In a highly competitive acting profession, one's primary goal is to get a successful venture or gig - something that would be both mentally and financially rewarding. Everyone knew who Kuya Bodjie was - he was a household name. And while he was extremely grateful for the role he played in children's shows, for a long time he was typecast as that "star from Batibot," the true Luisito Pascua moved on to roles that further demonstrated his acting prowess and flexibility.
Bodjie grew up with adoptive parents in a middle-class family. His father owned a printing press and his mother had a dental clinic in the same building in Pasay City. His parents were religious, fond of movies and food and exposed Bodjie to film during his formative years. His father even tried his hand at acting at one point.
"Dad appeared in a suspense movie with the popular actor Cesar Ramirez when I was around 6. They even shot a few scenes in our printing press," narrates Bodjie. "I remember my parents taking me to a preview of the film in the screening room of a movie house on Escolta Street in Manila. During an intense chase scene between goons and my daddy, the audience broke into laughter when my little voice unexpectedly pierced the air, "Daddy, bilis, andyan na sila! (Daddy, hurry up, they're coming!) Too bad, Mom's jealousy ended Dad's movie career."
The family eventually adopted a girl and moved to Calamba, Laguna, in the '70s after going into the real-estate business. Bodjie's adoptive father passed away in 1986 and his adoptive mother in 2009. However, Bodjie did meet his biological mother and father in the '70s and '80s, respectively. His mother who never married, currently lives in LaFayette, Georgia, and his father, who has five other children, lives in San Francisco. Bodjie remains in touch with them and his half-siblings.
Growing up, Bodjie was already inclined to the creative arts. "Early on, I was deeply affected by music, radio dramas, movies and books," he explains. "I was mostly a sheltered, introverted child, who would rather spend most of his free time alone, playing, daydreaming, watching old movies or television...reading a lot...or being with the adults around me, observing their joys and travails."
Bodjie finished grade school and high school at the San Beda College in Manila before pursuing his bachelor's degree in fine arts/drama at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles (first year and second years) and New York University in New York City (junior and senior years). He also enrolled in acting classes at the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute in New York City. Despite such an impressive educational background, "I am still educating myself," he says.
He was cast in many plays in grade school at San Beda College, including a role as a communist rebel seeking help from his brother in My Brother's Keeper. He says, "I was so pleased to discover I could feel real emotions, while delivering my monologue. The adrenaline rush was delicious!"
He goes on to say, "What cemented the whole thing for me was the impact of productions I watched while in high school. It gave me a taste of the awesome possibilities of live theater. But I was most especially inspired by productions of the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) at the historical Fort Santiago in Intramuros, Manila: Tao (a Tagalog translation and adaptation of the late 15th-century morality play Everyman), starring Tommy Abuel and directed by Cecile Guidote, Bukas, Madilim, Bukas (Tomorrow, It's Dark Tomorrow) by Orlando Nadres and directed by the great Lino Brocka, and Tatlong Manyika (Three Dolls), an experimental absurdist play, which was staged in a dungeon theater. The third play was very memorable because it was written by Rey E. de la Cruz (now a Chicago-based Positively Filipino correspondent), who was a fellow high-schooler at San Beda College and a co-officer in Bedan Stagers, the high-school drama club.
For someone like Bodjie Pascua, the whole acting craft is rather simple. He adheres to the definition by the American actor and acting teacher Sanford Meisner, that is, "living truthfully under imaginary circumstances." As such, Bodjie's philosophy of acting is easy to remember and follow. "I am pragmatic when it comes to acting: Use whatever works for you," he advises.
"Acting is about getting out of your head. About getting on your feet and generously giving of yourself. It is about being, doing, about instinctive reacting and active listening...about organic, truthful behavior. Harnessing everything in you to allow the soul of the character you are playing to jump out of your skin."
Bodjie's growth as an actor is largely credited to theater. It was during this time on stage that he learned more about himself, his inclinations, passions, discipline and artistic integrity. "I see theater as another parent that helped raise me," he says. " It was like never going to work at all."
A big part of Bodjie's theater life was his years at PETA. "It made me realize that despite my Westernized education, I was a Filipino at heart," he says. "PETA's shows spoke directly to me. It shaped how I thought what a theater artist's role in society should be."
Eventually, he appeared with other companies. And he played lead roles in a variety of plays, such as Canuplin and Ang Paglalakbay ni Radiya Mangandiri with PETA; the independently produced Magnificat: The Musical; El Filibusterismo, The Musical; and Ilustrado with Tanghalang Pilipino. "Part of the excitement of doing live theater is knowing that anything can happen," Bodjie says.
From theater, Bodjie moved on to the world of television as host/storyteller of popular TV educational programs, including Batibot, Bulilit, Sige, Sali Ka Na! and Epol-Apple. And while these shows put him in a certain mold that would limit casting roles, he eventually got the breaks he needed as film and TV producers gave him other creative opportunities.
His TV credits include a dramatic role in the soap opera It Might Be You; along with playing Mang Domeng in the sci-fi show, Fantastikids. In films, he was a police chief in the drama, Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros); a father in the thriller, Sa Aking Pagkagising Mula sa Kamulatan (Awaken); and a hardworking farmer in the musical Emir.
Bodjie Pascua's rich portfolio, passion and discipline make him someone everyone can learn from. To this end he shares a few life lessons:
"Live your life fully. Savor it!
Have a healthy sense of self.
Play. Don't lose the spontaneous child in you.
Be present to others. Remain non-judgmental.
Remain curious. Read. Observe. Explore.
Keep yourself healthy - physically, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually.
Above all, be humble."
Such simple words, but Bodjie Pascua has achieved great things just by remaining true to them.
Bodjie Pascua's video links on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=bodjie+pascua
Serina Aidasani divides her time between New York and Chicago. She enjoys deep conversations, mocha lattes and tries to appreciate little joys of the everyday.
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