TAGS: celebrities, celebrity, Charles Kieron, CK, KierVi, love team, new love team, starstudio, Vivoree Esclito

It is now hard to believe that only two years ago, when he was just 18 years old, Charles Kieron John Pre Manalad—or Hashtag CK to his followers—had no idea that he could act, dance, or sing. He was but a shy college guy, who’s taking up mass communications at the Far Eastern University in Manila, when fate decided to pull him to a path he had never imagined taking.


His Childhood

 


 

Born on December 5, 1998, CK, who is called Charles by his family and close friends, is the third child in a brood of four. He says the “Charles” in his name is from his father, who has the same name, and “Kieron” also came from his father. His mother Cristy is a half-Spanish, half-Filipina barangay kagawad in Barangay Sta. Monica, Fairview, Quezon City. His father Charles, also a former barangay kagawad, is a supplier of biscuits to different establishments.

Since CK had been the youngest for a long time, he grew up being very protected by his parents. His late older brother, Christopher, would have been 24 today. His younger sister, Christine Cassandra, is 9 years old.

He recalls: “Bawal po ako lumabas nang super late, kahit no’ng mga 13 years old na po ako. Minsan naiinggit po ako sa mga pinsan ko kasi sila pinapayagan. Kailangan 10 p.m. nasa bahay na. ’Tapos kunwari po a-attend ako ng birthday or party sa friends, minsan hindi ako pinapayagdan kasi alam nilang aabutin nang late. Pero ngayon po, may gano’n pa rin kaunti, pero minsan naiintindihan na rin kasi nila na medyo matanda na rin po ako. Hindi naman matanda pero mature, adult.”

 

Photo from Instagram (@hashtag_ck)

 

But as a kuya now, he admits to being overprotective of his younger sister. “May mga times na alam mo ’yung mga ginagawa niya minsan na gusto niyang maglaro nang super kulit?” he says of the family’s bunso, Christine. “Parang para sa akin, ayoko na dumating ’yung time na masasaktan siya sa gagawin niya. And sa school din. Kasi naranasan ko ’yun sa parents ko, e, na kailangan okey sa school lagi. E ’yung kapatid ko po kasi minsan pag na-focus sa laro, doon na po ’yung attention niya. So pinagsasabihan ko naman siya na school muna bago laro.”

Going back to his growing-up years, CK turns pensive as he remembers being very close to his older brother. “Madalas kaming mag-bonding sa basketball din,” he says of his Kuya Christopher. “Kasi ako dati, sobrang kulit ko. ’Tapos sinsasabihan niya ako pag sumusobra na ’yung kulit ko. Minsan napipikon na siya sa akin. Pero alam ko naman na dahil sumobra na nga din ako.”

 

 

“’Tapos mahilig din kami sa computer games,” he adds. “Minsan ’yung mga kaibigan ng kuya ko, kaibigan ko na rin kasi madalas mag-overnight sa amin ’yung mga kaibigan niya. Kasi isang room lang kami, sama-sama kami. ’Tapos minsan pag nag-o-overnight ’yung mga kaibigan niya, ako pa ’yung nawawalan ng kama kasi sobrang dami po talaga. Sobrang saya no’ng time po na ’yun.”

But the good times suddenly came to an end, and their family’s life was changed forever. It happened when CK was only eight years old, but he talks about it now like it just occurred. He can’t forget the day when his older brother had come home from playing basketball and suddenly developed high fever.

 

Photo from Instagram (@hashtag_ck)

 

CK recalls that time not without a tinge of sadness. “Ayaw mawala ng lagnat niya, kahit anong gawin namin,” he says of his kuya’s condition then. “’Tapos dinala namin siya sa hospital. Walang findings na mahanap sa katawan niya, kung ano talaga ’yung sakit niya. Nag-decide parents ko na ilipat siya sa ibang hospital.” Unfortunately, the decision came too late. “Hindi na siya umabot sa isang hospital,” he sadly reports.   

The whole tragedy happened in barely a week. The wounds from that past, however, took a long time to heal, especially since the family never found out what really happened to Christopher.

