Working with Nora Aunor a full-circle moment for Alfred Vargas
Back in the day, Alfred Vargas used to see Nora Aunor with his mother, who knew her through common friends. The idea of pursuing a career in show biz had yet to cross his mind then, much less working with the Superstar.
“I met Nora Aunor when I was younger. Nagkakasama sila ng mother ko. She had a lot of friends. I had no plans of being an actor yet. But of course, I was starstruck,” said Alfred, son of the late lawyer and government official Ching Vargas, who served as deputy executive secretary of administration and finance for former Presidents Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Even then, Alfred was already aware of Nora’s stature in the entertainment industry. “It was the era of really big stars. And she is the Superstar,” he told the Inquirer in a recent interview.
Little did Alfred know that, one day, he would be “blessed” with the opportunity of sharing the screen with Nora. The two actors are set to star in director Adolf Alix Jr.’s upcoming drama film “Pieta,” which will also feature Gina Alajar.
“The material alone was enough to make me accept the offer. I like the story and the character given to me. And when I found out that Nora was the first choice to play my mother, that sealed it for me. I was like, ‘Game!’” related the 43-year-old actor.
Alfred will play an ex-convict who finds himself in the outside world after 25 years of incarceration. Desperate and raring to make sense of his life and newfound freedom, he tries to search for his blind mother, who has long been grappling with her painful past. “It will mostly be drama, but there will be some action and lighthearted moments, too,” he said.
“I’m excited to work with the one and only Superstar for the very first time… I’m shaking with excitement and nerves just trying to imagine what it will be like doing scenes with her. Grabe, it’s a dream come true. I get to tick off another item on my bucket list,” Alfred said.
‘A tremendous honor’
Nora, who was named National Artist for Film and Broadcast Arts last year, isn’t one to accept every single offer or role that lands on her lap. That she agreed to doing “Pieta” with him, Alfred said, is already a tremendous honor.
“I consider myself lucky. I heard that she can be selective of her projects. So it’s heartening to know that she felt that this film would be worth her time. I promise to use all the knowledge and skills I have learned throughout the years, because the Superstar, a national artist deserves nothing less,” he said.
It would be nice, Alfred said, if the movie can make the rounds of the festival circuit, both here and abroad. But that’s not the end goal. “I think that’s a matter of destiny. If the movie makes it into festivals, then good. But we’re doing this mainly because we love filmmaking and our craft. And we believe we have a good story to tell,” he said.
Aside from “Pieta,” Alfred will also be part of the upcoming GMA 7 series “AraBella,” which stars Shayne Sava and Althea Ablan. “I play a father figure to Ara, who has been estranged from her biological mother. And since my character lost a sibling back when he was Ara’s age, he empathized with the kid and helped her in search.”
“The soap also tackles the questions: ‘Is family decided only by blood? Can you choose the people you consider family?’” said Alfred, who had nothing but good words for his younger costars.
“Shayne is very good and talented. I get carried away doing my scenes with her. Althea, on the other hand, is versatile. Who would think a girl her age can already have a wide range? Her role has shades of a villain. She can also hold her own with seasoned actors,” Alfred added.
Alfred, who completed this third term as a Quezon City congressman, now sits as a councilor in the city’s fifth district. The workload is considerably lighter, he said, giving him leeway to study and accept more show biz engagements.
“I will no longer do roles that I don’t like. When I was full-time, I did what was given to me because it was my bread and butter,” Alfred said, who’s also pursuing a doctorate degree at the University of the Philippines School of Urban and Regional Planning.
“I would be happy doing one a project a year. But if that’s my limit, then I might as well do something I really love and something that will challenge me… something that will hopefully make a mark,” he said. “I’m still open to playing gray characters or villains … as long as there’s a redemption arc.”
Alfred has three children with his wife of 13 years, Yasmine Espiritu: Alexandra, 12; Aryana, 11; and Cristiano, 4. And together, the family has been gaining attention on TikTok for their fun, adorable bonding moments. While a lot of celebrity parents are wary of their kids joining show biz, Alfred is the opposite.
“It would be nice if one of them tried it out. I love acting. I am where I am now because of the craft. It’s what helped me raise a family. And I love the industry. I hope one of them takes an interest in it, but if not, then that’s OK, too,” he said.
Are he and Yasmine hoping for another baby? “Through, God’s grace, hopefully we can have one more this year. But we’re already happy the way things are,” he said. “I’m lucky to have them.” INQ