Pepe Herrera reminds me of a kuya.
I was hanging with Andrei, the photographer, and the rest of the folks over at Kapwa Studio when Benny–I mean, Pepe–comes in with his hair slicked back. He’s taller than I thought. Skinnier, too. He introduces himself in his deep voice and a firm handshake, but also with a warm smile. He’s confident yet he doesn’t have any airs with him. The way he carries himself has this good balance of kwela and maginoo; wise beyond his years yet not high-strung enough to be stubborn. A typical kuya, I tell you. Funnily enough, he’s the youngest of four.
After his long-running (and well-loved) stint as Benny in Ang Probinsiyano, Pepe Herrera takes a break from acting to go outside and see the world–something Sakaling Hindi Makarating, of which he plays the hopeless romantic teacher Paul, touches on in detail. We sit with the actor to find out about his opposite side.
How much of yourself do you see in Paul?
I see myself in every role that I do. At least a parcel of me. Sabi nga ni Shrek, paborito ko yung sinabi ni Shrek na “I’m like an onion.” Sabi ni Donkey, “Because you smell?” “No, because I have layers!” Hindi naman siya palaging nakakatakot. Meron rin siyang feelings. So ‘yun, I tap that…the sensitive side, the hopeless romantic side.
Which side of you showed the most in Paul?
The hopeless romantic. Lahat naman tayo may ganoong side. We want to meet someone who gets us, at pwede nating pagsabihan ng kahit ano. At the same time, kasama ng kasama natin, at everyday life. That’s common for human beings. Paul is really into that. I have a lot of moments where I’m like that. Kaya ako mahilig sa movies like The Notebook, like Love Actually. Doon ako nagfocus when I was doing Paul. Naaalala ko yung mga panahon na sobrang in-love ako sa Love Actually, especially the part na may “Enough! Enough already!” Tagos yun eh. I guess a lot of us can relate to that.
What do you think of the ending?
I love it!
I had the idea that it was open-ended.
It is open ended. I love the fact that anything can happen after that. Gusto ko yung idea na yung manonood can decide what will happen. It’s up to you. I love those kinds of endings. Kasi, kung ako tinanong mo, ‘yung nangyari doon is pumunta ako sa ibang bansa. Nagiwan ako ng note kasi hindi ako bumibitaw. I adore Cielo. I want to know her more. Nakapasok na ako sa gate eh. Success! Nandoon na ako sa point na, “let’s be more comfortable with each other,” pero kailangan na niya umalis. Ayoko bitawan ‘yun. And at the same time ayoko tumigil yung buhay ko. So here’s a note: it’s up to you Cielo on what you’ll do next. So feeling ko, nagkatuloy parin ang communication ni Paul and Cielo. Through, I don’t know, Skype, Messenger, Instagram, Facebook. And then, from there, I don’t know, nagkainlaban sila, naging mag best friends sila, maybe naging confidante sila na sinasabi ni Paul kung sino nakilala niya sa ibang bansa. Ganun kalawak ang pelikula for me.
Speaking of moving to another country, I read na magttravel ka somewhere else sometime soon.
Yes, isa yun sa mga lugar.
What are you looking forward to?
Travel. Growing up, Na-expose ako sa ganoon eh, because my mom was a social worker. Sinasama niya ako sa mga workshops, sa mga team building kasama yung mga trainees. She used to train different people for training centers abroad. Being a social worker, it’s part of her calling.
So you were travelling since way back?
Yes, since I Was five years old. Noong time na ‘yun, sa provinces. Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Batangas. At a very young age nalaman ko na malaki pala ang mundo, hindi lang pala bahay ko. So ‘yun, that’s why I fell in love with travelling. Sa hilig ko magtravel yun yung unang naging trabaho ko after college.
What was your job?
Seaman. Nagtrabaho ako sa crewship for ten months.
Were you anything in particular?
Waiter, and on the side, Singer. I graduated at the UST Conservatory of Music pero ‘yung main job ko sa barko, waiter. Kasi gusto nila ng waiter na kaya kumanta ng opera. Tinuruan nila ako maging waiter.
I was able to travel to different places around Europe because of that. Eastern Mediterranean and Red Sea ‘yung destination namin noon.
Did you get tired?
Sa barko? Nakakapagod na masarap.
Why did you leave?
Okay na ako. Nakuha ko na yung gusto kong makuha.
Travel and also because I wanted to focus on performing after that phase of my life. Nakatulong rin siguro na nakasama ko yung tinatawag nilang show team doon. Mga entertainers sa barko. They perform excerpts from different musicals cabaret-style every day. Sila yung nakabarkada ko during my free time
After that, where’d you go next?
Umuwi ako dito, winaldas ko yung inipon ko. Celebrate with friends every day hanggang sabi ko it’s time to do something productive. Nag-audition ako sa different places, natanggap ako, and the rest is history. Hanggang pumasok ako sa Rak of Aegis.
So, how long are you going to continue travelling?
I don’t know, eh. As long as it takes. Pero siguro next year I’ll be back. Or the middle of this year. I’m planning to leave after “Sa Wakas.” Hopefully after a month or two I’m flying already.
Yeah, may mga balak akong gawin din. I have advocacies in life. May mga gusto rin akong gawin na sabihin nating documentaries or short videos. May nakasundo akong kaibigan na high school palang gumagawa na kami ng short films eh. Siya yung na-realize niyang gusto mag direct, ako na-realize kong gusto kong magperform. Kaya nagkasundo kami. Ayun gumagawa kami ng mga film hanggang na nag Fine Arts siya sa UP at ako nag Music sa UST. Until now we do that. Sa New Zealand lang siya makakasama pero I’m planning to do more after that. Just you know, exploring different cultures.
Was there ever a time that you got tired in being creative, that you lost your creative juices?
Napapagod lang naman ako pag wala akong tulog. Sabi nga ng kaibigan ko na para akong may ADHD. Sinasabi ko sa kaibigan ko na may concept ako this day tapos the next day may bago nanaman akong concept.
Ever since I was a kid I love to daydream. I write things na feeling ko interesting. Hanggang ngayon, ganun ako. Hindi ako napapagod, basta meron akong sapat na tulog.
There are a lot of people growing up right now that don’t feel confident in pursuing creative work for the rest of their lives, and there are also people that end up without any inspiration, like having writer’s block. Do you have any advice?
I don’t believe in writer’s block. I believe in pressures of society. Kaya ka siguro nagka writers block kasi iniisip mo yung iisipin ng ibang tao. So you edit yourself.
‘Yung pressure ng adult life na kailangan umarte ako ng ganito kasi matanda na ako, ‘yun yung pumapatay sa creative juice. Magsusulat ba ako tungkol sa man that falls in love with a man that has a wife? Uhh, hindi kasi baka i-judge ako eh. Feeling ko nagsisimula sa ganun eh. I believe in a lot of distractions.
Career-wise, what’s your next move?
I don’t believe in career. I believe in a calling. Because when you think in terms of career you think about the money.
What’s your calling right now?
Just explore the world, and spread love and joy and peace.
Catch Pepe Herrera at Sakaling Hindi Makarating, showing at cinemas nationwide today.
Photos by Andrei Suleik
Grooming by Leslie Espinosa of Kapwa Studio
Styled by Merry Chris Rodriguez
Shot in Kapwa Studio