From his insanely good looks to his exceptional artistry, Aga Muhlach has been considered as the indisputable peg of matinee idols in the country, and of course iconic achievements even boybands aspire for. And, even if he had some respites in his four-decade career, Aga never lost his luster, his appeal, and his brilliance in the craft, still getting those electrifying shrieks wherever he goes.
That surely summarizes the magic of Aga: his incredible staying power in the business despite the fickleness of the tides and the swift turnover of artists.
Blame that on his innate charm that surely bamboozled us from the time he started appearing on cam. Reminding us of the same cuteness overload of a cousin Nino, Aga enthralled us as a child actor then known in some 70s flicks as Ariel Muhlach, his real name.
But during the time he reached his teens, his adorability reached the summit! Now the dimpled cutie in those outrageous multi-colored outfits, Ariel became the Aga Muhlach every girl was screaming about. And legendary producer Tony Gloria never wasted time in signing him to the cult coming-of-age classic Bagets, directed by Maryo J. delos Reyes for Boss Vic del Rosario’s fledging Viva Films in 1983.
Now the dreamboat teen star, Aga was on everyone’s lips. He shone so bright amid his equally gorgeous co-stars in the film, it seemed the Bagets phenomenon was his own making. The film became a raucous blockbuster that drew youngsters from all walks of life to cinemas to catch these male idols in one film—led primarily by this princely face with those funky moves.
And, as the phenomenon was at its peak and his handsome face was on everyone’s minds, it was now time to showcase what really mattered: his real talent as an actor.
Who else can best bring it all out than the legendary late National Artist for Film, Lino Brocka?
His next major film, Miguelito: Ang Batang Rebelde, was a Brocka classic that carved out his intense, entrancing skill at making emphatic portrayals. Aga both presented an absorbing yet sometimes disturbing accurate portrayal of the rebellious teenager and a likeable charismatic characterization.
He got his first nods as an actor in both the FAMAS and Gawad Urian.
Since then, Aga evolved into a serious lead actor churning out memorable performances in gripping dramas and heartwarming romantic films.
Aga earned his first recognition as an actor in another Brocka-megged project, Napakasakit Kuya Eddie, opposite his partner at the time, Janice de Belen. He won the Gawad Urian Best Supporting Actor in 1986 for his role as the rebellious teenager Dino.
His next noteworthy portrayal was of another troubled youngster, Joey Boy Munti, 15 Anyos ka sa Muntinlupa, a 1991 film that earned him his first major acting award from the Young Critics Circle.
As Aga appeared in ensemble, wholesome flicks and action films, he would also essay roles that would earn him further recognition from the industry.
Aga’s first breakthrough role as the young paramour Jason to Vilma Santos’ Clara in Sinungaling Mong Puso brought him wide acclaim as a thespian and gave him his second major acting award, a FAMAS. Opposite Carmina Villaroel in Hindi Kita Malilimutan in 1993, Aga again took a Young Critics Circle acting plum.
From his string of roles as a problematic, rebellious youngster, Aga went on into a serious thespic shift into being a romantic lead in the much-appreciated genre.
His first foray into the romance genre came in 1992 when Lea Salonga, fresh from her Tony Award-winning stint as Miss Saigon, returned to local filmdom. They starred in the Jose Javier Reyes film Bakit Labis Kitang Mahal with Ariel Rivera about a wrongful turn in love becoming the right path to forever.
Star Cinema further accentuated this and made Aga, who has since been a network TV talent of ABS-CBN in its top rating weekend sitcom Oki Doki Doc, its lead actor for its signature romantic flicks.
This started in 1993 with May Minamahal, also directed by Joey Reyes, wherein he played Carlitos, a man torn between love for family and his affection towards an offbeat girl Monica, played by Aiko Melendez.
Following this was Basta’t Kasama Kita, a Rory Quintos film that paired him with the 1993 Miss Universe Dayanara Torres that was an immense box office hit in 1995.
That same year, an Olivia Lamasan-helmed masterpiece brought Aga greater distinction and massive audience acclaim. Casting him with Lea Salonga once more for Sana Maulit Muli blended Aga’s enormous romantic appeal with his impressive acting chops.
As the film eclipsed box office records, it likewise got rave reviews from critics. Aga won his fourth acting triumph, Gawad Urian’s Best Actor in 1996.
Other romantic films
Aga went on to appear in several other date flicks, notably those with Regine Velasquez that focused on the ordinary girl meeting the princely man of her dreams, such as Joyce Bernal-directed Dahil May Isang Ikaw in 1999 and Pangako…Ikaw Lang in 2001. The next year, Aga also starred in yet another Rory Quintos film, Kailangan Kita, with Claudine Barretto as a New York-based chef enamored by his fiancee’s young sister he met in Bicol.
And in 2003, a dream project went into fruition as Star Cinema brought Aga and the Megastar Sharon Cuneta together in the Joey Reyes-helmed rom-com Kung Ako Na Lang Sana. Aga won his next acting award for this film, Best Performance of an Actor in a Lead Role, Musical or Comedy, from the ENPRESS Golden Screen Awards.
Star Cinema then reunited Aga and Claudine for Rory Quintos’ immense box office hit Dubai, a 2005 film about brothers reuniting in Dubai sharing the same love for a fellow OFW living in the United Arab Emirates, which also starred John Lloyd Cruz. Aga also won Best Actor for the film in both the PMPC Star Awards for Movies and the Maria Clara Awards.
Two years later, Aga reunited with his Bagets director, Maryo J. delos Reyes, and made another milestone with a gripping performance in Star Cinema’s A Love Story with Maricel Soriano and Angelica Panganiban as the rich and ambitious Ian who is left to decide who among two beloved women really owns his heart. For this portrayal, Aga was nominated for the FAMAS, Film Academy of the Philippines, and PMPC Star Awards Best Actor awards.
Aga then appeared in another Joey Reyes film, When Love Begins, in 2008 with Anne Curtis as an environmental activist who must choose between his principles and true love, and this led him to more acting award nominations from the FAMAS and PMPC Star Awards.
But his 2011 film with Angel Locsin, Olive Lamasan’s In The Name of Love, as the dance instructor Emman falling in love with the fiancée of a politician’s son, Aga has further proven his mesmerizing stature as the country’s foremost leading man and exceptional actor, now riveting everyone with his superb dancing skills. For this performance, Aga bagged the top male acting honors in both the PMPC Star Awards and the ENPRESS Golden Screen Awards in 2012.
His last film before his four-year sabbatical, Of All The Things, also became a praiseworthy outing. While it is your typical rom-com with one familiar partner, Regine Velasquez, and director, Joyce Bernal, Aga still won his most recent acting recognition, Best Performance by an Actor in a Musical or Comedy, in the 2013 ENPRESS Golden Screen Awards.
Whatever he does, wherever he goes, Aga Muhlach reigns supreme. And as a judge in the upcoming ABS-CBN talent search Pinoy Boyband Superstar, Aga would know best because he embodies that electrifying, timeless mix of irresistible charm and awesome talent this next generation of male entertainment idols should exude.