Zaijian Jaranilla On His Burning Passion For The Loves Of His Life
Picture this: It’s February 2009. No streaming sites like Netflix or HBO Max. Everyone’s still getting the hang of Facebook. TV Entertainment is still where it was at. Network wars were still a thing. Just two months into the year, a then 7-year-old Zaijian Jaranilla was introduced to primetime TV Filipino viewers as Santino Guillermo. The kid who famously called Jesus “Bro.”
At such age, Zaijian has worked alongside screen veterans like Albert Martinez, Dina Bonnevie, Maja Salvador, and Jaime Fabregas as the show’s main cast of May Bukas Pa. He charmed an entire audience tuned in night after night with episodes mirroring Filipino lives and getting insightful life lessons in return. It was an unthinkable feat for a child to carry the highest-rated show for two consecutive years back then.
“Natutuwa lang ako kasi after 10 years nandito pa rin ako sa showbiz. Kung ano yung kinamulatan ko, yun pa rin ang gusto kong gawin,” shares Zaijian about his journey navigating the world he has ever known in his life. [I’m just glad because after 10 years I’m still in show business. What I grew up in, that’s what I still want to do.] “Kaya mas nagiging focused and mas naging passionate ako sa trabaho. Tsaka ready ako na tanggapin yung kahit anong roles,” adds Zaijian. [That’s why I became focused and became more passionate about work. And I’m ready to take on any role.]
The Actor That He Is
Filipino TV viewers watched Zaijian grow up through the roles he has portrayed in the many years he’s been in front of the camera. Even as a child actor, the variety of characters that he gave life to always ends with viewers picking up valuable lessons in life. As someone who already knew his path in life, the transition to a now-young adult actor was seamless for Zaijian, who sees acting as more than a job.
Now at 20 years old, the doe-eyed charmer still fuels that burning passion for the craft that he’s been doing for close to 15 years. “Para sa akin wala naman pong nagbago kahit sa normal na buhay ko. And sa work ganon pa rin ang pagtrato ko. Passionate pa rin ako sa in and out ng showbiz,” says Zaijian about the changes in a more-than-a-decade long career he has nourished. [Nothing has really changed even in my normal life. And with work, I still deal with it in the same manner. I’m still passionate about the ins and outs of showbiz.] “Mas naging focused lang ako kasi medyo mahirap na yung binibigay nilang work,” adds Zaijian. [I became more focused because the characters given to me have become a little challenging to work on.]
In between takes from shooting in the sunny streets of San Juan, he’d crack a joke here and there with the Parcinq Team. “Pag naging comportable na ako sa isang tao, madaldal na ako,” shares Zaijian about how he warms up to people he works with. He relates this situation to how he gets into the characters that he would work on. “Ang challenging yung sa first part. Lalo na nung nagte-taping palang kami nung mga una. Kasi kinakapa mo pa yung role. Yung character, ‘di ka pa masyado familiar. Pero nung mga third day, fourth day, mas comportable na.”
Zaijian continues: “Sa roles po hindi naman ako maselan. Hindi ako mapili sa roles. Kung anong ibigay sa akin, basta gagawin ko. Parang sa tagal ko, ‘yun na yung naging workshop ko, eh. Sa harap na mismo ng camera.” [I’m not very fuzzy about roles. I’m not very picky with them. Whatever it is they give to me, I’ll do it. With how long I’ve been doing this, that was my workshop—in front of the camera.] He also adds that he also learned from his co-actors more. “Kailangan pag magaling sila, kailangan mo pa rin sumabay. Kailangan mo rin magbigay.” [If they’re good, I have to be the same. I have to give them something.]
Zaijian as Gio
No stranger to shows with consistently high ratings, Dreamscape’s The Broken Marriage Vow, his current TV show on Kapamilya Primetime, enjoys the recognition it so rightly deserves. Adapted from the BBC One’s Doctor Foster and its subsequent South Korean hit remake of JTBC’s The World of the Married, Zaijian plays Gio, the only son of Dr. Jill Ilustre and David Ilustre played by Jodi Sta Maria and Zanjoe Marudo.
