Bruno Gabriel: The Game of His Life

By C. Mendez Legaspi

THERE’S something intriguing about Bruno Gabriel. He’s a showbiz neophyte, yet he isn’t new to the craft of acting. He’s confident but not cocky. He’s young, yet has a good sense of self-awareness.

Bruno Gabriel Lobangco Santos, son of erstwhile actress Lani Lobangco, has the makings of a matinee idol—handsome, engaging, with a deep, captivating voice. In the upcoming afternoon soap Anything for You, GMA gave him a costarring billing with stars Joyce Ching and Kristoffer Martin.

That’s not just beginner’s luck; that must mean he has talent.

“I’m new in showbiz, and I’m really more of an athlete. That’s my lifestyle. That’s also my strategy for anything. I play football and tennis. For a spell in the US, I taught hockey to kids. I grew up here and there in the US, but more of here. Before pag-aartista, nag-start ako sa modeling, for a year…just to get myself familiar with how things work. Medyo pareho ang system ng pag-aartista sa modeling, eh. You get more famous lang when you’re an artista,” said Bruno with a chuckle, hardly pausing for air.

Continuing, he said: “My ex-girlfriend was a model. At a party, she introduced me to her manager, Neil de Guia, who was looking for a male model to manage.  When I stopped seeing the girl, I contacted Neil. Sila ngayon ang magka-hiwalay, and ngayon I’m the one working with him. Neil comanages me with GMA Artist Center. With Neil, I did commercials. Prior to that, my Tita Rachel hooked me up with modeling jobs like sa ramp.”

Did your mom encourage you to try showbiz? “Actually, ako [lang], kasi I want to maximize my opportunity. I want to live a life either in film or in sports. Prior to pag-aartista, hobby ko ’yung film. I’m 100-percent sure I want to get in the industry. Originally, my plan was to be a director. At Ateneo [de Manila University], I joined school competitions, and one film won a cinematography award. Still notable, because it’s a short film I directed,” said Bruno, who’s currently a management major but was also a tennis and football varsity at Cypress University in California.

“When I was doing commercials, Neil would tell me, ‘OK, Bruno, this is how you get dressed. This is how you fix yourself.’ In a way, same with my mom din, but Neil has a more modern perspective. ‘Sa artista, ’di pwede ganito’ and other warnings, such as gossip. So when I went to GMA, I was more ready than I would’ve been,” he said.

Were you given an assignment immediately by GMA? ‘”I believe you can say that. Nabigyan ako because of my experience. I’m new at GMA and I feel fortunate. But, at the same time, I feel responsible for it, kasi I really prepared myself for this. Kasi kahit sabihin mo na bagong artist ako ng GMA, hindi ako bagong artist, in general,” Bruno, 20, explained.

“My acting background is more theater actually, Peta [Philippine Educational Theater Association]. Kasi ’di naman pwede na porke’t artista ka, showbiz-showbiz na lang. You really have to work on your craft. For me, it’s not only work kasi. It’s a way I could be able to make people see the world.  If there’s something I was able to take away from my sports life, that would be the work ethic.”

Is there a career path you want to take? “Yeah, drama actor. The main idea is, if they say ‘Bruno Gabriel’, actor is what comes to mind. Well, I could appreciate ‘a famous guy’ but I want to be tagged as an actor talaga, or magaling na actor. As an actor, I also want to be versatile, to be anything that a script would call for.”

Inspirations? “I look up to Tom Hardy. Basically, he’s my favorite. Christopher Nolan, I enjoy his work. I used to direct, so s’ya ’yung naging idol ko.”

Who keeps him grounded? “Me pa rin at the end of the day. Thankfully, I have these guys from Artist Center to help me out [pointing to his handlers], plus Neil and my mom. At the end of the day, it’s still up to me. So, they’re my team.”

Did your mom give you any restrictions before she gave her blessing for you to join showbiz? “The only restriction is, ‘Don’t do bad.’ Sabi n’ya, ‘If you’re going to do it, be a hell lot good at it. If you’re going to be half-hearted about showbiz, I’m not going to let you.’”

What’s your role in Anything for You and how are you approaching it?

“I play a guy named Santi. He’s a rich kid. Isn’t very close to his parents. Pinalaki sya ng yaya n’ya. He’s US-based. Busy doing Pinoy stuff. I’m schoolmates with the characters of Joyce Ching and Kristoffer Martin, the third wheel in their love team. Sobrang yabang. GMA gave me enough information to know about Santi and work my way into being that guy.”

It’s easy to glean that this guy is authentic. Showbiz, for all its shenanigans, might find it difficult to corrupt someone with Bruno’s solid character.

Image Credits: Photographed by Advan Ramirez; grooming by Nanan Villalba; clothes by Uniqlo