John Lloyd Cruz did it again.
Friday, August 11 on the year of his 40th birthday, the showbiz world received another good news.
The erstwhile matinee idol turned compleat actor John Lloyd Cruz won the Boccalino d’Oro prize for best actor at a film festival in Switzerland for his role in Lav Diaz’s “Essential Truths of the Lake.”
From the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) chair Tirso Cruz III came the initial congratulatory words. “It is with great joy and pride that I congratulate one of the most talented artists of our country, Mr. John Lloyd Cruz. Thank you for bringing honor to our country.”
Indeed, his triumph was cheered by Filipinos.
But he got the equivalent of a double ovation when his acceptance speech went thus: “Para sa Pilipinas, para sa Pilipino, para sa lahat ng pinatay at mga naiwan nila (For the country, for the Filipino, for everyone killed and the people they left behind.”
The quote which one immediately posted on FB has reached more than 45,000 netizens and still increasing.
His timely acceptance speech came at a time when the Filipino policeman is again in the limelight for merciless killing of a teenager in Navotas City.
It brought back memories of the young Kian Loyd de los Santos who was mercilessly killed in August 2017 by policemen emboldened by the former president’s anti-drug war.
By coincidence, Cruz’s role in the award-winning Lav Diaz film is that of Lt. Hermes Papauran who the Variety reviewer described as a “tortured enforcer afflicted with a skin condition that reflects on the surface the conflict and cynicism roiling within him. He’s a good cop in a corrupt country, furious with how Rodrigo Duterte mishandled the war on drugs.”
LAV DIAZ COLLAB
His character in the Lav Diaz film felt very much like the embattled forensic expert seeking closure for many murder cases with dubious history on how they were killed.
To be sure, it wasn’t the actor’s first collaboration with Diaz.
Cruz was also in Diaz’s A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery (Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis), a 2016 historical fantasy drama which competed for the Golden Bear at the 66th Berlin Film Festival where it won the Alfred Bauer Prize (Silver Bear).
The actor’s versatile side was seen in another Diaz film, Ang Babaeng Humayo (The Woman Who Left) where he played a cross-dresser and victim of gang rape. The film won the Golden Lion Award at the 2016 Venice film festival.
Born in the early 80s and a certified bankable star in the late 90s, John Lloyd Cruz got rid of his saccharine roles and went on to find meaty roles.
In 2009, he shifted to a controversial project with Vilma Santos in the film In My Life. Many were taken by surprise—Cruz portrayed Luis Manzano’s lover.
In 2014, Cruz departed again from his ‘kilig’ movies with a challenging part in a Chito Rono film called The Trial. He portrayed a young man with mental disability who finds himself in trouble in a world dominated by so-called normal people.
Recalled the actor of that Chito Rono film. “Just when you least expected it, you get a role totally opposite of what you do and another director comes in to give you another way of exploring the role. This is a dream come true for me. Not that I disliked the romantic parts I am identified with. But once in your acting life, you also aim to accomplish something different.”
Rono said of Cruz’s role in The Trial: “I want an actor who can explore the heart and mind of the mentally challenged character and John Lloyd delivered. The long nights of shooting and the fatigue that went with it were all worth it. The actor gave me what I wanted.”
Cruz shared an insight into the character he played: “What I learned doing this part is that a person with disability or not, people love the same way the so-called normal people do. Social barriers no longer count when you fall in love. My character gave me a memorable portrait of a person with disability falling in love and was ready to fight for it. I would say this role was a very profound experience and Direk Chito helped me discover new ways of exploring the character.”
There was no turning back as Cruz savored his initial taste of true cinema away from screaming fans.
In 2015, another challenging part came through Erik Matti’s film, Honor Thy Father. It was one of the more engrossing entries in the 2015 Metro Manila Film Festival.
For this role, Cruz shaved his hair and delivered a highly focused and multifaceted acting worthy of a cineaste’s citation.
EXPLORING THE ARTS
Meanwhile, the actor was determined to explore the other seven arts.
He watched a lot of gallery openings and soon became an art collector.
In January 2016, he watched his first classical music concert at the CCP with no less than Cecile Licad as soloist of the Philippine Philharmonic.
It was an evening of Tchaikovsky’s First and Rachmaninoff’s Second—all great warhorses in piano repertoire. From where I sat, I tried to see how the actor was reacting to the pianist. I could see that his attention went beyond fascination. He was so focused on the pianist; I could see another Cecile Licad fan in the making.
During intermission, I approached him and Ms. Virgie Ramos, and asked him, “Would you like to meet Ms. Licad after the concert? I will escort and introduce you.”
After the Tchaikovsky concerto, I could see excitement all over his face. And I added, “I can give you this book (Rosario Licad’s My Daughter Cecile) and have it autographed.”
“I would be happy to meet her,” the actor said. And he added, “Thank you for that beautiful review of my film, Honor Thy Father. It meant a lot to me.”
“Oh, you are most welcome,” I answered.
After Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, there was euphoria in the theater. I saw John Lloyd with Ms. Ramos joining the standing ovation. I had not seen happier faces in a long, long time.
I escorted the actor and his date to the dressing room, and even the pianist was surprised. “Oh, it’s you,” Licad greeted the actor. “I saw your film in California. Was it The Mistress?”
John Lloyd later told a lifestyle editor about his first Licad exposure: “I was blown away by her performance. It was like watching an actor perform. I don’t know much about music, but my take is on how Cecile affects me emotionally. She took me along on her journey as she performed.”
In 2017, he took a sudden and indefinite leave from showbiz. Occasionally, one saw him watching musicals with Bea Alonzo and documenting theater pieces at the CCP. He was in some art openings, refusing to be interviewed even by showbiz media friends. He was traveling all over the country without doing any showbiz project.
Later during that year, I learned he had become a father to a bouncing boy named Elias Modesto (mother is former girlfriend Ellen Adarna).
When the pandemic struck, one learned he traveled a lot all over the islands.
He has been seen going to the wet market incognito, riding jeepneys, and greeting fans on the streets. Later, I would see more pictures of him and Elias on the beach, enjoying the boy’s third birthday party. I could see that the actor was going through young fatherhood and enjoying it immensely.
Before joining the new network, he had a radio interview focused on his life, and less on showbiz. He made it clear that his desire was just to come back to what was simple and natural.
To be sure, the four-year hiatus is indeed a long time to be isolated from the work he has learned to love for two decades. And yes, he was raring to work again. But beyond his screen roles, he is keen on fulfilling his real-life role. I can see him figuring out a beautiful dream for his son Elias Modesto. Yes, he is also ready to love again.
What did he learn from being alone all those years he was away from showbiz? He said, “Nang tumahimik na lahat, doon mo talaga maririnig yung dapat mong marinig.” In other words: “When you finally get the silence you badly need, you realize this is the time you can really pay attention to what you need to hear.”