Derek Ramsay On Fatherhood, Marriage To Ellen Adarna, Philanthropy, And More
"I would be a teacher,” declares Derek Ramsay when asked what he would be doing if he wasn’t an actor. “I really love kids. I’d love to be a grade school teacher, History, Math, that sort of thing.” With his chiseled features, rugged good looks and leading man roles, it’s easy to stereotype Ramsay in the typical bachelor persona with a devil-may-care attitude. This could not be further from the truth. Derek Ramsay does care. And he cares a lot.
His natural love for children was palpable during the shoot at The Farm in San Benito, where after a gruelling day photographing under the hot summer sun, Ramsay lit up when Elias teetered on set. The three-year-old son of his fiancée, Ellen Adarna, walked straight into his arms as he called out affectionately, “Babi guleng!”
“Ellen and I definitely want more children, but not yet,” Ramsay shares. “We really want to enjoy this time together first and Elias is still a baby. I’m also very focused on Austin, as I really only got him at the age of 14.” While fatherhood comes naturally to him, it did not come easily. Austin, his son with his previous girlfriend, Christine Marie Jolly, was only presented to him at the age of ten. Then almost immediately his mother took the boy to Dubai.
“It was a battle,” Ramsay declares. “But also, an answered prayer. Until Ellen came into my life, I never wanted to get married, but I always wanted to be a father.” Derek continued to support his son from afar and tried as much as possible to be an active presence in his life, fighting vicious court cases and navigating lewd press scandals. “My father always said that your life is based on all the decisions that you make, so you better make the right ones. And when you fail, you should learn and never regret them. My dad is my best friend. I wanted that with my son.”
Then, at the age of 14, his son came to live with him in Manila. “Having a relationship with Austin is the most important thing to me. When he moved in with me my prayers were answered, but it was difficult. How do you start from scratch? How do you repair the years apart? Only now, at the age of 18, does he call me dad,” expresses an emotional Ramsay.
“When it happened, I broke down like a baby. I ran to him and started crying. And ever since this happened, everything seems to be falling into place. I took baby steps with Austin and he really is a good kid,” Ramsay shares. “Kids are smart and despite the things his mother told him about me, he had the chance to live with me and make his own opinion. He sat me down one day and said, ‘I see why you were trying to discipline me and made it tough for me sometimes. It was so that I could become a better person.’”
The turning point for him and his son was when Ramsay decided to settle down with Adarna. “Austin then expressed to me, ‘The reason why I’m calling you dad is because I made a promise to myself that when I see you engaged, I’m going to call you dad.’ Then I said to myself—I think it’s time to love.”
Across the table during the interview, Ramsay smiles widely and pauses for a moment to appreciate the importance of fatherhood. He then continues: “I grew up with my dad and he’s the coolest, he’s just awesome. He’s my idol. His outlook on life is just amazing and that’s why he’s fit and healthy even though he’s already 78. He’s always so positive and whenever I had any problems, I wasn’t scared to run to my parents and tell them about it, no matter what it was. I think it was because of the way they brought me up and that’s what I want with Austin. I would like him to run to me, too. And finally our relationship is slowly changing. There’s still a lot of work to do but now, he walks the dogs, he joins us for dinner, he’s a big brother to Elias. He’s really an awesome boy.”
Family is so important to Ramsay—so much so that he turned down a very lucrative teleserye offer in order to prioritise the health and safety of his loved ones. “It was going to take too much time away from them, plus I would have constantly put them all at risk. It wasn’t worth it.” Family for him also goes way beyond biological ties, and it is evident by the way he is with Elias. “Ellen knows how I am with kids and with little Elias, it was just natural!” He also shares that in his family, his youngest brother—also named Derek–was adopted. “We got Derek as a six-month-old baby. He was being passed around from home to home in Dasmariñas at dinner parties, and after my mother held him twice, she just said: ‘I’m taking this child.’ One morning my father woke up to a crying baby and jokingly said ‘I thought we were past this?’ But both my parents truly love children and gave him the best that they could, just like they did with me and my other siblings. They are incredible this way. We have no jealousy between us siblings. Just love.”
