At home with Gary V.
- Julie Cabatit-Alegre () - May 12, 2002 - 12:00am
Anyone who has seen Gary Valenciano perform on stage can easily understand why he’s called Mr. Pure Energy. He gives generously of himself. The invitation is not a simple, "Come, watch me sing and dance." More likely, it is, "Come, sing and dance with me."

"I always treat each venue like it’s my home," Gary says. "I invite people over. I entertain them. It’s not just two-and-a-half hours of singing and dancing. It’s giving them more than what they paid for, whether it’s a sell-out concert or not. You have to give everything you’ve got. That’s why you’re there."

But what is Gary like off-stage, sans microphone and dancing shoes? He could be settled in an easy chair, just chatting. Still, the energy is there. Not busy and loud, but quiet and intense – the kind that comes from introspection and deep thought. Here is a man with purpose.

With all his awards and best-selling albums in his 18 years in the industry, it would appear that there’s nothing more to aim for. He has reached the pinnacle of his career. But then he says, "If there has been any time in my career where doors just opened, it would be this year. It would be now." He explains. "I’ve traveled to four countries in two months. That has never happened before. It was more like, one country per month. I’ve been to Germany, Singapore, Australia, and now, I’m leaving for the US. Then I’m going to Shanghai and Indonesia. I’m attending concerts and festivals. I maximize every opportunity."

"My music can be pop. It can be inspirational," says Gary who does not hesitate to proclaim that God is the ultimate source of his energy. "In my concerts I always try to inject something that people can take home with them. I feel that I am a living testimony of God’s goodness. I have been a diabetic for 24 years. I am 37 years old and I can still see, in spite of the fact that most diabetics, after five years of being diagnosed, begin to show deterioration. So when I get on stage, I tell people to live each day like it’s the last. That’s what I mean by maximizing every opportunity.

"If there is something that works for me, I believe it will work for others, too. So I let people know about it," says Gary who, together with daughter, Kiana, appear as endorsers of Alaska milk. "I remember my parents, especially my mom, being gung-ho about milk. We were all breast-fed," Gary relates.

"I remember drinking a glass of warm milk when I was about 8 or 9 years old. Before siesta or bedtime, my mom would always say, ‘hijo, before you go, you know what to do.’ I still like drinking warm milk, especially when I take a break, since the studio at home where I work is always quite cold."

Kiana, who is nine years old, drinks her milk cold, straight from a tetra pack. "She likes the Alaska choco flavor," Gary reveals. "Kiana likes milk. She has seen her cousins in the States drink milk. They know all about milk’s health benefits. They also like to take milk with their breakfast cereals."

This is the same "milk culture" that Alaska would like to propagate among children in our country. Studies have shown that children who are raised with milk in their diet grow taller and are more energetic and alert. They are able to survive the so-called "growth gap," which occurs between 4 to 12 years old, when growth is known to slow down.

Gary is not unlike most parents who need to find creative ways to encourage their children to drink milk, also known as the complete food.

"My son, Gabriel, dreams of becoming a basketball player. I tell him, you have to start now. You have to prepare yourself physically ahead of time," Gary says.

Long before Gary became an endorser for Alaska milk, starting in 1997, he was already a great fan of its basketball team. "One of my best friends is Jojo Lastimosa who plays for the Alaska team," he says. "We share the same faith." They’ve been friends since 1989. "I’ve been supporting the Alaska team since 1990. So when they asked me to be an endorser, I said, sure."

There’s nothing careless about Gary’s moves. Like his dance steps, they are precise and deliberate.

He continues to do what he enjoys best – to entertain. He was 17 when, as a member of La Salle’s Kundirana choir, he realized that this was what he liked to do – to sing, dance, perform.

"But I’m reaching a point where some decisions have to be made," Gary reveals, "because I still have dreams I want to accomplish."

"I plan to go back to school." Gary took two years of business management before he decided to let other people, particularly his wife Angeli, who is a marketing graduate, manage him. "I want to take up sound engineering, film scoring, 5.1 Dolby digital stuff. I want to go into that and apply all of that here. I want to go into a little animation, whether it’s directing or just creating music, or film scoring. There’s a school in Florida called Full Sail, which is just eight minutes from my mom’s house." His mom lives in Castleberry, Orlando, Florida.

I was there last year. One morning, I was looking for a 24-hour-fitness gym, and I was told to go to University Avenue. I was driving and I saw this sign ‘Full Sail’. It was just a few blocks from our house. I even made a U-turn inside because I wanted to check out the school. It’s very small but they teach everything.

"I would like to go back and sit-in in a class. I can probably take a year off then come back here and start producing stuff, not for myself. I’d love to produce for other artists, " he says.

Gary has done a score for a 16 mm film.

"It was a feature film called Hinugot sa Dilim and they showed it in the provinces where they gather people in the basketball court and they put up a big screen. It was an inspirational film which deals with all sorts of difficulties in life including witchcraft. It was written and directed by the pastor of the church I used to go to," he says.

