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Quezon City, March 20, 2002 (STAR) CONVERSATIONS with Ricky Lo T- Two Sundays ago, Conversations spotlighted Robby Mananquil, one of the two Bench Pretty Boys whose smiling faces greet motorists from giant billboards all over Metro Manila. Today, itís Pretty Boy 2 John Pratsí turn on the "grilling" block. Like Robby, John models Bench apparel products (while that hunk staring straight at you, also from giant billboards, is Benchís briefs endorser John Hall).

At 18 (last Feb. 14), John is the youngest in the fast-growing family of gorgeous Bench models (Richard Gomez, Jomari Yllana, Diether Ocampo, Martin "Borgy" Manotoc and KC Concepcion who is Benchís Human model). An Aga Muhlach lookalike, John has grown up under our very eyes, having started on TV (ABS-CBNís Ang TV) at the tender age of eight. John is the eldest among five children, one of them, Camille, is also in showbiz.

Had John been a few more inches taller, he could have been a hunk. But thatís okay. What John lacks (very negligible, though) in height he more than makes up for in looks. Like Aga, he has that cute bedimpled killer smile which makes him pinchable Ė and smiling eyes, too! John said he stands 5í5" (take his word for it, please!) and weighs more than 140 lbs.

Besides acting in movies and TV shows (with Aga and Joyce Jimenez in the ABS-CBN sitcom Da Pilya en da Pilot), John also sings, with the trio JCS (J for John, C for Carlo Aquino and S for Stefano Mori), the junior version of the Whattamen triumvirate of Rico Yan, Marvin Agustin and Dominic Ochoa.

A high school senior at the DECS-recognized ABS-CBN Talent Learning Center, John is Catholic, no wonder he holds such conservative views on matters (pre-marital sex, etc.) taken for granted by people his age.

In the following Conversation, John answers the same set of questions Robby Mananquil did.

Letís talk about pet peeves. What type of girls donít you like?

"ĎYung masyadong maingay...loud girls. ĎYung maaarte."

Clothes.

"I hate over-size shirts, Ďyung loose na loose. Gusto ko eksakto lang. Fit na fit."

What sort of lifestyle is okay with you?

"Not the de-kahon lifestyle. Okey Ďyung may surprises. Organized? Itís okay as long as itís not too organized. Planned? Okay as long as itís not planadong-planado. In short, since I have to follow scripts at work (in TV and movies), I donít want my (real) life scripted."

Movies.

"No drama for me, thank you. I go for action movies, mga tipong Black Hawk Down. Drama movies bore me to death. I find American actors doing drama corny. Boring, ho-hum! But when theyíre doing action or fantasy, theyíre the best."

Now, about some of your likes. Girls.

"Simple but elegant. Example? Mikee Cojuangco. Sobrang crush ko siya dati. Even if sheís in jeans, elegante pa rin siya."

Clothes.

"Iím partial to light colors. Blue. I have more polo shirts Ė short-sleeved and long-sleeved Ė in my wardrobe than T-shirts. All light-colored."

How many times do you wear a shirt before you discard it?

"People can tell how many times we actors wear shirts. ĎYon ang bad trip sa aming mga artista. Hindi kami puwedeng paulit-ulit. You can recycle but only at very long intervals para hindi mahalata ng tao. Some of my shirts I give away to friends. Some I keep, the ones that I really like."

How do you take care of your body?

"I donít overeat. I work out only for conditioning. Iím not a party-goer so I donít stay out late. My only Ďgimmickí is watching movies, not in moviehouses but on video. I watch movies with my friends, sometimes in their house and sometimes in our house. Kung minsan, I sleep over in my friendsí house, or vice-versa, especially if we have to watch many movies."

How many hours of sleep do you get every night?

"Matakaw ako sa tulog. I get as much sleep as I can. I get 12 hours of sleep when there are no classes. Even during vacation time, I donít stay out often. Usually, my routine is fixed Ė home to school to tapings/shootings then back home. I follow the same schedule almost every day. I donít have a choice."

How do you protect your image as a Bench model? Do you choose the places that you go to? Are you careful about what you say or do?

"When Iím with my friends, okey lang; open na open ako. I can say anything; we joke around. I feel free. But in public, ingat ako. Wholesome ang image ko, both as an actor and as a Bench image model, so I live up to it. I donít even try to be wholesome because, modesty aside, Iím a wholesome guy. But still, I am careful with what I say or do. I behave in public. It doesnít mean that I misbehave in private because I donít."

Donít you feel kind of "trapped" in a certain image?

"Not at all. As Iíve said, I donít have to pretend that Iím wholesome or well-behaved because wholesome naman talaga ako at well-behaved. But I can be image-conscious. I mean, before I get drunk, siguro I first have to consider the consequences of my action. Kung makakasira sa image ko, huwag na lang. Iím not saying that I can get drunk because, in the first place, Iím not a drinker. Athletes have to take care of their body especially, Ďyung legs nila, because those are their assets. We actors do the same. Kasama sa assets namin ang face namin siempre Ė and a good image."

