MANILA -- In celebration of the Pride Month, Toni Gonzaga sat down with Jake Zyrus, who opened up about his past as Charice as well as all the pain he had to endure before he was finally set free.
“Probably a lot of people won’t believe me but I was five years old when I realized na I was really confused,” he said at the beginning the interview, which was uploaded on Gonzaga's YouTube channel Wednesday.
“I was Grade 1 and I remember 'yung mga classmates ko, tinutukso ako sa ibang classmate ko na lalaki and one thing in my mind was, ‘Bakit, eh pareho kami?’ At five years old, that was my thought. Obviously, I didn’t know any labels or anything like that. So I don’t understand. And I remember that my first crush in Grade 1 was a girl.”
Zyrus said he would also do role plays with his brother where he would play a boy and even give himself boy's name.
“Definitely, I knew. At the same time, alam kong there was something weird. Why am I feeling this way and yet I am seeing someone different?”
For Zyrus, that was a daily inner struggle growing up, especially because he did not want to disappoint people.
“Before I transitioned, before I came out, at the very end, I was like, ‘No, no, no.’ But at the same, it came to the worst of the worst like my mental health, suicidal, all those things,” he confessed.
“I tried to kill myself three times. I was 18 or 19 at that time. Nasa isip ko kapag nag-come out ako, it’s over. That’s the thing. 'Yung nasa isip ko at that time was other people, I don’t want to disappoint them, the fear of acceptance. I didn’t want to disappoint David (Foster), Oprah (Winfrey), my mother. The pressure of you fitting in as well,” he added.
After his third attempt to take his own life, Zyrus recalled seeing Foster in his hospital room.
“We had a show that night. I remember I woke up in the morning, I was in Singapore. He was there. He was the first person I saw. He was like, ‘Are you okay? Do you think you can perform? You don’t have to.’ I remember looking at him na talagang worried siya. He knew why. We weren’t naman talking ng super personal but definitely he was one of the first few people na nakaalam,” he said.
“He knew that I was having a hard time. I remember nakahiga pa din ako sa bed and I told him, ‘Nope, I will perform tonight.’ I remember just a small gesture from him, telling me, ‘You know what? For tonight, you don’t have to wear a dress or something,’” he added.
When he performed on stage with Foster that night, Zyrus remembered just feeling comfortable in his jeans and sneakers, adding that it was “a big deal” for him to have been able to do that.
“I remember when the Singapore, the last one, happened, some people saw me sa lobby wheelchaired and I think the news that came out was I had food poisoning,” he said.
Looking back now that he has transitioned, Zyrus said he is still grateful for Charice and all the experiences she had.
“The moment I transitioned, the moment na nag-undergo na ako ng hormone change and all that, I would still talk about what happened before, with Charice and all that. I will always be grateful, I enjoyed 'yung experience, 'yung mga tao na nakilala ko… I am grateful na until now, I am still able to get in touch with them, with David,” he said.
Towards the latter part of the interview, Zyrus shared that aside from his life experiences, it’s certainly God who “fixed” him.
A group in the Philippines is dedicated to addressing those who have suicidal tendencies.
The crisis hotlines of the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation aim to make these individuals feel that someone is ready to listen to them.
These are their hotline numbers:
Information and Crisis Intervention Center
(02) 804-HOPE (4673)
0917-558-HOPE (4673) or (632) 211-4550
0917-852-HOPE (4673) or (632) 964-6876
0917-842-HOPE (4673) or (632) 964-4084