(Trivia: This was not the first time Jodi and Zaijian both played a mother-son role. They both starred in Noah as a mother-daughter duo, and Zaijian made a cameo as Jodi’s son in Ang sa Iyo ay Akin).
In February this year, it was reported that it was the most-watched show in iWantTFC and the most viewed Asian drama on Viu in the Philippines. In its current run, we see how Gio struggles with the fallout of his parents’ separation resulting from David’s affair with Sue Ramirez’s character, Lexy. “Galing din ako sa broken family. So, mas nadagdagan ko ng layer yung character. At dahil din siguro sa mga kasama ko sila Kuya Zanjoe, Mama Jodi, mas nagiging natural,” shares Zaijian. [I also come from a broken family. So, I was able to add a later to [Gio’s] character. And may also be because of who I work with, like Kuya Zanjoe and Mama Jodi, it just became natural.]
He also shares that prior to shooting the show, Directors Connie Macatuno and Ando Ranay asked the cast to view BBC One’s original take and JTBC’s The World of the Married. It was an exercise for them to pick up on what to expect and how they can have a Filipino flavor to the highly-anticipated remake. “Mas naiintindihan ko siya. Parang growing up, ‘di ko masyado dinamdam yung pagkawatak ng pamilya ko. Kasi 6 palang ako, nagtratrabaho na ako para sa kanila. And mas natutunan ko mahalin yung trabaho ko dahil na rin sa kanila,” relates Zaijian. [I can really understand him. Growing up, I didn’t take my parents’ separation too deeply. I was only 6 years old and I was already working for them. And because of them, I learned to love my job.]
In The Mood For Loving Life
Much has been said about Zaijian’s young and thriving career. His body of work in the last five years is a multitude of characters that has allowed him to make edgier portrayals. He has played a murderer, a superb fighting slave in an alternate universe, and a college student who pretends to be straight to get closer to his crush, to name a few.
While he’s sure that he’s in it for the long haul, he tells us his number one motivation in continuing his creative pursuits: his family. He notes how he cherishes every chance he gets to share moments with his family, especially with his siblings. “Kasi gusto ko maging masaya yung family ko. Yung mga kapatid ko gusto kong pagpatapusin ng pag-aaral. Kaya every time na may projects ako, parang tinatanggap ko yun hindi lang para sa akin, kung hindi para sa kanila,” shares Zaijian. He further details his excitement about coming home after each locked-in taping to spend time with them. [I want my family to be happy. I want my siblings to finish their schooling. That’s why every time I have a project, I accept them because I do it for them.]
Aside from his family, he has picked up new-found lessons that he takes to heart from his other relationships. Earlier this year, it was revealed that his more than a year relationship with his non-showbiz girlfriend has ended. He reveals to us about his reflections and recent realizations months since it happened. He shares, “Mas magbigay ka ng time sa sarili mo. Yun yung natutunan ko. Wag mong gawin mundo yung ka-relasyon mo. May sarili ka ring mundo. Magtira ka rin para sa sarili mo.” [You have to give more time for yourself. That’s what I learned. Don’t revolve your world around the person you’re with. You have your own world, too. You have to leave something for yourself.]
He further adds that it was his friend, fellow actor Jairus Aquino, who gave him this advice. He mentions how he had heard that advice when he was younger but never realized what it truly meant. “Nung dumating na ako sa point na yun, “Hala! Totoo pala. Kailangan pala talaga.” [When I came to that point, I said, “Hala! It turned out to be true. You really need it.”]
Growing and further evolving, Zaijian stays positive and maintains that he has no regrets about all phases that he has gone through in his life. Although he acknowledges that there were mistakes that he has made before, he shares how he doesn’t harbor any negative feelings but an opportunity to learn and know better. When asked if he would have done anything differently, he has this to say: “Okay lang naman na nangyari sakin yung mga mali ko dati. Parang mas naging mabuti akong tao dahil dun.” [It’s okay that I made mistakes before. I think I became an even better person because of it.]
Cover Story and Interview by Christina Zabat
Produced by Philip Vargas
Photography by Rxandy Capinpin
Art Direction by Joe Andy
Styling by Bryan Laroza of New Collective Style
Grooming by Jacky Pante
Videography by Pogs Francisco