All eyes have been on Ion Perez, or Benigno Perez in real life, since he was linked to Vice Ganda early this year.
But it was on October 26, 2019, when Vice Ganda finally admitted their relationship.
Ending all speculation about them, Vice declared on the stage of It's Showtime, "At itong puntong ito, ang sarap-sarap sa pakiramdam na naramdaman kong hindi ako nag-iisa. Kasi, for so many years, for so many times in the past, I felt I was all alone.
"At itong pangsampung taon ng Showtime, ang suwerte ko kasi hindi na ako nag-iisa.
"Meron na akong katuwang sa buhay."
THE YOUNG ION
The guy who stole Vice Ganda’s heart hails from Concepcion, Tarlac.
His late father Eufronio was a jeepney driver, while his mother Zenaida works as a kakanin vendor. They had 15 children, and Ion is the 11th child.
Nanay Zeny described a young Ion as “makulit at mahilig maglaro ng basketball.”
He also had the darkest skin among his siblings.
She recounted, “Napakapangit po…maitim po siya. Ayun nung lumalaki na siya, nag-ayos na po siya ng katawan niya. Ayun, pumogi na siya.”
Ion continued, “Nung bata ako, pag pinapakuha ko yung picture ko, ayaw nilang maniwala kasi sobrang payat ko, sobrang itim ko…”
ION, THE KAKANIN BOY
In his interview with Tonight With Boy Abunda, Ion gave the viewers a glimpse of his pre-showbiz days.
He was a “simpleng mamamayan sa probinsiya na tinutulungan si Nanay sa pagtitinda ng merienda, kakanin, lugaw…”
His main chore in the household was “taga-bitbit ng bag na may lamang kalamay.”
Ion continued, “Kadalasan po, nagtitinda lang siya sa harap ng bahay. Pag hindi po naubos yun, ilalako po namin ni Nanay sa barangay namin.”
He was his nanay’s “assistant” until he was around 23 or 24 years old.
When he was in third year high school, Ion decided to improve his looks by starting to limit his exposure to the sun.
“Hindi na ako naglalabas ng bahay nung third year high school ako. Nagwo-workout po ako…”
Ion went to Tarlac State University though his initial dream was to become a pilot.
Admittedly, he was not a diligent student and preferred going out with his friends.
In his interview with Tempo, he said, “Hindi ko po natapos ang first year. Kaya po ako huminto, wala pa sa focus ko ang pag-aaral. Puro barkada pa ako at kalokohan.”
That is, until he was introduced to male pageantry by photographer Carlo Morris Galang.
He told Boy Abunda how he met the photographer.
“Isang araw po, hindi ko sila sinipot kasi kinuha akong isang model. Nung time na po iyon, hindi pa ako nagmo-model sa Manila. Hindi ko po sila sinipot. Medyo kinakabahan pa rin po ako, nahihiya po ako…”
But that didn’t stop Carlo from contacting him.
Smiling, Ion said, “Hindi na niya ako tinigilan. Dumating sa puntong gusto ko na siyang i-block sa Facebook…”
After a few years, he got included in the list of Cosmopolitan Philippines’ 69 Bachelors.
Then, at the age of 25, he won the Mister Universe Tourism 2018 title.
ION AS KUYA ESCORT
His television career began on Gandang Gabi, Vice!
In October 2017, he met Vice Ganda after he was picked by Gigil Kid Carlo Mendoza among the studio audience.
Vice then told Carlo, "Pogi ba? In fairness, ha! Marunong umi-spot ito, ha!”
A year later, he was at a gimikan when he received a call from shoe designer Jojo Bragais, who said, “May trabaho ka bukas…O bukas punta ka ng ABS-CBN, mag-i-escort ka.”
Back then, Ion thought, “Mag-o-audition po ako…”
But to his surprise, he was asked to go on cam. “Sinalang po ako. Sobrang kabang-kabang po ako, kaya nung first day ko po, ang dami ko pong mali.”
In his interview with Korina Sanchez, Ion admitted, “Nung pag-uwi ko, hindi na po ako nag-expect na tatawagan nila ako ulit. Pero yun nga po, pinabalik nila ako.”
In September 2018, he replaced Greg Hawkins as Kuya Escort on the “Miss Q&A” segment of It’s Showtime.
Since then, the shy boy has been making people laugh “kahit mukha akong timang,” and has been winning hearts as Vice Ganda’s boyfriend.
His next goal is to give his mom a karinderia, and, “gagawin ko yung best ko para magpasaya ng tao.”