Clothed, but still in the flesh. Just inches before me, smelling lovely, smiling often, looking at me straight in the eye while answering my questions. Creamy skin, chiseled jaws, hair in wispy strands before those famously sad eyes. Jeesus, the guy's gorgeous.
TV and print do not do justice to Piolo Pascual's beauty. I've met many models and celebrities who ooze allure on paper or on the tube, but who turn out to be disappointingly regular-looking in person. They know how to project before the camera. Off-cam, they're about as exciting as the literature on skin whiteners.
Mr. Pascual is different. He looks even more handsome without the aid of lighting, styling or makeup. In a plain setting (though there was nothing plain about the Hyatt Casino Hotel's presidential suite, where we did the interview and pictorial), with early-afternoon natural light bathing his features, it was easy to see why Mr. Pascual's soft, elusive beauty has inspired the most frenzied forms of attention and speculation in this gossipy town.
I was in the room with him because I got asked to do a cover feature on Mr. Pascual for the September 2007 issue of Metro Him magazine (glossies prepare their issues at least 2 months in advance).
Piolo's pictorial clothes and shoes ready for their close-up
Last March it was Sam Milby whom I was supposed to write up for the mag, but my scheduled trip to Kyoto, Japan sabotaged our meeting. Who knows, maybe Mr. Milby and I could have hit it off as friends if that had pushed through? Maybe he'd be calling me "pare" now, and I'd say to him, "Pare, cute mo a. I wanna be complete too!"
For his bosom friend I was practicing a different greeting. "Hi, I'm Gibbs. I always eat at Max's. Tee-hee."
Shame on me for thinking so glibly of the whole thing. Mr. Pascual turned out to be a fine interviewee--articulate, voluble, sensible, easy-going. He could be funny, but he came across as a thoughtful, introspective person whose words, while practiced, had more than a facile relation to the actual fishbowl life he's living.
I was determined not to conduct a fawning, fluffy chit-chat--no gushing for me, na-ah!--so I led off by pointing out that his massively hyped last movie (with Regine Velasquez) was a flop. He agreed and, quite refreshingly, offered no spin or justification for it. Later on, sighing, he fretted that his goody two-shoes image was actually constraining his acting options. Now that he's marking his 10th year in the business, he'd like to outgrow it and do something else. "Kahit horror!," he exclaimed.
Aww. No prosthetics on that face, please.
By the end of our hour-long face-off I had 13 pages of barely legible notes. Mr. Pascual talked like the devil, which had me scampering after him with my furious note-taking. (I'm no Luddite, I just prefer longhand to electronic recording, since playback and transcription only eat up more time).
All along I was thinking I'd learn nothing new about this relentlessly profiled celebrity--hence my studied nonchalance. But I did.
Did you know that his first screen appearance wasn't in Jose Javier Reyes' "Batang PX," as many of his fans know?
He was, in fact, first seen in Carlo Caparas' "The Vizconde Massacre," playing the part of Jusi Leino, the young man who was with Maureen Hultmann on the night they were gunned down by Claudio Teehankee, Jr. Mr. Pascual, just out of high school then, was in a reenactment scene that called for him to be shot in the mouth. "Direk Carlo asked me to jerk back with the gun in my mouth. I just didn't know how to do it; it took me several takes!"
For having in effect discovered Mr. Pascual, made a big star, if briefly, of Dawn Zulueta (in "The Maggie dela Riva Story"), and pioneered a new, zeitgeist-defining B-movie variant (the ripped-from-the-headlines-mainit-init-pa slasher film), shouldn't Carlo Caparas be acknowledged as the Roger Corman of Philippine cinema?
I wrote my story in a blur, all 1,200 words of it. Crisp and sober and grown-up. The real juice is in there, so do remember to buy Metro Him's September issue, will you?
The gushing I decided to dump in this blog. Now you're knee-deep in it.