Tim Yap: From shy guy to celebrity
10 THINGS - Bianca Gonzalez (The Philippine Star) - October 20, 2013 - 12:00am

Do you know Tim Yap? I thought I knew him well, but apparently, I don’t. “Lots of people think they know so much about me, but they don’t,” he says at the start of our conversation. One of the most colorful celebrities in the country is the product of an equally kaleidoscopic life story. Here are 10 things you should know about Tim Yap:

1 He got his gift of remembering people’s names from reading yearbooks. 

“I’m a closet loner. I grew up alone. Everybody was already in school and I was left alone at home with our pet and our maid,” Tim shares about growing up as the youngest among seven children. “I would always pick up reading materials. The first reading material was the Encyclopedia Brittanica and then the kiddie encyclopedia. And after I read both encyclopedias, all volumes, I had no choice but to go for other reading materials. My sisters’ yearbooks! So every time their friends would come over I would say, for example, ‘Bianca Monica Gonzalez ganyan!’ And they would go, ‘Oh, my god, how do you know my name?’ Because I saw their names in the yearbook. So my gift when it comes to remembering people’s names and faces comes from reading the yearbooks of my sisters.”

2 He got his passion for travel and adventure from his being a batang palaboy.

“Because all my siblings were always out and my parents were working, and my dad partying, I would make takas and just go around. I walked, took the jeep, trike. We lived in Binondo and what’s next to Binondo? Avenida. Recto. I was a batang palaboy of downtown Manila,” Tim shares. 

He did encounter many shady characters at the time. “I was with my classmates in Harrison Plaza and I went to the toilet. Someone really went to me, grabbed me, said, ‘Boy, halika.’ I turned white and ran away! Another time in a movie house, I went to the toilet, ayan nanaman. There was this guy that was about to touch me. An old man with his d* *k out and hahawakan ako! Namutla ako sa takot and I ran away.”

3 His interest in culture and food started when he became the chaperone of his sisters. 

“I was always the chaperone of my sisters on all their dates. My parents never allowed any of my sisters to go on dates without me. So early on in life, I was used to going to the best restaurants. They would bring them to all these places na pampa-impress. I was always just there, like a handbag, on another chair pretending not to listen,” Tim says. “I went to a Stevie Wonder concert, I went to all these wonderful steak restaurants. I saw how all these people put their best food forward. And that’s when I also began observing people.”

4 Tim was so shy as a kid that he bought himself Andrew Matthews books like Being Happy and Making Friends to come out of his shell.

“As a kid even in grade school I was already very attuned to the arts. And when I saw in the newspaper there were Repertory workshops, I pleaded with my mom to allow me to be part,” Tim recalls. “When I did the workshops, they made us go onstage one by one and say something about ourselves. I went up on stage, and all I was able to say was, ‘My name is Timothy Yap.’ I was the pinaka-shy kid. I went down from the stage. I was so bothered. I wasn’t able to say anything about myself! I went to National Book Store and I got the Andrew Matthews book. Being Happy, Making Friends. And that book changed my life. Can you imagine me, needing tips to make friends?”

Aside from his shyness, he had quite a number of blunders. “One time in school, I was the representative of my batch. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the students of Grade 3!’ I said. Eh, grade 2 kami nun. There was another time, storytelling contest. My story was ‘We Filipinos Are Mild Drinkers’ by Alejandro Roces. Doble kara ako. Tawa nang tawa yung mga tao, akala ko kasi tama. Yun pala baliktad nagawa ko! Despite that, I still won the contest. In a way my bloopers in life have always ended up being turning points.”

5 He once had a teacher who often called him to say, ‘Tim, magbalik loob ka na sa Diyos,’ because he would often be out of class or out late at night.

“I did a show called Lost In Yonkers for the 25th anniversary of Repertory. The cast was Zeneida Amador, Baby Barredo, Joy Virata. O diba, sila kaagad katrabaho ko. It was an all-star cast with two new kids — me and Sheila Lina. But my school didn’t allow extra-curriculars, because I didn’t have time. So what I did was to tell the guard that I asked permission from the principal. I escaped from St. Jude, took the jeepney, sabit, to go to Shangri-La to rehearse.  I would go back to St. Jude and my driver would be waiting for me. My mom didn’t know. Nobody allowed me to do it, but I had to push through. I wanted to do it!” 

It was only when the poster for the show came out in the papers that his parents found out about it. “’Tim Yap? Is this you?’ They don’t know me as Tim. They had to shorten my name to fit the poster. And I go, ‘What Tim Yap? What an ugly name! I’m Timothy Yap!’ Nagalit pa ako,” he says of the story of his name. “My parents didn’t really understand my love for the arts, my nightlife, my going to parties. Which parent would understand that nga naman? And when I do it I do it to the extreme. Rehearse till late, go out till late. In the end they would find out from other people about what I would be doing or what I did. Then they would be proud of me.”

6 When Tim was growing up, there was a time that his family lost what they had, including their home that burned down.

On what trait he got from his dad Manuel: “My dad’s being a people person. I remember my late dad, he would take me walking around Chinatown and everyone would be waving at him, greeting him. He would be shaking their hand like a mayor. My dad was like a magnet of people — he had charisma and a sense of fashion. When we were kids, Rustan’s would be closed and we would go up and the only other person shopping there was Imelda.”

