Article from Philstar by Ana G. Kalaw
URL: http://www.philstar.com/philstar/Lifestyle200306279709.htm

Thanks to Erning for this information!

Combatted

KISS ASS by Ana G. Kalaw
The Philippine STAR 06/27/2003

Ask him anything," his promotional manager from Vicor Records urges. Great. The go-ahead was enough to assure that the dayís interview with Hollywood-based Filipino actor and singer Paolo Montalban (Kung Lao In the Mortal Kombat TV series and the hunky, sportscar-driving playboy on American Adobo) was going to be a field day. You line up the tabloid-worthy queries, imagine the hesitant replies, figure heíll be squirming with the barrage of irreverence you plan to throw his way. You have your doubts though when he strides into the cafe, all of six feet two inches and all smiles Ė a smile that, if you were a straight-up male heterosexual, would seem irritating and suspiciously arrogant; a smile that, on its own, probably bagged him the Prince Charming role opposite international star Brandyís Cinderella in Walt Disneyís modern-day musical rendition of the classic fairy tale; a smile that doesnít falter at all throughout the interview.

The questions arenít working as they were supposed to be; the sidelong "help me" glances to his manager arenít coming. Paolo Montalban answers every single question you ask him with a candidness that doesnít have him batting a single eyelash; with an astuteness that has him sneaking in his own questions, prompting you to think you were the one in the hot seat.

Mid-interview he casually lets drop that he has a pre-med degree in Psychology. The paranoia sinks in. You wonder if he was actually doing the reverse psychology bit on you all throughout the interview, if he was making like a shrink trying to figure you figuring him out. So you exercise his brain a little bit more, and still he manages to surprise with more perceptive insights.

Finally, you give in and acknowledge that Paolo Montalban is a beefcake with brains, who can sing and act, and who can charm the panties off even married women (Sharon Cuneta in her show claimed that she would snap him up in a heartbeat if she had not been married). No big deal, right?

YSTYLE: So how is G?

Paolo Montalban: G? As in Giselle Tongi? Sheís fine, I guess.

Are you going out with her?

No, sheís my friend.

Oh, that is such a showbiz answer.

It is a showbiz answer but she really is my friend. You know why sheís my friend? Because sheís the only Filipino artist that I know in Los Angeles. You donít date your friends if you want to keep them.

Is that one of Paolo Montalbanís philosophies?

Absolutely. Letís face it. The natural impression, if you have a good time with an attractive girl, is to go ahead and date her but it messes up the friendship.

So youíre one of those guys who wouldnít befriend a girl before dating her?

No, I would. But you have to weigh the pros and cons of it. If you think itís something that can go somewhere special, then go for it. If youíre doing it just to have a fling, well you donít go have a fling with your friends because it will definitely ruin the friendship. Donít you agree?

So G is just friend material?

Definitely friend material. Sheíll say the exact same thing. To me, sheís the only tie that I have to the entertainment industry here in the Philippines.

Youíre here to promote your first locally-produced, self-titled album, which has you singing three Tagalog songs. Do you even understand half of what youíre made to sing?

I know what they mean, maybe not necessarily word for word, but I do get the concept. It wasnít like that when I was recording, though. They [Vicor records] did write down the definitions at the side of the page but it was difficult to be singing something you just learned, at the same time reading the translation while youíre trying to understand it all. Now that Iíve had more time with it, I have a greater grasp of it. You find really beautiful meaning in these Tagalog songs, which I never appreciated before because I thought they were sappy Ė so full of pain and feeling. But when you begin to understand the meaning, itís like, "Wow!"

Are you really taking formal lessons to learn how to speak Tagalog?

Yup.

Canít you just ask somebody to teach you?

I tried. Problem is, no one will talk to me purely in Tagalog.

So you have to pay to learn how to speak Tagalog Ė and youíre Filipino?

Thatís right.

Thatís pretty sad.

It is. The thing is, when my family migrated to the States during the í70s, there was a big xenophobia thing going on there so there was a lot of prejudice towards people who didnít speak English well. My parents wanted us to grow up without accents so they would speak English to us. Of course, later on in high school, my folks began complaining why we [including his older sister] didnít speak Tagalog.

