Leo and his journey from slippers to Nike

FUNFARE UPDATE - Ricky Lo - The Philippine Star

His journey of a thousand miles started with him in worn-out slippers and led him to foreign shores in expensive Nike. We’re getting ahead of the story.

While back home his name may not ring a bell, yet, in Indonesia, Leo Consul is a byword, loved by his fans who call themselves Leonatics tuned in every day to Leo’s morning TV show, Celeb On News (CON). Starting on April 18, Leo will star in his first teleserye titled Cinta Yang Tertukar (Switch Love) which he describes as “somewhat like Mara Clara in which my character is switched from poor to rich.” CON is very much like Tonight With Boy Abunda, hosted by The King of Talk who is so impressed with Leo that, now as Leo’s manager, he is set to re-launch Leo’s career back home.

You see, before the two shows mentioned, Leo co-hosted Eat, Bulaga Indonesia for one year when the Indonesian company got the show’s franchise from Tony Tuviera’s APT Productions. There was a grand celebration in a simulcast between Jakarta and Manila and Leo was in the middle of it.

“There were dozens of us who auditioned for Bulaga,” says Leo who is here for a working visit to discuss career plans with Boy (he’s going back to Jakarta on Monday). “Initially, I didn’t even know when I was reading the script that it was for Bulaga that I was auditioning for. Basta I just went to the auditions. I was the only Filipino who auditioned. The others were Indonesian celebrities. They asked me to sing and dance and do spiels.”

That was far different from the previous auditions he attended in Manila.

In 2009 as a self-supporting student, Leo graduated from UP with a degree in Masscom (major in Journalism and minor in Broadcasting). While looking for a job, he tried out for the GMA talent search StarStruck (the season won by Aljur Abrenica) but, as Leo puts it, “I didn’t make it to the first round,” adding, “I queued up starting at 3 a.m. and I was interviewed at 7 p.m. the next day. We were split into batches of 10 each.”

Left with no alternative, Leo applied for a teaching job (English and Math) in Jakarta. While strolling at a mall, a talent scout asked him to audition for Sony Records which recorded Leo’s maiden single that never got released due to legal impediment. Still, Leo struggled on, hoping to embark on a career in Jakarta which was not hard for him because he has learned how to speak Bahasa like a native. Nothing happened. Frustrated, Leo bought a ticket back to Manila when the Bulaga auditions were announced.

“I cancelled my flight,” recalls Leo, “and a door opened wide for me.”

After his one-year stint in Bulaga Indonesia, Leo hosted a game show called Save The Cash that went off the air after six months. Leo is happily settled in Jakarta, living alone in a well-appointed place.

Not that he’s already successful (“Because the struggle continues”) but Leo said he felt it’s about time he wrote his autobiography titled Thousand Miles in Broken Slippers written in English but translated into Bahasa. It’s a tell-all, no-holds-barred book.

I will let Leo tell his story.

“I was born in Bolinao, Pangasinan, to a poor family. At age eight, I helped make ends meet by mopping a big bus (shown on the cover of the book) at midnight for P10. I have four siblings who, I would learn, are my half-siblings. When I was 10 years old, I was told, ‘Pupunta tayo sa isang lamay (wake).’ I was surprised when I looked into the coffin. I said, ‘Why does the dead man look like me?’ They told me, ‘Because he is your real father.’

“They kept that secret from me for years. But I felt something strange because people were wondering why I didn’t look like my siblings who got jealous of me because my stepfather (shown with Leo in a photo at the book’s inside back cover) loves me so much, treating me like his own son. One time, one brother even stabbed me with a scissor. ‘Here,’ (he points to a scar below his right eye) ‘I got it from him.’ No hard feelings. I share with my siblings whatever I get.”

And here’s how Leo’s journey can be described as one “from worn-out slippers to expensive Nike.”

When Leo turned 12, his stepfather wanted to make him happy by giving him a pair of shoes.

“It turned out to be a fake one, called Mike,” Leo smiles, suppressing a little lump in his throat. “I kept it as a souvenir. Now that I can afford it, I have collected more than 20 Nikes. I am wearing one of them,” he lifts his foot to show it during this interview yesterday at Annabel’s.

One of these days, I won’t be surprised if Boy pitched Leo’s sob story to Charo Santos-Concio for her top-rating show Maalaala Mo Kaya (MMK).

(E-mail reactions at [email protected]. You may also send your questions to [email protected].)

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