Ben Alves: Without an Agenda

Despite the constant flux in his career, Ben Alves tells us the importance of shunning a schedule once in a while.

Story by Bea Celdran

Photography & Creative Direction by Rholiza Sy

Grooming by Zidjian Floro using Laura Mercier Cosmetics

Styling by JL Crespo

Assistant Photography by Jisa Atrero

Videography by Ela Bendaña Jorel Valmores

Production Assistance by Carissa Mari Torres

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Special thanks to Camsur Adventure, Hunongan Cove, LGU of Camarines Sur, and all the locals of Caramoan.

Having been asleep most of the day we were traveling to Hunongan Cove, Ben Alves was very much alive that night. He had just come from taping an episode of his recent soap and obliged us an interview and shoot despite the distance of the location.

Looking out into the vast darkness of the ocean ahead of us, beers in tow, Alves tells us about Japan as one of his favorite destinations. “I see the progressiveness. You see certain parts being commercialized but there’s still a certain level of respect where they’re not just going to bypass cultural heritage or history but to put that in the forefront. So I like that. There’s a certain level of pride and respect, and that is why people go there and people gravitate towards their culture.” Between Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto, he has yet to choose: “Every prefecture has their own highlight, their own reason to visit.”

In his travels, Alves likes to take it slow. Last he was in Osaka, he stayed for ten days, same when he was in Tokyo. “I love the times na wala ka nang gagawin, yung di ka nagmamadali. You wake up and you’re there. It makes you wonder—the locals that are walking around, if they’re going off to work, try to go to the places they go to, try to avoid the tourist traps. I think it’s the people that make the place.”

Ben Alves is comfortable rock climbing the Casil-itaan rock phase

Filipino at Heart

Although raised in Guam, Alves is proud of his Filipino roots. “When I came back in 2012, as the years go on I felt more Pinoy, more Filipino. Because when I visited before, you know, I’d say, ‘I love Manila,’ but really, I love vacationing in Manila. Yun yung lagi kong naririnig ko sa mga pinsan ko. Na parangHindi, gusto mo lang yung Maynila kasi nagbabakasyon ka lang pero pag nandito ka na, iba na siya. You’ll hate it.’ ”

But finally making his move in 2012 to pursue his passion in acting and making a career out of it, he feels more at home in the Philippines. “Maybe I wanted to prove them wrong when I was younger but I really do feel that there’s a sense of pride in me na Pinoy ako and I appreciate living here now. Now of course, there’s traffic, there’re a lot of other things, but that’s everywhere.”

Ben Alves is a natural around the local women and children

“I love the times na wala ka nang gagawinyung di ka nagmamadali. You wake up and you’re there. It makes you wonder—the locals that are walking around, if they’re going off to work, try to go to the places they go to, try to avoid the tourist traps. I think it’s the people that make the place.”

Alves was cast as Manuel Quezon in Jerrold Tarog’s Goyo, which altered his perspective on Filipino history and the key players in it. History, or at least what we’ve read, has displayed our heroes as immaculate to the future generations who look up to them. However, Alves believes they need to be
showcased where they are most human. Sliding into the character of the president before he was seated in power proved a challenge for Alves, “I’m playing a young Manuel Quezon in Goyo so it’s very different. It really takes a lot of shaving off all the prior knowledge of Manuel Quezon being the
competent Quezon, the president Quezon, the very outspoken one. I’m trying to find how he is at an age. He’s still trying to find his identity, basically.”

In fact, being in Tarog’s movies became a paradigm shift where Alves realized the humanity of these heroes. “For me, it makes me appreciate them more because even with their imperfections, even with their struggles, they’re still able to do what they’re known for, what they’ve become a bayani for. Many question if it was worth it or ano ba yung mga motives nila, pero yun yung dapat natin malaman. Kailangan natin malaman kung saan sila nanggagaling.

And even the agenda behind the literature about these heroes. “It just makes more aware of the agenda behind the people that write certain stories about our heroes or heroes in general. Like with Goyo in particular—the account of him being on a high horse, going into war super-courageous—that account is written by the Americans and because of that you wonder, ‘Okay, because they’re trying to honor this person.’ But if they try to make it more real, if the more realistic story is the one that happened in our movie, then it would kind of be questioning [the prior account] because it’s an American author doing it.”

“When I get that feeling, when I wake up and I have no agenda for that day, then that’s when you start appreciating and seeing things na hindi mo na-expect. Because when you have a schedule, then you already have a set expectation for that day. But then when you don’t have anything, then you start appreciating the locals, what they eat. You get to travel the way they do, for one. You feel the life of the place.”

Alves made the most out of Catanhawan island’s breathtaking views and crystal clear water

Slowing Down the Pace

Even for roles, Alves admits he still auditions because it excites him. “For me, ang saya nun eh. Para kang baguhan na artista. Di mo pwede dalhin yung dinala mo sa last soap, sa last movie, yung galing ng last character mo dun sa exact moment ng audition mo kasi wala namang merit yun.” But now, as his career grows exponentially and his name gains more traction in both film and television, Alves prefers more meaningful roles, which he finds more rewarding. “[It’s] rewarding if I can think about that character years down the line and I can still slide into the role.”

His travels are within the same line. His travels are for himself: to debrief and really just get out of the loop to fully appreciate a personal experience. “It’s like now, we’re only here one day. You can’t grasp the beauty of this in a day. You can appreciate it but masarap din paggising mo, wala ka nang gagawa. When I get that feeling, when I wake up and I have no agenda for that day, then that’s when you start appreciating and seeing things na hindi mo na-expect. Because when you have a schedule, then you already have a set expectation for that day. But then when you don’t have anything, then you start appreciating the locals, what they eat. You get to travel the way they do, for one. You feel the life of the place.”

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Our journey began with an idea to discover what it means to travel the Philippines, beyond the alluring images of sparkling blue waters and powder white sand. We seek to share travel stories to inspire the wide-eyed traveler, moving them deeper into the destination with stunning images and narratives about its sights, tastes, textures, smells, and local life.

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