(The article first appeared as the cover story of Men’s Health August 2012 issue)
GERALD Anderson hates losing.
Even just the memory of losing a basketball game more than 10 years ago in General Santos City, where he spent most of his teenage years, makes him shake his head in slight annoyance. “Ginawa ako ng basketball court ng mommy ko kasi natalo kami sa half-court sa harap ng bahay namin,” he says, twisting his mouth and then chuckling about it good-naturedly. “Umiyak ako. Sinumbong ko sa mommy ko na natalo kami kaya gumawa kami ng Anderson Home Court sa likod ng bahay namin.”
Even if he was always vocal about his love for the game, Anderson the basketball player is a side that’s rarely seen or heard by the public. It’s also his more accessible side, a more relaxed facet of the actor who has set thousands of hearts fluttering with a smile in rom-coms and count¬less teleseryes. While there’s a perceived gap between celebrities and ordinary folk, Anderson the actor takes a back seat today. There’s easiness to his gait as if no one’s watching him as he walks into the shoot. With the basketball in hand, the guy is oblivious to the many eyes set on him and swishes jumpers in succession.
Having just come off a vacation, Anderson explains that he has been getting enough rest lately. His new soap is just about to start shooting so he has been taking advantage of the break to play basketball. “Mahirap mag-balance ng work at life, lalo na kapag may soap na ginagawa,” he shares. “Buti nga, lately, marami akong free time, so almost every day nagba-basketball ako.” He squeezes basketball games in between his morning and evening boxing sessions. He’s even scheduled to play against top collegiate and Philippine Basketball As¬sociation (PBA) ballers after the shoot. “Basta ‘pag may chance ako maglaro, gina-grab ko. ‘Yung opportunity sinusulit ko dahil kung may taping mahirap na.”
One mention of the word “basketball,” and Anderson’s eyes light up. We caught a glimpse of the lanky boy from the province who dreamed of becoming a professional basketball player in his introductory clip on the first Pinoy Big Brother (PBB) Teen Edition back in 2006. This was all overshadowed, though, by his movie star potential and the blossoming of what would be one of the most successful onscreen love teams of this generation. But his commercial-league stint under the Mansoto Trucking team at the MY League tournament last May drew attention back to his basketball roots. He scored 34 points, displaying excellent range by sinking five triples, to bring his team to the semis. Anderson also dropped 58 during a Marist all-alumni league game, an impressive record only beaten by an ex-PBA player who had 60.
The interest in his game may be new, but he has been working on it for quite some time. Anderson’s love for the game and for sports in general is something so deeply rooted in him that he doesn’t remember a time when he wasn’t into it. Growing up in Missouri before his family moved to the Philippines, he was already enlisting in as many varsity teams as he could. He played basketball during the winter and baseball and American football in the summer.
But it was here in the Philippines that his love for basketball grew by leaps and bounds. “Sa GenSan kasi, besides boxing, [basketball] ‘yung pinakasikat,” Anderson explains. “Every day, we played basketball. ‘Yun ‘yung bonding namin. After basketball, basketball pa rin ang pina¬guusapan. (Basketball was) pastime, bonding, hobby, and passion. Naging way din siya for me para matutunan ko ‘yung language, ‘yung Bisaya.”
Growing up, he looked up to NBA superstar Allen Iverson. He confesses, “Idol na idol ko talaga. Sa kanya ko binase ‘yung game ko. Up to now, jersey number 3 pa rin ako dahil sa kanya.” Anderson also looked up to Fil-Ams like Danny Seigle because he thought that, if they could make it to the professional basketball league, then his dream of doing the same couldn’t be far behind. After watching his first PBA game at the Cuneta Astrodome, he became more determined to improve his game. “In 2006, bago ako nag-PBB, nag-MVP ako sa GenSan sa interschool league namin,” he says. “Tapos ‘yung dream ko talaga was to play basketball. ‘Yung pag-aartista talaga sobrang layo. Never pumasok sa isip ko.”