“Sobrang nag-change childhood ko,” CK says. “Parang ’yung saya ng family ko before, di na ’yung tulad no’ng buhay pa ’yung kuya ko. Naintindihan ko naman din na ’yung parents ko. Alam kong nagluluksa pa sila sa nangyari, naghi-heal pa ’yung sakit na naramdaman nila.”

 

 

Meanwhile, he was suffering in silence during that period. “Minsan hindi ako nakapag-focus sa school,” he recalls. “Kasi nasanay ako nakikita ’yung kuya ko na dumadating ng bahay ’tapos makakasama mo sa pagtulog. Nanibago ako kasi kumbaga hinahanap-hanap ko siya. Parang inaantay ko siyang umuwi. Pero minsan naisip ko na siguro nga time na ng brother ko. And siguro habang tumatagal naman, ayoko din ipakita sa parents ko ’yung nararamdaman ko. Parang kumabaga ayokong dumagdag pa sa nararamdaman nila.”

 

 

CK says it was only when their youngest was born, in 2009, that “nakita ko ulit ’yung sigla sa family namin.” And they all moved forward to completing their healing process.

 

 

Photo from Instagram (@hashtag_ck)

 

Now that so many things are happening for the 20-year-old rising star, he finds himself talking to his brother sometimes, for instance, about how his life has changed since he joined showbiz.

“Every Sunday nagpupunta ako sa kanya,” he says of his weekly visit to his Kuya Christopher’s grave. “Kapag hindi ako nakakasama sa parents ko, minsan ako lang isa pumupunta. Kinakausap ko siya, na miss ko na siya. And sana i-guide niya ako lagi sa kung ano mang gagawin ko, sa work ko. Minsan kinukuwento ko kanya ang mga nangyayari that day, sa mga blessings na dumarating sa akin.”

 

 

CJ thinks that that if Christopher were alive, his kuya would be “shocked” to see him do what he does. “Kasi ako talaga, hindi ako sumasayaw, hindi ako mahilig sa showbiz talaga,” he says, chuckling. “As in hindi. Hindi kumakanta, hindi sumasayaw. Bago lang lahat sa akin. Siguro gulat siya na proud siyempre. Alam kong masaya siya sa nakikita niya sa akin po.”

 

Becoming CK

 

Photo from Instagram (@hashtag_ck)

 

If it were up to him, CK would like to have the public relations skills of his parents, especially his dad, which he says is a “komedyante.” He muses: “Sobrang kaunti lang nakuha ko doon kasi minsan iniisip ko, ‘Kaya ko kaya ’yun?’”

But talking to the actor/singer/dancer, it is apparent that his people skills—the way he listens and his openness—are improving and are quite impressive. But it was not always this way, he says.

 

Photo from Instagram (@hashtag_ck)

 

Two years ago, during a long, vacant period in college, he decided to go an event at a mall. While he was watching a show, someone approached him and gave him a calling card. “Tinanong ako kumakanta daw po ba ako o sumasayaw,” he recalls, his tone in disbelief. “Sabi ko, ‘Hindi po.’”

He took the calling card home with him, anyway. CK says that usually, when he gets calling cards in general (this is his first time to get a calling card from a talent agent), he would just throw them immediately.  

“Pero ’yun po, tinabi ko siya,” he says. “Then pag-uwi ko ng bahay, pinag-isipan ko muna. Sabi ko sa parents ko, ‘Bakit hindi ko subukan? Wala namang mawawala.’ Pumayag naman po sila. Tinawagan namin ’yung manager ko ngayon ’tapos nag-set sila ng meeting. ’Tapos in-explain po nila sa akin ’yung career path na gagawin nila sa akin.”

 

Photo from Instagram (@hashtag_ck)

 

CK was intrigued, but what he didn’t know was that the first step toward this career path was about to happen sooner than he expected. A few days after his meeting with the talent agent, the noontime variety show It’s Showtime announced that there would be auditions for Hashtags. CK’s management told him to go for it.

“Kinabahan ako kasi wala akong talent, di ako sumasayaw, di ako kumanta,” he says. Immediately, he took dance workshops, which proved to be challenging. “Hirap na hirap ako no’ng time na ’yun.”

