Paolo Abrera up close

By Karen Galarpe,

Posted at Aug 17 2010 12:25 PM | Updated as of Aug 18 2010 05:34 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Paolo Abrera, 39, is a man in a hurry. An early riser, he's in the network studios by 7 a.m. Asked when he would be free for an interview schedule, he said, "Now," which threw us back so we asked for a schedule instead the next day. And on the day of our interview, he requested to move up our schedule by 30 minutes.

Clearly he's not one to waste time idly, and this is not surprising considering the many roles he has to play in life: husband, dad, sportsman, blacksmith, environmentalist, and the latest -- host of the weekday TV show [email protected].

He gamely sat down for a Q&A on his first week of work on the show.


Q: So how's your first week so far?

A: Good, really really good. It exceeded my expectations. As somebody who watched [email protected], it's fun to suddenly find yourself in the thick of things and part of the team. So it's been really fun. The other anchors have been really good to work with and it hasn't proved to be as challenging to get the hang of finding your groove to be in the swing of things.

Q: How's your schedule now like? What time does your day start?

A: 5:30 or 5:45 am. I try to leave the house around 6 or 6:15 so I'm here before 7. It works out also because being on a morning show requires you to be up to date on what's going on, so I have a little bit of time to read the papers and the headlines, catch up on the news for the day, and have a leisurely cup of coffee before the day starts.

So we usually go to the show and have a lot of fun and before you know it, it's already 11 o'clock. After a quick lunch, I pretty much have half the day to do the other things I need to do.

I do a blog for wmn and we're also starting a blog for the show, something that stretches the Mornings experience, usually the personal take of the anchors. I'm trying to work out a schedule where I can get my exercise done in the morning but for now I exercise in the afternoons.


Q: I saw some some of your carpentry work. So you're into carpentry.

A: Among other things, yeah. I've always had an interest in things of that nature. Last last summer, I taught myself how to weld. I do woodworking as well. I like keeping my hands busy. I find it to be quite meditative. And then I took an interest in metal working, branched out to blacksmithing, and things like that.

Q: So aside from making your own bolo and itak, what else do you do?

A: All sorts of ornamental iron work, or sometimes something as simple as repairing our gate or fence. If it calls for the use of the welder, I know how to do it.

Q: So you're really a handyman.

A: Yeah, I've always had a great interest in that and it's nice to indulge.


Q: You're also very much into the environment.

A: That's something that I try to preach and practice. A lot of people think that you have to be out in the middle of a rainforest hugging a tree, be a member of Greenpeace to actually do your share.

But truth is, if you just try to change your mindset and try to change the way you think and be more conscious of the very many choices and options that you have to be less wasteful, to be a little less caught up in the consumerism, there are many little things that you can change that have very little impact to the way you live now. But when it all adds up, it can actually make quite a meaningful impact to the environment, to just lessening the strain you put on the earth.

Simple things, like kung may lakad ako on a day where I'm going to a place where I don't have to be neat and clean, sometimes I just take my bicycle. I remember when I was with Metro Active [magazine] quite a few years ago, I used to bike from our house in Parañaque to Quezon City. That's how I used to go to work every day. Obviously now that I need to be kind of presentable in the morning, I can't really do that.

Things like that, or just taking your own reusable bags to the grocery, or making sure all your faucets aren't leaky and dripping, having a mindset of not wasting things without thinking means that you also can feel a little less guilty about indulging in things that you do know wala pang better alternative. We all enjoy traveling, but actually flying in planes lays quite a big carbon footprint for you. And that's a lot of carbon credits under your name. So the more carbon credits you can save means the more carbon credits you can spend on things that don't have an alternative just yet.

Q: How do you pass on these lessons to your kids?

A: I learned from my father that the best way to teach anything is through example. Try to practice what you preach. It's funny that sometimes when it slips my consciousness, I find it very satisfying for them to remind me, "O, you're brushing your teeth and you let the faucet running!" So obviously it means that the message has been instilled.

Really just practicing what I preach so that it becomes second nature to them, becomes something that they don't have to put too much conscious thought into doing.


Q: What sport are you very much into?

A: Well biking is part of a larger whole of triathlon. For most of this year, I was waylaid by a bit of a knee injury. But it seems it has gotten better over the last few weeks so I'm looking forward to trying and putting in a race, a triathlon or two, before the end of the year.

Triathlon is something I enjoy doing for a while now. It constantly presents a new challenge. You're only as good as your last race naman eh so when you start participating again in the events and in the races, you look back at your last performance and think, 'O how can I improve that? Can I improve my nutrition, my cardio, my strength training?' You try to shoot for a goal that's achievable and you do what you need to do to get there.

Q: Have you always been sporty?

A: I guess so. I was what you may consider a heavy child [laughs]. When I was very young, when I first was born, I wasn't bald [laughs]. And you go through an age when you're 6 or 7 when you're really payatot.

And then when I get to about 10 or 11, I got really round. And I was really a late bloomer in my early teens. I wasn't particularly tall and I was still kinda heavy and so I decided to get into biking and other sports and from there I sort of gradually developed a more active lifestyle.

