show business would mean later on, when the klieg lights start to dim on a once exuberant up-and-coming career. But for Ruru Madrid, it is a reality he is only too aware of, because as he firmly reasons, nothing is certain in this world. “Ayun ‘yung ayokong pumasok sa utak ko: Ayokong makampante, kasi for sure mas marami pang mas bata sa akin na nangangarap makapunta rin dito sa ganitong klaseng stage, ‘di ba? That’s why ganon ako ka-willing and pursigidong matuto,” he asserts, which naturally parlays to the long-held discussion of privileged celebrity life. “For me, being an actor, maraming perks, ‘di ba? Being an actor is so much fun, and I love my craft so much. But being an actor, being a celebrity, once na lumabas ka ng gate mo, you’re already working. Sometimes you need to pretend that you’re okay kahit na bad trip ka or may problema ka sa buhay—hindi mo pwedeng ipakita sa tao na you’re not okay. Sometimes ‘yung first impression nila sa’yo ang tatatak sa kanila, kahit hindi nila alam na may pinagdadaanan ka sa buhay. So, ayun lang ang mahirap,” he says. “And public property ka, and dahil sa generation ngayon sa social media and technology na nakikita na ng lahat ang ginagawa namin.”
Before you assume this is another entry to the stacked up woe-is-me narrative of the famed few, Ruru Madrid is the first to understand this culture of putting people and personalities on towering pedestals. “Maraming tao ang nakatingin sa ginagawa mo, na kahit simpleng kasalanan or simpleng pagkakamali, sobrang tatatak sa kanila ‘yun,” he clarifies. “Nangarap din ako dati na maging artista, so dahil nga sa ayoko siyang mawala, kailangan may humility always, kailangan mong isipin na not all the time andyan ka, kailangan isipin mo ang mga taong naglu-look up sa’yo, kailangan mo silang mahalin at ipaglaban. Para mag-stay sila, kailangan totoo ka din sa kanila and sarili mo.”
Now more than ever, truth is a currency being peddled in the commerce of life. Meaning, more people are ditching the fear honesty and coming clean with their innermost thoughts and feelings. Sure, it is threatened on the daily, but with the message persisting across to infinite receptions, progress inches at every opportunity. Take Ruru Madrid for example, a fine fellow with a horizon of possibilities at his grasp, and yet what it is worth, he has been crippled by self-doubt, anxiety, and even bouts of depression.
“Dumaan ako sa point na parang muntikan na ako sumuko. Nagkaroon ako ng isang show, Encantadia, and ako ‘yung gaganap dun sa role ni Ibarro na dating ginanapan ni Kuya Dong [Dantes.] Na-bash talaga ako: ‘hindi bagay ‘yan sa’yo,’ ‘wala kang kwenta.’ ‘Yung iba pa sinasabi: ‘pag nakita kita, sasapakin kita. It really got to me, because I am really sensitive when it comes to those things,” he recalls. “And then I realized, bakit ako magpapaka-apekto sa kanila? Bakit ko hahayaan na malungkot because of them? Bakit ‘di ko patunayan na deserving ako of this role? And then yeah, I worked hard for it: I worked out, I trained hard, and I did workshops. Eventually, I won an award for the role. So, ayun siguro ‘yung tumatak sa akin na hindi ka nila pagmamay-ari. Sarili mo pa rin ‘yan, and at the end of the day, ikaw lang ang tutulong sa sarili mo para makaahon ka.”
Yes, these are the stories we like hearing: self-aware introspections marred with enough bumps to force one out of contention. But even before you count the hero out, they make one last Hail Mary move at the clutch point, and eventually pull through even with just a miniscule glimmer of light at the end. Surviving drawn out episodes like this doesn’t necessarily assure a smooth sail from here on out. In fact, the succeeding stretch can prove to be even more challenging, and yet we endure, as humans are known to, especially when push comes to shove.
In the middle of our conversation, Ruru Madrid heaves a loaded sigh before proceeding to lift the curtains of his so called charmed life. “Being an actor, nakakapagod din. Pero mas nakakapagod ‘yung fact na feeling mo pagmamay-ari ka ng maraming tao na minsan kailangan mo mag-pretend,” he mulls. “Ang sa akin kasi, ‘yung pananaw ko sa life, once na may love ka sa isang bagay, like my craft, domino effect na siya eh. Like, mapipigilan ‘yung pagka pagod mo, kasi at the end of the day, ito ‘yung pinili ko, kasi ito ‘yung mahal ko. So, bakit ko iisipin ‘yung pagod? Bakit ‘di ko na lang isipin ‘yung mga sinakripisyo ko para marating ito?”
All this considered, and with much gratitude and respect, he continues to challenge the norm of celebrity in the frame of humanity, wondering: “Dumadating sa point na we’re expecting too much, ‘di ba? Nag-e-expect tayo ng mga bagay na deserve naman natin, pero hindi nangyayari. ‘Yun ‘yung masakit, at feeling ko, dun na pumapasok ang depression, anxiety, self-doubts. But once you realize that okay, ‘I’m doing this because I love it,’ you’ll eventually be fine,” he says. “That and actual rest for the body and the mind, too. You can take a day off or travel, even if you’re alone. Kasi sometimes kung puro work ka, nawawala ‘yung pagka-authentic natin, right?”
Without missing a beat, he continues in what begins to be a revealing monologue befitting of the day’s activities. “Actually, ‘yung self-love, natutunan ko lang siya this year na. ‘Yun ‘yung New Year’s resolution ko actually, na this year, mas mamahalin ko sarili ko. Of course, masarap mag-work, masarap kumita, pero kailangan mo muna isipin ‘yung sarili mo, lalo na ang health mo,” he shares. “Kailangan mong isipin na mas kailangan natin ‘yung katawan natin kaysa sa mas kailangan tayo ng katawan natin—and it’s not just physical, but also mental. We need to also think about what will make our minds at ease and at peace.”
Aware that this is still easier said than done, Ruru Madrid doesn’t consider an end all and be all, but rather a work in progress constantly evolving along life’s every swoop, swell, and sharp turn. What’s important is that he is at least on his way to a clearing in the path he is treading.
“Right now, I realized that you cannot fully love anyone if you don’t love and put yourself first. I’m at that stage now, and it’s a bit sad that I just realized it now, but better late than never, right?”
At the risk of this sounding like a somber end to what was actually a rather a reflective revealing telling ensconced with the nuance of modern life and all its perils, we argue that this is but the beginning of a more lucid and precise point-of-view that we assure will serve him well. “Shit happens,” we repeat, as if only to lift the veil of melancholia that draped and to remind him that right as this may seem, it never is too late to walk up from the murky waters. Consider this that shocking draw of breath you take before rescinding to a recovery of gasps. Everything else is dirt under a shoe, a film of excess you can scrape and shake off to what is at least to your standards, clean and clear before eventually moving even at least a few steps forward into the great distance ahead