Kapamilya star Xian Lim may be one of the biggest heartthrobs of today—who would have thought he, too, was once picked on for being different?
It all started in middle school when he was moving back and forth between the States and the Philippines. “I was so confused. From the States, papuntang Pilipinas then from Pilipinas, papuntang States so yung pananalita ko, ang takas na nung Tagalog ko,” he tells ABS-CBN Lifestyle. “It was a huge insecurity on my part. If hindi ka dun nanggaling tapos you didn’t grow up with those kids, mahirap. It’s hard to get along with them. Diba parang it’s funny now pero if you’re a kid and you’re being made fun of, like ‘How am I going to get through this?’ That was my first experience with bullying.”
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His classmates started calling him names. Among them, FOB or “Fresh Off The Boat”—a term used to describe someone who is totally unfamiliar with the new environment he’s in. “Then it got really violent na I got beat up in school—I came home with a black eye—I got my money stolen,” he recalls, saying it escalated even more as the bullies saw he was scared. “It gave them instant gratification na parang ‘Ah, hindi ito magsusumbong’ or “Oh, I want to bully this kid because he is not snitching.’”
This affected him in so many ways. “As a bullied kid, you’re scared to tell people. You don’t want people to see you as weak. Ang problem kasi is you just want to be accepted eh,” says Xian. “You try so hard to be accepted but hindi eh—hindi nangyayari—so parang you’re so shy, you’re so insecure, and you’re so scared to reach out to people that might be able to help you.”
His living between two countries made it even worse. “I didn’t really have a place to settle and create a meaningful friendship with someone. Diba, usually, that’s how it starts? You stay in one place for fifteen, twenty years and you get your friends going and you have your own clique?” muses Xian, comparing his life to that of Brendan Fraser in the 1999 movie Blast From The Past. “I’m always in a fish out of water scenario—that’s how I feel. I think I grew up na I’m the odd kid out, parang medyo alanganing bata, talagang target—chubby kid, the kid in the corner minding his own business.”
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“Hindi ka accepted dun sa kinikilusan mo, hindi ka accepted sa community then parang ganun pa na you don’t know where to place yourself,” he continues. “You feel like you’re not enough for these people. You feel like you don’t have a place in the world. Where do I go? Where do I stay?”
The actor ended up seeing his guidance counselor in school, which helped him a lot. “Yung pinaka-realization ko, maybe I was trying so hard to be part of the cool kids. If you’re not wanted, don’t use extra effort to try to fit in or don’t keep on pushing yourself onto the people who don’t like you,” he stresses. “If you’re not wanted, why waste your time? There’s other people out there who will appreciate you for who you are.”
Xian learned how to make friends when he got into basketball in high school. “I think I started sports around sixteen, which is pretty late. I was a couch potato. I didn’t play any sports—all I knew how to play was chess and video games,” he shares. “I kept on trying out and trying out then nung sophomore year, I got picked up sa varsity team namin sa high school. When I started getting comfortable with people, getting comfortable with the environment na marami nang tao, it’s not really palaging ikaw lang mag-isa, there’s other people eventually who are going to understand you.”
What has made his story even more interesting is that the first guy who beat him up later became his best friend and mentor in the sport. “I was trying to play basketball and he saw me, siya lang mag-isa nung time na 'yun. When he saw me, we got into a game of basketball. I think he was trying to change his life also nung mga panahon na 'yun,” he says. “In that one magical moment na nagkita kami dun sa court, we just started playing basketball.” They started hanging out and eventually, the bullies left him alone.
While it was a scary experience, Xian is grateful for it all as it made him stronger. “It shaped me to the person I am today. I’m tougher na parang if I didn’t experience that, pusong mamon ako, I would be hurt in little knick knacks na nangyayari around me,” he declares. “I’m thankful it happened to me. It’s a scary thing but it helped me become tougher mentally.”
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Produced by Camille Santiago | Video by Lui Jimenez and Kang Garcia | Grooming by Peps Silvestre | Styling by Aldrin Ramos | Shot on location at Privato Hotel Quezon City | Special thanks to Gabriel Perez and Katrina Luz-Lincuna