More than Prince Charming
By: Marj Akil
From: Chalk Magazine   [March 2003]

John Prats is dead set on becoming the man he always meant to be. Here's a full-time working student who, despite a booming career, still knows the importance of a college education.

The day was particularly high-strung for some malcontents commemorating the second anniversary of EDSA II. Also brewing was an angst-driven movement triggered by a new government policy to cover budget deficits. The additional 10% VAT on the already pocket-strangling 20% professional tax proved too much for vigilant film actors and actresses. They simultaneously launched their own caucus into the street. From veterans to small-time matinee idols to big names, crowds had stargazing feast while the group hollered their concerns on makeshift platforms after their march to the Senate. Plucked from 200 or so band of celebs, John Prats rushed to another venue that also required his presence. He just had to flee the scene and answer the call of his profession--to face the camera. Shows how the call of duty drives professionals in the industry to leave things at a drop of a hat.

    Thirty minutes prior to our call time, the young actor made it to cover the shoot, all the while pre-apologizing that he might arrive late because of the rally. Clad in a black shirt, the chosen uniform for that day's protest, John was a picture of enthusiasm, all charged up to talk about his' and his colleagues' position on the VAT issue and the goings-on in his budding entertainmet career. Having met him before for another interview, I knew that being with this heartthrob meant some downtime. It's a total relief to get viewpoints on some delicate matter for someone who doesn't seem to have to tendency to go ballistic over it. All I needed was a glass of ice-cold tea and I was set to listen to someone who can be my best bud.

Set for fame
    Somehow a cliché Phillipine showbusiness access, John Paolo Prats only tagged along with sister Camille in 1992 for an audition. ABS-CBN's Talent Center was freshly put up then, spearheaded by director Johnny Manahan, or more fondly known as Mr. M. Recruiting fresh faces for their own stable of artists, screening was ongoing for a new show called, "Ang TV", to be pitted against "That's Entertainment." Hesitant at first, John budged to the audition master's coaxing. Without knowing it, John Prats, together with his sister, were born together in the afternoon TV program line-up of the station for kids. "It was like play. Taping pag Saturday. Parang nagpunta ka ng park tapos laro lang kayo ng mga friends mo," he fondly recalls. While there, he bagged a Purefoods hotdog commercial with Judy Ann Santos that earned him around 10,000 Php. Per taping for "Ang TV", he would add 750 Php to his savings account. Not bad for an eight-year old. John remembers getting his very first Nike Jordan 8 trainers from his salary-so much for his old LA Gear and kiddie World Balance.

    Next came, "Kaybol" in his TV credits. And dabbling in acting started to get into the picture. "Ano ba 'to, forever na lang akong maglalaro or gagawin kong career 'to?" he asked while considering "Kaybol" as a launching pad for a serious acting stint. From there, he starred in a string of TV shows, sitcoms, and movies, the more popular of which are "Trip", "Jologs", "G-mik", "Okay Fine Whatever" (sic), "Whattamen", and the latest, "Berks". Music also crept into John's system, and at 14, Talent Center backed him up for the short-lived group JCS-John, Carlo (Aquino), and Stefano (Mori). Though the trio seemd just playing around, John has always been dead set in pursuing his drumming skills sans formal training.

    Touted as the next Aga Muhlach, John feels, "Nakaka-flatter na nakakakaba at the same time to be compared to him." Sporting clean-cut boy-next-door looks, John has striking resemblance to the king of endorsements and local romantic movies, especially during the latter's younger days as one of the "Bagets". Inclined towards Prince Charming roles, John says their being 'crazy' is one of their similarities. The difference lies on the moods: John starts hyper and maintains it, while Aga has shifts-one minute he's cracking jokes, another he's flopped for some serious chat. But who's more good-looking? "Siya!" exclaims John. "King of heartthrob talaga siya," he affirms. "Pero ikaw ang next in line," I say. "Andun pa 'yung original eh, siya muna," he jokes.

    Based on good looks alone, this Chinese mestizo surely gets a picture of where he's heading. But while looks and talent are presently pumping up his career, John has a reserve to back him up for his non-showbiz agenda. Currently a freshman Business Entrpreneurial major at Thames International Business School, he sees education as "the best gift you can give to your parents and to yourself." He adds, "Ang showbiz kasi andyan ngayon pero you'll never know tomorrow. Ang daming gusto mag-artista. At least after ka mag-artista, may fallback ka." That's why school packs his mornings, from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., after which he rushes to tapings. You could say he's a full-time working student. Rest days are a luxury, while vacations are like stumbling into a great bargain.

    But despite the tight dawn-to-dusk schedule, he enjoys school beacause it's very regular, very normal." Last time na na-enjoy ko yung school life ko was in grade school," he recalls, having enrolled at the ABS-CBN Distance Learning Center for high school. Since his showbiz commitments get him pretty tied up, he survives projects and presentations, through the courtesy of supportive classmates who fax and e-mail the necessary materials to him. By the time he gets to his first class, he's equipped with just about everything he needs to breeze through one challenging school day. "It's hard gotta live with it," he chuckles. John intends to gradute in 2006.

