In FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano, Coco Martin is credited not only as a lead star but also as a creative consultant using the name Rodel Nacianceno.
At the presscon of FPJ's Ang Probinsyano last August 3, Coco mentioned that he has a hand in directing, scriptwriting, and casting members of the show.
Some of the kids who are currently part of the cast include Awra Briguela, Ligaya Ngujo, Dang Ramos, Paquito, and Enzo.
Ligaya was discovered by Coco when he and former FPJ's Ang Probinsyano child star Onyok Pineda went to Cebu to join the Sinulog Festival early this year.
Coco said that Ligaya caught his attention because of her beguiling smile.
He related, “Isa po siya sa mga daan-daang nanonood na mga bata na part ng crowd.
“E, naisip ko, dapat si Onyok may kalaro din dito.
"E, si Dang lang ang kasama naming artista mula sa Maynila.
“Sabi ko, dapat maraming bata. Di ba, ganun pag bata, kahit papa’no nagkakarooon ka ng crush.”
The show's star and creative consultant continued, “Tapos nakita ko, sa dami ng bata, iba yung ngiti ni Ligaya.
"Saka kapag nakikita ko si Ligaya, parang authentic na taga-Cebu, taga-isla.
“Kaya nung tinawag ko siyang ganun, sabi ko, ‘Ano’ng pangalan mo?’ Sabi niya, ‘Ligaya.’
“And then natuwa ako sa kanya nun. Sabi ko, ‘Ngiti ka nga.’ Yun.
“Mula nang ngumiti siya sa akin, sabi ko, puwedeng love interest ni Onyok.
"So, dun nag-start si Ligaya."
When asked about their working relationship with Coco, Awra, Ligaya, Dang, and Paquita said they look up to him either as a father figure or an elder brother.
The kids were also grateful to Coco and to the show's top executives for giving them a chance to be part of the Kapamilya network’s top-rating show.
TEACHING DISCIPLINE. While he enjoys being surrounded by young cast members, Coco admitted that he can also be strict on the set.
The actor cited an incident when he reprimanded the kids for being too playful at work.
“Actually, may time pinagsasabihan ko sila, napagalitan ko sila.
“Kasi, siguro yun ang pinapanood nila. Pag sinabi mong artista, dapat nakabihis, nakaporma.
“E, one time, siyempre nagba-blocking kami. Minsan natetensiyon kami dahil for airing.
“Siyempre dahil mga bata, naglalaro, hindi nakikinig, tapos pag nagte-taping, nagkakamali.”
Coco went on to say that he wanted to make the kids understand how to portray their respective characters as authentically as possible.
“E, pag dumadating sa set mga naka[porma], siyempre artista na, e. Hindi naman masama na ayusin yung sarili.
“Parang napapansin ko, parang naa-out of character na sila. Kasi siguro dahil nag-e-enjoy na.
“Sabi ko, parang di ko na nakikita yung character na kinuha namin.
"Like si Paquito, nawala yung pagiging sanggano. Si Ligaya, gumaganda na nang gumaganda.
“Parang hindi ko na nararamdaman yung pagiging authentic ng bawat character nila.”
What Coco did was gather the young cast members and explain how they can further improve their craft.
“E, pauwi na sila nun. Sabi ko, ‘Halikayo dito.’
"Pinaliwanag ko sa kanila, ‘Alam niyo, ang character, sa pelikula man 'yan o sa soap opera, hindi parang damit 'yan na hinuhubad at sinusuot lang.
“'Lalo na sa soap opera, every day mong pinapasok sa buhay mo yung character. Hangga’t hindi tapos yung soap opera, dapat nasa loob niyo.
“'Tingnan niyo yung suot niyo. Ang gaganda na di ba? Walang problema ‘yan.
"'Ang sa akin lang, dapat hindi niyo tinatalikuran kung ano man yung character niyo.’”
As part of the kids’ training, Coco required them to dress the part of their respective characters as soon as they arrive on the set and go home still wearing their costumes.
“Pinagpalit ko talaga sila kahit naka-outfit na.
"Sabi ko, ‘Mula ngayon, uuwi kayo at darating kayo na nakasuot yung costume niyo.’
“Sabi ko, ‘Ako, nakita niyo ako pagbaba ko ng sasakyan naka-costume na ako—suot ko na yung sapatos ko, suot ko na yung pantalon ko, nagpapalit na lang ako ng t-shirt. Gusto ko ganun kayo.’
“Sabi ko, ‘Dapat bata pa lang, alam niyo na yung disiplina, alam niyo na kung paano alagaan yung trabaho niyo.’
“After that, bumalik na sila sa dati nilang nakagawian.”
Awra Briguela as Mak-Mak
Awra said he was part of FPJ's Ang Probinsyano since April 2016.
When asked to describe his working relationship with Coco, Awra said, "Si Kuya Coco, parang naging papa ko na rin. Tapos hindi po nila talaga kami pinapabayaan.
"Tapos binigyan ako ni Kuya Coco sa AMA ng scholarship. Parang homestudy po."
Shantel Crislyn Layh Ngujo as Ligaya
Ligaya said she was super happy when Coco first approached her during FPJ's Ang Probinsyano tour in Cebu.
Coco added that Ligaya's acting stint paved the way for her mom to concentrate on looking after the newbie child star.
He elaborated, "Siguro yung opportunity na si Ligaya kahit papaano ngayon mas nakakasama niya yung nanay niya.
"Kasi dati once a year lang sila nagkikita dahil busy sa trabaho. Ngayon at least magkasama na sila."
James Sagarino as Paquito
Paquito was still a bit shy when he was quizzed during the presscon proper.
He was also discovered in Cebu just like Ligaya.
Rhian Lorraine Ramos as Dang
Rhian said she auditioned for her role in FPJ's Ang Probinsyano.
She added that she's grateful to be part of ABS-CBN's "number one teleserye."
Enzo Pelojero as Dexter
Enzo joined FPJ's Ang Probinsyano after his stint in the defunct Kapamilya primetime series, My Dear Heart.
During the presscon, he noted the difference between his character Bingo in My Dear Heart and Dezter in the Coco starrer.
Enzo said, "Sa My Dear Heart po dati usap-bata po. Tapos po nung nandun ako, 'di ako siga, parang normal lang po. Ngayon po siga na po ako."