Academic excellence is not always a topic one usually hears discussed in show business. This is not to say that intelligence is rare in the industry but merely because many actors are often unable to complete college educations precisely because of their careers.
GMA Network artist Benjamin Alves, however, made sure he finished a college degree—even if it meant being a working student—before he finally took the risk to pursue his passion for acting. But rather than talk about the fact that he graduated summa cum laude in English Literature from the University of Guam where he grew up, he would much rather highlight the story of how he secured his college diploma to inspire the youth to do the same.
“I don’t want people to think that I got to where I am because I was a summa cum laude, or because I am well-off. If I hadn’t been a scholar, I wouldn’t have been able to go to college in the first place,” Alves revealed at a round table with Entertainment Editors at his network headquarters.
In fact, the would-be actor pursued college several years after finishing high school because he was sidetracked by his dreams of entering show business in the Philippines.
“When I was young, I really wanted to act. I think I was six or seven years old when we moved to Guam. I always tried, when I was in elementary school, to audition for stage plays, but I was too shy. I always ended up in the arts department, doing stage sets,” he laughed.
Just as he was about to go into his teens, Alves heard how his cousin Piolo Pascual broke into the entertainment industry back home, his star fast on the rise. Thinking he might be able to do the same, he ditched plans of either going to college or joining the army because he feared regretting he never pursued his dream.
“I just wanted to be honest with myself, so when I turned 17, I saved up money working at Macy’s and went to Manila to try out acting.”
Giving himself two years, Alves had his share of commercials and small parts in TV shows. Honest with himself as always, however, he knew his career was far from going the direction of his Kuya Piolo’s.
“I was unsuccessful,” he said with neither a hint of embarrassment nor regret. “So I saved up money for one semester and went back to Guam to enroll in college, and worked hard as I can so I could secure a scholarship to be able to keep on going.”
He also took on several jobs to pay for his books and other requirements.
“I worked at a warehouse selling paper. In my second year, I took a job as an English tutor in our school. I really thought I would pursue teaching at the time,” he added.
GMA, however, reached out to him and asked him to come back and try showbiz again.
“I had one semester left before graduation and decided to finish school before another attempt at showbiz again.”
Finding himself lucky to be given another shot at fulfilling his dreams, Alves is already counting five years of a thriving career with the network today, and is especially grateful that GMA also found his young life’s story to be inspiring enough to name him the ambassador of the GMA Network Excellence Award (GNEA).
“I took over from Kuya Dingdong Dantes as ambassador last year, so I’ve obviously had very big shoes to fill,” Alves humbly added, as he explained what GNEA is.
“GNEA was established 15 years ago to honor the achievements of graduating students by recognizing excellence through the demonstration of their leadership, academic performance and social responsibility,” he related.
“The nationwide search is open to all Filipino graduating students of Mass Communication, Multi-media Arts, Advertising or any equivalent course on communication, as well as Electronics and Communications Engineering (ECE).”
“This year, I wanted to make sure all the finalists get to share their story—not just their grades—because their journey is what I believe truly makes them excellent. Determination to finish their education is what makes them excellent,” he emphasized.
With his passion for learning and being a teacher still burning, Alves is devoting a great deal of his time in the search for the next GNEA awardee.
“Nominations are now open for any bona fide Filipino graduating student for academic year 2016 to 2017. The aspirant must be graduating with honors and active in socio-civic activities,” he informed. “But again, like I said, their stories will also form a huge part of being selected as finalists and eventually as the winner.”
As such, Alves looks forward to meeting students who are determined and dedicated in completing their education toward a more meaningful goal.
“I’m sure I will end up learning from them through this process, and if I can teach them a thing or two about life along the way, then I would be very happy to share a part of what I know,” he ended.
Seven finalists will be selected from applicants to the 2017 GMA Network Excellence Award. The winner will receive P50,000 and the opportunity to work with the network if they choose to. For details, log on to www. www.gmanetwork.com/excellenceaward.