The Arrival of David Licauco

I ask 21-year-old charmer and GMA Network young leading man, David Licauco what he has to say to his younger self as he look back into his two-year-old career. He flashes that familiar heartthrob smile and gives out a quick reply, “Buti nag-Boracay ka.” He lets out a short laugh and shifted the conversation to a recollection of his beginnings.

By happenstance, while on vacation in Boracay, he was approached by someone who turned out to be an agent and asked if he was a model. He shrugged off the inquiry immediately, with that kind of attention completely alien to him. But countless prodding eventually made him go to one casting onto the next and his interest was piqued. “I went to go-sees and castings just for the sake of going. I never got in. But then, at the time, I knew I was intrigued by the modeling world and I wanted to know what I should do to get in. How do I improve myself?”

Licauco was a student finishing up a degree in Information Systems at the De La Salle College of St. Benilde, he would go into shoots and fashion shows but never claimed to take modeling seriously. It was an audition for ABS-CBN’s Mr. & Ms. Chinatown when things took a turn.

“It was a competition for young Filipino-Chinese and so it felt like it’s right up my alley. I’ve seen it on television before and I know how big it could be as a platform and so I gave it a try. Luckily, I won first runner-up. That’s when I got more features in magazines and some small jobs on television and movies but I was still in college into playing basketball. I never felt like I was really into it. It felt more like a bragging right to me—a portfolio of myself.” But one thing that he has gained from competing against his fellow Fil-Chinese youth, it was a bigger awareness of the industry and an even bigger interest to become part of it.

I got more features in magazines and some small jobs on television and movies but I was still in college into playing basketball. I never felt like I was really into it. It felt more like a bragging right to me—a portfolio of myself.

Photo by Patrick Diokno. Button-down shirt, Bench. Gray suit, Avel Designs by Avel Bacudio. Overcoat, Don Sevilla. Shoes, Dr. Martens.

Looking at him now, with a number of billboards lining up the metro, mostly as endorser to giant retail brand, Bench, it is hard to imagine Licauco not regard himself as a looker. “When I was younger, I was athletic but I was never the guwapo guy. I was maitim because of sports, I had pimples. It’s funny, my mom once even went to a manghuhula and she was told magkakaroon siya ng anak na artista. They never thought it would be me–neither did I,” he shares.

Photo by Jan Mayo. Blazer and pants, both Bench.

It’s this kind of resistance to the idea of fame and actually making an impact to people that made him ask whether a career under the klieg lights, the press tours, and late night tapings would be something that would sustain him as a professional straight out of college, but more importantly, as a person looking for purpose.

At one point, Licauco was lured by the idea of leaving life under the observing eyes of the public behind. After his stint at the television pageant, he posed for magazines and was given bit roles in television and in movies, but these proved to be lacking for the young actor.

At one point, Licauco was lured by the idea of leaving life under the observing eyes of the public behind. After his stint at the television pageant, he posed for magazines and was given bit roles in television and in movies, but these proved to be lacking for the young actor.

Now, a cursory search of Licauco would lead to countless photos of him with—or most often—without a shirt—showered with virtual cheers and squeals from fans of the boy-next-door with a ripped, athletic physique. On Twitter, the young actor heats up timelines with his every selfies or endorsement shots, reposted and ogled by many.

It’s this kind of online prominence based mainly on looks that makes many skeptical of this kind of newfound fame—not just for him but for many whose passports to public attention were modeling DNA or online following. Licauco, however, makes it a mission to defy the odds—now with a renewed sense of commitment to his craft and a respect for the business he wishes to stay in and excel in.

A REFORMATION

Photo by Patrick Diokno. Turtleneck sweather, Mark Dela Pena. Blazer, Bench. Trench coat, Avel Designs by Avel Bacudio.

“At the start, akala ko sa showbiz kelangan gwapo ka lang. Before, magkaroon lang ng guesting sa show, I am happy na. Magkaron lang ng followers, I’m happy already. You know how kids are,” he opens up. “As I grew older, it suddenly felt more and more like a craft—and one that I actually want to be good at. It’s just like any other sport and job na kelangan mong seryosohin at i-improve. Hanggang sa umabot sa point na pwede pala syang gawing trabaho and I get to make others happy.”

“At the start, akala ko sa showbiz kelangan gwapo ka lang. Before, magkaroon lang ng guesting sa show, I am happy na. Magkaron lang ng followers, I’m happy already. You know how kids are. As I grew older, it suddenly felt more and more like a craft—and one that I actually want to be good at.”

Photo by Jan Mayo. Denim jacket, Bench.

Thoughts of turning his back on the limelight, helping out with his father on their family business, packing up and leaving to take on further studies in Australia, once appealed to him. But things have changed.

Thoughts of turning his back on the limelight, helping out with his father on their family business, packing up and leaving to take on further studies in Australia, once appealed to him. But things have changed.

