He had been working for 20 years as division manager for a furniture company in Metro Manila, but with his fit and healthy physique—not to mention an über charming chinito appeal—someone from showbiz was bound to take notice of the humble hunk.
But Yap, born May 18, 1967, never thought that entertainment giant ABS-CBN would be behind his life’s 180-degree turn.
In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Times Magazine, Yap—known today among the masses of Filipinos as the delicious “Papa Chen” or heart-melting “Ser Chief”—talks about how age should not matter in shifting careers, apparently even in the often critical world of show business.
The birth of ‘Papa Chen’
Richard Yap was first discovered for the role of Papa Chen for the prime time teleserye My Binondo Girl (August 2011 to January 2012) starring young superstars Kim Chiu and Xian Lim.
He had already been doing TV commercials for four years before his big break, and ABS-CBN supposedly spotted him as the authentic looking Chinese chef in fast food brand Chowking’s series of advertisements.
Yap recounts, “Someone from ABS was related to a classmate of mine in college. So when the producers were about to do My Binondo Girl and needed a Chinese guy to play one of the characters, my classmate was asked to call me if I wanted to audition for the show. I auditioned for the part and got the role.”
Had it not been for that “special request,” he says he would have never auditioned for a soap opera on his own.
Yap recalls, “This thing just fell on my lap. There were really no plans to become an actor.” He quickly adds, “So I guess everything was providence. I was just lucky get it right at the right time.”
Crossover to ‘Ser Chief’
After his very successful debut into showbiz as Papa Chen in My Binondo Girl, the clamor to see more of the charming Chinoy prompted ABS-CBN to give him the lead role of “Ser Chief” in the ongoing hit morning soap, Be Careful with My Heart.
As the strict widower boss-turned-devoted boyfriend of the ever sunny Maya dela Rosa (Jodi Sta. Maria), Sir Chief became an even more popular household name in the Sound of Music-inspired modern day love story. The May to December pairing was also successful in achieving the all-important “kilig factor” in Pinoy teleseryes, and even earned added points in presenting family values in lighthearted script.
In fact, the series, which began in July 2012 has already been extended twice with its conclusion seemingly nowhere in sight.
Despite Be Careful with My Heart’s success and Ser Chief’s phenomenal rise to fame, Yap remains as humble as ever. He genuinely says, “When the show became so big, I think nasama lang kami doon.”
Even if he is already a veritable heartthrob by industry standards, he chooses to be unaffected by his stature, telling The Sunday Times Magazine, “The success of Be Careful is a combination of everything—the story, the cast. It’s a collaboration of everybody. Without the show wala kami, and without us siguro, iba din yung show.”
If indeed an actor’s fame can be measured by the number of endorsements he has as some showbiz experts say, then Richard Yap was right to leave his day job. He is certainly one of the day’s most famous celebrities with countless endorsements to his name.
From the cool Chinese chef, he can now be seen as the face behind a brand of pasta, cough medicine, ointment, food supplement, insurance, apparel and sardines in TV and print ads, as well as gigantic billboards. Of course, his very first endorsement, fast food chain Chowking, has kept close ties with the now famous TVC talent by releasing a new commercial for him this year.
As of this writing, homegrown biscuit company Rebisco has joined the Sir Chief craze, and his official launch is where The Sunday Times Magazine meets with Yap. According to the newly appointed biscuit ambassador, his latest project is very special because he sings the company’s 50th anniversary theme song, which is the music to a touching video montage.
Yap confides to the magazine that he takes careful steps in accepting brand endorsements. He explains, “Of course you have to look at the brand and the company behind it. They have to be reputable. It has to be a brand that is known for good quality, and the partnership has to be beneficial for the brand and the endorser. We must help and support each other to uplift the image of the company.
The family’s approval
As Yap continues to wrap his head around his stardom, the question begs to be asked. How has his family—wife Melody, daughter Ashley, 17, and son Dylan, 10—managed to cope with the new career of their late bloomer of a showbiz dad?
Happily—and gratefully—Yap says they are doing very well, precisely because the decision for his career change was approved and supported by the whole family. Before he went full throttle, he asked his children most especially if they would be alright if “everyone would know their dad.” It was only when they said yes that he accepted his first project for ABS-CBN, and since then, the adjustment became easier for all of them.
Ser Chief’s advice
His success a true phenomenon, The Sunaday Times Magazine asks Richard Yap what he believes matters the most in making it in show business. Looks, talent or determination?
“First of all I would like to say that everything is based on hard work. If you have the talent but you don’t want to work for [success], wala rin.
You have to have a little of everything, and you should be willing to work for something,” he replies.
Was it harder for him to make a name since he started much later than other showbiz celebrities?
“I had the advantage of being more experienced in living life; but I also had the disadvantage of having less experience in acting. Fortunately, the roles that have been given to me suit my age.”
And besides the fame, how has he dealt with the fortune that came with it?
“I put my first pay check in the bank!” he exclaims laughing. He adds that he is actually on the lookout for a new business venture to invest his earnings from showbiz.
Realistic because of his age, Richard Yap rightly says, “I see myself in showbiz as long as the audience wants me here and if there is still something I can offer them. If there’s nothing else for me to give them, then I should go on to do other things.”