MANILA, Philippines — There’s a goldmine of quotes out there to describe ties that bind brothers. Like, someone wise once said that there’s “no other love like the love for a brother and that there’s no other love like the love from a brother.”

For brothers Alfred and Patrick Michael “PM” Vargas, they said they were raised as best of friends and their bond helped make life’s challenges and curveballs “bearable” because they have each other.

The STAR had a glimpse of their dynamics as siblings in a recent chat via e-mail. Alfred, 39, readily admitted that he liked to tease his brother, who is younger by 2.5 years. “Even until now naman. Haha. I used to tease him but at the same time, I’m protective.”

One time in their childhood, the brothers and their tropa got chased down the road by a dog. “E, hirap tumakbo si PM dahil may kalakihan ang katawan, ang ginawa ko nagpahuli ako para makaunang tumakbo si PM para anuman ang mangyari, maharang ko yung aso at ako na lang ang kagatin if ever. Kuya kasi ako ‘e…” Alfred mused in recollection.

“Hindi kami nahabol but after that, nagtawanan kami. Asaran syempre dahil hirap na hirap tumakbo si PM at ako ang pinakamalakas mang-asar sa kaniya nun,” he added, but stressing, “ang Kuya lang ang pwede mang-asar. Kapag iba, yari sila sa akin.”

Alfred is older than PM by two and a half years. Photos show when they were children and then teenagers.

PM, on the other hand, turned serious when he reflected on his relationship with his older brother. “I genuinely respect my brother as a Kuya so I listen to him with my heart. When my parents passed, he really stood as someone I can look up to and count on at the same time so I try my best to do the same for him. If there’s a celebration, we’re together. If there’s a problem, we’re together. I guess it doesn’t matter what the situation is, we always try to make the best out of any situation.”

Both agreed that sharing a room for the longest time allowed them to be closer. PM said, “Being roommates for 26 years and going through the milestones of growing up together, there’s nothing you can hide from your roommate. Good or bad, we tell each other everything. And since we were taught at a very young age to face confrontation instead of avoiding it, I believe it became the cornerstone of our relationship. You can’t be honest with someone you don’t trust.”

Alfred added, “Pinagdaanan namin lahat nang magkasama. Nag-aral kami ng sabay, gumimik ng sabay at syempre nangarap kami together.”

Alfred joined showbiz immediately after college at Ateneo (he finished Management Economics, while PM took up Political Science). When he was able to save enough money from acting and decided to buy a house of his own, “I super struggled with the decision because I didn’t want to leave my brother and my family.”

“We have a lot of childhood memories that we cherish until now. Kasama na yung mga hardship na napagdaanan namin, doon naging solid yung bond namin. I think that makes us who we are today,” he added.

Favorite childhood memories

The brothers had “so many adventures and misadventures” together to prove they were best buds since birth.

“Sabay kaming tinuli. Hahaha,” Alfred began. “Si Lola pa ang naglalanggas sa amin ng bayabas.

“Nagka-carwash rin kami ng kotse ng kapitbahay naming Koreano para may pang meryenda kami,” he also shared. “I know when he’s happy, alam ko kung paano siya ma-in love at syempre alam ko kung paano siya masaktan.”

As a kid, Fridays were the best days for PM because “when my siblings were studying in Manila, Mom stayed with them and I was in Sta. Maria, Bulacan living with Dad and Lola. Every Friday evening was the happiest day of my life because I got to see my siblings and I’d get to hang out with my roommate again. We didn’t have TikTok or Facebook then so it was the usual taguan, patintero, agawan-base, among other games.”

Another favorite memory of PM with Alfred was when the latter purchased his first Doc Martens shoes. “Coming from a humble family, it really seemed impossible for me to buy a pair. I watched him save his allowance, wash our Korean neighbor’s car every day to earn P5 or P10,” said PM, adding that after months of saving, his brother was able to bring home a pair on his birthday.

“I think it was the first time I learned about working hard and getting what you want in return. It wasn’t just a pair of shoes. It was a dream he achieved through hard work and discipline. I remember borrowing it from him many times.”

PM with wife Chrissy Rocket and Alfred with wife Yasmine Espiritu

Saddest, happiest moments

The brothers looked back on the tough times they went through together. Alfred said, “Unang-una nung naghiwalay parents namin. Bumagsak din mga negosyo ng family early on. Yung pang-tuition namin for several years, puro utang lahat sa mga kamag-anak.”

