It’s around noon on the first week of February when a call broke the humdrum of a regular office workday.
On the other end of the line, Bruno narrates the Valentine’s plan he’s crafted for his girlfriend and over the phone I listen to his story as I sat on a carpeted hallway with a paper and pencil on hand. My hurried scribbling at the moment did not do legible justice to a rom-com-esque plan I was hearing about, but I caught the words and kept them in mind. When the realization settled in, strings of words were finally distilled into wonder: there I was, giddy to be privy to Bruno’s romantic surprise of a diamond necklace straight from a factory in Hong Kong for a long-distance and early thoughtful surprise — but perhaps even a bigger surprise is to hear it told in earnest sincerity with no hint of feigned nonchalance. And in as much sunny enthusiasm, to hear him share the response afterwards of his Valentine.
It was difficult to find the words to describe someone who is adamant to be true amidst an era that celebrates filters. Not for the lack of a metaphor or for the lack of anything to say, but as Margaret Atwood did say, nothing is more opaque than absolute transparency. But eventually, the picture sinks in and the realization arrives that on the other end of the line was someone who wears his heart on his sleeve — in the endearing, earnest, and gift-bearing essence of those words. And there’s no need for smoke and mirrors. When contrasted side-to-side — tricks versus honesty — there is no debate which one doesn’t go out of style.
Hit record, play
Though a multi-hyphenate, there is no disconnect for Bruno between the fields he’s immersed in, whether it’s with sports, acting, modeling, or other creative interests. Linking the dots like constellations on paper, he begins, “Everything is connected. Whatever it is you do […] there’s always something you’d learn along the way.”
And it’s no wonder why Bruno as a man into sports also overlaps with Bruno as the actor when he is on set. The palpable energy he brings with him is hard to miss.
But the work ethic of seeing things integrated is an asset that translates to other things. Where people see ordinary, Bruno sees creative material. Where people see old school tools, he sees whimsical twist and efficiency.
And having an eye for what makes stories gripping is a byproduct of his own colorful story. Joining the film club at school and bagging a cinematography award at a campus competition was enough nudge to fuel his vision of telling stories. “For me, whatever it is, I have to live a life where I would be able to create narrative art,” he shares. “I love recording everything. Right now siguro at this point almost everyday of my life, I’ve somewhat shot a video.”
And it actually wasn’t so difficult to imagine. Even as I hear it on the phone, my mind jumps to a picture of Bruno — holding a camera comfortably on one hand almost the way a writer would hold a pen as an extension of an arm, the film in his camera rolling the way a writer would thumb through the pages of a diary — telling stories still, regardless if he was in front of the camera or behind it.
But his entrance into showbiz is also a story in itself.
Also recognized as the son of Lani Lobangco, Bruno acknowledges that the counsel of family and industry mentors reduced the friction of his arrival in the industry and also prepared him with what to expect. “I’m really grateful for them […] because of my family, I get to walk the world with a lot of confidence.”
Did his mom share the dos-and-don’ts for when in showbiz? Bruno distills her advice simply: either you’re sincerely passionate about it or you don’t have to be in it — there is no room to be half-hearted. And this advice, Bruno carries not only about showbiz, but for many of the hobbies he’s involved in.
What is done with much heart is done well — and as it echoes truth in a person’s calling, so it also offers a glimpse of what’s next for Bruno as an actor telling stories.
Plans get the notoriety for being events that wait somewhere in the next pages of a calendar.
For example, when Bruno shares that among his dream roles was to play the role of Crisostomo Ibarra, it sounds like it only has something to do with the future. The same thing goes with the documentaries infused with intricate details that he hopes to do.
But the thing about plans is that they paint a picture of what is at present, too.
And what they paint is a Bruno who converts attention into experience. An actor who is in it for the platform, not merely for the rewards. A storyteller who shares not just for the sake of novelty, but for something much more profound.
Bruno fondly shares the advice of acting coach, Yan Yuzon, “If people are going to have their eyes on you, might as well teach them something.”
But for a guy who can jump from a conversation about movies to topics like scuba diving and space, if a phonecall is just as much an opportunity to teach, it’s fascinating to surmise what the impact of his career as an actor could leave.
“I want to leave the impression that I’m a person who gets it, there’s no need to explain, I know exactly what’s going on,” he muses in a tone laced with empathy and explains the common lengths people are pushed to portray and project an image. “I want people to see me with a profound sense of truthfulness.”
And this principle is subtly referenced with the many things that Bruno does or hopes to do. Whether it’s with his creative vision to immerse viewers into familiar, personal details on screen that hit close to home or simply with a gesture to answer questions in spontaneity, Bruno goes counterculture by stepping out into a lifestyle of truthfulness without turning a blind eye on non-truthfulness and the many ways it fragments. “That may be my biggest message as an influential person […] I want people to place a high premium on truth,” Bruno reflects. “Isn’t pretending to be a character hard enough?”
There is no challenge to imagine him as an actor who infuses a delicate balance between reality and fiction. And in the combination of both also rises the intersection of narratives that are as personal as much as they are universal. It also wouldn’t be a surprise if he arrives at a point of seeing his dream materialize wherein hearing Bruno Gabriel makes you think of stories that challenge nuances — comedies that make you cry and drama that makes you laugh, but most importantly, stories that help you see up close and understand.
It’s one thing to root for a movie character whose motivations are revealed in a fictional dimension; it’s another to root for an actor whose words and point-of-view affect real scenarios. For Bruno, in real or in reel, there is no boundary in the objective to spark more honest conversations. Grounded and yet to walk several more memorable miles of both days and films, Bruno journeys on as a raconteur, telling the story of walking in different shoes —- a frame at a time
Photography Von Buenconsejo
Assisted by Danielle Nepales
Grooming Jorie Tacuban
Story by Danielle Arcon