What Makes The Ideal Filipino Leading Man: A Thorough Analysis
When it comes to romance narratives, the default description for the leading man is "tall, dark, and handsome." These qualities are assumed to be the attributes of an alpha male, who—based on Charles Darwin's theory—is the most desirable kind of man.
For starters, a height advantage is often equated with athletic aptitude or, at the very least, the ability to get to hard-to-reach places. Meanwhile, a dark complexion is associated with men who spend time outdoors and, therefore, are presumed to be of sturdy constitution. Being handsome is, of course, essential.
However, researchers have pointed out that these trophy man specs don't necessarily mean that the alpha male is the fittest among his peers. It only means that he's the top guy when it comes to attracting females.
In this light, most of the leading men in Filipino romantic comedies appear to have bucked the Darwinian evolutionary trend. After all, even if many of them aren't that tall (hardly anyone is over six feet), dark (a majority of them are fair-skinned), and handsome (many are considered "cute"), they still get the girl.
Evolutionary biologist John Maynard Smith coined a somewhat risqué term for these males—"sneaky f**kers." They're the seemingly average males who pounce on the opportunity to mate with highly prized females while the alpha males are otherwise occupied (usually fighting off other alpha male contenders or falling in love with their reflection). It’s apparently quite common in the animal kingdom.
That said, here's a closer inspection of the animal that is the Pinoy rom-com leading man.
1. He’s got great hair.
While he may face many challenges, but our leading man is no follicly challenged hero. Characters with shiny, bald heads or noticeably receding hairlines are usually relegated to supporting roles. Long, shiny hair is welcome, too, as seen on Piolo Pascual’s Vince in Don't Give Up on Us, Coco Martin’s character Rex in Born to Love You, and Daniel Padilla’s Kenji in She's Dating the Gangster.
However, keep in mind that hair experiments should be confined to the hero’s pate and go no further. Most Pinays prefer a clean-shaven look. So, stubble is allowed, but a full-on beard isn't.
2. He’s a simple man.
Tonio in 2014's Maybe This Time and Pong in 2015's You're My Boss—both characters played by Coco Martin—win women’s hearts despite falling short in social graces and committing the occasional grammatical errors. But don’t mistake this lack of sophistication for simple-mindedness. The Pinoy rom-com hero is not stupid.
3. He's considered cute.
In That Thing Called Tadhana, Anthony (JM de Guzman) urges Mace (Angelica Panganiban) to justify women's obsession with actor John Lloyd Cruz.
Anthony asks, "Bakit kayong mga babae, gwapong-gwapo kayo kay John Lloyd? Normal lang naman s'ya.”
Mace replies: "Ganito kasi 'yun. Si John Lloyd kasi para s'yang hindi artista. Para s'yang normal lang na tao. Parang pwede mo s'yang maging kaibigan. Parang pwede ka n'yang mahalin ng buong-buo. Hindi ka n'ya lolokohin. Hindi ka n'ya paiiyakin. S'ya ang iiyak para sa 'yo."
It's all right if the Pinoy rom-com hero doesn't have perfectly symmetrical features, as long as he’s cute.
4. He's all heart.
Despite living in a country where many women are practically brainwashed into believing that their virginity is the ultimate gift they can give their partners, the chick flick hero doesn't take it against his love interest if she happens to have a healthy sexual appetite. He doesn't judge women for sleeping with him on the first date or for enjoying a one-night with him.
It’s what happens to Macky (John Lloyd Cruz) in Unofficially Yours, Russell (Bret Jackson) in Your Place or Mine?, and Jake (Gerald Anderson) in Always Be My Maybe. In You're Still the One, Jojo (Dennis Trillo) pines for Ellise (Maja Salvador) for years after their one-night stand, even after he finds out that she hooked up with a married man.
5. He doesn't need to have killer abs.
In 2015's Love Is Blind, Wade (Derek Ramsay) has a washboard abdomen, but he isn't the one that chicks fall for. Instead it's Yari (Kean Cipriano) who makes women swoon. The Pinoy rom-com hero just needs to have an average body. The lack of well-defined abdominal muscles doesn't bother women who zero in on true love.
6. He wins when he looks like a loser.
In her book The Nature of Human Nature, Carin Bondar describes how female Japanese quails pick their mates, noting: "Researchers had a female witness a fight between two males. Once the fight was over and a clearly defined winner and loser had been determined, the female was allowed into the fight arena to select her partner." Guess what? The females went for the losers.
What's true for quails is true for rom-com heroes like Paulo Avelino’s Philip in The Bride and the Lover and Inigo Pascual, Ryan in Para sa Hopeless Romantic. They went for broke wooing the women they love.
7. He works hard for his money.
There’s no such thing as a deadbeat hero. Every Filipino leading man has a stable income stream or is working on making a name for himself while having to prove himself to his rich family. This is the case with Miggy (John Lloyd Cruz) in You Changed My Life and Rocco (Xian Lim) in Bride for Rent.
John Lloyd Cruz