"It was a suspense-thriller, so I had to scare myself at two in the morning. I didn’t have what they call a sync tone, unlike what you have today, so I could not sync the film and the music. What I did was get my cues from the dialogue. I had about six pages of notes and homemade charts. It was so much fun, figuring what sound to use, and where to get it from. Then one day, when I was 75 per cent done with the film, I opened the file and it was all gone. I did not make a back-up file, so I had to start from scene one. Since then, I learned my lesson and I started to make a back-up of everything," he says.

"Performing always gives me joy, but doing things like this gives me a different kind of high because you’re given a chance to go crazy. You express yourself without worrying about how you look. I mean, it’s just me and the music and the fun of putting everything together," he says.

In his Valentine’s Day concert this year, Gary used some of the videos he edited in his studio at his house. "I got some of the old family pictures my dad used to take of us growing up," he relates, "scanned them, loaded them on the computer, did some editing, and then put the music." It was the video which he used for his song Historia de un Amor which he sang with his mom, Grimilda Santiago-Ortiz, and which is included in his latest album "One2One," a collection of duets with different artists.

"It’s a tribute to my mom, from whom I got the voice," he explains. "She used to act with a Latin organization that presented Spanish plays at the Army-Navy Club. She brought me along. I wouldn’t understand anything so when people laughed, I laughed along with them. It was my mom who taught me to be the best that I can be," Gary says.

"The photography part, I got from my dad." His father Vicente "Vic" Valenciano, was a professional photographer. At 76, he has retired, but he continues to takes pictures.

Actually, the first thing you notice when you enter Gary’s house are the photographs. Not the Manansalas nor H.R. Ocampos hanging on the walls, but the family pictures in an assortment of picture frames. They are displayed in different areas – crowding the top of the grand piano in the receiving area, on the side tables in the dining room, even among the books in the shelves of his wife’s study. They are a casual mix of old and new pictures, snapshots taken through the course of a life, the life of a family, the family of Gary V.

For Gary, family comes first. "For me, no amount of success can compensate for failure in the home," he says. "If there’s anything I’d like to leave behind – my so-called legacy – it would be my children, good, God-fearing children."

What does a celebrity dad like Gary teach his kids?

"Angeli and I have taken pains to tell our kids that although they are treated special – they are children of entertainers – they should never think that they can just get whatever they want."

So do they have to work for the things they want?

"Sometimes. Otherwise, I just give it to them. I try and treat them the way I know God treats me. There are things that I don’t deserve but He gives them to me, anyway."

It helps that Gary’s children study in a school like the Tabernacle of Faith Christian Academy in San Juan where they are like everyone else.

Paolo, who is 17 years old, just graduated from high school and plans to take up mass communication at De La Salle University. To ease the commute from their home in Antipolo to La Salle in Manila, Gary just gifted his eldest child with a brand new silver RAV4.

"Paolo and I can talk about anything. Like Kiana, he sings pretty well, actually. But he’s more of a director-actor. When we talk about movies, it’s usually about camera placements and lighting. He still has a lot to learn, but you can see he has a grasp of these things, " he says.

"Gabriel and I we get along well because we both like sports. He also loves to dance. He’s 13 years old and he still doesn’t know if he’s a teenager or a young man, so I have to guide him through that," Gary says.

Kiana is the proverbial chip off the old block. She’s comfortable in front of the camera. She won an Awit award for Best Performance by a Child for Once Again It’s Christmas. The same song won an award for Gary as songwriter and producer in the Best Christmas Recording category.

"Kiana likes stories so Angeli and I tell her stories in the evening. Her mom is an excellent storyteller. Me naman, I try to change my voice for every character that I read," he relates.

At least two or three times a week, Gary makes time to have devotionals with his kids. "I have a book called "WWJD (What Would Jesus Do)." It contains true stories about teenagers. There are lessons. When my kids and I have conflicts, we have to discuss things. Whether or not we settle them, at least, all parties know what’s going on.

"I want my children to be persons with integrity, to walk the talk," Gary says, "I want them to live the Word. It is also something I am constantly learning."

For someone who has lived a charmed life, Gary still encounters some difficulties. "I find it hard to prioritize things. There are a lot of offers, but I’ve turned down so many people, many of whom have chosen to misunderstand my choices. But you see, my family does come first," he says.

"Family and health– these are my priorities. It’s not easy because you have to be prepared for anything. As a diabetic, you think you’re OK but actually you’re not. Not many people understand the demands of being a diabetic in the entertainment industry." Fortunately, he has the support of his family. "They would always tell me to be careful, to think about it. But I never heard them say don’t do it. I always had their support."

Gary concludes: "I really think my talent is God-given. It’s a gift. It could have been given to somebody else, but for some reason that only God knows, it was given to me. For that I am really grateful. For that I am blessed."

ANGELI AND I BUT I FULL SAIL GARY KIANA LA SALLE MILK OLD PEOPLE YEARS
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