Coco Martin is the idol of the masses. People easily connect to him in an intimate level, thanks to his familiar, inspiring success story and his teleseryes and movies that mirror the ordinary man. Join Coco as he looks back on his humble beginnings for the first time in a Magandang Buhay episode.
The episode commenced with a review of Coco’s teleseryes, starting off with Minsan Lang Kita Iibigin, which he considers his big break where he played a dual role. Coming from the indie film industry, he didn’t expect to earn a spot, let alone become a lead actor, in mainstream series and movies.
‘Kilig’ echoed around the studio when he described Walang Hanggan, his first series with rumored girlfriend Julia Montes, as “dito nagsimula ang lahat” – whatever that means. He said this made a mark in his career, thanks to its timeless story and star-studded cast.
Juan Dela Cruz was his first foray into action. Although doubtful of his aptitude and appeal as an action star –he thought he lacks height – Coco worked hard to play his part. Then, he went back to his original element, drama, via Ikaw Lamang where he was Kim Chiu’s leading man and Jake Cuenca’s rival, making this serye one for the books.
What cemented his credibility as an action star and director was FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano. “Hindi namin akalain na aabot siya ng pitong taon at kung paano siya minahal at tinangkilik ng mga tao sa Pilipinas at sa ibang bansa. Dito, naniniwala na ako na kaya ko pala kahit papaano mag-action.”
With the success of FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano, Coco is aware of viewers' high expectations for his new series FPJ’s Batang Quiapo, which is why they have to work doubly hard. “In terms of production and quality, lahat talaga pinag-aralan namin kung ano ‘yung mga mali namin nu’ng nasa Probinsyano pa kami, kung paano pa namin mas mapagaganda, paano pa namin mas mapapasaya ‘yung mga manonood.”
More so, the team behind FPJ’s Batang Quiapo is determined to be at par with international shows, “Nasa puso namin na kung ‘yung ibang bansa nga ina-appreciate natin, bakit hindi ang gawang Pilipino?”
Excitement built up when Coco traced his roots in the next segment. As the story goes, he grew up in Novaliches with his paternal grandmother Lola Matilde after his parents’ separation. Sometimes he would visit his mom in Tondo, especially when there’s conflict at his original home. Coco learned to be street-smart at a young age, tagging along with Lola Matilde into all sorts of ‘rakets’ such as collecting payments for their informal lending business. Lola Matilde also worked as a staff in a cockfighting arena.
Being a ‘batang-kalye’ shaped him into the man he is today – persevering, and pleasant to everyone he meets. He believes his biggest charm is his “galing sa pakikisama.”
Quiapo holds a special spot in his heart since he grew up influenced by Lola Matilde’s devotion to the Black Nazarene. In 2007, he starred in the indie film “Tirador” which required him to join the traditional Traslacion and touch the icon of the Black Nazarene for a scene. He did, and prayed for a chance to be given a job. The Black Nazarene listened, “Mula 2007 hanggang 2023, hindi na ako pinatulog ng Nazareno. Dire-diretso na ang trabaho na binigay Niya sa akin. Mula nu’ng nahawakan ko Siya, dire-diretso ang blessing.”
Coco was a working student in college. During his duty as a waiter in a restaurant, he was spotted and asked to smile by a customer, who happens to be Rene dela Cruz, assistant director of Johnny Manahan.
“Pagbalik ko nu’ng sine-serve ko na ‘yung pagkain, binigyan niya ako ng calling card. Sabi niya, ‘Assistant director ako ni Johnny Manahan. Baka gusto mong mag-artista?’ Eh, siyempre, iba pakiramdam ‘pag ordinaryo kang tao tapos bibigyan ka ng calling card na may nakalagay pang ABS-CBN.”
He met with Rene at the ABS-CBN audience entrance, clueless that he’d be asked to audition for Star Magic Batch 9. He said just setting foot inside the ABS-CBN compound and seeing actors like Jericho Rosales in person was enough of an experience. But he was meant for more. Making it to the Top 20, he was asked to undergo acting workshops. However, it took most of his time and energy that he started to neglect his studies. He asked Lola Matilde if he can drop out of school to continue with the workshops, but Lola Matilde’s rule was to earn a diploma first before getting into showbiz.
Independent movies brought him to places, literally, as he would attend film festivals abroad. Once he’s there, he would save his allowance per diem and take advantage of the hotel’s free breakfast buffet instead of buying his food. “Ang ginagawa ko, ‘pag breakfast sa hotel kakain ako nang marami. Tapos, siyempre, buffet ‘yan. Magbabalot ako tapos ilalagay ko sa bag para ‘yun na ‘yung lunch at dinner ko para mauwi ko lang ‘yung per diem na binibigay sa akin.”
“Noong nagsisimula ako sa indie films, hindi talaga pag-aartista ‘yung mindset ko. Ang gusto ko lang ‘yung normal.” He chased his ordinary dreams in Canada, working as a janitor and occasional cook using his background in HRM. He would also pick up plastic bottles and sell what he collects after a month.
In the next segment, FlipTop stars Bassilyo and Smugglaz reveal the real Coco behind the cameras, talking first how they got to meet the Primetime King after he was able to watch their rap videos. They imparted that the superstar is very supportive that sometimes he acts as their stylist and photographer on their shows abroad. Best of all, he inspires them to save for their future. In turn, Bassilyo and Smugglaz are thankful for the chance to try acting with Coco’s help.
Coco treats his friends and colleagues like family. And as family, they never leave each other, and that’s why he’s grateful, “Kahit nasaan ako, never nila akong iniwan. Kahit pagod na pagod na sila, pare-pareho kaming walang tulog. Bihira kasi ‘yung ganu’n, ‘yung alam mong meron kang makakasama, walang iwanan kahit anong mangyari.”
The actor-director then received a special message from Sharon Cuneta, prompting him to recall their awkward first days as co-workers in FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano. He said, he just thought of casting Sharon for a special role in the series without a specific plot in mind. He then pitched the idea and created a storyline on the spot. When Sharon arrived in their taping bubble in Ilocos, he was so shy that he intentionally evaded her, until she noticed, “Sabi niya, ‘Parang hindi ako gusto ni Direk Coco. Parang iniiwasan niya ako.’”
“’Yung ine-expect kong eksena, lagpas-lagpas ang binigay niya sa akin do’n. After that, inaano ko kung paano makukuha loob niya as a director. Nahihiya pa ako sa kanya.” Although it felt surreal acting with the Megastar, let alone directing her, Coco knew he had to make an effort to connect to the actress. Eventually, they built a close relationship, and everyone treated Sharon like their mom on the set. She would cook during rest days and was friendly and caring to everyone, without a trace of her superstar status. “Talagang ‘yung experience, yung pagmamahal na binigay niya sa amin, sobra-sobra.”
In some parts of the episode, Coco showed off his rap skills and his TikTok moves! Plus, he received a plaque of recognition for his hard work and contribution to the world of entertainment.
Watch this episode of Magandang Buhay with ‘momshies’ Jolina Magdangal and Melai Cantiveros.