Onstage with his band Kjwan, Marc Abaya the rocker can be so intense that it's almost frightening.
Switch on the television to watch ABS-CBN's talent-reality show Pilipinas Got More Talent, and you'll find Marc Abaya the host clowning around just like your typical easy-going friend from college.
The contrasting image might be confusing to some people. But not for Marc, who started out his career way back in 1998 as vocalist for the rock band Sandwich—the group that was initially perceived as the side project of ex-Eraserheads drummer Raimund Marasigan.
Marc eventually left Sandwich in 2004 to focus on Kjwan, the band he co-founded with close college friends. He also dabbled in acting, hosting, and for a time served as one of the MTV VJs before the network changed ownership and personnel in 2007.
"Na-realize ko that my job as a musician, as a host, as a DJ, and as a performer is to make people happy. In music let's say, if we play an angry music it's because they [the listeners] feel that they can relate to it. Pero at the end of the day, babaliin ko because I'm not angry all the time. You have to come to a gig with a fresh mind and be happy because, otherwise, mahahawa 'yong mga tao," Marc told PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) last March 2 at Dencio's in front of ABS-CBN in Quezon City.
"Kasi 'yong akin," he continued, "I'm not confused because these are all me. And sa tingin ko, I'm not just a musician, I'm also crazy, and I think I'm funny."
BREAKING STEREOTYPES. Marc considers his hosting job at Pilipinas Got More Talent a perfect vehicle for him to break out of previous misconceptions. Aside from being typecast as this brooding rock n' roll musician, Marc's past villain roles, particularly in Ligaw na Bulaklak, only made him less endearing to the TV audience.
Marc even recalled being confronted by a viewer in public just to reprimand him for his role in Ligaw na Bulaklak. "Ang sama-sama ko raw," Marc remembered being told by the appalled fan.
But previous rating figures of Pilipinas Got More Talent, the daily version of ABS-CBN weekend primetime talent show Pilipinas Got Talent, suggest that viewers are beginning to appreciate Marc's more engaging personality.
"[It's] very humbling," Marc said about the compliment. "Kasi again sino ba ko? Who am I? I'm nobody. I may have been in a band for a long time pero dalhin mo ko sa Mindanao [and] no one would know me. Bring me to Babuyan Islands and no one would know me. The fact that it's [Pilipinas Got More Talent] doing well is beyond me."
WORKING WITH MOM. Acting and hosting are both fulfilling, according to Marc. Between the two, however, Marc described acting as "more challenging" and something that he would love to continuously hone.
"Kasi hosting parang banda din 'yan, e," he said, "you host in the middle of the songs."
He added, "But acting, I'm afraid of it because it is a challenge. I don't think I'm good enough yet."
Marc's track record in acting includes Your Song Presents Babalik Kang Muli and Judy Ann Santos's latest primetime series Habang May Buhay. He also appeared in a few independently-produced film projects.
That Marc loves acting is not surprising. Born on November 6, 1979, Marc is the son of veteran actor-director Manolo Abaya and critically-acclaimed director Marilou Diaz-Abaya, whose past works include Brutal (1980), Moral (1983), Karnal (1984), Baby Tsina (1985), and Jose Rizal (1998), among others.
Marc recalled being oblivious to his parents reputation while growing up. He saw renowned artists such as dramatist Rolando Tinio and director Ishmael Bernal visiting the Abaya residence occasionally.
"I never knew that mom was Marilou Diaz-Abaya... And honestly, 'yong magnitude [of her contribution to Philippine Cinema] hindi ko pa na-realize until college. Because if mom works, pagdating niya sa bahay, she's mom."
Years later while sitting on the sidelines, Marc was able to observe his mother as she worked on a project. "Si Mommy on the set, never nagwawala, never nagdi-diva 'yan. And by that time, I knew that my mom was a goddess."
Quietly watching his mother in the company of actors and the production staff taught Marc the value of modesty and integrity, regardless of one's status.
"That's what my mom always tells me, humility. It's the hardest thing for me to learn because I'm a musician in a rock band," smiled Marc. "But that's the thing I always remember, that I'm doing what I'm doing for others and not for me."
Does he ever think of working under his famous director-mom?
"Natatakot ako kay mommy, e," replied Marc. "Sa totoo lang, working with my mother makes me anxious and nervous."