Yap, it’s Sir Chief!
CONVERSATIONS - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - February 10, 2013 - 12:00am

He’s an unlikely matinee idol, the sweetheart of teleserye followers of the hit ABS-CBN soap Be Careful With My Heart (airing Monday through Friday starting at 11:30 a.m., nominated in the Telenovela category of the 2013 New York Festivals set for April) playing a dapper businessman with Jodi Sta. Maria as the yaya of his kids. As theme, the Jose Mari Chan song (Please Be Careful With My Heart, a duet with Regine Velasquez) no doubt helps set the right romantic mood not only of the soap players but also of its millions of viewers both here and in other parts of the world reached by TFC (The Filipino Channel).

Richard Yap, who hails from Cebu, is pure Chinese. He has two children (one is 16 and the other is nine) with his wife Melody who used to be a Philippine Airlines flight stewardess. Fondly known as Papa Chen when he took his teleserye bow in Binondo Girl (with Kim Chiu and Xian Lim), Richard is now also called Sir Chief which is how Jodi’s character Maya in Be Careful With My Heart calls him. He is the Chinese carbon copy of Richard Gere.

To celebrate the Chinese New Year (of the Water Snake) which starts today, Sir Chief hosted a lunch, complete with a Dragon Dance, at David’s Tea House (at the Timog-Morato Rotunda, Quezon City) last Thursday, with Melody as the punong-abala (in-charge of every detail, including the distribution of goodies and ang paw, the red-envelop with lucky money which recipients are supposed to keep for good luck).

Sir Chief is a Fire Goat (born May 18, 1967). According to the Chinese Horoscope, “The Goat usually knows what he wants in life and often uses his considerable charm and persuasive personality to achieve his aims. He can sometimes let his imagination run away with him and has a tendency to ignore matters that are not to his liking. He is rather extravagant in his spending and would do well to exercise a little more care when dealing with financial matters. He has a lively personality, many friends, and loves attending parties and social occasions.”

Is Sir Chief really like that?

Let’s see.

How do you deal with the whole thing? It’s so unexpected.

“I don’t let it go to my head. For me, it’s just work. I’m just happy that we have reached this point.”

How far did you expect to reach?

“Well, I didn’t expect anything.”

Your soap is such a huge hit both here and anywhere in the world where there’s TFC (The Filipino Channel). It’s the favorite pre-lunch appetizer of every Filipino family.

“My family included, hehehehe!”

How many nanny do you have at home?

“We have one yaya. She’s already part of the family because she’s been with us for seven years. Usually, when we travel, we take her along with us.”

Is there any similarity between Jodi’s yaya character and your family yaya?

“Ah, yes, siguro in a way that they are both naïve. Like Jodi’s character, our family yaya comes from the province. She’s somebody that you can trust. You can leave the children and the household with her.”

You being a businessman in real life, I guess it’s easy for you to identify with Richard Lim, your character. (Note: There’s a Richard Lim who owns Eskaya, an A-list resort in Bohol.)

“I studied grade school and high school at the Sacred Heart School for Boys in Cebu and finished Business Management in La Salle and I worked for a furniture company for more than 20 years. But after I joined showbiz, I had to resign. Showbiz is my full-time profession now.”

You did a few commercials (Sustagen, Anchor Land, PLDT, etc.) and, correct me if I’m wrong, was it the Chowking commercial that caught the attention of ABS-CBN bigwigs?

“Not really because of that Chowking commercial. Actually, it was Miss Dagang, the production manager of Binondo Girl who kind of discovered me. She’s the friend of Charito Vilbar, my classmate in college. Every time Charito came to Manila, I would bring her out. I think they were casting for Binondo Girl and Miss Dagang told Charito, ‘Why don’t you ask your friend who’s doing commercials to audition for this part (as Papa Chen)?’ And that was it. Being in showbiz was never my plan. But since nandito na ako, I will do my best.”

Did you have any acting experience before that?

“Well, I once did a school play, A Man For All Seasons, where I played St. Thomas Moore, the lead role.”

Do you sing and dance? Your fans expect you to do that during personal appearances.

“Not really dance, but I can sing a little bit. I was in the Glee Club in school.”

You seem to be very private. How do you adjust to the very public showbiz life?

“Well, it’s a given that being in the public eye is part of being an actor, so you can’t deny the fact that when you’re outside, people will want to have a picture taken with you. It’s okay with me.”

I wonder, have you received any, uhm, “indecent proposal”?

“None. Maybe they know that I’m happily married.”

How does your wife take all this? Doesn’t she get jealous of (especially) your over-aggressive female fans?

“She’s not affected at all. She’s very supportive. In fact, she was the one who took care of everything in this presscon. Sometimes nga, when people have their picture taken with me, they ask Melody to click the camera.”

You could be a sex symbol. How do you take care of your body?

“I used to work out regularly but with my present schedule I can do it only every now and then. But I do exercise at home before I go to the set. I have a trainor who helps  me do workout at home. Diet? Yes, I eat six small meals a day.”

You’re pure Chinese, presumably raised the Chinese way. But you seem to have been assimilated into Filipino society.

“No problem. I have several friends, both Chinese and Filipino. My father was very fluent in Bisaya. He could deliver an extemporaneous speech in Bisaya.”

Do you observe Chinese traditions like, well, the advent of Chinese New Year?

“Yes. It’s part of the family tradition.”

How do you keep your family from being dragged into the public eye?

“Well, as much as possible I keep them away from the public eye because I don’t want them to be distracted by all this. I’d rather that my children finish their studies first, and if ever they want to go into this later on, it’s up to them.”

How are you as a father?

“As much as possible, when I have free time I spend it with my children. That’s really my joy. We eat out a lot. Before all this started, we used to go out every weekend; we’d go to the mall, we’d go out of town, we would travel. As a father, I’m a little bit strict, but not really that strict. I’m strict only when it comes to, like, they should do their homework or they should go to sleep on time. Otherwise, I let them do what they want as long as it’s not bad for them.”

Given a choice, which three actresses (aside from Jodi) would you like as leading ladies?

“Anne Curtis, (Batangas Gov.) Vilma Santos and Dawn Zulueta.”

If ever you’d have a love scene with any of these actresses, would you ask permission from Melody?

“No need. She knows it’s part of my work. Siguro siya pa ang magri-remind sa akin.”

Any dream role?

“I would love to do a James Bond type of role. I’m a Bond fan.”

My favorite question: Describe yourself in three words.

“Simple, sportive and ambitious.”

(E-mail reactions at entphilstar@yahoo.com. You may also send your questions to askrickylo@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on www.twitter/therealrickylo.)


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