Paolo Pangilinan has a lot to say, especially when it comes to the cause and community near and dear to his start. This time, however, he is taking a bigger stand.
Paolo Pangilinan is disarmingly nice. From his gentle demeanor, his seemingly studied approach, and his penchant for being polite, he is every bit the good boy that one would assume him to be. With his shirt neatly tucked in his trousers and his hair enviably brushed together and cooperative even so early in the morning, it’s a wonder if anything is out of the ordinary for the young actor and medical student. Never speaking out of turn, there is a care to his choice of words as he engages you in conversation, really wanting to interface touch base with as many people as he can while he waits for the lull of the day to dissipate once the action shifts into high gear.
Where everything is controlled, without so much as a fine detail out of place, Paolo Pangilinan comes to most alive in a conversation. While he isn’t necessarily loud, it his discerning and well-articulated thoughts that make you really forget your posture and lean in closer to really listen. Following a steady pace and rhythm in conversation, you will notice when he gets fully engaged. Hurried and with his pitch rising at every tumble of words from his lips, Paolo Pangilinan has a lot to say. So much so, that at one point, he is trying to fight back tears from the feelings brimming out of him.
Paolo Pangilinan In Conversation
“I humbly accept the responsibility, willingly, and with a purpose that I hope the next one of my kind wouldn’t have it as hard,” he says of his greater responsibility as a queer person making and taking space on the mainstream media. Here, he starts to well up, his voice breaking and his verbal expressions getting truncated by the balling of air and emotion rising from his chest. “Especially for those who message me that they are scared to come out kasi bubugbugin sila ng magulang nila or be bullied in school, it’s a huge responsibility for me to stay on their screens and keep doing what I do, make amazing stories. I just want it to be easier for the next me.”
Paolo Pangilinan isn’t just an actor, he is an advocate, standing up for what he believes in and fighting for what is right and long overdue for the LGBTQIA+ community. And you know it’s an earnest intention, not just that there were tears involved or every thought skews to the cause of the disenfranchised, but because you are actually moved and riled up to do something—even if it is as simple as opening up and expanding the conversation.
“I know I am not of my own when I step out of the house even just for coffee,” he says, already acclimating to the role he now plays for anyone still scared, unsure, or operating on their own time. But most importantly, there is a clear absence of an overtly narcissistic fiber to his being. Often in the Zoom call or an Instagram DM, he would apologize for things that honestly seem so trivial.
Take The Lead
Despite the encompassing scope he is able to command and compel to a tangible effect, he doesn’t think too big of himself. Admitting to the greater strides he has to take in order to fully be that person people need to hold on to and look up to. Just like Karl in Gaya Sa Pelikula, he knows what he wants and where he wants to go, but he is taking it a pace that feels right for him to make change.
Paolo Pangilinan is not just inching his way forward for himself anymore. Not only does he have an entire cause and community to fight for, he most importantly gets to be that one guy he needed the most growing up—for himself and everyone else.
How did it feel when the show became the success that it was, from being a victory for queer storytelling, as well as of it reaching the heights it did in pop culture and in the conversation of the LGBTQIA+ community?
Whenever something of this is asked and I still think it resonates, and it holds true. Up until now, Gaya Sa Pelikula is a step in the right direction. But there are so many steps that we still have to take for it to create an actual positive social impact that would last. It would be all for naught if we did not follow through on this. While I do feel fulfilled and very grateful that people see themselves in the show, I feel like there’s also a need to follow through with the conversations that Gaya Sa Pelikula has started, and I’m very excited about that.
How do you define connection, especially in the context of reaching people the way you do now?
I think an adequate quote for this is if everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself. That’s by Henry Ford. Sometimes, we think that success is individual…I have to be this, this is I have to become. Personally, I want to be the best doctor around and in whatever I do, I want to be the best. But when you look at it as a whole, it’s not just Karl’s story, it’s not just that story, but how these stories come together, the connections that it formed that made it so special. This reminded me to focus on the relationships tha you build with people towards serving a greater purpose than you envisioned only for yourself.
If a young boy or girl, or even a younger self comes up to you and says, “I want to be like you when I grow up.” What lesson or wisdom would you share to get them started on their journey?
As someone who sought to be in places to…institutions—I realized, champions aren’t born in places, nor are they found in other people. It comes from state of mind, ready heart, and an indomitable hope.
At this early stage of your career, what is it that you hope to accomplish or that one singular dream you hope to do?
A long term goal is to keep receiving messages of people finding solace in themselves through a story that I’ve been able to tell, regardless of whether it’s through acting or through whatever…a simple tweet, a vlog, or my lived experience as a student. This is such a huge responsibility now, and I have to do it in the best way I can.
What for you is self-care and how do you practice it in your life?
For me, it is acknowledging that you cannot pour from an empty cup. Before you give…if other people are the cups waiting for the gifts of your life, you still have your own to deal with. In order for you to share it with them, you yourself should be fulfilled first, and then work towards that.