How well can you understand conversational Tagalog?

Not perfectly Ė maybe 80 percent of it. I canít watch a telenovela and understand whatís going on because they donít use everyday Tagalog words in it. They use words that stand for faith, pain, and heartbreak.

So thatís why you want to learn how to speak Tagalog. Why?

To be able to watch the telenovelas. No! I want to do it because I know that thereís no way I can reach the Filipino people without speaking Tagalog, or without even trying to speak Tagalog. And I want to because communication is power.

How serious are you about your singing?

As serious as I am about my acting. I started singing and acting professionally at the same time. My first professional singing and acting job was a musical theater job Ė it was a national tour Ė right out of college.

Can you dance as well as you sing and act?

No. I can dance really well as long as itís not choreographed. I guess I could if I learned and if I tried hard enough. If itís not actually for a shoot, I love to dance.

Where do you dance?

I can dance anywhere, although I havenít been to any of the dancing places out here.

Do you do any private dancing? In the shower, perhaps?

In my shower?! My shower is not that big! I do have this huge mirror that I had installed in my apartment in LA. Itís about eight feet wide and six feet wide.

Whyíd do you have a mirror that big?

I had it installed to make the living room look bigger.

Are you sure?

Yeah. Absolutely. I got nothing better to do. Anyway, I got it put up and I was telling myself that I could invite all my dancer friends and they could practice their combinations for their auditions there. But no, I donít do any private dancing in my shower.

Do you really think youíre beautiful?

I think I am not offensive. I mean, do you think youíre beautiful?

I am not the point here, you are. You were one of People magazineís "50 Most Beautiful" five years ago, that must have been an ego booster.

Yeah it was, although I am terribly practical. I take everything with a grain of salt. When they did that, first of all, I was like, "Hey, you gotta be kidding me. Youíre out of your mind. How could you have possibly run out of people to put on the list?" It was just outrageous. That came out just after I did Cinderella. And thatís the other thing. Usually, nine times out of ten, they have at least one or two Asian actors on the list.

So you think you got into that list by default?

I donít know if it was a default thing. They usually aim for someone who has done some kind of high-profile work and among the roles given to Asian actors that year, the role of the Prince was the most high-profile Asian-cast role.

They put you on a horse for the People shoot. Why?

Well, they wanted to show Prince Charming on a white horse. We did it in Malibu Canyons and we had to audition 13 white horses just for that pictorial. They really wanted a pristine white horse and it took a while before they found the perfect one. The best part of it all: I did not know how to ride horses at all at that time.

Did you really go to see a cockfight out here?

Well yes, I found my way to a cockfight. It was one of those things where, when you go to a country, you would want to experience things that make the country famous. It wasnít some kind of bloodlust that I was after. When I got there, I didnít quite understand what was going on since everything was so fast.

Did you like it?

Yes and no. Itís the equivalent of watching a train wreck or a car accident. Itís something mortifyingly appealing but it stills you at the same time.

Are you sure it wasnít a macho thing? Something to boost your male ego, perhaps?

Oh no. I know where my male ego is. Iím that kind of guy that has more female friends than guy friends. Iím not one of those guys who go, "Hey Jimmy! Letís go out and tip over some cows!" Thereís nothing wrong with that but Iím just a bit more of a genteel. Iím bit more old-school.

Or maybe you just really like surrounding yourself with girls?

Maybe. No, I understand girls better than I do guys.

Seriously?

Seriously.

But that doesnít mean youíre gay, though?

No. Absolutely not.

Because youíd be breaking a lot of Filipinasí hearts if you were.

Awww (tries to blush). Iím not gay. I love women.

How much?

(Spreads his arms wide open) So much.

How many girlfriends have you had?

Five.

Are you in a relationship right now?

No.

How long have you been in a non-relationship?

Hah! You donít even want to know.

Why not?

Itís been a long time Ė four, five years.

Why is that?

(Shrugs and keeps silent.)

But youíve had your share of flames, and flings, and whatnots.

(Shrugs and still keeps silent.)

What turns you on?

