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STARDOM IS HARD WORK!

These familiar faces show up on our TV screens, movie houses, and thousands of magazine covers. In the pantheon of modern-day gods, they’ve been idolized, immortalized, and become sources of inspiration to thousands of devoted fans.

But celebrity status did not come overnight. A life that sparkles with the glitz and glam was frequently earned by blood, sweat, and tears. Like the non-showbiz career people, the stars have paid their dues and keep on sharpening their skills. That’s how they can burn even brighter.

Once in a while, JobsDB.com will chat up-close and personal with these celebrities. Though not all of us have been bitten by the acting and concert bug, the values and lessons in their success story are pretty universal.


BOY ABUNDA:
SUCCESS IS “SEIZING THE MOMENT, NOT WINNING IT”

Interview by Tinna S. Bonifacio

He is today’s “host with the most”. From being one of the country’s most powerful publicists, Boy Abunda—the poor boy and college dropout from Borongan, Eastern Samar—bucked the odds and through hard work and persistence, transformed himself into one of the most powerful figures in Philippine entertainment.
Talk show host, talent manager, and public relations man, Boy Abunda’s life is a rich storehouse of lessons that all of us would do well to learn.

Everyone knows of your humble beginnings, growing up in the town of Borongan, Eastern Samar which is one of the poorest municipalities in the Philippines. How did you overcome that?
Because of my so-called ‘humble beginnings’, I guess I became more driven, more focused and more unafraid. I wanted a better life, so I used those ‘humble beginnings’ as a springboard to what I wanted to achieve. It allowed me to open myself to all the possibilities in life. Because of it, I became adventurous and not afraid to commit mistakes. I had nothing to lose. Coming from the kind of background I had, it pushed me to be overly ambitious, to work harder, and to overachieve. I ran after every chance I had.

You didn’t get complete your college studies. Was that ever a hindrance to getting to where you are now?
I don’t want to sound like I’m trivializing the value of education, but for me, it was never a factor. I was working in theater, and it [education] was not something that was necessary for my life and success in the theater. But I was a good student while in school. I may not have earned a diploma, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t take school seriously. I was a diligent student. I worked hard. The self-study that I imposed on myself was tantamount to earning a doctorate. It was just a choice between survival and school. I chose the former.

If you were to boil it down to one thing, what would be the secret of your success?
I return phone calls. (Laughs). Seriously. Because I make it a point to return phone calls, I get a lot of jobs and opportunities. Plus, I guess a lot of it is thanks to hard work. I work every day of my life like it was the last. I never do things halfway.

What other tips can you offer?
I can only speak for myself. For instance, I always listen to the opinions of others. It doesn’t mean I follow their advice all the time; I just take what works. I also don’t cry over spilled milk. I get hurt, I bleed, but give me five minutes, and I’ll get back up. It’s about being able to seize the moment, not winning it. Life is all about making it from one moment to the next.


Who was the person who helped you most in your career?
I’ve depended on the kindness of so many strangers. But if I have to single out one person, it would probably be Tita Conching (Sunico). I don’t know what it was, but she saw something in me. One day, she called me to her room—Room 1107 of the old Manila Hilton Hotel—and asked me, “Would you like to be my PR?” I didn’t even know what PR was! So I asked her, “Ma’am, what is PR?” And she said, “I’ll teach you.” She really taught me a lot. She made me dream. She made me believe. She taught me manners and social graces. Aside from my mom, I can’t imagine life without Tita Conching. She was my fairy godmother. I drew a lot of strength from her. She was tough, formidable and overwhelming, but she treated me well. She paved the way. So much of me belongs to her. I suspect it was because she saw a lot of her in me—the derring-do, the courage, the “I don’t care” attitude. I wasn’t afraid of hard work. I wasn’t afraid to clean props. No job was too small for me. And I guess she saw a certain class in my kabaduyan.

So why did you leave her employ to strike out on your own, to put up your own PR company? Was that a difficult decision to make?
It was destined. I loved my job, but my dreams had become bigger than what I was doing in the theater. I wanted to fly, to dance. Nagpupumiglas na ako. I’d had a taste of the things I could do, and I wanted more. Of course, Tita Conching didn’t speak to me for about two years after that. But when I started to do well, I knew that in her heart, she was proud of me. I was so much like her. Wala akong takot.

How easy or difficult was it to start your own company and to build a name?
I was not conscious about building a name. I did, however, enjoy the process of creating something out of nothing.

How did you do it?
I immersed myself in learning. My love affair with books started during that time. Books became my biggest source of learning. Plus, so many people helped me. One friend lent me an old typewriter on which I wrote my first press releases. Another friend, Girlie Rodis, gave me books. So did Kuh Ledesma. I became a voracious reader. Also, I took it one job at a time, and I made sure that I did each job well.

How did you make the big leap from PR to TV?
I’m a by-product of successive “accidents” in my life. My move to TV was also providential. It was a product of magic. It wasn’t planned. I was perfectly happy being a publicist; I was a name, and I was doing well. I was earning relatively well. My journey to TV was also the result of a stroke of kindness. I was doing PR consulting jobs for GMA-7, when Bobby Barreiro suggested that I consider hosting a show. “Gamitin mo ang daldal mo sa TV, and let’s see if it works.” And he was very persistent. So I said yes. But like my job in theater, I took my hosting seriously. I started watching the masters. I reviewed talk shows. I spent a lot of time learning and studying. Wala akong inatrasan.


How did you deal with critics?
Criticism can hurt, but the important thing is to acknowledge the pain. It was painful, but I learned the hard way. I got used to rejection early on, even back in the days when I was working for the MET. But I acknowledged it, and never took it against anyone. It’s a fact that in life, some people will like you, some people won’t. But to me, what is more scary is when people don’t notice you. It’s better that they either love you or hate you. I’m more scared when they’re in between.

How did it feel when you won your first award for hosting from the STAR Awards for Television?
Wow. What an affirmation. Parang nanalo ako ng beauty contest!

You currently have four shows on ABS-CBN. How different are they from each other?
Before I accepted them, I made sure that they’re from different genres, so they don’t overlap. The Buzz is hardcore, mainstream showbiz chismis. It reaches a very broad audience, from Forbes Park to Samar. Private Conversations mixes movie stars with politicians. Crossing over is actually quite difficult, because in The Buzz, I’m expected to be flippant and light. In Private Conversations, it’s different. I get to interview a wider range of guests. My first interview in Conversations was with Deepak Chopra. But I’ve also interviewed [sexy star] Keana Reeves. My other program, Kontrobersyal, is more news and current affairs oriented. It’s a magazine show based on interviews. Homeboy is very lifestyle. It’s a different format. Not one of my shows duplicates the other.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps?
What I’d say would be born out of my own experience. I’ll simply tell that person what I did. I danced the best way I could. I sang the best way I could. Along the way, I was humble enough to admit that there were times that I sold out. I may have transgressed some rules. It wasn’t always easy, but I had to survive. The process of survival was difficult. I may have hurt a lot of people in the process. That’s something you have to accept. I always say, “Don’t be afraid to be a high-riding bitch and a prostitute at the same time.” Sometimes you have to do that. Also, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Don’t be afraid to bleed. Work hard. Play hard. Pray hard.

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