Anderson may have wanted a career on the hard court, but he ended up pursuing a career in show business instead, which comes as no surprise. He admits with a hint of embarrassment that he was already a sort of a star way back when he was playing for his school in GenSan. Girls from the other team would cheer for him, pissing off his team’s opponents. So it really wasn’t much of a surprise when he broke through on national television. “Nag-provincial show sina Joross Gamboa sa GenSan,” he recalls. “Dahil kilala ako ng mga guard, pinapasok ako sa backstage. Tapos nakilala ko na sina Joross at si kuya Jun Reyes, ‘yung manager niya noon. They told me na pumunta raw ako sa Manila dahil may chance daw ako mag-artista. Tapos nag-backup dancer ako sa mall shows ni Joross.” And the rest is TV history. After his appearance in PBB, the films and soaps came flooding in and his passion for basketball seemed to be put on hold, at least to the public.
But he never really stopped playing. “Kahit noong nandito na ako sa showbiz, nagba-basketball pa rin ako dahil ‘yun na ‘yung bonding namin nila Joross,” Anderson says. It was also his way of making new friends as he was starting in show business. Fellow actors Rayver Cruz, Joseph Bitangcol, and MH guy Jason Abalos are some of his closest buddies on and off the basketball court. “Kahit busy sa shooting, sinisingit ko talaga ang basketball. It’s my way of releasing stress and it’s how I exercise. Passion ko talaga to play,” Anderson adds. “May times na sobrang pagod ako, but once tumapak ako sa court, nawawala na.”
At present, he idolizes newly minted champ LeBron James of the Miami Heat. He tries to copy LeBron’s game on the court but he doesn’t admit to having any signature move. What he does have is his own quirky rituals. “I always wear my right sock and shoe first,” he shares, chuckling. “Kapag may itatapon akong basura, tapos hindi na shoot, kailangan ko ibalik kasi feel ko maba-bad game ako.”
While Anderson remains lively during our conversation, his quick, sweeping gestures betray his excitement to get on with the shoot. He is buzzed about today’s concept. Basketball is a huge part of his life, and showing his moves off on camera is definitely something he’s looking forward to.
Once we step outside and he has a ball in his hand, he becomes a blur of movement as he dribbles, performs fluid layups, showcases his mid-range accuracy, and just leaps tirelessly. It’s no wonder, then, that going to the gym bores him. “Hindi talaga ako ma-gym,” Anderson says. “Hindi ako mahilig magbuhat ng weights. Gusto ko ‘yung tumatakbo ako. I don’t stay in one spot. Gusto ko takbuhan, ‘yung feeling na tinatalo mo ‘yung opponents mo.”
There’s no doubt about it — Anderson is an adrenaline junkie, and he gets his dose when he’s on the hard court. He lives for moments when everything is on the line. An easy win doesn’t seem to satisfy him; it’s the struggle to triumph that gets him fired up. “Yung papagurin mo talaga ang sarili mo, kahit nag kra-cramps ka na, kahit pagod na pagod na ‘yung katawan mo,” he says. “Gagawin ko talaga lahat para manalo ang team. Sanay na ang katawan ko na pinapagod siya.”
Pushing his physical limits seems to be a lifelong habit for Anderson. Two months ago, he weighed 183 lbs. Currently, he weighs 173 lbs. And he still wants to go down to 168, even if the ideal weight for his 5’10” frame is 175. When asked why, he just shrugs. He likes how fast he’s moving now and how high he’s able to jump. Anderson simply wants to find out if his body can handle losing more weight and if he can still remain competitive as he gets leaner.
Competition drives Anderson, but not just on the court. It’s a mantra he keeps repeating to himself. “In life, you have to be equally competitive,” he says with furrowed brows. “Sa ABS-CBN, sa dinami-dami naming artista at halos lahat magaling, halos lahat gutom, you have to be competitive. And you have to improve in every aspect. Your number one opponent is yourself kasi ‘pag naging tamad ka na, talo ka na. Talo ka sa iba, talo ka pa sa sarili mo.”