In one of the photos Ramsay posted on March 31, 2021 to commemorate his engagement to Adarna, he is seen with his arms loving and protectively wrapped around his new family: Ellen holding Elias on one side and Austin on the other. “Austin was the first person I told of my plans to propose to Ellen. I asked him: are you comfortable with that? And he said: ‘Yeah, I like her.’ And how about with Elias? And he said ‘I think it would be cool to have a little brother.’ And then I told myself: ‘This is so easy, I thought I was going to get stressed.’ Everything was really falling into place.” He shares that he was nervous when he first spoke to her mum: “But she was so cool. She told me: ‘I’m a big fan of you now! No return, no exchange!’”
Ramsay and Adarna both desire children together, but everything in its own time. “I really look forward to when we can have another child. I hope it’s not a girl,” he laughs. “She wants a girl but I can’t handle a girl. I’d beat up too many people,” he teases. In five years he hopes to be retired and to focus on his loved ones. “I’ve worked so hard for so long. I want to enjoy life with Ellen, Elias, Austin and my folks. I want to spend as much time as I can with them. I’m really looking forward to the life that we’re going to have together. I know it’s going to be crazy, but it’s going to be fun. We both love to travel. So, when this whole thing is over that’s exactly what we are going to do. Her family travels in a big bunch just like mine does. It’s going to be insane but I know they will all get along!”
Beyond focusing on his family, Ramsay has expressed an interest in sustainable construction, which may be something he wishes to explore after showbiz. “Before meeting Ellen, I was into building homes and that was definitely something that I was thinking: maybe this would be my next chapter: designing homes, building homes. My house in Alabang was delayed but I finally moved in last year. I made sure that it has solar power.
I love the environment. I even bought a property in Palawan just to preserve it. Manila is a concrete jungle, clogged up, congested and sad. That’s why I teamed up with non-profit organisation Gabay Kalikasan.”
Ramsay is particularly passionate about their peat-land conservation work. “Peatlands can absorb twice as much carbon than all the worlds’ forests combined. Education is so important. We must teach the locals that just like our mangroves, peatlands play a vital role in our environment and help reduce the earth’s carbon footprint.” His home in Palawan is a modern pre-fab house on top of a concrete slab. “It’s modern but old Filipino style, where it’s on stilts and the air can come through from underneath. With renewable energy sources. I wanted to make sure it had the smallest possible carbon footprint. Palawan is so beautiful and untouched, I really want it to stay that way.”
He hopes Filipinos will realise how beautiful their country truly is. “I travelled in the Philippines so extensively before going overseas. And Pinoys should actually realise that there are so many places to see in our own country. Why go abroad? Hopefully, if they can experience that, this will motivate everyone to take care of it.”
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When asked why conservation is so important, he replied: “We only have one home. This is our home and with the way we’re going, with all the pollution and the damage we’ve caused Mother Earth, it’s almost irreversible. So, that’s a big wake-up call. I want to start a family with Ellen and have kids. I don’t want them to come into a mess of a world and have to wear gas masks. I grew up playing on the streets, jumping into rivers and lakes. I would like the same for my children.”
Over the course of the interview, Ramsay’s energy and enthusiasm swelled. With a sparkle in his eye and a wry smile he declared: “I’m really excited. I’m excited to see what the future holds. I used to live life one day at a time, but now I’m really excited because I know good things are going to happen. I went through this period where I was so damn serious about everything, and all that shit that happened to me. With the industry that we’re in, it really sucks everything out of you. Bringing life to all these different onscreen characters, I just became this serious person. I thank Ellen every day because, as I told her, ‘You brought back the old Derek. The guy, who’s so into living life, do exciting things in life.’ When Ellen and I finally got together, even my friends said to me: ‘Dude, you’re back!’ I’m not sure what the future will hold but I’m ready for it. They’re absolutely right. I am back.” And the world is looking forward to how Derek Ramsay’s second act unfolds.
Watch our behind-the-scenes video here:
- PhotographyScott A Woodward
- Make-UpAngel Manhilot
- StylingPatricia Estrada
- LocationThe Farm at San Benito
- Video EditorDiego Gabriel Reyes