Confidence. Someone whoís confident in her skin that when youíre around her you feel as if sheís not trying to be anyone else but herself. Thatís what turns me on.

How old are you really?

I was born in 1973 but this year Iím doing 28 for the first time. Itís true. Itís not a lie. I donít deny my age but when I was 27, I enjoyed it so much that I decided to do it again. So for the entire next year after, I said I was 27 again and I wasnít lying because I really wanted to be 27 again. But then I went straight to 29 so I said, "Ooh man, I should go back to 28," so thatís why Iím here right now. Makes sense? Did you follow it?

A bit... yeah, kinda.

You didnít follow it at all.

No, I think youíre just a 30-year-old whoís afraid of getting into his 30s.

No, Iím not. Iím gonna go from 28 to 31. No problem.

Are you one of those guys who believe that the older a man gets, the sexier he becomes?

I have noticed that a lot of male actors donít start to hit their stride until theyíre in their 30s. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that by the time youíre in your 30s thereís that sense of being comfortable in your skin, and I think thatís sexy Ė in both men and women.

Are you in that age where you prefer younger women? Somehow when men start hitting their 30s, they start dating women in college.

Like some quarter-life crisis, maybe?

You tell me.

You know I started doing that three years ago.

Doing what? Dating women in college?

Yeah, only because these were the women I was meeting. Itís not like I did it with a whole bunch of college girls. Weird! When I was younger, I dated older women because I was younger than everybody else and then it kinda evened out. Now, itís a little bit of both. And you know guys. We mature so much slower than girls so Iím probably on the same mental maturity as a woman in her early 20s.

At least you admit it.

Well, itís true!

Where did you grow up?

Manhattan and Jersey City

Which do you like better? LA or New York?

Iím only starting to like LA now. When I first moved out there, I didnít like it. I wasnít too crazy about the people. Los Angeles could be a very lonely place if you donít have at least two very good friends because there are a lot of lost souls out there Ė which is why they call it the "City of Lost Angels." Itís true. Weíre all trying to make it in the industry Ė a lot of us are from all over the US and out there on our own for the first time Ė so everyone feels that, if they donít have the stability of good friends, they feel they have to be something theyíre not.

Is that how you felt?

Yes. I felt like I was surrounded by people like that and I didnít want to be that. If you donít wanna be around it, itís rather lonely. But I have better friends now and Iím lucky.

When did you first decide that you wanted to make a career out of singing and acting?

I didnít decide. It was decided for me. An agent in New York was watching a play I did in college and he signed me that night. He told me to get my pictures done. I did, and he sent me out. The first thing he sent me out on right after I graduated was the national tour.

Have you looked back since then?

Never.

Is this what you really want to do?

Yeah. For the rest of my life.

If you had not gotten into singing and acting, what would you be doing now?

I donít know. Iíd probably be doing something with my Psychology degree. I was a pre-med Psychology major [at Rutdgers University in Brunswick, New Jersey] so I could take the MCATS and be a psychiatrist, or go into Clinical Psychology and work with autistic kids Ė Iíve done lab work and research on that.

So do you like psycho-analyzing people?

No. I think the only thing that my major is good for is that it helps in the business Iím in because I can be more tolerant of people. I know where theyíre coming from; I know that there must be some reason why theyíre behaving that way, whether theyíre overcompensating or projecting their own insecurities. It makes it a lot easier for me. But Iíd also probably want to be a volunteer fireman.

Every guy back in the States probably wanted to be a fireman when they were growing up.

I never wanted to be a fireman when I was a kid. I only wanted to be a fireman recently. Iíve talked to firemen and theyíve told me of what they go through. I find that the qualities of a good fireman are the same qualities Iíd like to emulate to become a good actor or are the same qualities I see in good actors.

Yes.

When youíre a good fireman, you get to a fire and you donít say, "Ok, thereís a fire here, there may be a few people inside. What should I do?" Rather, you just go in. Your instinct pushes you through that door and you deal with it when you get there. I think thatís what some of the best actors I know do. You donít see them planning at all.

So is that how you go about your acting career?

I try to. I think my biggest flaw, when it comes to acting, is how my brain gets in the way and I overanalyze things and I donít let my instinct come out as much. But it does and itís great but Iíd like to be more consistent.