The deaths of both their parents were the hardest however, according to Alfred. Their father, businessman Alfred Vargas Jr., passed away in 2011 at 64, while their lawyer mom, Ching Vargas (who previously worked as a deputy executive secretary for finance and administration in Malacañang), died of cancer in 2014.

Alfred said, “We were by his side when Dad passed on. Then with Mom when she lost her battle with cancer, we were also there. Masakit at malungkot pero lahat ‘yun nakayanan namin kasi magkasama at nagtulungan kami. That made our bond even stronger.”

For PM, it was particularly painful witnessing the physical suffering of their “personal heroes.” All siblings, including two older sisters, decided to live together to cope with the loss. “When Mom died, nagsama-sama muna kaming four na magkakapatid at doon mismo, nagkasundo kami na yung magagandang aral na natutunan namin sa kanila, hindi namin makakalimutan at nangako kami sa isa’t isa na magbabantayan kami. Until now, masasabi kong matatag ang pagiging magkakapatid namin.”

The brothers figured importantly in each other’s lives during the good times as well. Asked when they felt the happiest for each other, Alfred said it was when his younger brother got married.

He said, “Very happy ako para sa kanya kasi napakasalan niya ang high school crush niya at love of his life. I was his Best Man and I remember naiyak siya sa speech ko. Ang sabi ko kasi ibinilin siya sa akin ni Mommy, and how I wish naka-attend si Mommy sa kasal niya.

“Sabi ko rin sa kanya na bilang kuya, gusto ko iparamdam na kahit wala na ‘yung mga magulang namin, I’ll always be there for him. If I have to stand as a parent, I’ll do it. Kaunti na lang hahagulgol na siya nun ‘e,” Alfred recalled.

As for PM, his proudest moment was when Alfred won as congressman for the first time of Quezon City’s District 5 in 2013 after being city councilor for three years. “Nung nagsara na yung polling places and nagsimula na yung bilangan ng mga boto, pinauwi na namin si Kuya para hindi na siya ma-stress. I went to city hall for the canvassing while getting text updates on the exit polls sa ground. Nakita ko yung trend na mananalo si Kuya ng landslide at nung dineklara na siya nga yung nanalo, kinilabutan ako sa saya ko para sa kanya. Sinabi ko sa sarili ko, ito nanaman yung pangarap naming sapatos na Doc Martens noon. Iba talaga si Kuya kung merong gustong patunayan. Another life lesson learned and affirmed. Honest hard work gets you to where you want to be.”

Lessons from each other

Here’s more of what they learned from each other amid shared experiences.

For PM, he learned about hard work, loyalty and family. “1. When you work hard, your whole personality changes, it makes you a better person. Work hard not just on your career but in every aspect of your life.

“2. Be loyal to the people who showed you loyalty. Be there for them even if they don’t ask for your help. Be loyal to God. Be loyal to your principles.

“3. Through thick and thin, family will ALWAYS be there for you. Families may not be perfect (who is?) but at the end of the day, we do everything for our family.”

As for Alfred, he’s just “grateful” to have someone beside him even through the worst of times. “Sa kanya ko natutunan na mahirap iwasan yung hardships sa buhay, dadating at dadating ‘yan, pero laging malalampasan kapag may katuwang kang harapin yung mga pagsubok. Si PM ‘yung katuwang ko sa mga paghihirap na ‘yun. Maswerte ako na andyan si PM sa mga panahong lubog na lubog ako.”

In a previous interview, Alfred said he’s going to take a break from public office in 2022 and resume full-time his acting career. PM, nevertheless, expressed that his biggest dream for his kuya is “to achieve his goal in life, may it be in family, acting, public service, or business. I know he wants to be the best in everything he does so wherever the wind blows us, I’ll do my best to support him to achieve it.”

Alfred, on the other hand, wishes that his brother, now following in his footsteps as city councilor, will “reach his full potential as a leader.” “Natural na leader kasi siya. Bata pa lang kami, nakita na naming sa kanya yun.”

Beyond politics, Alfred, now a father of three, also wants PM to be his “partner” on the “fatherhood journey”. “I want him to experience the fulfilment of being a father. Gusto ko rin siyang makasama sa journey of fatherhood. Sabi ko nga sa kanya, napakarami kong masi-share sa kanya kapag nangyari na yon.”

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