MANILA -- At a time when celebrities are being vocal about them experiencing loneliness and depression while at the peak of their careers, 40-something Ian Veneracion has learned to survive and thrive.
Consider the outlets he has besides his day job as an actor. In his private time, he paints, sings, plays the piano and guitar, drives a motorcycle and is into a lot of sports. Topping them all is his devotion to his family.
It’s no wonder he prefers a more intimate connection with fans.
“I’d rather have hugs than selfies. May connection,” the 43-year-old heartthrob said as he prepares for his “Ian in 3 Acts” concert at Resorts World Manila, happening this Sunday. “If only I could turn those selfies into hugs, I’d be the happiest person in showbiz.”
“Kasi when you’re having selfies, it’s just you and the screen on your cellphones. All the time, the one taking the picture is not even looking at you,” he said, demonstrating how a selfie-taker would request for photo op, raising an imaginary cellphone and looking at the screen all the time. “Then it’s over. No connection at all.”
One may wonder where this is all coming from? A fan is a fan who wants some moments with celebrities and shows proof to be uploaded on Facebook or Instagram, and gather as much likes and shares.
Veneracion admits deep inside, he’s an emotional person. The same reason he values his privacy. “When you’re in showbiz, everybody owns you. I don’t believe that. Maybe with politicians, they have to explain and justify everything they do in public,” he explained.
There are even instances when he doesn’t enjoy the attention. “When I’m working I enjoy the attention. When I’m not, I don’t. When I’m riding my bike, hindi pa ako nagsusuklay, amoy araw. When I’m having dinner with my kids, hindi naman sila showbiz. Kung may mag-approach, minsan I beg off.”
He cited an instance when he was attending a friend’s wake. Someone approached him for a selfie and he had to say no. “Hey c’mon. That’s so awkward. Can I cry first?” he said, laughing at the recollection. “But I’d rather have a conversation (with a fan). That’s what I miss.”
He’s aware that there are some who may have misunderstood him and describe him “suplado.”
“I'm sure may nagsabi na but there’s a time and place for everything. I’d refuse but I’d tell them, ‘Can I just have a hug’?”
This is one of the reasons he’s holding a solo concert -- he can’t hug his hundreds of thousands of followers. “So let’s enjoy the moment together. You want to be an experience. So eto, sa kagustuhan na ma-experience ang mga followers.”
“Ian in 3 Acts” had an initial run in Cebu City last April 21 and he enjoyed it like a newfound passion. After acting for television and movies for so long, he realized he’s enjoying the instant reaction of the audience. Unlike doing soaps and films when he’s facing only the camera, he’s electrified by the live experience.
“During shoot or taping, it’s just the camera, a machine you’re faced with. Then you have to wait for reviews, reactions days after. With a live audience, if you have a joke and it’s funny, you hear them laughing at once. Pati pagtaas ng kilay nila, nararamdaman ko kaagad.”
The Resorts World show will be longer than the Cebu City gig, which had Vina Morales as special guest. The Manila version has L.A. Santos as special guest. In both shows, his musical director is Ian Iñigo while stage director is Mike Alcazaren.
Veneracion is a rocker at heart. Growing up with a father like Roy Veneracion, the acclaimed visual artist, has contributed a lot to his choice of music. While other children of his generation listened to nursery rhymes, Veneracion grew up to the sound of Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, Sting, John Coltrane, Dave Brubeck and their contemporaries.
“Those are the music of my father. I listened to rock, blues and jazz everyday when I was kid,” he said.
He took piano lessons before learning how to play the guitar on his own. “I learned playing chords through Jingle magazine. Even up to now, I play guitar in the morning while having coffee. I play the piano at night. During the times my wife was pregnant, I’d lull her to sleep with piano music.”
Then again, there were some pop music influences, those he heard on his way to school as a five-year-old kid.
“They are the ones played on FM radio by the school bus driver,” he said before singing the first few lines of “Just The Way You Are” by Billy Joel, followed by Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds” and the chorus of Ric Segreto’s “Loving You”.
“I call them school-bus medley music and I’ll sing them on Sunday.”
We asked him if he recalled the songs he lip-synced in “That’s Entertainment,” where he was part of the Thursday Group.
“Yung iba naalala ko pero wala akong kakantahin,” he said with that giggle turning into smile that melts the hearts of millions of female fans. “Pero may magagandang songs naman akong nakakanta sa ‘That’s’. Mga Fra Lippo Lippi, Spandau Ballet, Hall and Oats…”
“Ayaw ko 'yung lip sync, you’re pretending who you’re not. When you sing live (especially with a band), it’s different, it’s organic. Nagkakaintindihan. Nag-ge-gel yung banda,” he reasoned out.
“Acting, I’ve been doing since I was a kid. In terms of music, I don’t want to pretend someone I’m not. Madami akong ina-idolize sa pagkanta. I chose my genre,” he added.
During the alternative band boom in the 1990s, Veneracion followed Razorback, The Breed, Wolfgang and the so-called “coño” bands based in Kalye Bar on Palanca Street in Makati City. “Because I was there all the time, I rented a condo unit near Kalye,” he said, laughing again like a boy lost in the funhouse.
Among local musicians, Veneracion professed immense admiration for Chikoy Pura of The Jerks and veteran guitarist Jun Lupito, who he describes the best blues axeman in the Philippines. These past few months, like preparation for his solo concert, he’d just show up in some of Pura’s gigs and jam with the master. They’d play Clapton, Sting, some Beatles and lots of the blues. “Ang lawak ng genre nya. Hindi nya sasabihin. I’d just tell him, ‘Can I play ‘Englishman in New York’? And we’d do it.”
For “Ian in 3 Acts,” he doesn’t even prefer the term “concert.”
“I’d rather call it a concept show. I play. There’s a band. We jam. Let’s enjoy the moment together. Gusto ko yung nalalasing sa show,” he said, again laughing at the term “nalalasing.”
But don’t get him wrong, he said he only drinks coffee. The concept of rocker being a heavy drinker, ladies’ man and junkie doesn’t apply to him. He’s more of a Chikoy Pura than a Pepe Smith.
“Ian in 3 Acts” at Resorts World is also Veneracion’s way of celebrating Mother’s Day. He’d play two original compositions: “We’re All Alone” and the one he wrote about and for his wife, “I’ll Miss You The Most.” Both are available on Spotify. Among his guests are Jaya and flutist Jong Cuenco.
“Whenever I listen to Eric Clapton and Tracy Chapman jamming ‘Give Me One Reason,’ na-imagine ko parati si Jaya. She’s our queen of soul. So I feel I need to have her as guest.” He described Cuenco as the best flutist in town. After some spontaneous jamming at Veneracion’s house, he said he knew he had to include Cuenco in the show.
Like when he’s painting, he believes singing is an emotional experience. “I’m an emotional person. It’s important. When you’re singing, you’re describing an emotion. It’s not biographical but you’re using words and sounds. Music is a personal thing for me.”
“Singing, acting, painting. In any form of art, when you express accurately enough, the process is the same as long as you’re honest.”
With that, any fan would want to hug this middle-aged heartthrob.