He may have followed in the footsteps of his father, but Benj Manalo aims to make a name for himself and not be known just as the son of comedy actor Jose Manalo.

In an interview, the 32-year-old revealed this was actually an “unspoken agreement” between father and son. In fact, he once tried after that to ask help from Jose but the latter told him, “kung gusto mo talaga eh gapangin mo mag-isa.”

Kind of harsh, wasn’t it, we asked.

Well, no, not at all, Benj said. It actually “pushed” him to do better.

“’Di ko siya tine-take as disadvantage na ‘di niya ako tinutulungan. Mas nakikita ko siyang tinutulungan niya ako (mag grow as individual) in that way. Ganu’n relationship namin,” he explained.

Asked if he has ever had ill feelings towards Jose’s parenting style, Benj shook his head.

benj manalo - Benj Manalo outside his father’s shadow

Benj Manalo

“Kasi not financially niya ako tutulungan or connection-wise pero tinutulungan niya ako in terms of wisdom. So mas chini-cherish ko ‘yun sa dad ko. Na kung hindi niya sa akin ginawa ‘yun, hindi ko maiintindihan kung paano ako maglalaro sa industriya (to survive).”

Benj started his career in 2005 when he auditioned for the third batch of GMA rality talent search “StarStruck.” At the time, the production staff had no idea of his affiliation with Jose until they went to visit their house in Parañaque.

Since then, the professional dancer has gained ground in his career. He is best known for playing Pinggoy on the top-rated primetime series “FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano.” He was also cast in such shows as “On The Wings Of Love,” “The Story of Us,” and “Since I Found You,” among others.

Spreading wings

After more than a decade in the business, Benj has signed a contract as Viva talent.

He left his former management agency Cornerstone with no bad blood between them.

“Gusto ko mag refresh ng career ko. Gusto ko mag-restart kasi kung mahirap makapasok, mas mahirap i-maintain ‘yung career,” he said. “So parang now nasa stage ako ng career ko and life ko — since I’m going to that phase na papakasal, I want to have a family — gusto ko lang din maging well-planned ang lahat at mas malawak ‘yung gagalawan ko, hindi na lang TV.”

Benj will be doing movies, recording and even producing series for which he wrote the script.

“I feel like I need to expand my horizons so I’m taking that route. Gusto kong talunin si Kuya (thespian Nicco Manalo) ko,” he said.

Benj is part of “24/7,” the upcoming comeback series of Julia Montes.

Next level

Benj gave updates on his wedding plan with fiancee Lovely Abella. Together for five years now, they plan to tie the knot January next year.

“‘Yun ‘yung parang pinaka gusto naming date kasi nakapagpatayo na kami ng bahay namin. We’re planning na mag-build na ng sarili naming family kasi meron na akong anak, meron na din siyang anak, so gusto namin magkaroon ng sarili namin,” he shared.

Benj has a 13-year-old son from his former wife while Lovely has a 12-year-old daughter.

They intend to make the weeding “intimate,” just a “small gathering” of friends and loved ones.

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