Buddy Talk
    While being in the limelight allows him to be in the presence of all sorts of people, John's at home with the ones who know him best. And the one who really does is younger sister Camille. Exactly how close they are? "Sobra," John blurts out. She's not only my sister, but also my best friend." The two love watching DVD, going to the movies and beat this: shopping together! How many big bros out there would actually have the patience to tag along for their little sister's vanity fair? Along with that comes an exchange of fashion tips. They've had their share of shenanigans, one hitting the streets of Hong Kong without their folk's knowledge. "Di namin magawa yun dito sa Manila eh," John says sheepishly.

    With Camille turning 18, boys just can't keep their eye off her-and John keeps an eyes on them. "I used to be very protective pero ngayon kailangan i-accept na may nanliligaw," he says. "Pero smart naman siya and I trust her so much about love." Someday, he'd like to see his sister with someone responsible, loving and hardworking. For a sweet sibling who brings him breakfast in bed for no reason at all, that isn't too much to ask for.

    For his part, he's got his dream girl pictured already: mestiza, fair-skinned, wide-eyed and simple. Believing that beauty is skin-deep, he thinks such a woman would be a perfect catch is she were also sensitive, understanding and smart. "Yung hindi lang sarili niya ang iniisip, nakaka-manipulate ng isip, outgoing, parang non-stop ang learning ko sa kanya," John elaborates. He takes the dating game in stride, going out once in a while but not getting himself girl-crazy. Just to tip you off: the moment John takes you to a yacht or boat for a candlelit dinner on a first date, he's got it bad for you. How do we know he's in love? Lighting up, he describes, "Pag may moments na wala ako kausap pero bigla akong mag-smile. Ibig sabihin naaalala ko yung girl. Wow..." letting off a sigh.

    But now that he's not attached, he hangs most of the time with sister Camille, childhood buddy Carlo Aquino, Heart Evangelista, Diether Ocampo, classmates at Thames and his reel-to-real ka-Berks. they love checking out the latest flicks, listening and jamming to some music and goofing off in paintball matches. He makes time for the love of his life, basketball that is, and going to the beach to jet ski. His idea of relaxation is playing with his Labrador Retriever and German Shepherd, reading, raiding PS2 and sleeping-a much sought-after treat. If he can, he's love to travel more, with Europe as a target destination. "Hopefully with a girlfriend na para romantic," he says in a dreamy voice.

Looking Beyond
    Those mentioned above should take a backseat for the moment, as John is high on getting a degree and making it bigger in the business. Flashing a 7 when asked to rate himself from 1-to-10 based on the characters he has portrayed, he feels he can do more and even better. Overall, he proudly gives himself a 10, though. "Kasi happy ako sa lahat ng ginagawa ko." John would love to tackle off-beat roles or something he has to research on. "Yung hindi ako, like Sean Penn's role in 'I am Sam', he cites. "Sina Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, every movie nila iba kasi they experiment. Gusto ko ganun-every movie ko ibang hitsura ko, iba acting ko, ibang character ko." Not drawing boundaries in substantial acting makes a good actor, according to John. "the crazier the better. Dapat 'di ka conscious sa ginagawa mo." Aiming for such recognition, he's confident that he can see himself through a slew of roles, but definitely no uncalled-for-stripping in front of the camera. "Pag di ako confident, very transparent ako," he explains. this year, John will be launcehd in his first solo movie, which he hopes will rake in the bucks and the acclaim.

    Learning about every nook and cranny in his craft, John sees his experiences perhaps leading him to a film directorial debut. Or producing. Or branching out in Advertising and being his dad's business partner in their construction company, in Ad Gateway and their production outfit. Or maybe launching a recording career and playing drums for a band's originals. Smart career-wise, this is similarly reflected in his finances. Together with Camille, he chipped in to have their family house built and purchased a condo unit in posh Rockwell. Aside from plans of building futuristic houses, he's also into 4x4s and dreams of filling his garage with a fleet! His RAV4 and an intended new Trooper will kick off the collection.

    Every hard-earned penny is carefully invested, that's why the additional 10% professional tax caused a stir among the celebrities' circle. "Unfair yun. Mabigat na nga yung 20%, what more kung 30%? Kawawa naman ang mga magbabayad sa amin. 30% plus our manager pa. Ano pa nag matitira sa amin?

    John may not have a voice as powerful as the bigwigs' in showbiz, but he's sure where he stands on the issue. He certainly represents a large group of young movers and shakers in the industry who are up to cutting-edge act.

    John 101

  • My biggest crush is Natalie Portman and if she comes over now, I'd tell her "You're so beautiful. God, I adore you. I'm your slave!"
  • My childhood petname was Flavor.
  • I dream of being a pilot.
  • The thing that I love about showbiz is the connections and the people I meet and the thing that I hate about is I don't have freedom and privacy.
  • Showbiz and politics are similar because there's palakasan in both
  • The worst tsismis that I won't be able to take is I already have a baby.
  • I love it when a girl wears jeans and a blue shirt.
  • My fashion statement is relaxed rockstar (faded jeans and a shirt).
  • The most flaterring compliment thrown at me was I'm the next Aga Muhlach.
  • My most hi-tech gadget is a Palm V3C.
  • Currently heavy on my CD player is John Mayer.
  • Vacationing in Las Vegas or Boracay is the best!
  • My most Las vegas moment is road trip and light-watching in the city.
  • My most Boracay moment is sitting along the shore at night.

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