He is known as COCO MARTIN.
First derived from the combined names of two international breakthrough superstars of the 90s (Coco Lee and Ricky Martin), it’s no surprise that his newfound on-screen identity would eventually take him to headline the most phenomenal projects in the media circuit nowadays.
However for Coco Martin, there’s always more than meets the eye. His name, recognized by Filipinos all over the globe, also tells the story of how one man reaped a string of life-changing victories from a single seed of dream.
COCO: The roots
Much like the fruit akin to Coco, there are different layers to the man, which completes and defines the actor he is today. From the innocence of youth to the twisted realities of early adulthood, these are the polarizing pieces of memory rooted within his core.
And it all begins with this savvy kid called Deng.
Raised in the busy districts of Novaliches, Rodel Pacheco Nacianceno or Deng was seemingly a young master of the city. Even as a child, he knew his way around the streets, navigating town to town with upbeat ease.
Growing up, it quickly occurred to him that his journey to life would be rather unconventional. With the separation of his parents taking its toll on the family, Deng â€“ at nine years old â€“ started to live with his grandmother Matilde. She would soon teach him the value of hard work in her own unique way, a new and exciting adventure altogether.
These included early morning trips to a marketplace in Blumentritt, plus a cockpit arena or sabungan in La Loma to familiarize himself with his new world – the world run by her feisty grandmother. Matilde was an informal moneylender that time and on days she would fall sick, little Deng would be the one to traverse every corner of these notoriously crowded places alone to collect payments from his lola‘s patrons.
By the time he was a full-fledged adult, Coco would have already added a number of other odd jobs on his list: “ a trainee waiter at a famous local chain of restaurant, a coffee shop barista, down to being a push boy assigned to give out candies in a gasoline station, and so much more.
MARTIN: The flight
Armed by an inherent charm, Coco usually had a bevy of admirers wherever he worked. One customer saw way past his good looks, telling him about his undeniable movie star potential. He was the assistant of premier star builder Johnny “Mr. M” Manahan, and this auspicious encounter would then lead to Coco’s first flight to show business.
While his early years in the limelight were plagued with uncertainty, he still grabbed the opportunity to make every new experience count. Coco was launched as part of Star Circle Batch 9, landing him supporting roles in several films like Luv Txt and other television shows. Nothing remarkable came out of this endeavor, so Coco went back to pursue his studies, putting his mainstream showbiz career in the backseat.
He found himself finishing his degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management, albeit still keeping good ties with his then talent manager. Coco was already starting to feel comfortable partaking in smaller-scale projects instead, when he came across with Ferdinand Lapuz, a respected promoter of Filipino films in international festivals. He offered Coco the lead role in the movie Masahista, his initial foray into the independent film genre. Innocent to the provocative nature of the project directed by Brillante Mendoza, Coco jumped into the so-called “indie film” scene amidst personal doubts in high hopes of competing abroad, so he can seek a better job prospect in another land.
At the 58th Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland, Masahista bagged the best film award for the video competition. The promise of instant fame upon his homecoming to the Philippines lured Coco to postpone his initial plan to stay there as an undocumented worker. Much to his dismay, no significant offers materialized when he returned. Hence, when they reached one of the final legs of their international trips at the Toronto Film Festival, Coco fled for a different battle in the outskirts of Canada.
For nine grueling months, he was in between jobs as a janitor and personal aide. But after failing to secure legal documentation in Canada, Coco returned to the Philippines with a broken dream. During this twilight stretch, it took one man to salvage Coco’s fading luster – director Brillante Mendoza. He offered him the lead role of his new indie film Tirador, which solidified their creative partnership. This eventually spawned more critically acclaimed collaborations, including Serbis and Kinatay.
At this point, Coco was gaining momentum as the country’s Indie King, earning rave reviews for his offbeat roles in other independent films such as Daybreak, Condo, and Jay where he won his first Gawad Urian Award as Best Supporting Actor.
Mainstream showbiz soon came knocking on his door once again with a number of projects coming in one by one. However, his resurgence to the world of television was almost halted, when several production teams began cancelling their offers due to Coco’s daring image, often saying he’s more of a sexy actor. In 2008, he proved them wrong after delivering an outstanding performance in a particular scene in the teleserye Ligaw Na Bulaklak, turning his supporting role into the show’s main villain.
Coco was slowly catapulted into stardom.
People would often attribute his authenticity as an actor to his raw, unabashed nuances. He breathed new life to every character he portrays, now seen by more audiences, as he played much significant roles in primetime teleseryes such as Tayong Dalawa, Kung Tayoâ€™y Magkakalayo, and Idol. In 2011, Coco scored his biggest break in Minsan Lang Kita Iibigin “his first solo leading role” earning him numerous praises and awards. This led him to more groundbreaking projects, including the epic fantaserye Juan dela Cruz, ensemble series Walang Hanggan, and the period drama Ikaw Lamang.
He also ventured into mainstream cinema, pairing up with the industry’s most sought after actresses in Born To Love You, A Moment In Time, and Maybe This Time.
Indeed much like the bird akin to his last name, Coco soars higher and higher than he has ever imagined.
COCO MARTIN: The grounded man that flies
For a man of his stature, one could say that his name has already made a mark. But more than his identity as a stellar actor, Coco desires to leave everyone with a legacy – a piece of his creation, a part of his soul that will forever influence and inspire new generations of dreamers like him.
What’s next for Coco?
It’s all about transcending being an actor and creating the world that character is living in. He sees himself writing, producing, and directing more of his own projects, beginning where his roots flourished – independent films.