Anderson seemed to be stuck in stereotypical heartthrob roles for a while, until the soap Tayong Dalawa, where he played a soldier, came along. This showed a rougher, edgier side to Anderson, and he began to sport a bulkier frame fit for the role he played. His turn as Tiagong Akyat in Agimat: Ang Mga Alamat ni Ramon Revilla further cemented his status as a budding action star. But just when we thought we were onto his game plan as an actor, he threw us a curve ball and played the mentally challenged Budoy in a soap, which garnered him praises for his acting chops.
Anderson admits that keeping yourself motivated is never easy, but it’s the secret to his success so far. “Parang si Michael Jordan noong araw, after six championships, ano pa ba?” he says. “Ang motivation na lang niya is to look back at [the value of] his wins and losses. Kasi nawawala ‘yung feeling to strive. Hindi na gutom. I always stay focused on my goals. Iniisip ko kung para kanino ko ito ginagawa, at kung saan ko pa gusto makarating. Kung ano ‘yung energy na makukuha mo dun, work on that,” he adds with the determined seriousness of a life coach. “Hunger pushes you. It’s what keeps you motivated.”
When it comes to basketball, he has one definite goal in mind. “Pangarap ko talagang maglaro ng isang professional season para alam ko rin kung hanggang saan ang kaya ko.” For now, he’s enjoying his stints with the Star Magic All-Star basketball team that tours around the country and plays basketball for charity. Last April, they played and won against the Hong Kong Pinoy League. Anderson recalled that it was a fun experience he shared with his fellow actors, especially while they were on a bus pretending to be an NBA team. His dream team now is Gilas Pilipinas. “That’s every players dream, para i-represent ang bansa. Pangarap ko ‘yun,” he declares.
He’s also excited about wrapping up his first indie film, helmed by director Tikoy Aguiluz. He excitedly shares that he got to meet the action choreographer of Thai action film Ong-Bak, who personally trained him and co-star Jake Cuenca in mixed martial arts and knife fighting. Anderson even reveals an injury he got from overshooting a knife lunge move with a sense of pride.
His thoughts move as quickly as he does on the court, and after admitting that he does his own stunts, he immediately goes back to his first love, basketball. “One season lang talaga, masaya na ako,” he says softly, his eyes far away, perhaps imagining himself on the break or nailing a long-range dagger, we never know. What you do know is the guy is always hungry to win at anything he sets out to do.
“Marami pa akong gustong gawin. Gutom pa,” he says, smiling reassuringly. “Gutom na gutom pa.”
FEED YOUR DRIVE
Gerald Anderson drops dimes on his secrets to staying fit
MUSIC MOTIVATES “Do you notice how some NBA players have their headphones on when they walk in the court? They’re setting their mood. I listen to hip-hop para papunta pa lang sa game, pumped up na.”
GOOD, FAST CARDIO “Do situps and pushups. Kahit 30 minutes lang a day bago ka matulog o pagkagising mo. Or jogging.”
LOVE YOUR FOOD, BUT LOVE YOUR SPORTS MORE “Ninety percent of the time, I eat healthy. Sometimes I indulge. Kaya masarap din mag-sports. Kung gusto mo kumain ng marami, mag-sports ka. Parang si Michael Phelps, grabe kumain ‘yun. Pero grabe rin ‘yung nabu-burn n’yang calories sa swimming.”
LISTEN TO YOUR IDOLS “Sabi ni Charles Barkley na mas malakas ang mga NBA player ngayon kaysa sa panahon nila kasi dati ang paniniwala hindi ka dapat nag wo-workout kasi kailangan flexible ka. Tapos ngayon the players are working out. So they’re stronger, more powerful.”