Chatting with Piolo after wrapping his shoot in April 2010
Fine. I'll jump on the bandwagon.
Before I shot covers, I wrote cover stories. This first #tbt was also my first feature with whom some of you may recognize as Piolo Pascual. Here's the full article (tearsheets can be found here):
In the Key of P Plainly put, people pine for Piolo Pascual. "Papa P" performs before packed pavilions, plays personas in each pelikula like a pro and proves palpitations are not a phenomenon predisposed to pretty girls. Perplexingly, this prolific protagonist periodically ponders pursuing piloting. Perhaps because, like his professional path, he, too, plans on pioneering to a higher plane.
He needs no preamble, he’s Piolo Pascual.
In the weeks and days leading up to the much-anticipated shoot, everyone was singing the popular chorus, “Kamukha mo si P, Papa P, Papa P, (Ding Dong).“ And not in the annoyed, stuck-in-your-head kind of way.
The giddiness is not entirely unlike the way throngs of fans receive Piolo. A household name to say the least, his is the face that all identify to be the success story for Filipinos across the globe. You’ll be hard-pressed to find even a half-blooded Fil-Am watching TFC over a TV-dinner who doesn’t know who Piolo is.
Turning 33 this January, he’s sang, danced, and acted his way through as many films and television series. He’s topped local billboard charts, and gone topless on EDSA billboards. His work in front of and behind the camera has been critically acclaimed (most recently, Kimmy Dora). He’s graced innumerable magazine covers, and gained the love of countless fans through his humble character and down to earth candor. He’s received awards and gained accomplishments, too many to mention, and doesn’t show any signs of letting up. But I’m sure you already knew that.
What few people do know, myself included, is that Piolo is a quarter-German. At least that’s what it says on Wikipedia. But you can’t believe everything you read. Piolo was busy with another project in Subic when he first heard about the rumors of a circulating text claiming he had passed in a freak accident. So much for a 160 character eulogoy.
But that’s Piolo—controversy, gossip, come what may—he takes it in stride.
Today, though, we’d be driving.
The morning proved unproductive as our team milled about our office in Makati, killing time before heading on our way. Our group would meet Piolo at a designated rest-stop along SLEX. We received a text from his manager saying they were running a bit late and that Piolo, himself, would be driving. Why, of course we’ll wait.
Then, before you could say, “The HUNKS and Heartthrobs,” a biege Hummer H3 pulled up to the parking lot (cue the swooning girls). With the noon sun glinting off the unmistakable grille unique to the overtly-macho SUV lineup, Piolo gave a friendly wave over the steering wheel as we climbed back into our Pajero with an urgency like you’ve never seen. Suddenly, the minor hiccup was much easier to swallow.
At the Sta. Rosa toll plaza, I looked up at the rearview mirror, in time to see Piolo, lower lip bit, beating his air drums to a percussive solo that seemed to be getting him in a groove. Probably a John Legend song. “I love to listen to Sting and recently I’ve been listening to Evolver [Legend’s latest album],” he told me later. “I love old music, too, old songs. Like Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole are usually on my playlist. I listen to some oldies.”
“I just released my 6th album under Star Records,” he continues, “I’ve co-produced my last two albums with them. And I’m working on the second volume of the same concept, Decades, and I’m touring it at the same time." He had just came from a two week tour with The Heartthrobs. "And before that, I had two shows in the States to promote that album. And almost every week, I do mall shows for the promo of the album. So basically I’ve just been a singer these last few months since my soap wrapped-up last year. I’ve just been concentrating on my music.”
We pulled into NUVALI, the “evo-living” epicenter of AyalaLand’s foray into large-scale community development with sustainable living and a realization of global responsibility as its core framework. Our planned shoot had been kept under wraps, and setting up in our designated space went off without a hitch. But as word, like it does so well especially here in the Philippines, spread like wildfire, a sizeable gathering had bunched itself by the doorway to the room within minutes of our arrival.
Where other stars would throw a diva tantrum, Piolo’s reception was much more calm and endearing knowing he owes his success to his adoring fans. “I’m more than surprised, I’m humbled by all the things that have been happening in my life. I never thought I’d get this far. I’m just really, really, really blessed and I’m thankful and grateful because all the things that are happening now for me are just a bonus from the Lord.”
“I read my Bible,” he says of his morning rituals, “I read a chapter in the morning and three at night. I pray, hit the shower, and start my day.” To be honest, pious was the last adjective I would’ve tacked on to his list of traits. Humorous, professional, principled—yes—but religious? “Well, I was born and raised Catholic. I grew up in a very Catholic background, I went to a Catholic school. But I became a born again Christian at 25. That’s when I really gave my life to the Lord, completely. It’s been eight years, almost nine, that I’ve been a Christian and it’s the best decision I’ve made.”
A complete 180?
His tone is softer now, “And as to where I can go, as to how far I can go, what else I can do, I just let the Lord lead me. I’ve gotten much further than I thought I could. [I can] be somebody that can be a good influence, that can inspire people. And being the shy person that I am, the platform, that I have is something that I want to use for the right reasons. I’m just happy where I am right now, and I just want to do all the right things that will inspire people to not lead them astray. You have the best platform, you’re better than politicians, you’re able do the things that you think will help these people.”
Shy, hm? “Well speaking of politics,” I ask, “are you involved in any campaigns or do you have a presidential candidate in mind?”
“No, I choose to be apolitical, ‘cause none of my relatives are running. We’re not a political family. I just can’t see the point in campaigning for somebody ‘cause I still have yet to find someone who’ll give us hope, for our country. And the only thing I can do is pray. Pray for whoever’s going to win, pray for a fair election, just intercede for these people. You want them to make the right choice, you want the candidates to be fair as well.”
While Piolo may not intend to run for office, he’s been training for a marathon. “We got into running,” he says of himself and couple of his buddies. “Right now, I’m training for a triathlon. I just came from ULTRA this morning, training for a duathlon this Sunday. A bike-run. And eventually, I hope to do a triathlon. ‘Cause there are a lot of runs every week, and triathlons and duathlons, there’s a big revival happening. And every week there’s an event, and I’ve just been busy with that. If I’m not working, I’m training for it.”
So just what would he be if he wasn’t the superstar actor that he is?
“I’ve always wanted to be a pilot, I wanted to fly planes, still do. And if not, I wouldn’t mind being a newscaster, I’d want to be an anchor. I guess I’d still try to be an actor, I’ve always wanted to be an actor. And if not here, maybe elsewhere. But it’s something I’ve always wanted to be, and if I didn’t succeed, then I’m sure there’s a purpose.”
You get the feeling that Piolo has a work ethic that transcends the superficial. And it shows. In Adonic form, Piolo made our photographer’s job an easy one. His chiseled features and tip-top physique are a testament to the hardwork and perseverance that comes before all the fame and success people assume are just handed to the lucky few. He understands the role of God, of family, of a moral standard, of untiring dedication in this life and the next.
Before going our separate ways, he posed with us as a group and individually with a warmth and patience that’s become more and more rare as younger stars enter the industry and get caught up in its glitz and glamor. Even while returning the “I love you, Papa P!” screams from schoolgirls through middle-aged titas touring around the lake in Solenad’s water taxis, he waved and smiled with a genuineness that isn’t contrived or because his publicist tells him to.
“You want to be a role model to set a good example. Especially with ABS-CBN, Star Magic, we’re a big family and [they] treat you as their kuya. They look up to you, so it’s not about leaving a legacy but it’s just showing them the right way. That you don’t have to be ‘bad’ to be successful.”