On what he learned from his mom Benita: “Unconditional love. And she was super hardworking. There were really good years and there were really tough years. In the years when we were at our poorest financially, when I think my dad had suffered a stroke, my mom was the one who took over the whole business and she had to start from scratch. My mom showed me an envelope and she said, ‘Everything that we are earning I am saving for your tuition.’ One time I got home from school and where we lived, bahay, bodega, opisina, andun lahat, I saw it burning. Smoke and fire trucks all over. I saw my mom and she was hiding her tears. Biglang she stopped herself from crying and said, ‘Ah, no, ’cause we’re going to move to another house.’ But it was obvious to me that it was all slowly burning down. She was still strong, she made me not look, she didn’t want me to see it all go to ashes. We went to another house in Tayuman. It was so small, all double beds. And my aunt was with us, she was crying. I said, ‘Why you crying, auntie? We’re happy, we’re not sad.’ That time made me realize that it wasn’t the financial state, we were together and we were okay. My mom worked hard to bring us out of that.”

7 He has something he calls “serendipity travels” in which when he travels, he opens his map, drops a pen, and wherever it falls is where he will go.

He remembers very well the time he was the subject of malicious blog posts and nasty rumors. “I was in Paris then. I remember my friend Pam Pastor would tell me about all these things that were happening in Manila, the people trying to pull me down. I had a choice. Should I just stay here and sulk and cry in my room? Sabi ko no, I should go out.” He recalls it was around 2005 to 2007 when it all came one after the other. “Pam told me, ‘Grabe yung mga tao dito, they are like vultures preying on you.’ So I opened my map, dropped a pen, pak. Nahulog sa Versailles. When I went to the Versailles gardens I saw this sign: “No access to the public.” What did I do? I climbed over it. It was an untamed part of the site with tall grass. I saw from afar this monument, iisa lang siya. When I got near it, I looked up. It was a young man facing a vulture, parang haharapin niya, he was facing it, he was ready. For me it was such a goosebumps moment. I climbed it and embraced it. Once you embrace these things in your life as part of life, that made me unafraid of all the obstacles.”

On critics and bashers: “They don’t really faze me. I would be more protective of the ones I love. When I would do something new, I would check all the comments, even the negative ones. I would reply, ‘I will try to do better.’ Kat Holigores told me this: ‘When darkness tries to envelop you, shine your light, because darkness is afraid of light.’ So tama nga. I don’t allow darkness to eat me up; that became my guiding principle.”

On mistakes he has made: “I think if there were mistakes it was me being excitable but never ill-intentioned. It taught me how to take three steps back before jumping into something. It made me careful but not too cautious, it’s made me know who to trust and who not to trust. I fall down, calmly pick up the pieces, and step right back up. I’m built for the marathon. You see, other people’s understanding of you doesn’t make you who you are.”

8 Tim Yap in numbers:

5: average number of hours of sleep he gets a night

7: establishments he co-owns: Aracama, Prive, Opus, Republiq, Café Republiq, Tides, 71st and Gramercy (opening soon) and another new place coming up 2014. Long ago, he did promo boy and flyering jobs outside clubs when he wasn’t even allowed to go inside clubs.

100-plus: number of blazers and coats he has in his closet

8,000: amount in pesos he got as a kid as talent fee for being a dragon boy. “My role in Chinese weddings, is before the bride and groom can enter their house, the dragon boy has to go around, and I had to roll around in the bed, with photo shoot!

17: age he moved out of his family’s house. “I wanted to be independent, all my savings I used and rented a place in Makati.”

9 He doesn’t have a single idol he looks up to, but a few mentors he asks advice from.

His mentors’ most valuable pieces of advice:

Freddie Santos, director: “Life is not about how many times you say yes, but how many times you say no. Because your no’s will empower your yeses further.”

Boy Abunda, TV host and manager: “Follow your dreams but always keep your feet on the ground. And love your mother.”

Vic del Rosario, Viva Entertainment: “Conquer. Fly. Soar.”

George Yang, McDonald’s Philippines: “You can build an empire and still focus on your passion and your art.”

Tim also looks up to international icons like Andy Warhol (“For his far-reaching mindset when it comes to making people appreciate art and pop culture”), Tom Ford (“How he is able to elevate things and add sexuality to it”), and Ian Schrager (“For his evolution from club owner to hip hotel builder”).

10 He has never had a dream that didn’t come true.

“Claudine Trillo, one of my best friends, knows this. One time she asked me, ‘What is that?’ I said it’s my dream book, and its very personal. She looks at this particular year and I said that those were my dreams at that time. She says, “Tim! Sh**t! Check, check, check, check,” he shares. “May bago na akong dream,” Tim declares during the interview. He has already met with financiers and creatives and will be working on this dream project in a new industry, soon.

“Honestly, I have never had a dream that has not come true. I work on it, I act upon it, I don’t let it remain a dream. I wake up and I move.” 

* * *

It may seem like Tim was destined to be everything he is now and more, but his attitude and life show that it is your free will, your ability to turn negative into positive, your mistakes into eureka moments, that drive you where you want to be. And just when I thought I had him figured out, he declares, “You know what, I am at a point in my life where … I am feeling a rebirth!” Yet again, Tim is all geared up to surprise us. 

* * *

The Tim Yap Show Season 3, hosted and produced by Tim, premieres on Oct. 28.

E-mail me at askiamsuperbianca@gmail.com or message me on Twitter @iamsuperbianca.

LIFE ONE PEOPLE TIM TIM YAP TIME WENT WHEN I
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