“I’m not offended! I’m flattered because I’ve always been here, hindi lang nila ako napapansin,” says actor Ian Veneracion who’s all over the place right now. You can’t call it a comeback since, as he said, he never left and has always been around. But when asked what he thinks he’s been doing right due to the surge of attention that he’s been getting lately, he’s somewhat lost for answers. “I don’t know. I’ve always done the things that I’m doing now. Wala akong binago sa muhka ko, wala akong binago sa buhok ko, at sa pananamit ko.”
Although he started in showbiz at a very young age, Ian insists that he lived a very normal childhood. Discovered by director Leo Realp at five years old, Ian’s first gig was playing Sto. Niño in a one-night Christmas TV special. “After a few months, they called to do this TV show Joey and Son, where I played Joey de Leon’s son. Taping was every Saturday, so there was no conflict with school,” explains the 41-year-old actor. He enjoyed acting so much that when he had to take a break, he missed it badly. He was only able to get back into it full swing when he was 11 years old by joining the variety show That’s Entertainment.
If there’s anything that being a child star has taught Ian, it would be to take care of his reputation. “Growing up as a teenager, hindi mo ako makikitang gumagapang nang lasing, or napapaaway sa club. My reputation has always been important to me,” says Ian. He believes having a good reputation is one’s best investment because if you have a respectable one, people take you seriously. “May tiwala sila sa akin kasi they don’t have any reason to doubt me.” This formula worked wonders for him that during the course of his transition from doing teeny-bopper roles to making action films, there were no qualms from anyone mainly because he was dedicated and he delivered well. When he was 15, he did one action movie after another—he was Baby Face, Boy Praning, Zaldong Tisoy, Totoy Hitman, Felipe Pugoy, Ben Balasador, and the list goes on. “I really enjoyed the physical stuff—the stunts, the effects, the car chases, and the fight scenes. But it came to a point that I wasn’t exploring emotionally. I’m happy that when I started doing TV and drama, I began getting mature characters na kasabay lang habang I was getting older; I started getting roles that were right for me,” Ian explains, regarding this shift in his career.
“Growing up as a teenager, hindi mo ako makikitang gumagapang nang lasing, or napapaaway sa club. My reputation has always been important to me.”
He has done quite a number of teleseryes, but undoubtedly the one that catapulted him into everyone’s radar yet again was the recently concluded 2015-2016 drama series Pangako Sa ‘Yo, which was based on a 2000 teleserye with the same title. Ian played the role of Governor Eduardo Buenavista, a role that he almost did not accept. “My manager told me that ABS-CBN wanted me to play that role. Last year was ‘midlife crisis year,’ and I had been thinking whether I still wanted to do this acting thing or not,” he recalls.“Ever since, as long as I’m enjoying, sure! But six months from now, I don’t know. I’ve always felt that I can leave anytime and choose a different path. I told my manager that I wasn’t sure.”
It took his wife Pam, his friend actor Richard Gomez, and his co-star Daniel Padilla, who played his son in the said teleserye, to convince him to do it. “Goma [Richard Gomez’s nickname] went to my house to buy some of my paintings, and then we got to talk about the part. He said, ‘Pare, ‘wag kang bibitaw sa TV. Konti na lang naman tayo.’ What he said stuck with me,” he says. “Then my wife suggested that while I was thinking about what to do next in my life, why don’t I just give the show a go, so that I wouldn’t be bored. I have to be productive, in a sense that I’m moving forward, whether creatively, thinking of a story, contemplating about a certain style of painting—something! I don’t like being stagnant.”
The show turned out to be a huge hit, especially because of his rapport with actress Jodi Sta. Maria, who portrayed Amor Powers, one of his love interests in Pangako Sa ‘Yo. Their chemistry was unquestionable and when asked what he thinks made the love team work, he said that it’s very easy to fall in love with Jodi. “If the scene calls for me to fall in love with someone, as an actor, I have to find the qualities that would make me fall in love with this person. With Jodi, it was so easy for me to find something to love about her,” he explains. He also mentioned that he doesn’t like misleading his fans about whoever he’s paired with. “Everybody knows that I’m happily married. There are people who are wishing and hoping that there’s something but at the same time they know that the reality is that Jodi and I are just really, really good friends, and we love working with each other,” clears Ian.
Even after Pangako Sa ‘Yo, the Ian-Jodi tandem is still very much alive especially with their fans, which paved the way for their new romantic comedy The Achy Breaky Hearts, which opens next week. In it, Ian’s character Ryan goes up against Frank, portrayed by Richard Yap, for the love of Chinggay (Jodi). Richard was Jodi’s love interest in the popular long-running afternoon TV series Be Careful with My Heart, which concluded in 2014. What was it like working with Richard? Ian said that Richard was very cool, although he toyed with the idea that Richard was Jodi’s ex, and he is the current flame. “I was joking about it when I got to the set, o, medyo nag-selos ako ng konti, pero na-control ko naman,” he laughs. He said to expect a rivalry between their characters since they will both be competing for Chinggay’s affection—you’ll either be Team Tisoy or Team Chinoy.
In the thick of his grueling schedule, Ian, a father of three, still finds time to spend with his family. He likes to play the guitar and piano. Bonding with the kids means riding their motorbikes all the way to Sagada, paragliding in Carmona, skydiving, day hiking in Mt. Maculot, or kayaking and scuba diving in Coron. Also a painter, Ian admits that at the moment he doesn’t have time for it since it takes him half a year to produce works for an exhibit (he’s already done a few). He was exposed to art at a young age because of his father, respected artist Roy Veneracion.
“I have nothing pending. I’m enjoying my career and my family, and whatever is there in front of me is a bonus. When I look back at my life, I really believe that I have lived a full one already.”
As to what he looks forward to for the rest of the year, he says that he’s leaving everything blank. “I don’t think you should have anything planned after you turn 40. There’s a sense of just being lucky to be here, lucky to be alive,” Ian says. “I have nothing pending. I’m enjoying my career and my family, and whatever is there in front of me is a bonus. When I look back at my life, I really believe that I have lived a full one already.” He said that he’s more open now to possibilities and excited about the surprises his life is going to lead him to. “My mentality is anything goes—bring it on, baby!”