EXCLUSIVE: Bea Alonzo On Overcoming Self-Doubt And Taking Creative Risks
Everyone in the room stopped what they were doing when Bea Alonzo arrived. As soon as she stepped into the waiting lounge, the air became fragrant because of her perfume, and her presence became subtly intoxicating. It took a while for people to recover from the fact that one of the most beautiful faces in the Philippine film industry was in the room. Here was Jackie Madrigal, Andrea "Andeng" Agoncillo-Noble, Betty Tingson, Basha Belinda Eugenio-Gonzales, and Bobbie Salazar in the flesh.
When Phylbert Angelie Ranollo Fagestrom was finally settled, everything started again. The boxes of pizza were arranged on the table, paper cups and napkins were aligned, styling wands and blowers were taken out of their bags, and makeup brushes were set up like a bouquet in a glass vase. Bea greeted everyone generously, warmly, just as though she had all the time in the world.
Everybody wanted some of her time: the makeup artist wanted to glam her up, movie publicists wanted the digital cover shoot to move along quickly (so Bea wouldn’t be late for a 5p.m. press conference), the videographer and photographer needed to take test shots, and I, the writer, had to ask questions for a story when it was possible.
Finally, the actress found a small pocket of time in between outfit changes during the photoshoot. She was very eager to talk about Eerie, one of her most exciting and challenging projects to date.
According to the actress, she initially didn’t want to take the role. Bea was already working on two movies at the time. She hasn’t done a horror film before yet, too, so the idea intimidated her. “To tell you honestly, when it was pitched to me, I was very scared to say yes to it for the reason that I am afraid to get into a very dark place. When you’re acting, creating a character, you have to dive deep into what the character is going through,” she tells Metro.Style. What convinced her, however, was the prospect of working with Charo Santos and acclaimed independent filmmaker Mikhail Red. It was an opportunity of a lifetime she couldn’t pass up.
"So far, I think this is the biggest creative risk I’ve taken in my career"
Top by Joseph and blazer by Chantal
Bea was also drawn to Eerie because of its story. She found the script well-written. It wasn’t the run-of-the-mill horror-thriller as it explored complex themes such as faith and logic, tradition and openness. It also touched upon issues such as abuse and suicide. The actress’ character, Patricia, is a clairvoyant guidance counselor who communicates with a spirit named “Eri” to uncover the truth about a death in an all-girls convent school. Patricia is the perfect foil to Charo’s Sister Alice, who has a more traditional persona.
To prepare for the role, aside from undergoing workshops, Bea made an effort to map her character’s journey by showing her internal turmoil through a gradual change in appearance and demeanor. “Si Patricia kasi, siya 'yung character sa pelikula na mas open to the new generation, how they think, how they are not easy labelled. I can’t say she’s an atheist or she’s religious. She’s the only character in the movie who is not labelled as religious. All of the characters in the movie are nuns and then the girls studying in the school. She’s the only persona in the movie who doesn’t get strung along by religion. She’s conflicted between the system and the actual problems in the school. Ma’am Charo’s character is very different. She’s by the book. And then Patricia is a character who thinks that we can right the wrong via other non-traditional ways.”
"I have doubts all the time. It scares me all the time"
Walking in the shoes of a character like Patricia was scary for Bea. “She’s a character in a very dark place, very dark frame of mind. So far, I think this is the biggest creative risk I’ve taken in my career.” Since the actress is known for dramas, romantic comedies, and more lighthearted films, it’s more than understandable that she first met the role with a degree of reluctance. “Ako kasi, when I watch a movie, dapat naiintindihan ko 'yung bida, 'yung characters. Kailangan nakaka-relate ako. Nu'ng ginagawa ko si Pat, ang dark ng personal life ko, tapos ang dark ng pinagdadaanan ng character. Sobrang hirap niya. Ayoko na balikan.”
Taking the role and committing to the character speaks of Bea’s heart and values. Bea strives to grow as an artist, choosing not to rest on her laurels and not allowing herself to stay safe in her comfort zone. When asked about how she feels now that she has reached this point in her career, she shares one of her greatest fears: “I have doubts all the time. It scares me all the time. When I take projects, I still get scared, lalo na at my age na gusto mo na magkaroon ng mark in showbiz. It’s not about box office hits anymore. It’s not anymore being in the comfort of a loveteam. It’s all you. It scares me all the time.”
This fear isn’t unfounded; Bea has had a long career in showbiz that dates back to when she was only 13 years old. Now that she’s 31, she has experienced her fair share of storms. There were many battles to fight, including ones against herself. This prompts her to shake off complacency and continuously get better. Bea tells Metro.Style, “The worst thing that happened to me—I think most artistas experience getting bashed, but siguro... [there’s something else], this is personal. There was a time when I questioned myself if ito lang 'yung kaya kong gawin. I entered showbiz when I was thirteen. At thirteen, I wasn’t given many options to choose from. I had this goal, this dream to be an artista and then I got it. Then when I already achieved what I wanted to be, inisip ko, ano pa 'yung mga options for me? Like for others, they go to college. There are a lot of options to choose from. You can shift from mass communication to medicine or whatever. Ako, I didn’t have that option, to shift. So naisip ko, ito na ba 'yun? 'Yun yata 'yung tinatawag na quarterlife crisis. I think that was the worse thing I experienced. It was me against myself. It was a personal struggle.”
"I didn’t have that option, to shift. So naisip ko, ito na ba 'yun? 'Yun yata 'yung tinatawag na quarterlife crisis. I think that was the worse thing I experienced. It was me against myself. It was a personal struggle”
Jumping into uncharted waters is proven to bring rewards. Judging by how people at the Singapore International Film Festival last year reacted, Eerie was a success. “Half of the audience who watched—hindi lang mata ko 'yung bukas nu'ng nanonood ako, I was also listening—may mga tumitili talaga, may umiiyak. They were really reacting to the film... I’m very happy about it. It was very rewarding and humbling for me.”
Bea also adds that doing Eerie is the first step towards a new dream. “The ultimate career achievement is to represent the Philippines in the global market. Slowly, we’re taking the step towards it. Ang dami nang gumawa, festivals and all. Parang 'yung gusto ko, bilang mainstream actress naman talaga ako, I want to represent the Filipino movies theatrically outside the country.” The actress' first foray in the international circuit is hopefully the first of many.
The seemingly indefatigable actress will keep on doing her best to hone her craft as an artist. When asked about how she keeps her feet firmly planted on the ground, Bea shares with all sincerity, “I pray, ask for guidance, asking for God’s blessing, asking him if I am doing the right thing.” She also threw in a message for her future self, for the long journey ahead: “Dear future Bea, may you find joy in finding and creating the person you are meant to be. May you get rid of the urge to seek validation from others. You have so much to offer. You have so much in store for you, if you only believe. So just enjoy the journey and take the road less traveled.” As she says this, Bea beamed with hard-earned confidence, optimism, and hope.
Produced by Geolette Esguerra
Photography by Rxandy Capinpin
Creative direction by Chookie Cruz
Liaison editor: Grace Libero-Cruz
Makeup by Ting Duque
Hairstyling by Jerry Javier
Styling by Rex Atienza, assisted by Jowi Guzman
Video producer: Joan Ko
Videography by Giancarlo Escamillas
Special thanks to Beyond Flowers PH