I was 16 then, a junior in high school, when I was forced by my classmates to join the annual fair’s singing contest. Because I’d never even attempted to join such a competition before, I nervously sang a mediocre rendition of Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” with both hands clutching the microphone as I limply swayed along to the music in one spot the entire time. Among the other contestants was a 13-year-old freshman whose name had been much talked about by the entire high school. He was clad in a black leather jacket and when he sang he took on the stage like he owned it, putting my trembling, petrified form to shame. To nobody’s surprise, Khalil Ramos bagged second place without even breaking a single drop of sweat. Simply put, he was a natural.
The spotlight has loved Khalil, performer and actor, since he was young. He sits across me, eight years later, now more recognized as a rising actor than a singer.
Despite his passion for the stage and music being his first love, Khalil never actually saw himself pursuing the life of a performer. He considered studying Information Systems in college and becoming a software engineer. It was his spontaneous decision to audition for Pilipinas Got Talent that paved the way for what would become his career in local show business. When he won second place at 15 years old thanks to his background in singing, his parents finally advised him to see where the industry would take him. Khalil signed on with Star Magic after a year and officially tried out acting through his first television role in a primetime series with industry sensations Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo, but it was only when he grasped more serious projects like Kid Kulafu and Honor Thy Father, that he began to truly fall in love with the profession.
All throughout his near six years in the business, Khalil’s riskiest move was what garnered him wide critical acclaim both here and abroad—taking the leading role in LGBT-themed coming-of-age film, 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten. The movie was awarded Best Film at the 2016 Cinema One Originals Film Festival, with Khalil earning a nomination in the Best Actor category. Film enthusiasts, directors, and critics named him a revelation of sorts, calling his portrayal of the anti-social, closeted Felix Salonga a performance with believable disillusion, longing, and subtle restraint. Co-star Ethan Salvador mentioned that Khalil used method acting to prepare for his role, distancing himself from his co-actors for a time to get into the mindset of social outcast Felix.
“In a way, it gave me much more motivation to improve my craft in the years to come. It was like a verification that this is my true calling,” Khalil shares. “[Homosexuality] is a very touchy subject especially in our country, so I had to be very careful with what message I wanted to relay to the audience. It was a huge challenge that I had to take and I wanted to take it. Personally, I seek challenges. I realized that I have to be even more open to learning, to more perspectives. The film gave me different perspectives in regards to my profession and work ethics. It’s also one of the films that pushed me into creating better content as an actor.”
And like an earnest student of his passion, he has a lot to say about the art form he’s more than eager to learn about. He oh-so-naturally throws around terms like Stanislavsky and Chubbuck as if he was a film studies major (I took a number of film and production classes in college and even I was once again put to shame). I’m nowhere near done with my interview questions and here I am instead having an honest-to-god conversation with Khalil about Indonesian action films, the world’s top movie industries, and the makings of a cult classic. I can tell that this kid is not winging it—he knows his stuff pretty damn well. Heck, what actually makes him one of the brightest young performers of the new film era isn’t just his talent; it’s his raw dedication to studying the art of acting and content innovation.
Another fun fact and even more proof of Khalil’s dedication to his craft? After taking filmmaking classes in Benilde for a brief stint, he co-founded Limitless in 2015, a creative house that specializes in online content creation, event coverage, and social media management. “It was a product of ideas from two of my friends and I, who all took a leap of faith into doing something that we love—creating content. We’ve been working with Philippine Airlines, Star Music, and other companies here and abroad. We also want to produce films in the future.”
Khalil’s work, passion, and ideals speak for himself. He is the epitome of a bright young talent filled to the brim with potential and the wits to play his cards right. While many celebrities his age are still learning the ropes bit by bit, Khalil is dead set on the goals he’s set for himself and is carefully planning his ascent to icon status. And it’s easy to notice that he’s on the right path.
He says, “My end goal is to be a well-respected, glorified actor who brought innovation into the industry, which led to a contribution into society. Right now, my goals for the near future are expanding my range as an actor, grabbing more opportunities here and abroad and mastering the art. We’re always striving to be better. To be different. To create something that the future generations would look back at. That’s it. That’s one of the reasons why I’m here—to innovate and reinvent.” And probably be a rock star on the side while he’s at it.
“We’re always striving to be better. To be different. To create something that the future generations would look back at. That’s it. That’s one of the reasons why I’m here—to innovate and reinvent.”
His road manager is pulling Khalil away so he can catch up on a guesting to promote 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten. Five minutes, I plead.
“I want to embrace the inner rocker in me that’s been in there for the longest time,” he adds at the very last minute. “We want to bring back the era when alternative rock bands were the biggest artists in the Philippines, like Callalily, Hale, and Cueshe!”
One step at a time, Khalil. You’re getting there.
Photography Koji Arboleda
Styling by Florian Trinidad and Matt Panes
Grooming by Peps Silvestre
Photographer’s Assistant Miguel Manzanero
Photographer’s Assistant Miguel Manzanero
Stylists’ Assistants Sandro Dela Peña and Franz Medina