By Pepper Marcelo
One of the premiere leading men of local showbiz, Piolo Pascual is a veritable cottage industry – with his movie and television roles, concerts, albums and product endorsements attesting to his popularity and status as an icon in Philippine entertainment.
Piolo’s last major projects were the TV soap Lovers in Paris, and the film Love Me Again and the independent project Manila. After months of absence from the screen, he returns in a big way in the ongoing dramatic television series Noah.
His current TV project marks a change of pace for the 33-year-old actor, departing from his usual suave, lovelorn persona. In a press conference promoting the fantaserye, Piolo said he was excited by the prospect of trying out a different role.
“I immediately said yes to ‘Noah’ because sa dami ng nagawa kong teleserye I want to do something new naman,” he said. “If it will give me challenge, I’m up for it. That way I can discover a different side of me not just an actor, but also as a person. It’s my responsibility to my audience to offer something na hindi pa nila nakikita sa akin.”
He compliments ABS-CBN for giving him a role befitting his evolving status and needs as an artist. “This is an integral part in my growth as an actor because I don’t want to be boxed up playing romantic leads. Nabo-bore na rin ako na paulit-ulit na love story ang ginagawa ko. Hindi na rin naman ako bata. After being in the business for more than 10 years I want din naman to offer my audience something new.”
A story of “love and family,” Noah is a fantaserye about on a young cop, Gabriel (Piolo), and his search for his missing son, Jacob, played by child star Zaijian Jaranilla. His journey leads him to a mysterious island called Noah where he sees his lost son, but in a different guise as Eli.
“Recently nga lang nag-dawn in sa akin na bago pala yung concept na ginagawa ko,” he says. “It’s hard to mount and it’s an ambitious project so I am excited. Sana ma-enjoy ng viewers as much as we do because it’s contemporary. Noah is a family drama, pero siyempre hindi naman pwedeng maalis ‘yung romance. We just want to focus on more important elements of the story.”
The focal point of the show will be Piolo’s relationship with Zaijian, himself a “veteran” lead of the hit program May Bukas Pa. Piolo is all praises for the seven-year-old talent. “Sobra yung energy ni Zaijian kaya nakakatuwa. And his eyes are so expressive so it’s easy to draw emotions just by staring at him. Talagang makikita mo that he’s a natural and perfect for the role.”
To that end, Piolo relishes the opportunity to play up the father-and-son dynamic. “It’s a relief kasi walang burden na kailangang i-work out ninyo as a love team and ‘dun pa lang, okey na ako kasi hindi ko kailangang i-play ‘yung tandem. With Zaijian, I’m happy because it’s something different.”
Even off-camera, Piolo shared that he and the playful young actor have a great time hanging out. “Masyadong energetic at masaya kasama. Kulitan kami sa set. Dude nga ang tawag ko sa kanya.”
In a case of art imitating life, the show is also reflective of his role as a real-life father to his 13-year-old son, Iñigo. “Zaijan is half the age of my son. Malayo ang edad nila pero nakikita ko ‘yung mata ni Zaijan hawig sa mata ng anak ko.”
Piolo is most excited about spending the upcoming Manila visit of Iñigo, who lives in California. The single father hasn’t made any specific plans yet, but if anything it is sure to involve eating. “I just want him maybe to accompany me during my shoots. We love to eat out. I love to splurge on dining and try different cuisines.”
Piolo is wary of his son entering following in his footsteps, at least until he has finished school. “Sabi ko tapusin niya muna yung pag-aaral niya and then he can decide what he wants to do afterwards. As much as possible ayokong mag-artista siya kasi it’s a tough career. Pero kung yun ang hilig niya, my only request is for him to finish his studies first. He’s been in the States for five years already. I was there during his graduation. This coming school year mag-ge-grade seven na siya so mabuting dun muna siya mag-aral.”
Piolo wants to shield Iñigo from any media scrutiny during his brief stay in the country. “So he’s coming over but I don’t really want to expose him [to the media] because he’s still young. My son’s not from the business and I don’t want him to be corrupted [by the usual intrigues in showbiz].”
Speaking of intrigue, much has been made of the eligible bachelor’s rumored relationship with his Lovers in Paris co-star KC Concepcion. Though Piolo admits they are close, they are just friends for now. “Hindi naman namin ikakaila ‘yon kung ano man ‘yung mga developments. Lalabas at lalabas din ‘yon but for now, we enjoy each other’s company. When there’s a chance we go out, we’re beginning to know each other better.”
In the gossip-filled world of showbiz, Piolo is aware he has to be careful not to damage the special relationship they share. “Ang hirap ‘pag may issues na mahirap lusutan. Hindi naman sa sensitive lang, kaya lang kailangan mo ring protektahan ang ibang taong involved so mas nagiging sensitive.”
As to his career, Piolo says he’s prioritizing Noah over other job offers. He admits turning down a guest host in the defunct noontime show Wowowee. “Hindi pwede, hindi talaga kaya ng schedule,” he says. “I’m working everyday. Mondays-Wednesdays-Fridays, I’m taping. Tuesdays-Thursdays-Saturdays, I’m either shooting a commercial, pictorial, doing an out-of-town show, or rehearsing for [the weekend variety show] ASAP. Wala na talagang oras. I guess marami namang ibang pwedeng gumawa nun.”
With his busy schedule, he also has to stop doing movies for the time being, although he says he’ll probably get back to it as soon as he can, out of necessity. “As an actor kailangan mo talaga maging visible sa movies, but I believe gusto mo rin ma-protect ‘yung track record mo sa movies. ‘Yung excitement na nakukuha ko sa TV gusto ko rin makuha sa movies.”
He says that henceforth he will accept only projects that are truly special in order for him to grow as an actor. “I’m already at the point in my career that you don’t want to just grab everything that comes your way. I don’t want to say that I have already proven myself but gusto ko kasi na nae-excite ako sa ginagawa ko not because of the quantity but of the quality. Gusto kong nage-enjoy ako sa ginagawa ko and hindi ko papagurin ‘yung sarili ko just because of exposure.”