What the public mostly sees is his brawny physique, which earned this talent search winner the title “Ultimate Hunk” for Starstruck in 2006. Over the years, his chiseled body also became his ticket to attract excited female fans via the annual Cosmo Bachelor Bash and his inclusion in the “sexiest men” polls several times.
But during his press conference for the upcoming commercial run of Ang Hapis at Himagsik ni Hermano Puli (The Agony and the Fury of Hermano Puli), Aljur Abrenica chose to reveal his vulnerability, most especially when it comes to criticisms.
The 26-year-old actor admitted he is not oblivious to critics’ takes on his performance. As he continued to pursue TV and movie projects, sometimes lucky to play the lead, he quietly chose to absorb disapprovals not only of showbiz insiders but fans as well.
“The criticisms really hurt. I questioned myself [if I should carry on]. I went through different stages of sadness until I fell into depression,” Abrenica elaborated.
Like any human being constantly on the receiving end of negative feedback, Abrenica allowed himself to wallow in misery but realized he had a choice.
“I woke up one day and decided I should deal with it. I took a break and traveled—basically devoted a lot time just to analyze my acting problem,” he continued.
After undergoing denial, anger, bargaining, and more depression, Abrenica reached the acceptance stage and became fully aware that he lacked the knowledge and skills in acting.
“Before, I couldn’t understand what was going wrong because I was doing my best. But when I exposed myself to more films and other cultures, I found that I had a shallow understanding of acting,” Abrenica told The Manila Times.
He took it upon himself to study the history of film, the evolution of the acting industry, and learn about the lives of important personalities by watching endless biographies, among others. In the process, he was especially inspired by the story of American actor, film director and activist Marlon Brando, Jr. whom he now considers his hero.
“By learning how these artists became actors, I was able to deepen my understanding of the acting process. And apparently, I was surprised that some of them had gone through what I have just experienced,” Abrenica related.
It was a eureka moment that encouraged him to return to acting.
As fate would have it, Abrenica serendipitously came across the movie Hermano Puli at this crossroads in his life and got the titular role. He gives life to historical figure Apolinario de la Cruz who founded the Cofradia de San Jose religious brotherhood in Tayabas (now Quezon) in 1831. Because of his quest for religious freedom, he was pronounced a heretic and sentenced to death by the Spanish colonial government.
Now armed with more knowledge and inspiration—from his experience in doing independent films in between—Abrenica is more confident and proud to present the movie directed by Gil Portes.
“I am totally happy with the result of our hard work. Of course, as an actor, I did my best but more than that, what we truly hope is for the present audience to meet Hermano Puli and for the people to give him due acknowledgement,” he said.
When asked for his takeaway from the experience, Abrenica said that besides learning more about his craft, he also felt that there were people who were genuinely concerned about him.
“And for that I am very thankful. Thankful for every one surrounding me, those who guided me—from my directors to my friends,” he concluded.