Why Piolo Pascual is having the time of his life at 40

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Piolo Pascual is 40 years old and does not look like it. The “Northern Lights” star talks about traveling to new places, getting into war films, and realizing the power of his influence at his age. Photo by JL JAVIER

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Piolo Pascual looks like he’s having the time of his life. At 40 years old, he walks like a young Pied Piper, commanding the attention of an enthusiastic stream of fans inside the halls of ABS-CBN, where he just came from a taping for a morning show. He looks the part; he’s leaner than usual. He says he lost weight for a film he’s working on, the one that follows this month's “Northern Lights.”

In the film, where he’s paired with newcomer Yen Santos, Pascual is a father attempting to reconnect with his son, and he articulates how the father’s perspective is rarely depicted in most of the films about familial relationships. The observation appears fresh, not the least because it is Pascual who confidently says it. Such is the power of the charisma of Pascual, no longer that shy talent who kept to the back of the crowd during episodes of Kuya Germs’ “That’s Entertainment.” It does not need further explanation.

As he sits and answers questions for an interview with CNN Philippines’ “Real Talk,” there is little hesitation and pauses are rare. He is articulate and easygoing, as he recalls his beginnings in television and how he initially got intimidated working on the “Dekada 70” script, a role which bagged him a bevy of acting awards.

For a brief interview with CNN Philippines Life, he discusses his life as a traveling artist, his affinity with war films, and what he thinks you should be at 40. Below are edited excerpts from the interview.

piolo.jpg At 40, Pascual wants to continue being a role model. "You have to make sure your life is a good example, you’re not misleading people, because you have this platform," he says. "This privilege to be able to influence people in your own way." Photo by JL JAVIER

How has traveling made a difference in your life as an artist?

It’s a blessing that I get to travel and see other places, and shoot in different places. I always get excited when I get offers to shoot abroad, because that way you can focus on the story, the character you’re shooting everyday. Unlike when you’re shooting in the Philippines, there are other things you have to do, so you have to play multiple parts within the week. Unlike when you’re shooting abroad, when you’re focusing on that.

Do you have a travel bucket list?

Yes, I’ve been wanting to go to Antarctica. I want to do Mount Everest. I want to go to South America, because it’s far, so when I go, I want to stay for at least two months, just go around South America. Last year we did Europe for two months. I’m a nomad. My residence is the world, I just want to keep traveling and discovering places and discover myself along the way.

I read that one of your favorite places here in the Philippines was …

Palawan. And the Cordilleras. I drive myself to Banaue and my usual route — I’ve been there a couple of times — is we drive from Manila all the way to Banawe for eight hours. From there, we drive further to Sagada, spend a couple of days, then drive down to Baguio, spend a couple of days, then go back home.

I like driving in the Philippines, it’s safe here and going up north, you discover a lot of places like Mount Pulag. As much as it’s far, being there, it’s like, wow. The clouds are below you, literally under your feet. Going down south naman, Palawan, it’s one of the best places in the world. If you love the beach and the sunset, Palawan is the best place for me in the world.

Photo-5 (1).jpg In "Northern Lights," Pascual plays the role of a father attempting to reconnect with his son. Screencap from ABS-CBN STAR CINEMA/YOUTUBE

Where in Palawan, specifically?

El Nido, Pangulasian island. You can see the sunset from your villa, you can snorkel, you can kayak to the big lagoons. You can swim with the fish. It’s private, it’s white sand, and all year-round it’s tropical.

Going to your role as a producer, what do you think are the stories that still need to be told in local cinema?

I don’t have any specific story that I want to tell, that I want to be able to do. Every story that gets told is a dream story for me, a dream role for me. I’m not a writer, I’m an actor. For me, if you give me a story I would like, I’d go head-on and give it my hundred percent. And that’s a story that I want to do — if it’s something different that I have not done before, it’s my responsibility to do it and give it a different flavor.

You say responsibility, like it’s an advocacy.

Yes. They just appointed me as the ambassador of the Optical Media Board to prevent piracy. As an artist and as a producer, it’s a privilege to be able to use your celebrity status to spread and raise awareness for people to do things right, like avoid piracy, because at the end of the day it’s stealing and it’s a crime. And it’s not right. We do this with a budget and we devote our time, our life, so [a movie] needs to be shown properly and legally.

Photo-6.jpg In the film, Pascual's character's son is played by Raikko Mateo. Screencap from ABS-CBN STAR CINEMA/YOUTUBE

Is piracy the biggest issue that the film industry faces?

I’m a producer. When you think about piracy, you lose money right away, because people don’t want to watch in the theater if they have a pirated copy. They can just watch at home and it’s not right. You don’t get what you pay for because it’s pirated and of course, for me … let your conscience talk to you.

We heard you’re working on a film about what happened in Mamasapano.

It’s being developed right now, under Erik Matti. In reality, he pitched it to me last year, and we are in the developmental process. Michiko [Yamamoto] is writing it, same thing as “On the Job”…

How do you feel about this film with Matti?

I’ve always wanted to do a war movie. [A] “Saving Private Ryan” type of role. I just wanted to know how it felt like to be a soldier. I love war movies, like the last movie I saw, “Hackshaw Ridge,” I was reminded that this was the kind of genre I want to do.

Photo-1.jpg Pascual is paired with newcomer Yen Santos (pictured) in "Northern Lights." Screencap from ABS-CBN STAR CINEMA/YOUTUBE

At 40, what should the mindset of a person be?

It depends. Being a parent, it’s totally different, but being a bachelor … you have to realize that there are people following you, not just looking up to you. You have to make sure your life is a good example, you’re not misleading people, because you have this platform. This privilege to be able to influence people in your own way. Especially at 40, and you have a son that looks up to you, you gotta do things right for him, you want to set a good pace for him. Because if you’re able to do that, you can be a father-figure to him and tell him, look at me, look at my life, at least you can speak to his life.

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“Northern Lights” is now showing on theaters nationwide. Watch Real Talk featuring Piolo Pascual on CNN Philippines, weekdays 9:30 am with replays at 4:00 p.m.