What I've Learned

Ronnie Lazaro: What I've Learned

Ronnie Lazaro on the meaning of life, his acting career, and becoming a director.
IMAGE Artu Nepomuceno
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We actors are taught how to enter a character, but nobody ever tells us how to get out.

My first movie was Gumising ka… Maruja by Lino Brocka, which was shot in Bacolod. Looking back, I was like a zombie. I didn’t really know what was happening. I didn’t really discover the craft yet.

I grew up in Fabrica, Sagay City in Negros Occidental. It used to be the largest lumber mill in the world, would you believe? I grew up with lots of terrain and trees and uniformed houses built by the Americans. And we had two cinemas. And our Christmases were fun, because the Americans ran it. It was an industrial town. 

On weekends I would see the Aetas come, enter the cinema, and never leave the place until the evening. Can you imagine all those kids growing up in the cinemas [in] this place? I saw Soylent Green there. And also the Pinoy war movies. It was a community theater, and sometimes while the movie is showing someone would announce, “Boy Kiko! Andiyan na ‘yong nanay mo!”

To work was the greatest lesson my father taught me. He was the eldest and he worked a lot. In my family, we never really sat down and talked. That’s the way it was, I learned to take things as they are. But I always saw his artistry. He was not a schooled electrician, but we survived because he knew by sheer instinct how to fix radios and TV.

When New Wave and punk music came to the Philippines, I adopted their kind of philosophy in life. I liked pain. Magulo yung kinagisnan kong mga pangyayari sa buhay, eh. But I would go back to those times when I would survive here in Manila alone. I would go back to those dark nights. 

We actors are taught how to enter a character, but nobody ever tells us how to get out.

Acting has taught me a deeper understanding about a lot of things… a deeper understanding of life. Because you try to capture the essence of the character you play, so undergoing the study, you realize the many things in life you thought you knew but didn’t know after all. Acting is a great opportunity to live. 

To play the role for the movie Boatman, I just lived the life of a boatman for one month. I slept there. I drank with the boatmen. I learned the skill. So when we were shooting Boatman, I was not acting, I was already him. I didn’t know it was called Method Acting.

I became a black sheep. No one in the industry wanted to touch me. I fell. It was my attitude that caused my downfall.

I’ve learned some lessons from my past. I remember there was a time na ang yabang yabang ko after Oro Plata Mata. Rudy “Daboy” Fernandez liked me and got me to do his films. I could’ve done more, but during one interview I said, “hindi naman art film ‘yong kay Daboy eh,” and he read it. And it wasn’t a nice thing to say. That was a major lesson for me about humility. I became a black sheep. No one in the industry wanted to touch me. I fell. It was my attitude that caused my downfall. So what I did was I had to hone the craft some more. 

Everything looks fancy around us, but the world is just melting. 

We become [the way we are] because of our mistakes. ‘Pag walang struggle boring din eh. We want to be where the guerra is. But we also want to protect ourselves. It’s a beautiful complicated rock and roll life. 

Forgiving yourself is the hardest thing. But can you imagine the strength of inner peace? Galing nun, and I have done it. I have forgiven myself. That’s why I have no more remorse from the past. 

I believe in God, but I don’t know why. 

Death is a fascination for me. Life sucks because we’re all going to die. But what makes it worth it is you get to live it anyway. 

Everything has been designed already. What you are, why you are here now, those things have been planned. We are trapped here. So ‘yong mga nangyari sa nakaraan, bahagi mo na rin ‘yon

I’ve been in so many relationships in the past where I only love them because I want them to love me in return. Ayon pala, when you learn to love yourself, you are capable of loving another person without question. 

Love is about sharing. You don’t just give love to receive it. When you give, you give. 

I never pause to celebrate my accomplishments, because I might become complacent again. I still have to keep on going, keep on doing more. 

Life is not perfect, this is not perfect, we are not perfect.

This article was originally published in June 2015. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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Erwin Romulo
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