Many actors will attest that to be effective in portraying their roles, they have to embrace their character and live as if they were that person in real life. By doing so, the character—fictional or not—will inevitably impart values on the actor in the process.
This seems to be the experience Tom Rodriguez had in playing the role of former senator Juancho Magtanggol in the socio-political thriller Magtanggol. Rodriguez said he became more “politically enriched” in acting out the legislator’s persona.
The movie—which will be shown in theaters on May 18, just days after the historical May 9 elections—is considered by its executive producer Jojo Dispo as an advocacy film and a “tribute to the unsung heroes of the society—the Filipino overseas workers.”
Playing a statesman for the first time, according to Rodriguez, was an eye-opener.
“Na-realize ko po talaga na being a public servant has to be in your heart. Hindi mo dapat ituring yung politics as a business or a retirement plan,” the GMA Network leading man said.
More importantly, Magtanggol’s story calls attention to the fact that entering politics should ultimately be about caring for one’s constituents as if they were part of one’s family.
“If you are in there, your heart has to be in there as well kasi automatically kung paano yung pagmamahal, pag-aalaga at pag-aalala na binibigay mo sa sarili mong pamilya ay ganun din ang responsibilities mo [to your constituents]. When you are a politician, imagine, you don’t only have to take care of yourself or your whole family, [but also]your whole constituency–yung sinasakop mo bilang public servant—sila na rin yung pamilya mo, and you are responsible for their welfare. That’s a tremendous task for anyone to undergo,” Rodriguez added.
Clearly inspired by Magtanggol’s work, the 28-year-old has also developed a strong stand in advocating the protection and welfare of overseas Filipinos workers.
“Learning more about the plight of our kababayans overseas has definitely made me want to be part of the OFW advocacy. As a Filipino citizen, every time an atrocity that happens [to OFWs], we should become more involved in pushing for their rights,” Rodriguez told The Manila Times. “I hope that this film will also spark a passion and concern from the Filipinos for our countrymen abroad as it did in me.”
With this interview taking place three days before the national elections on Monday, Rodriguez was also surprisingly vocal about his stand on choosing the right leaders.
“This is a critical moment, I believe. Everyone has to be involved. We have the right to make a change but we have to study it. Hindi natin kailangang gawin ng basta basta dahil yun yung gusto ng mga kaibigan natin—na yan na yung iboto natin. No. You have to do your part; you have to be involved. I know sometimes it’s hard but we are great people and we have makings of a great country,” Rodriguez articulated with optimism.
The actor, who said for the record that he is a registered voter of the Philippines, is a dual Filipino-American citizen.
“This is our country, we have to take accountability,” he urged.
But while real-life girlfriend actress Carla Abellana has been vocal with her choice of candidate in the lead up to the elections, Rodriguez chose to keep his choice to himself, but hinted he was going to vote for a president that will ably push the Philippine economy further forward in the global arena.
The singer-cum-actor added that while he and Abellana have different choices for president, they have not gone as far as arguing over political differences in the same way netizens continue to bash each other as the ballots are being counted.
“That’s what I love about freedom of speech—we can all learn from each other, share different ideas. But kahit hindi pare-pareho ang mga pananaw natin sa buhay, hindi pare-pareho yung paglaki natin, panininiwala natin o kung sino ang gusto nating iboto, pwede pa rin tayong mag-usap in a civilized manner. In that way, paano mas lalawak ang kaalaman mo o kaisipan mo kung isasara mo ang isipan mo sa pananaw ng ibang tao?” he proposed.
Asked if he would ever consider running for public office, the actor quickly jested,“Siguro sa gym tatakbo ako o di kaya sa UP, pero sa politika wala po akong plano.”
Rodriguez finally noted, “You don’t need to be in politics to be able to help others. There are many avenues that we can control in order to make really effective leaders in the community and the society.”