He temporarily left the stage to get into college full-time. He studied AB General Education and shifted to Physical Therapy at the University of Santo Tomas. Piolo joined his family in the United States in 1996 and put his studies on hold. Two years later, at 21, he returned to Manila to pursue his chosen path under the limelight.
His filmography was mostly for supporting roles while he was still starting. Piolo was given a nomination by FAMAS for Best Supporting Actor as Brian in "Esperanza: The Movie" (1999). He played bit roles in "Lagarista," "Pera o Bayong," and "Kahit Isang Saglit," all in 2000. Finally in 2001, he played the lead in "Mila" as Primo and was nominated by FAP for Best Actor.
Dekada '70, topbilled by Vilma Santos and Christopher De Leon, is probably his breakthrough movie as numerous award-winning bodies recognized his acting prowess as Jules Bartolome. He was awarded Best Supporting Actor by FAMAS, FAP, Gawad Pasado, Gawad Tanglaw, Gawad Urian, Metro Manila Film Festival, PMPC Star Award for Movies, and Young Critics Circle Award. 1 | 2 | 3