Miguel Tanfelix gets candid about his own kind of self-care, growing up in front of strangers, and where he sees himself in an industry he once left behind
Miguel Tanfelix derives freedom and a sense of normalcy from backpacking across a foreign land, where he could go by days without any kind of itinerary—just the hostels and hotels. The latter is where he usually spends his last few days, so he could taste the best of both worlds. He goes solo, too. The space gives him time to recalibrate and reflect, two things that are hard to come by in the flurry of dealings in an actor’s life. It’s his own way of indulging in self-care–one that allows him to feel steady in mind and body.
Two years ago, the destination was Europe. He was going to explore the continent for a month. But work for Voltes V: Legacy, the Filipino adaptation of the Japanese anime series—and probably his biggest project to date—kept him from leaving the country for long periods of time. He instead wandered around Japan.
“Growing up in this industry, there’s a lot of people surrounding you, people telling you what to do,” the 24–year-old actor tells MEGA Man. “With solo travel, I can be myself. Hindi ko kailangan sumunod sa decisions ng iba, walang influence ng ibang tao. I’ll do what I what, eat what I can, and babangon ako sa kama kung kailan ko gusto. It makes me feel free. Mas ramdam ko sarili ko pag ako lang mag-isa. Mas marami din akong taong nami-meet kapag ako lang mag-isa. And ayoko ’yong nakukulong din ako sa plano ng isang araw. ’Pag may hindi ka nagawa, mafu-frustrate ka lang.”
Unlike many actors who began working in front of the cameras as children, Tanfelix is okay with having commonplace experiences. In fact, a lot of times, he thrives in them.
Starting in showbiz at five years old, via the hit reality talent competition Starstruck, Tanfelix left the spotlight during what he calls the “awkward stage,” and decided to go back to school. At the time, as he had passion for and excelled in anything that had numbers in it, he thought he could become an engineer. But the door to his showbiz career opened again. And as a man who describes himself as “always curious,” he instinctively entered that door, uncertain of what lies beyond a returning child star’s life.
“I’m thankful na dumating ’yon dahil kahit papaano, naranasan kong maging normal na estudyante, normal na bata, naglalaro sa labas, nagko-commute,” he says, and adds that once in a while, he’d still get minor roles. “I think I also needed that stay humble. ’Pag hindi mo pinagdaanan mga gano’ng bagay, parang ang hirap maka-relate sa mga tao.”
With 1.4 million followers on his Instagram alone, the long pause evidently hasn’t made a dent in his career. Instead, his comeback gave him a way to shift gears, without sacrificing his ideal version of himself.
“When I came back, I had to learn paano maging professional ulit,” he admits. “In high school, you’re with your friends, pag-aaral lang iniisip mo. Wala ka sa professional environment. Feeling ko kasi mas mature ang mga taong nasa showbiz. Ako, for example, I started at an early age, so kailangan agad ’yong professionalism, kung paano ako kumilos, kung paano makitungo sa ibang tao.”
But reciprocal to that self-confession is the subtle way he exudes cool and class in his eloquence and lack of pretension. A few moments spent with him made us certain that this guy is sincerely okay with being his utter, unfiltered self. He doesn’t go back and forth between words. He doesn’t edit himself often for fear of saying something wrong. It could be because he takes long pauses and ponders on questions before he speaks. And he emits his words precisely as he means them: “I never had to change anything about myself, or kahit no’ng bumalik ako. Normal kasi akong tao, simple. I mean, I can’t pretend na susyal ako, o ganito ako kumilos.”
When Tanfelix is in a conversation he remains solely focused on the person he’s talking to. But then, for some reason, the listener gets a feeling that there’s a lot more to him that can be unraveled—and may remain hidden. It gives him an air of mystique or contradiction, which translates to his style.
In our shoot, he is comfortable—and having fun—in a glimmering suit, a laced choker with floral appliqué, an oversized neon suit over a turtleneck shirt, or a velvet top. But arrived, equally at ease, in a casual shirt-and-jeans combo, finished with a bomber jacket.
