On Tuesday evening, inside a Star Cinema conference room at ABS-CBN’s Eugenio Lopez Jr. Building, television crews from rival network GMA 7 carefully set up their equipment before the table where a pocket interview was about to happen.
After a couple of minutes of waiting, in came Dingdong Dantes, towering over everyone else around him. Arguably the Kapuso network’s most-prized talent, the 32-year-old star set foot in a place he would usually consider as the competition’s turf. Not this time.
On that day Dingdong was a Kapamilya.
He was there to promote his coming Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) drama entry “One More Try,” which also stars Angel Locsin, Angelica Panganiban and Zanjoe Marudo.
It’s the second straight year Dingdong shot a movie for the MMFF under ABS-CBN’s movie outfit. Last year, he top-billed with Kris Aquino the horror flick “Segunda Mano.”
And so he’s been to the ABS-CBN compound a couple of times.
In fact, the very table he was sitting next to was the same table he used during past meetings with execs. But still, he said, the place seemed foreign to him. “Oh, I still get lost, that’s for sure,” he said, laughing.
Dingdong looked quite tired; his eyes red, probably from lack of sleep. But the minute he sat down to describe his role in the movie, and field questions from select members of the press, he was all business, talking in rapid-fire fashion, hardly buckling or stuttering.
Asked how he felt about working on a project of ABS-CBN, Dingdong said: “I’m grateful that I’m not boxed in. At the end of the day, we actors just want to work and provide entertainment. Being considered by ABS-CBN to be a part of their project, and being allowed by my mother station is a rare opportunity.”
Did he have a hard time getting permission from GMA 7 to accept Star Cinema’s offer? Dingdong said he couldn’t tell if it was easy or difficult; it was between his manager and the network. He assured, however, that there was no bad blood there.
“I’ve always maintained a good relationship with [GMA 7], be it about work or not,” he said. “We can assure you that we went through the proper process. Everything went smoothly.”
In show biz’s highly-competitive playing field, it’s remarkable that Dingdong manages to work outside GMA 7. His advice to aspiring actors: “Always make it a point to establish good working relations.”
He continued: “The people you meet could be the ones to help you, or pave the way for other big things.”
Despite his being a Kapuso, Dingdong is thankful that his Kapamilya colleagues never made him feel like an outsider.
These days, the rule of the game is exclusivity. Asked by the Philippine Daily Inquirer if he thought networks, as a policy, should allow their homegrown stars to do projects for other networks, Dingdong said, thoughtfully: “In an ideal world, that should be the case.”
In the previous festival, Dingdong won best actor over “Manila Kingpin: The Asiong Salonga Story” star ER Ejercito who, many thought, was Dingdong’s closest competitor. This year, the two men are being pitted against each other once again. ER portrays Emilio Aguinaldo in the biopic “El Presidente.”
Admittedly, Dingdong is more concerned about his film’s box-office performance. But does he think he will run away with the award for the second time?
“I don’t really think about these things. My concern is giving justice to my role and giving my all,” he stressed. “You can’t be complacent. You should excite yourself so you can show something new, and at the same time enjoy it.”
Producing a film for the MMFF has been in Dingdong’s bucket list for quite some time now. Given the chance, he said that he would love to do an action-adventure flick in the same vein as “Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles,” which he co-produced.
The actor, who’s turning 33, was asked if he planned on settling down soon with his girlfriend, fellow Kapuso star Marian Rivera. He answered in Filipino: “Of course, that’s one of my dreams. In the proper time, why not? That would be great … we have the same priorities and perspective.”