Learning the Biz of Life from Rico
August 17, 2007
Rico Yan is dead at 27. There was absolutely nothing in the world that could have prepared us for it. Tragic, shocking, devastating — no matter how we try to describe it, it's still unthinkable. It hasn't quite sunk in. And I don't think it will sink in for a long long time. That fact that a guy so full of life, so highly popular, and at the peak of his career, can go so suddenly is just beyond us. Even if you're not a showbiz follower like myself, you'd be a hypocrite to say that you weren't somehow affected by this latest death.
It is not just the death of a popular actor. Rico Yan's death is a jolting reminder of how vulnerable we all are. Without any exception, all of us can go at any time and at any place. Heck, I can go while writing this piece now. And that is a sobering thought, so I'm going to try to do a good job.
I am not really a personal friend of Rico or an avid follower of his career or love life. However, our paths did cross on two occasions — once when I organized a celebrity badminton game at Ayala Center (Rico is one of the participating celebs), then again when publicist Susan Joven (my Ninang) introduced me to him at Tequila Joe's Makati (Rico is part owner). We had two causal encounters — and that was it. Frankly, I wouldn't have given those encounters much thought either — that is, not until now.
Not that I had anything against him. In fact, among his peers in showbiz, Rico was one of those few likeable fellows (believe me, there aren't many of them out there). But usually, non-showbiz guys don't particularly like showbiz guys. Maybe because they're jealous that showbiz guys get to live their fantasies. I mean, who wouldn't want to kiss the prettiest girsl around and and get paid millions for it, right? I don't know. But with Rico, well he was very difficult not to like. He had a very likeable non-threatening persona. Maamo ang mukha. He was simpatico. Even if you're not the least bit interested in showbiz (and I'm one of them), it was close to impossible not to have noticed him. Heck, he was in almost every TV commercial!
Rico was masa, yet excluded a kind of class that didn't make him baduy or jologs. He was adored by the general public just like all matinee idols and yet I know a lot of pretty sosyal girls who would give an arm and leg (and maybe even more) to go out with him.
His business partners were congressmen and respected businessmen. And yet, he was accepted by legion of fans "as one of them." He came from a prominent family yet he acted like a typical boy next door. Rico clearly had the best of both worlds — but not because it was laid on his lap. Rico worked hard for it.
I realized that I must sound like a fan. Maybe to a certain extent I am one. But you know what? There's nothing wrong with that. I mean Rico Yan had everything a typical guy could ever dream of. He had the five Fs — face, fame, fortune and female fans! What more could he have asked for, right? He was living every guy's dream. He had the "goodies."
But I must admit though that there was a time that I wasn't particularly thrilled with the mere mention of his name. It's funny when I think about it now — but you know, there was a time that Rico got me into big trouble — without him knowing it! You see, around two years ago, Richard Gomez and I organized a celebrity badminton event. We had a sponsor for that event who invested quite a considerable amount of money. Everything was going so well in the event and I thought to myself, "Man, this event is great for the company! Not only do we have a profitable project — we have the biggest stars in full force!" I was on top of the world! But then Richard (with the help of Rico's uncle, Gen Edgardo Aglipay, a top official of the badminton association) invited Rico to be a player in the event. Being an avid badminton player, Rico was more than willing to play. And I was thrilled, too! I thought, "Oh great! The sponsors will love this!"
Now, it turned out — and I wasn't aware it at that time — Rico was endorsing a brand that was in direct competition with our sponsor — and understandably so. It was their event and to them, their was something wrong with having the endorser of the competition play in the event. I saw the point. They wanted him out. Unfortunately, I initially didn't have the guts to tell Rico about the situation. And, without hesitation, he voluntarily packed up and said, "It's ok; I'll go." He wasn't bitter or angry. He completely understood the situation and left without throwing a fit. Of course, the damage has been done — and my client certainly made me aware of it. Eventually, everything did turn out fine. My client eventually forgave me. But I had to make a long apology letter — and while I was making the letter that stressful Sunday afternoon, I have to admit that I had a little resentment when I typed "Rico Yan" in the letter. It was a natural reaction on my part. But like I said, it wasn't his fault. I was just caught in a tight fix — and Rico was the central character in my business drama!
But you know, looking back, I'm kinda glad it happened. That interesting situation I was in, while indeed difficult, gave me an opportunity to get to know, albeit briefly, a young man whom many consider a role model for today's youth.
At the time of his death, Rico was certainly an achiever: an accomplished dramatic actor, comedian, singer, TV host, product endorser, role model, youth ambassador/spokesperson for the Department of Education, sports buff, businessman, college graduate, hobbyist, and foundation head — all rolled into one. At the young age of 27, he had accomplished more than what most people would have accomplished in three lifetimes!
The thing that stikes me about this guy is that he really didn't have to accomplish all that much. But merely being a matinee idol, he got it made and he was assured of a good fortune. But he didn't stop there. He became a spokesperson of the Department of Education. He put up a foundation and got involved in business. I found that admirable. Normally, for a lot of successful showbiz guys, if things are going so well in their career, they have a tendency to sit back, relax, and enjoy the good life. Success equals wine, women, song and drugs. Even here, there are so many who could have been something but flushed their life down the toilet with an excessive lifestyle.
But Rico thought like a very responsible businessman — planning ahead, investing in the present, stocking up for the future. Remember the parable on the talent? There was this guy given one talent, and another guy with three talents, and another guy with five talents. Those that were given five talents and three talents were able to use their talents wisely and they doubled their talents. And the guy with one talent? Well, he was scared stiff to lose his talent so he hid his in the ground — so when the master came for an "accounting," the guy dug up his talent and gave it back. The master was so furious that the guy didn't do anything with his one and only talent that he took it from the guy and gave it to the other two. Rico was given a lot, and a lot was expected in turn. He certainly delivered much in his relatively short life.
I realized that not everyone is that lucky. Not all of us are as lucky to have been given the talents (and looks) of Rico Yan. But all us, like Rico, are called upon to make the most of our gifts.
Rico dabbled into so many things. And to me, that's inspiring.
We could all certainly learn from Rico Yan. Life is an adventure — a journey. And we are all given a backpack of "goodies" — our talent, out time, our resources, our loved ones. Go ahead, take a look — you'd be surpised with what you have.
So, c'mon, keep your head up! Check out your bag of goodies and check out what you can use to make your journey in life more exciting and meaningful.
Enthusiasm in life can be contagious. So, if you show a little zest, maybe others would see where their passion lies too. All of us know it. We all saw it in Rico.
To Rico Yan: You may not know me, but as your brother in media, I want to wish you a blissful eternal life. May you have a fantastic flight to the Great Beyond. And may God welcome you with open arms.
By the way, if theres' still no Orbitz or Tequila Joe's there in heaven, I do hope you can get a clearance from God to set up a couple of branches up there. I'm sure the angels and the saints won't be able to resist your buko pandan pearl shake and popcorn shrimps! By the way — I hope to challenge you to a badminton game someday. See ya!
By Rod Nepomuceno
Reprinted from the Philippine Star, April 3, 2002