Where do you want your career to go?

Iíd like to be a better actor. Iíd love to have Denzel Washingtonís career. Heís got a great career. For a colored man in Hollywood, heís definitely got a great career.

Do you think being Filipino is a point against you in Hollywood?

No I donít. The great thing about being Filipino is that Iím not Asian enough to play all the Chinese and Japanese roles. I have nothing against those roles but theyíre always cast as the bad guys or the martial arts guys Ė whatever. And thereís this cross-over thing where they send me out for Hispanic roles, or for non-ethnic specific roles...Itís hard because there are not too many roles for that and you never know when the trend is going to stop but Iím going to stay in the industry for as long as I can.

If you didnít have the good looks and the great body, do you think you would have had the same chances you did?

Hmmm. I donít know. I think every person is given the opportunity to live life that they have envisioned. Thatís basically it.

Do you have any plans of staying in the Philippines permanently?

No. I have to pursue my career in the States. The reason why the Filipino public knows, or if they do know at all, about me is because of the work Iíve done abroad. If I want to continue that, I have to be in a place that "makes it".

If there is one thing that will keep you here in the Philippines, what would it be?

(Long silence) A girl Ė no, it wouldnít be a girl.

Why not? Wouldnít you want to end up with a Filipina?

(Sarcastically) Oh yeah! Thatís exactly it. Come on! You have to be kidding me. Filipina women are gorgeous and theyíre beautiful Ė everybody knows that.

But...

But my career is the other woman right now.

So if you fall in love with someone from here, she would have to be willing to move to LA to be with you?

I wouldnít do that, though. I wouldnít want anyone to do that. Itís not fair. Do you think itís fair?

Have you dated any Filipinas?

No. Because itís not fair.

Did you at least want to "hook up" with anybody from here?

Well, I feel like Iím under this microscope where everything is... itís not even a microscope regarding the record deal. Itís more like, "Oh, whoís Paolo after today?" I just want to be around people and just go to lunch and movies, you know? I just want company.

Do you feel that the local rumor mill is a whole lot worse than what they have in Hollywood?

No. Iím not in the same situation over there. Letís face it. Regine Velasquez and Patricia Javier...

Oh yeah we heard about them too.

OK, right. Well, they would be the equivalents of Celine Dion and, I donít know, Britney Spears, or someone like that, so it would make sense that the media people would talk about it.

So you never really went out with these girls?

No. Iíve had lunch with Patricia because sheís a friend of mine too, although I havenít spoken to her for the longest time since sheís been very busy as well. A lot of people donít realize that you may have the intent of wanting to get to know the person or just have a nice conversation with them but half of the time, you canít even get an appointment because youíre so damn busy. I havenít even had my lunch with Regine yet. I said I wanted to take her out to lunch. I told that to the press even before I told her.

You make your dates on air?

No, itís not like that. They told me, "Just pick anyone you might want to get to know better." I didnít know a lot of people at that time because I was just working at SOP and so I gave her name because sheís the only one I donít know well or havenít really spoken to because sheís just so busy.

Whatís the one thing you donít like about Manila?

Traffic.

Well thatís a given...

No, thatís not a given. A lot of people donít realize that if the traffic situation here was fixed, a lot of the problems of the Philippines would be fixed.

Is that how youíve psycho-analyzed it?

Yup. There are all kinds and qualities that make traffic what it is. One of them is discipline. Filipino people abroad have so much discipline. They follow all the rules. When theyíre around each other, they lose that discipline. Everyone here just kind of does what he wants to do, which pisses people off more, which makes people think, "If everybody else is doing it, why shouldnít I do it too?" You also have bad accountability Ė more tickets should be given and not paid off or taken care of by the padrino system, or whatever you wanna call it. If all of that were taken care of, the quality of life would be so much better on all levels of society.

When do you have time to think about all this?

I think about it sitting in the car all the time with all that traffic!

Have you tried driving out here?

No. I donít want to get killed. I would die. I mean, weíre not moving more than 20 miles per hour, but I would die.

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Paolo Montalban website: http://www.ePaolo.com