“Hi Miguel, thank you for doing this with us,” I greet as he gives us access to his video camera via Zoom.
The 26-year old model and actor flashes a smile, suitably boyish, asking: “How did you guys find me, anyway?”
I must admit, we are also part of the majority who got hooked up with the new craze.
“We watched your BL Series,” I confess.
“Ah, Hello Stranger,” he replies mundanely as if he has been in this kind of situation a million times.
Hello Stranger is a digital series that highlights two boys falling in love with each other online. The series has achieved a tremendous following worldwide since its premiere in June 2020 and accumulated close to 9 million views at the time of writing this. Miguel played the role of Jun Jun, one of the closest friends of the main character. His role in the series leaves a significant footprint as his role pushes the lead into ‘coming out’––a metaphor for LGBT people’s self-disclosure of their sexual identity.
His line in the last episode, “…listen, you’ll only jeopardize your plans if you hide your true feelings forever…just channel your frustration into confessing just to get it over with,” leaves a colossal mark and prompts social encouragement. Such simple yet effective words, something you can grab out of our pockets at the most appropriate times in life.
“I think that [web series] also provoked or enticed some people,” he shares. “On Twitter, some people actually tagged us sharing their coming out story, and they came out because of the series. That is very heart-warming and touching not just for me, but for the other actors as well that I speak on their behalf when it comes to this aspect.”
Acting is not new to Miguel; in fact, his performing arts background started since the early stage of his college days. From there, it escalated progressively––harnessing ample experiences while achieving his degree in Communication Arts at Ateneo de Manila University.
A shift of passion:
Miguel’s passion for acting, however, came as a surprise. Having a mother who works as an Interior Designer, he was drawn more into visual arts during adolescence. He shares that he used to draw a lot and was part of an art club during his four years in secondary but was unable to continue practicing it when he began university. It was only when a friend of his encouraged him to audition for a classical play of Romeo & Juliet that his interest pivoted towards performing arts, which, in turn, sequentially brought him closer to the limelight.
“I honestly didn’t think that when I graduated, I would actually still be acting,” he honestly shares. “My professors would always tell me that I should end up in PR, or maybe creatives, but no, I pursued my passion, and here I am now.”
I ask him if it’s something that he would like to continue for the next ten years.
“Oh, definitely, of course,” he immediately responds. “But you know, in the Philippines, you have to consider the factors in life, for example, bread and butter. Is it really sustainable enough? So at this point, it is so far, but hopefully, as I continue to progress, I can still continue acting.”
Miguel Almendras enters the Mainstream
To date, Miguel has done several theatre plays, independent film projects, and a few mainstreams such as Hello Stranger, where he achieved quite a large following. Even before the latter concluded, he starred as one of the leads in another LGBTQ+-themed anthology series titled “Unlocked.” Furthermore, he also starred in another short film released during the lockdown; Happiness Is An Allegory, Unhappiness A Story where he also plays the role of getting attracted to the same gender. Such a brave move for someone who is now at the vanguard of making it big in the industry.
His consecutive and nuanced gay portrayals piqued my curiosity, so I ask: Are you not afraid of being stereotyped?
“The answer to that for me is No,” he answers while letting out a slight, quick laugh. “Well, honestly, at first, I was. But then, at a certain point, when you’ve done so many roles, I don’t think it should matter anymore…at this point in my life, it’s no longer is my concern.”
He goes on to share how he accepts projects and his creative process, explaining the importance of understanding the objective of the project before pushing through. “I’d like to think that we are all storytellers in whatever form you might be having, whether it’s through poetry, through writing, or even to visual arts. At the end of the day, I’d like to think that artists are storytellers with particular objectives that they want to showcase and have the meaning to come across your audience.”
Despite the flow of praises from his stream of followers, Miguel is not afraid to admit how he thinks of himself as an actor, “Honestly, I don’t think that I am a good actor, but I’d like to think of me as a competent actor,” he admits nonchalantly. “But I’ve always known deep in myself that everything is a process wherein you continue to learn. Like I didn’t take any formal training in acting, but what I did was, I continued to act, act, and act. And so I think it’s a learning process.”
As a public persona in the generation where freedom of expression is adamantly overexercising on different social media platforms, Almendras isn’t exempt from bashing. “I think in life, you cannot not offend anyone, especially these days,” he says in a halting way, determining the right words to convey the message. “People will always take offense at anything, no matter how big or how small. And, if the objective in life is to be liked, it could be a boring life.”
Within seconds, we jump to discussing the indecent proposals he receives.
“I have, I have,” he shares, somewhat gets excited in a funny way. Same with the bashing he receives, he also pokes fun at all unwanted proposals. “If you engage it, it escalates things. So most of the time, I don’t; I just let it be. Because I think it’s more of an acknowledgment of what they want. Like, I won’t reply to you, but I read it…I’ll give it a heart.”
Miguel out of the limelight
Miguel or Migs might have played different characters and personalities on stage and in films, but not everyone has access to who he really is behind the camera. Quite aside from his boyish good looks and exemplary acting expertise, his confident yet unassuming personality, I might say, completes the lot.
His relationship with his mother is something to note too. So I ask how he is as a son.
“Oh, Migs is a very patient son, who sometimes accepts the mistakes of his mother,” he describes cheekily while revealing that his mother is actually opposite him listening. “We are very honest with one another; she knows all the shitty and good stuff that I’ve done in life. I guess I’m a loving, caring son to my mom, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s only the two of us now; my dad passed away a couple of years ago, So that [kind of relationship] will not change.”
Our supposedly 45minutes virtual conversation with Miguel lasted for more than one and a half hours. At times during the call, I feel that I’ve known the guy for quite some time. Miguel certainly knows how to carry a conversation; such a skill, not every personality, has the privilege to possess.
Now that his experiences have started to cement his name in the industry, it’s only a matter of time where the name Miguel Almendras will be synonymous with recognitions even he can’t imagine–and even we can’t wait to witness that.