But I've always been attracted more to solo endeavors that's why I like cycling because you don't have to wait for 5 friends to be able to play or do something. Pag basketball kasi they shoot hoops lang. Pag wala kang kasama, wala kang kalaro. It's not that I'm not a team player. I just enjoy the meditative aspect also of solo sports. So I'm quite attracted to cycling and triathlon.

Now there's a running boom, so I do running. I enjoy the meditative aspect of it. But having had the opportunity to try all sorts of different sports from a program I used to have called 'Game Plan', it greatly helped me have an appreciation for an active lifestyle and the need to integrate that into your everyday life. It has become a habit already with me. If I'm not able to exercise in one way or another I feel kinda low energy, I don't feel quite myself.

Whether it's running, getting on the bike, a strength session, I try to work up a sweat every other day.

Q: With your wife Suzi, what kind of sports do you do together?

A: We do the occasional run and bike together also. But when we go out for the weekend with the kids, it tends to be active because we're usually at the beach. So there's a lot of swimming and chasing kids around. That's a sport in itself. We just generally try to stay active. I think shared interests like that also add a great dimension to the relationship.


 Q: How old are your kids?

We have a 7-year-old, Leona; a 6-year-old, Jade, and; a 4-year-old, Antonella. All girls.

Q: How would you describe yourself as a dad?

A: I don't know [laughs]. Yeah, you have to use the term hands on. Being able to spend time with the kids is what's nice. I can see now I have to invest more of my weekend time toward making up for the time where I couldn't be with them for breakfast. I had a happy childhood. I had good memories of my childhood. I want to pass on those memories to my kids. I really like my kids to get to an age when they can look back and say we had a great childhood.

Q: Do you go out as a family a lot?

A: Oh yeah, absolutely. Traveling and being together is such a big part of our weekend routine of spending time together. We're beach people. We love being near the ocean, swimming. Just last weekend, we went to Subic--nobody had work to attend to--for the weekend. Simple places, fancy places. We just try to mix it up.

Q: Do you tutor your kids?

A: The kids go to a Montessori school. It's a little less traditional in that sense. They don't have homework from school but we try to create little worksheets for them every so often just to make sure they develop a study habit at home. Usually if the weather is good and my energy is still up, we go to the park or run around the bed or go on the bike.

Q: The kids are very active also.

A: Yeah, as well. Kids naturally are. It's hard for me to keep up with them.


Q: Do you cook?

A: I do. I enjoy cooking. I don't cook every day. My specialty is my chili con carne. It's easy to make, it's man-style cookin'! You put everything in one pot and there's no such thing as mali. It's a highly spiced dish, and it's really hard to go wrong. Lately, we've been trying to eat light in the evenings so I have a repertoire of salads as well, Vietnamese, Asian, just to put some variety into the usual tossed green Caesar salad dressing.


Q: You did some directing before. Are you still looking forward to directing?

A: Yes, I would say so. I had a short stint at Filmex as in-house director for some commercials. That was a great experience. I had developed a great interest in the production process, the magic of the filmmaking process. My mother always used to take us along to commercial shoots when we were young. It was such a magical process for me.

It was something I explored in a short stint at local movies here and went on to try directing commercials. I find advertising, though probably glossier than the local cinema scene here, a very high pressured environment. I don't enjoy that aspect of it. But I do enjoy the process of filmmaking and making commercials.

That certainly remains something on my to-do list later on. I think I'm at the point of my life where the creative process of commercials and moviemaking requires quite a bit of focus and real tutok for me. I tend to live, breathe, and sleep the project. It tends to rob my attention from other aspects I need to do—being a father, being a husband. I think I'm at the time of my life when those things take a precedence over other interests. It continues to have a great interest but I put those things aside for a later time when I feel I can devote the energies it requires for me to do those things.


Q: What can viewers expect from your Green segment on [email protected]?

A: I think more and more Filipinos are really looking for green solutions, sustainable lifestyle, alternatives that aren't hard to do. Fact of the matter is, people tend to think it's hard to be environmental. It's really the simple things that you can do that you should do. It's really not that hard for people to go to the gym and bring their own water bottle rather than use those plastic cups they supply. It's just creating a mindset open to changing the things that you can change.

I hope the Green segment will show people how there are really very simple solutions and how many alternatives there are out there for those interested to make some changes and raise a more sustainable lifestyle.

I think being green also suffers from an image problem. Now it's good because it's becoming more fashionable to be green. So I think we should capitalize on that aspect. Hopefully this segment will open people's eyes and show them the many alternatives out there.

Q: In your own words, why should we be concerned and do our part in caring for the environment?

A: It's the right thing to do. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say we feel, we have felt, and we are feeling the effects of climate change. I don't think you can deny that. It's a very very real situation, a very real problem that will affect us in our lifetime.

And if we don't have too much care for ourselves, at least spare a thought for our children. It's funny how we put a lot of energies into working hard, making sure they have a great education but at the same time what are you going to do with all that if they don't have a world to live in?

Let's refocus our energies toward making sure we will leave them with something that's still beautiful. We don't even have to look as far as our own children because these problems will affect us, and they do affect us right now. So do your part.