 

Photo from Instagram (@hashtag_ck)

 

The first day of auditions did not help him boost his confidence, “Hindi ko alam kung okey ba ’yung ginawa ko sa first audition o hindi,” he recalls. “’Tapos after no’n, naisip ko talaga na hindi para sa akin ’yun. Kasi wala talaga, e. Wala talaga akong talent, e. ’Tapos ang dami namin, 600 kami. Ang daming mas may talent talaga sa akin, e.  Inisip ko na, ‘Bakit ako nandito?’ Tapos no’ng pinapanood ko ’yung ibang nag-audition, sobrang ang gagaling. ’Tapos ’yung ginagawa ko, ’eto ako, ayun sila. Parang nasa baba ako, nasa taas sila.”

To his surprise, he kept getting callbacks. From 600, the number went down to seven hopefuls. During his last audition, he had to sing and dance in front of ABS-CBN’s big guns, such as Chief Operating Officer for Broadcast Cory V. Vidanes (CVV) and TV Production head Laurenti M. Dyogi (LMD), who’s also a director.

 

 

Remembering that time makes CK laugh during our interview. “Pag kumakanta ako, nanginginig boses ko,” he says. “’Tapos ’yung last, ’yung pinasayaw sa amin, freestyle. E hindi ako dancer, so ano’ng gagawin kong moves? Inisip ko mga tinuro sa aking steps. Kumbaga inaral ko siya na pinaghalo-halo ko para mukhang hindi choreographed ’yung ginawa ko. ’Tapos nakita ko sa mukha nila LMD, parang hindi okey sa kanila.”

CK apparently misread the network bosses’ reactions because in the end, he received the good news that he made it as one of the newest members of Hashtags. His parents, he says, were hesitant of his new venture. They wanted him to finish his studies first because he had one year left in college before graduating.

“Sabi ko sa kanila, kapag isang taon na, wala pa ring nangyayari sa career ko, susundin ko kayo, aalis ako sa showbiz, then mag-aaral ako,” he says. “’Tapos ’yun nga po, biglang sunod-sunod ang blessings na dumating sa akin. Happy naman sila din dahil gustong-gusto nila na makita ako sa TV every day.”


Bigger Dreams

 

 

CK knows that he’s lucky to have entered into show business the way that he did. And he does not take that lucky break for granted. Every day, he trains to improve his skills. “Pagpasok namin sa Showtime, halos every day, training, sayaw, kanta. Talagang nasanay na katawan ko,” he points out.

He is also trying to hone his newly discovered musical and songwriting skills. “Nagsusulat ako ng kanta pero nahihiya pa akong ipakita,” he says. “I play the guitar, pero hindi talaga as pro. Natutunan ko lang sa YouTube, bago pa lang po. Kasi inisip ko kapag gusto kong rumaket sa labas, gusto kong mag-acoustic talaga. Kasi kadalasan, minus one. Sabi ko, kailangan may bago.”

 

Photo from Instagram (@hashtag_ck)


And while he is honing his performing skills, he has also formed bigger dreams for his career and his family: “In five years, sobrang gusto kong mag-action-movie. Kasi nakita ko ’yung movie ni Ate Anne [Curtis, It’s Showtime co-host] na BuyBust, sobrang angas no’n. Parang gusto ko ma-experience ang mga gano’ng datingan and heavy drama. Gusto ko mapatayuan ng bahay ’yung parents ko. Gusto ko mabigyan sila ng magandang buhay. And gusto ko, ako na lang magpapa-aral sa bunso kong kapatid.”

 

 

These days, CK is just thankful that he gets to do his work, but the naturally shy guy admits that sometimes he still gets the jitters: “Mas confident na ako, pero siyempre every time na ginagawa ko ’yung acting, singing, dancing, may kaba pa rin. Di pa rin nawawala sa akin. Super happy lang talaga ako na ’eto ako. ’Eto ’yung ginagawa kong trabaho, nagpapasaya ako ng tao.”

 

 

Photography: Stephen Capuchino
Art Direction: Alfred Amado
Hair & Makeup: Jean Pineda
Shoot Assistants: Miguel Broño, Ryan dela Cruz
Shot on Location: Zoomburst Studios