John Hall is the Bench model for briefs. Would you dare model the same product?

"Do I have the body for it? If my body were as good as John Hallís, why not?"

How do you react to people who look at models as mere pieces of meat? Do you feel that some people, women and gays especially, strip you naked in their minds when they look at you?

"Piece of meat? Parang karne? I hope (some) people donít do that to me dahil wala silang makikita."

What Bench product do you go to bed with/in?

"Bench shorts. By the way, pati wallet ko Bench. Ang gel ko, Bench din."

Before showbiz, what were you doing?

"I turned 18 last Valentineís Day (Feb. 14). I joined showbiz at age 8, sa Ang TV (A defunct ABS-CBN show for kids where the likes of Victor Neri, Carol Banawa and dozens of other ABS-CBN stars today started. Ė RFL). From age 1 to 7, all I did was play and go to school, of course. From age 8 up to the present, it has been a combined routine of school and work. Taping, taping, taping."

Who joined showbiz first, you or Camille?

"Camille. As a kid, she was already doing commercials. She joined pa the Little Miss Philippines contest (of Eat, Bulaga)."

How does it feel being called "the new Aga Muhlach"? You do look like Aga in many ways, more than just in face... and height.

"Thereís only one Aga Muhlach... the original Aga Muhlach. I take my hat off to Kuya Aga. I learned a lot from him when we were together in Oki Doki Doc. Weíre still together in his new sitcom, Da Pilya en da Pilot."

How did you become a Bench model?

"It was Francis (Ricafort, LJ Morenoís brother whoís also a Bench model) who recommended me to Bench. Heís my friend. He was even the one who set up a meeting between the Bench people and me. Before I knew it, nagpi-pictorial na ako. That fast."

What was your childhood ambition?

"I wanted to be a pilot. I wanted to fly! I love riding planes. I was so thrilled riding planes that I wanted to drive one. At ang ganda tingnan ng pilot in his uniform, di ba? When we tape for Da Pilya en da Pilot and I see Kuya Aga in a pilotís uniform, I remember my childhood dream. Now Iím convinced that Iíd never be a pilot. Iím too short to be one, di ba?"

What sort of childhood did you have?

"Very regular. Off to school very early in the morning, siesta first before playing after lunch, homework before dinner and then to bed. It was a happy, normal childhood."

Values that you learned from your parents.

"To work hard and to be patient Ė and to be humble, too. Dati, my attention span was short; maiksi din ang pasensya ko noon. .When I was doing something and I encountered difficulty, Iíd stop na. Now, the more difficult the job is, mas lalo akong natsa-challenged."

What about as far as girls are concerned?

"My parents always remind me to be careful."

How do you deal with aggressive girls?

"Nakaka- excite pero nakaka-nervous. But I havenít encountered a girl whoíd go as far as offering herself. Kai-i-18 ko lang, e. If ever that happens, siguro masha-shock ako. I wouldnít know what to do."

At 18, have you had any girlfriend?

"Puppy love, not serious."

How do you make a girl feel that you like her?

"Ngayon, madali nang manligaw. If you are too shy to tell a girl that you like her, you can do it by text. There are many ways of courting a girl now. Thanks to technology!"

Do you splurge to impress a girl?

"No, I donít. Besides, wala akong pang-splurge. Oftentimes, nahihirapan akong magpa-impress kasi pumapalpak, eh."

With your looks, you donít have to lift a finger to impress her.

"Iím a good listener. When a girl is talking, talagang attentive ako sa kanya. I donít really try to impress; I just be myself."

Okay, your views on... pre-marital sex...

"...No... I donít know! Iím sure if they read this, my friends will laugh at me for saying no. You know how young people are these days... mahirap magpigil! It really depends on the person. Pero para sa akin, talagang no. No! Hindi talaga dapat."

...contraceptives...

"...I have no need for them. Para sa akin, couples should do it after marriage... "

...living-in...

"...ayaw! If Iím old enough and Iím sure that my girlfriend is the one Iíll marry, bakit pa magli-live-in, e, ikakasal na naman kayo?

...sex in advertising...

"...it helps a lot. Okey lang as long as hindi garapal. In fact, there should be sex education pa nga in the curriculum so (especially) the young people can be properly guided, para malaman nila what to avoid. I have a friend whoís only 17 at may anak na.Nagsisisi na siya ngayon. If he knew what to avoid, it shouldnít have happened to him."

Name three women you find sexy...

"...Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, Natalie Portman... "

What do you think is a perfect hideaway?

"Paris. Iíve been reading about Paris and itís been my dream to go there Ė with my girlfriend... kung may girlfriend na ako by the time I save enough money to go to Paris."

The usual clinching question... If you were stranded on an island, who would you like to be with?

"Just one? Si Natalie Portman."

What would you do?

"Wala lang. Kuwentuhan lang."


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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