MANILA, SEPTEMBER 19, 2010 (STAR) By Kristel Dacumos (People Asia) Beneath the smoldering look and hardened exterior, model-actor Derek Ramsay reveals a depth of character that is far from the two dimensional half-naked beach boy we often see him as on the billboards of EDSA. And in this interview for People Asia, Derek dares to be bare, shedding misconceptions as easily as he sheds off his shirt.

Throughout the shoot, between the ceaseless beeps of his cell phone, this Filipino-British actor, model and host drops knock-knock jokes as fast as the pennies pile up from his endorsements — Oxygen clothing, Swatch, Lucky Me, San Miguel, Belo, Nestea Fit and Century Tuna. Though intimidating with his scruffy chiseled physique and intense stare, Derek’s unguarded nature and relaxed humor puts even the most shy at ease. When asked why he thinks he was chosen to be one of the illustrious men for this month’s cover, he laughs and covers his face in embarrassment – “because I take off my shirt all the time!” Derek admits that he is most comfortable being topless but is relieved nonetheless that he can keep his clothes on for the day.

Derek, who had once thought that he would become a physics, math or chemistry teacher, was discovered on a summer vacation in the UK and was launched into the celebrity spotlight when he hosted the ABS-CBN showbiz-oriented talk show Entertainment Konek (2005) and MTV Philippines. After appearing in a few soaps and fantaseryes on the network, Derek got his biggest acting break in 2007 when he starred opposite Judy Ann Santos in his first leading role in Ysabella.

Fatherly Advice

When acting, Derek keeps his father’s advice close to mind. “My dad (Derek Arnold Ramsay) used to say, ‘Whatever field you decide to jump into, you should walk in there thinking you’re the best. If not, you’ve already lost. But if you lose, you did your best and you should be proud enough’.” Derek explains, “When I go (into a scene), I don’t go in there thinking that I’m better (than the other actors). I go in there thinking I’m gonna do my job. Acting is like basketball. If you’re gonna take the ball, concentrate on it and on yourself playing well. You may receive an award for that but that’s just icing on top of the cake.” And he had himself a piece of that icing when Derek was nominated Best Supporting Actor in I Love You, Goodbye by Gawad Pasado.

While dashing between shooting Habang May Buhay and finishing up his new soap Magkaribal with Gretchen Barretto and Bea Alonzo, Derek leads an intense lifestyle running marathons, playing basketball, golf and Ultimate Frisbee. Derek is part of the LuzonVisayasMindanao team, which plays in both local and international Ultimate Frisbee tournaments. Though tournaments may last anywhere between an hour to four hours, Derek insists that “playing dramatic roles are actually more draining than playing sports.” And then adds with a laugh, “Hirap kasi umiyak eh.” At the time of the interview, Derek was actually bound to Korea to compete — to the frustration of his doctor and girlfriend of four years, movie bombshell Angelica Panganiban.

Early February this year, Derek underwent surgery for a meniscal tear on his knee. But instead of taking the advice of his doctor to rest for at least two-three months, only two weeks after his surgery Derek ran the Century Tuna Superbods 10K Fun Run. “Matigas ulo ko, eh,” Derek sheepishly replies. Testament to his stubbornness, he refused to use a urinary catheter during surgery. “I did research and saw this thing called the catheter. And I said ‘Hell, no! I’ll pee! (You) just wait and see. I. Will. Pee,” he told the nurses. Some nurses were amused and some were evidently not. “And so we were there for 12 hours!” He laughs. His stubbornness and his pride — which he claims he got from his mother and father — have often gotten the best of him and have put him into many “delicate” situations.

Runaways & Bromance

At the age of 21, two weeks fresh from graduating college in the States, Derek ran away from home. Previously, Derek had decided to work for the family-owned security firm that his British father, an ex-policeman, established. “But, unfortunately, it didn’t work out,” he explains. “I couldn’t sit behind the desk. I had to be constantly doing something. (And) since I just came fresh out of college and I had so many ideas, we clashed. He was so old-school,” he reveals.

And so wanting to prove to his father that he was “no longer a boy,” Derek ran away from home and he found himself in the heart of Masambong, Quezon City squatters area. Here he met his best friend, 38-year-old jack-of-all-trades Martin Castro who took him in, taught him to speak kantong-Tagalog and eat street food. “Martin’s like my brother and my dad treats him like a son. And he’s my family. I’d give up my life for this guy,” says Derek fondly. And what does Martin have to say about his best friend? “Derek was such a brat,” Martin snitches.

But greater than his pride is Derek’s love for family. “My family is the most important thing to me. I really mean that, which is why sometimes I’m frustrated that I don’t get to spend time with my family and friends.” But this wasn’t the case then when his pride prohibited him from contacting his family when he was hospitalized for food poisoning (which he believes was actually poisoning from rat urine.) “I got really sick. As in really sick. They made me eat pares and I was throwing up blood. I’m talking about pints of blood.” With the recent fights with his father and the running away incident fresh in his mind, Derek didn’t dare call his mom Remedios. “Yun yung pride ko. I know my parents would do anything for me and they would always be there for me but it was my pride that told me, ‘If you can do it yourself, do it yourself’.”

Derek refused to ask for help even when he wasn’t getting the medical attention he needed at the hospital he was confined in. “I don’t remember what hospital it was but they weren’t taking good care of me. The IV wasn’t in my vein and I kept asking the girl why it was so painful. My hand was swelling up.” When his mother found out that her child was in distress she immediately pulled him out of the hospital and got him the medical intention he needed. No ifs and no buts.

“We didn’t even say sorry about it. It was like boom! Forgotten. (My family) was just waiting for me to come back,” says Derek of the reconciliation at the hospital. Since then Derek has tried to overcome his pride “Matigas talaga ulo ko. But I’ve learned how to lower it, level with it and deal with it. I think I’ve leveled it down.”

After having realized the unwavering support and unconditional love of his family, Derek cannot be shaken even in the midst of scandal. Derek has learned to throw such things over his shoulder like the recent controversial “dukot” photos in Boracay with Angelica, which he calls a sad attempt to make an issue out of a non-issue. “I’ve learned to live with (gossip). There’s nothing you can do so just don’t change yourself. The ones who really want to get to know me will get to know me.”

When asked if it was difficult to live a normal life now he’s a big celebrity, “It is possible,” he says, “but it’s a lot of hard work. It’s kind of weird that it’s hard work to be yourself (especially since) I’m already in the business of pretending to be somebody that I’m not.”

Looking Forward

Aside from plans of going to South Africa later this year to watch the World Cup and hoping for a role in an epic war movie, Derek lives his life on a complete whim. “I don’t look at my future and the only thing that will change that is if I have a kid. I do have goals,” he clarifies, “but they always keep changing. One minute my interest is in this and the next day it’s something else. It always changes. I just live life to the fullest. I can die tomorrow. I don’t care.”

Derek’s masculine features harden upon provocation but it likewise softens at the mere mention of his mother and his family. Contrary to what can be seen, Derek is very much like a boy in a beautiful man’s body. And his unapologetic approach to life – escaping it if he must to start a new one – is inspiring, if not at the very least enviable.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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