He’s a less-is-more kind of guy, he says. But he can play along with trends and style just because it’s exciting. His grooming routine is the same: no fuss, clean and simple. In his younger years, he admits to trying out the multi-step routine day and night when everyone was talking about it. Now, he washes his face every night with soap from his doctor. In the morning, it’s water and sunscreen.
“Medyo impatient kasi ako pagdating sa gano’n,” he says, shrugging. Instead, he focuses on the food he puts in his body. “I don’t eat oily food masyado. Then, sleep is number one. ’Pag puyat, doon nagda-dry, nagkaka-problems. Basta I clean my face before sleeping, ’yon. And I don’t share my pillows, my blanket, with anyone.”
A common trait of Tanfelix’s pursuits is that they are linked to his curiosity. “I’m curious not just about acting, but also the craft itself and what’s happening behind the camera,” he says.
When he has free time on set, he talks to the cameramen, the director, and asks them a lot of why and hows: “I’m also curious about how people are in real life, especially those I portray. I think kasi na-expose agad ako sa real world simula bata pa lang. Naisip ko kaagad na ang laki pala ng mundo. I think that’s where my curiosity about everything began.”
In Voltes V: Legacy, he explores this curiosity to put his own insight into the main protagonist, Steve Armstrong. To prepare himself for the role, he watched a lot of films that revolved around male leaders who know how to win a fight and be vulnerable at the same time—Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, and Michael Douglas were on his list. He also learned how to fire a gun and ride a manual big bike–the latter is starting to become a real hobby.
“My characters before, submissive, paawa, pa-cute, underdog,” he explains. “It’s my first time to play the role of a leader. Kaya inaral ko sila para mapag-aralan ’yong buong spectrum ng male characters.”
And what have you learned from this research? We ask.
“You can’t fake it,” he answers without hesitation. “There’s a part of yourself na kailangan mong palabasin. Nadi-discover mo siya along the way, pero hindi mo pa siya pinapalabas dahil, alam mo ’yon, kapag bata ka pa, kasama mo pa parents mo. I can’t say I relate to them more than sa mga mga pa-sweet, but iba lang. I learned a lot about the spectrum of characters as I was learning about the character and myself.”
The spectrum he says is very much like how he views the modern Filipino man, one who is willing to run to the frontlines when the going gets tough. He says, “I don’t think nagbabago ang Filipino men; nag-iiba lang ang façade. But behind that, is still the man na mapagmahal and matatapang. Handa kang protektahan. Kakayanin mo ang lahat para sa mga taong mahal mo.”
His definition of manhood may be heavy on traditions and constancy, but certainly, in front of our eyes, he has evolved and transformed since we first saw him almost 20 years ago.
With his curious nature, he could do that again and again, transforming himself into a different person with a different and, perhaps, a bigger mission. In fact, when they wrap Voltes V: Legacy, he is planning on going back to school to study directing. An open university is in the pipeline.
“I can decide for myself now, in terms of career path,” he says. “It’s very critical to know where you want to go. I want to be known as an actor who takes challenging roles. Less on the sexy side.” He pauses for a while, then laughs at his own thoughts. “I’ve received offers that can mislead that path. I’ve been in showbiz for twenty years, and never pa akong naghubad talaga. I’m also still very shy, and maybe I’m not ready yet for that. We’re the conservative ones.”
Voltes V: Legacy is slated to air for four months, at least initially, and he has personal projects along the way, he adds. Guest appearances and promotional activities keep on coming, too. Despite streamlining his choice of projects, it’s been getting pretty busy—and he wouldn’t have it any other way. Although, we think, maybe he needs to start planning the next backpacking trip.
Photography RENZO NAVARRO, assisted by JOSH TAN
Creative Direction MARC YELLOW, assisted by ANDREW ENCAPAS
Fashion Direction RYUJI SHIOMITSU
Styling MACKY COMBE
Makeup LALA FLORES
Hair CHRISTIAN BOJO
Sittings Editors BAM ABELLON and PAM RODRIGUEZ
Video Production REGINA ACERON
Videography EXCEL PANLAQUE
Shoot Coordination KZ FRANCISCO
Shot on Location B&B STUDIOS