Signing up with new management under the tutelage of Arnold Vegafria, Licauco was given an opportunity to lead in an upcoming movie with celebrity-maker, Regal Entertainment, Because I Love You. He was paired with another GMA Artist Center newcomer, Shaira Diaz, whom he has already worked with in the past for long-running anthology, Magpakailanman.  It was at this point that Licauco’s dedication intensified, thus deciding to do his homework.

Photo by Patrick Diokno. Sweater and pants, both Bench.

“At first, I never really thought I could do it. But I had to get my hands dirty and do the work because this is an opportunity I need to take seriously—I need to take acting more seriously. Naghanap ako ng magtuturo sakin ng acting and then I found Ann Villegas, who coached me for 20 sessions. Dun ko natutunang mahalin ang pag-arte, which surprised myself.”

Dun ko natutunang mahalin ang pag-arte, which surprised myself.

In the movie, Licauco plays the role of Rael, a rich bachelor who falls in love with a fire woman. For a launching movie, this seemed like a typical saccharine tale made for the big screen, but working with seasoned director Joel Lamangan made it a tall order.

Photo by Jan Mayo.

Nung una, kinabahan ako. Akala ko mapapagalitan ako. But Direk Joel is a good director and I am deeply honored to go through him and learn. Sabi nga nila, once dumaan ka kay Joel lamangan, may napatunayan ka na. I’ve learned things from that experience that I am applying until now. Di ka pwedeng late, you have to come prepared, and you have to be disciplined. I am just so happy siya ang naging direktor ko sa first movie ko,” Licauco says.

Sabi nga nila, once dumaan ka kay Joel lamangan, may napatunayan ka na.

ALWAYS FORWARD

Photo by Jan Mayo. Shirt and denim jacket, Bench.

“At first, my mindset is simply to give showbiz a try and then two to three years, I’m done. Now, with so much respect for this craft and being given the chance to work with so many people I admire, I have learned to take it day by day. I want to see what happens. I am just so glad that I was given the kind of opportunities they gave me,” he answers when asked about his game plan to the top.

At first, my mindset is simply to give showbiz a try and then two to three years, I’m done. Now, with so much respect for this craft and being given the chance to work with so many people I admire, I have learned to take it day by day. I want to see what happens.

Having finished his launching movie, alongside a recent drama, Kapag Nahati and Puso with Bea Binene, Sunshine Cruz, Benjamin Alves, and the likes of Bing Loyzaga and Zoren Legaspi, Licauco is looking forward to lifting the veil to the great unknown—with more doors opening day by day. While waiting for dream collaborations with directors like Joyce Bernal, Antoinette Jadaone, Jason Paul Laxamana, Erik Matti and a slew of new breed of directors, he is not taking a break from learning and honing himself–not taking no for an answer to do what he has grown to love.

Photo by Jan Mayo. Denim jacket, Bench.

“I have so many things to improve on and now, I’ve learned to really value my place in the industry. There’s a lot that I need to work on and I’ve realized that I can’t be too complacent. I have to remain hungry for what I want to achieve,” he enthuses.

Photo by Patrick Diokno. Denim pants, Bench.

“For now, I continue to harness my acting skills by attending to more workshops. It is all about continuous learning for me. Dati, di ko iniisip na kaya ko. I am such an introvert that I sometimes become just a wallflower, but now, I see myself improving slowly but steadily. There’s nowhere to go but up from here. That keeps me excited,” he shares, eyes beaming with sincere excitement.

Now with an acting resume that has beefed up through the years, Licauco is set out to do more and be more. From guest roles in movies like The Amazing Praybeyt Benjamin to shows he guest starred in like Karelasyon, Pinulot ka lang sa Lupa, and Sa Piling ni Nanay, to his supporting role as Malik in GMA’s hit fantasy series, Mulawin Vs. Ravena, he has not turned back since and he is more confident to look into the future.

Photo by Jan Mayo. Blazer and pants, Bench.

Ang manalo ng award, malayo pa yun, pero sa ngayon, I want to work hard for it. Nakakagulat na kaya ko palang mag-express ng emotions, and I just want to do more and explore more about myself, in the years to come,” he adds.

We asked him who he thinks is the best in what they do, and he was quick to say Joshua Garcia and Julia Barretto. “Joshua is really good and as an actor he inspires me to be like him. I would one day want to work with him and Julia,” he shares.

In between the gym, acting, and stints nationwide, Licauco also has also demonstrated his proclivity for business with the opening of Alpha Fitness Club, a boxing gym he envisioned and put up in Taft Avenue, one thing that he is proud to do by himself, with the guidance of his family, who has stood by his side.

“It is so easy to be lost by the chaos and the craziness of showbusiness, I am really lucky that I am surrounded by people who respects and believes in what I can do. I just have to do my best every time.”

Photo by Patrick Diokno. Sweater, Mark Dela Pena. Trench coat, Avel Designs by Avel Bacudio.

Produced and styled by Leo Balante

Creative direction by Leo Balante

Grrooming by Elle Lubigan and Jinx Aggabao

Special thanks GMA Artist Center, Val Taguba and Von-jeric Estoque.