MANILA -- Former Hashtags member Wilbert Ross went through the worse before he tasted popularity and enjoyed the fruits of his labor.
Ross was a third-year Engineering student when he dauntlessly uprooted from Davao del Sur, where his family is based, to try and make it into show business.
“Scholar ako ng Indonesian consulate, because I have Indonesian roots,” Ross told ABS-CBN News. “Pero hindi ko natapos. Hindi ko na kayang pagsabayin ang studies ko at showbiz.”
His paternal grandfather migrated from Indonesia to Davao. Ross, the second and only boy in a brood of four children. also has Chinese blood.
“Dapat full ang attention when you take up Engineering,” he continued. “Hindi ko na pinagpatuloy.”
It was in November 2016 when then 19-year-old Ross left Davao to pursue his dreams in Manila.
“Nakitira ako sa pinsan ko sa Novaliches,” Ross shared. “He was a construction worker. Wala talaga akong kilala sa Manila. Talagang dayo ako dito.
“Tabi-tabi kaming matulog sa bahay nila. Ang mga katabi ko, kapatid ng asawa niya na construction workers din. Shoulder to shoulder lang kami matulog.
“Kapag na stretch ko ang kamay ko, abot na ng paa ko ang wall. Ganu’n kaliit lang ang place nila. They were in the squatter’s area. Tapos apat na sakay bago ako makarating sa ABS-CBN.
“Isipin niyo na ako probinsyano at first time pumunta ng Manila. Mag-isa lang akong sumasakay ng bus. Allowance ko P1,500 a week pinapadala ng Mama ko. Nandun na lahat ang pamasahe, pagkain three times a day. Tiniis ko ‘yun.”
One time, Ross took the wrong bus to Novaliches and he went down in Monumento. “Naiyak ako noon sa daan,” he recalled. “Wala akong choice dahil magta-taxi ako. Ang laki ng mawawala sa P1,500 ko dahil start pa lang ng week at that time. I was trying to survive.”
Ross joined “Pinoy Boy Band,” but didn’t make the cut, so he returned to Davao. However, a number of folks enticed him to return to Manila, with the promise to help him embark on other opportunities in showbiz. But nothing happened with the promises.
“At that point, tumawag na ako kay Mama,” Ross recalled. “Tinanong ko siya kung tama ba na I gave up my studies tapos wala naman akong ginagawa sa Manila. Umiiyak ako sa kanya noon.
“Sabi ni Mama sa akin, ‘Anak, umuwi ka na lang dito. Ipagpatuloy mo na lang ang pag-aaral mo. Kaysa mahirapan ka diyan’.”
But Ross didn’t throw in the towel that early. “Tiniis ko na lang talaga. Gusto ko talaga dito sa showbiz. Kung may gagawin ako sa buhay ko at mapapagod din ako, at least, masaya ako sa ginagawa ko. Gusto ko ang ginagawa ko.
“May scholarship ako. Pwede kong tapusin ang studies ko. In terms of money, may future na ako dahil may naghihintay na work sa Indonesia. Pero masaya ba ko sa ginagawa ko?”
He learned about the public audition for Hashtags in “It’s Showtime.” He tried his luck and by February 2017 and he was launched as one of the original 16 members of the all-boy group. They became regulars on “It’s Showtime,” appearing daily for three years.
“Dati kasi, wala akong chance to show I could act in front of the cameras, dahil wala namang projects na binibigay sa akin,” Ross said. “Puro sayaw kami sa ‘It’s Showtime.’
“Sa Viva, binigyan ako agad ng chance to make it or break it with my lead role in ‘Boy Bastos.’ I am grateful.”
When Ross joined Viva in 2021, he initially played supporting roles in Al Tantay’s comedy, “Shoot, Shoot: ‘Di Ko Siya Titigilan” and GB Sampedro’s “Crush Kong Curly,” where he was paired with sexy actress AJ Raval.
After his solo comedy starrer “Boy Bastos,” which streamed on Vivamax last year, Ross is back in another comedy flick, “Working Boys 2: Choose Your Papa,” a modern take on the 1985 film originally starred in by the Tito, Vic and Joey triumvirate.
The project, megged by Paolo O’Hara, reunites Ross with his fellow Hashtags members Vitto Marquez and Nikko Natividad. Others in the cast are Andrew Muhlach and Mikoy Morales.
To be shown in cinemas on March 29, “Working Boys 2: Choose Your Papa” has a supporting cast that includes Bayani Agbayani, Marissa Sanchez, Bob Jbeili, Juliana Parizcova Segovia, with Debbie Garcia, Angelic Guzman and Divine Aucina.
While Ross’ “Boy Bastos” has taken the sexy route, he will never bare or go all-out on the big screen. In fact, the 25-year-old actor wants to take time off from sexy roles.
“Bagay ba sa akin mag sexy?” Ross asked. “Hanggang sexy comedy lang talaga ako. Hindi ko na kaya ‘yung standard Vivamax sexy.”
When fellow Hashtags member Nikko Natividad also joined Viva, the latter proved his flair for comedy. Yet, Ross doesn’t see Natividad as competition or threat to what he does.
“Si Nikko, loud ang comedy niya at sexy naman siya,” Ross commented. “Ako, deadpan talaga ako. Na-master ko talaga to be tanga onscreen. Sobrang effective daw ako maging tanga.”
At the start of the pandemic in 2020, Ross stayed with Vice Ganda for two weeks. “At that time, pandemic, limited naman talaga ang interaction mo with people,” Ross said.
“Since mag-isa lang ako dito sa Manila at wala din work, sabi ni Vice, doon na muna ako mag-stay sa bahay niya para may kasama sila.
“Kasama ako sa pagkain, sa paglaro ng badminton, sa kulitan. When Viva got me, nagpaalam na ako kay Vice. May mga projects na ako with Viva.”
To date, Ross has purchased his own car and is paying for the amortization of his condominium unit in Quezon City.
He is also planning to start a business with his friends. He promised to post the product on social media once his plan materializes.