As a tribute to Zanjoe Marudo, a Filipino actor and the only celebrity whose career I follow and fully support, I am dedicating my first blog in the entertainment category to him.
I am often asked how I became friends with Zanjoe and his family. I would always answer that it is a very long story.
Zanjoe was a housemate of the Pinoy Big Brother (PBB) Celebrity Edition Season 1 in 2006 and won as Fourth Big Placer. Before this stint, he was a ramp and print model. I have to admit that at the start of PBB, I did not notice him. In fact I seldom watch the reality show. It was only when he and another housemate, Bianca Gonzalez, became “close” that I started to notice him. I was glued to the television almost the whole time that I was awake to watch the live feeds. I laugh and cried with them and sometimes go to bed only when they sleep. I became a Bianjoe (Bianca–Zanjoe) addict. But as the show progressed, I learned to like Zanjoe for who he really is. He was raised well by his parents. When it ended, I searched the internet for anything about them. I discovered forums and Zanjoe’s websites created by his fans.
I first met Zanjoe unexpectedly when I was having lunch in Makati with some fellow Zanjoe supporters and we decided to visit him at Bay Walk in Roxas Boulevard where he was taping for My Song “Kasi Naman”. This was on September 11, 2006, five months after PBB.
In Zanjoe’s website then, his father and elder sister would sometimes interact with the fans. It was here that I became friends with Tatay Z who is based in New Jersey, USA with Zanjoe’s three younger sisters. From the website’s private messages, we moved to texts, Yahoo Messenger, Emails, Facebook and now Viber. We became very close and he is like a second father to me. We not only talk about Zanjoe but also about our families and other topics. Sometimes we do not even mention Zanjoe at all. I asked him once why he has so much trust in me, telling me personal stuffs about their family. He said that my first simple gift to his son, a rosary that I bought in Vatican, Rome, made him think that I am different from the other supporters. Thank you Tatay Z for the love and trust. He also befriended some of my nephews and nieces that he would see on my Facebook. He wished that Zanjoe could meet my family and our families to be friends. I am now friends with the family and have met all of them except for one younger sister.
In May 2007, after a trip abroad, I stayed in Manila for two days to get over my jetlag. Tatay Z made an overseas call. A few minutes after we hanged up, Zanjoe’s elder sister texted if I was interested to meet her. We spent a few hours in Greenbelt. This was our first meeting. She was convincing me to join her home but I declined because I was having dinner with some friends. I later learned that Zanjoe was at home then and she wanted me to meet him. When I went home to Bacolod the following day, I received a text from a number not on my phonebook. The text was thanking me for the chocolates that I gave. I thought it was Zanjoe’s sister using a different number but the sender said that he was Zanjoe. I did not believe him. It took some more texts before I believed but told him that I would confirm with Tatay Z if the number was really his. Yes it was his! Who would have thought that a celebrity that you are supporting would text you first. Many would do anything just to have his phone number. This was the start of our friendship.
On November 17, 2008, an hour after having lunch with Zanjoe’s mother and sister in Shangrila Edsa, his sister texted if I was free for lunch the following day so Zanjoe could join us. Of course I was! Before meeting me, they bought a copy of the Star Magic Catalogue. Zanjoe wrote a beautiful message before he handed it to me. I was so happy!
Through the years if I am Manila I try to visit Zanjoe in his tapings or shootings. Most of these were with my Z life friends especially Morgan who is now a very successful international blogger. During every visit, Zanjoe would always ask if we have a ride home. So thoughtful of him. Once, Morgan and I hitched a ride with him.
After the block screening of The Third Party at SM Aura Director’s Club on October 17, 2016, I received a text from Zanjoe inviting me for dinner the following day. It was so thoughtful of him to travel all the way to Bonifacio Global City where I was staying. His bestfriend Ozar who I also met a number of times joined us a few minutes after we arrived but had to return to his office nearby afterwards. After our late merienda, Zanjoe requested the security guard of Shangrila Hotel to get a taxi for me. There was none so I used Uber. I told Zanjoe that I can manage and he can leave but he didn’t. He stayed until my Uber ride arrived which took some time since it was peak hour. So sweet of him. This made me love him more.
Zanjoe has been to Bacolod where I reside, four times. The first one was about a month after PBB but he did not know me yet at that time. On his second visit on December 19, 2009, I was blessed to be a host to him and his bestfriends Hyubs Azarcon and Ozar Cordeta before and after his mall show. We were together most of the time until they returned to Manila the following day. My nephews and nieces who were Zanjoe’s age group helped me entertain them.
On his third visit, we met twice but I was not able to take him out after the Kapamilya Karavan because it was Masskara Festival and Bacolod was in a frenzy. Security would have been difficult. His fourth visit was last April 29, 2017 for the Panaad Festival. I was able to meet him backstage thru his help by requesting his friend Hyubs to facilitate my entry. After their late dinner, my family and I played host again to Zanjoe and Hyubs together with their co-artists Ria Atayde, Beauty Gonzalez and her husband, Joem Bascon and the Abs-Cbn Regional Network Group guys. We had lunch before their flight the following day.
I also visit Zanjoe’s mother who I call Mommy O when I am in Manila. In recent years, instead of eating out, she preferred to cook for me. A few times, I met Zanjoe at home and once we had a late lunch together.
I first met Zanjoe’s father on July 18, 2009 when he was home for a vacation. Tatay Z together with Mommy O and Ate Z fetched me and we were together from morning till night. Zanjoe had work then. When I was in New York City in 2014, Tatay Z and I met in Manhattan and he treated me lunch. Zanjoe’s two younger sisters offered to show me around New York City but I politely declined because my sister and I took the Hop On Hop Off bus for sightseeing. They were not able to join the lunch because they had work and I was leaving the city two days later.
Below are some of Zanjoe’s birthday greetings to me. He never missed to greet me. In 2013, when my family gave me a surprise birthday party, I had an unexpected birthday greetings video from Tatay Z, Mommy O and Zanjoe. Tatay Z was again on vacation in the Philippines and facilitated the video of the three of them together. The efforts in making the video was another story in itself as Tatay Z told me later. Unfortunately, the video was a big file and cannot be sent to me. Tatay Z just posted it on his Facebook wall and a nephew showed it on a big LCD screen during the party. As I said earlier, Tatay Z befriended some of my family members.
These are two of my favorite texts from Zanjoe that I was able to save. He had said many things to me that I will forever treasure in my heart. The Juan that he mentioned in his text is his character in Maalaala Mo Kaya “Kweba” where the episode got a 38.3 % rating. In my reply to his “sana hanggang sa dulo magkakasama tayo (I wish we will still be together until the end), I said there is no end because I will continue to support him as long as my body is able.
In this photo message showing the food from Bacolod that I gave his family, I asked him why is it that the one eating was not included in the picture.
Zanjoe never fails to make me proud of him. He is such a superb versatile actor. Best of all, he has a good heart. He is the same Zanjoe Marudo that I knew eleven years ago when he was just starting in the entertainment industry. Fame did not change him. With him being a bankable artist with a list of many successful projects, he remains to be very humble despite all of the accolades and achievements. He is a simple guy who happened to be in a world of glitz and glamor. The road ahead is so bright for Zanjoe and I will be behind him in this journey. He and his family will always have my unconditional love and support.
Follow Zanjoe Marudo on Instagram @onlyzanjoemarudo.
Acknowledgment: Credit to Zanjoe’s make-up artist Joshen Vahn Lee for the featured photo.