Don’t deny it. Whenever you see TV personalities on screen, you’ve probably prejudged their lives based on how they’re presented in the media. You might even say that these people’s lives revolved around the cameras and that they enjoy massive and non-stop television exposure, and though there’s no question about that, you might even say their lives are somewhat unreal.
But it’s no secret that these personalities are just ordinary folks like everyone else, and they make mistakes, feel pressured and embarrassed on screen, and they have their bad days, just like us (and they still enjoy “turo-turo”, too). And just like everyone else, they have a story to tell.
We chatted with Naimbag Nga Morning Kapamilya host Mark Isaiah Hora, who celebrated his first year working for ABS-CBN Baguio about a month ago. On September 11, 2017, the people of Baguio and Northern Luzon were introduced to a young, free-spirited lad who joined the hit local morning show. Together with DJ Grasya Pantasya of 103.1 MOR and Micaela Ilao, the three have proven that fun and witty entertainment can make morning chemistry. At 24, Mark is now a part of ABS-CBN Regional’s pool of talents and he continues to prove his notable ability to engage thousands of viewers every day.
But getting on TV wasn’t as easy as it looked, because before landing a fine spot in the entertainment industry, he shifted from one job to another as he searched for the perfect career path for him, and also, to provide for her daughter Aria. “When I was in college, I had Aria. I had to provide for her as her father. So, I worked. I was a working student.” He shares details about all the jobs he’s had before getting into the business. “I started as an online ESL tutor. After about a year, I applied for the HR [Department], and was fortunately hired. I was in charge of getting applicants, so it’s somewhat like marketing for the company so people would apply. Somewhat like, recruitment or talent acquisition or recruitment sourcing.” He was then given a bigger responsibility by the company. “Then, I was promoted as the Corporate Communications Head. [Medyo] same responsibilities, but wider scope, kasi it also covers corporate partnerships, relations, social media management, internal and external events, branding. I also worked in Manila for the same company, same department, but mas challenging.”
After three years in the company, he decided to come home to Baguio to try out for another job, and it led him to real estate. It didn’t take long before he applied to a BPO company as an agent, but little did he know that going home to Baguio was the path that he had to take as it had a little surprise for him.
So how did he get his big break on local TV? He shares, “ABS-CBN was in need [of talents], and my best friend, Dotty Clasara was the morning show host then, together with a batchmate, Micaella Ilao. Dotty told me about it, and I didn’t really feel na makukuha ako so I didn’t audition. After a few weeks, on-going pa rin yung audition and sabi niya wala pa daw nakukuha.” He then decided to try out even if he had doubts that he’d even make it past the auditions, “She urged me to do it. I was so nervous. As in. Diba nga pasang awa lang ako sa broadcasting nung college?”
Out of all the auditionees, Mark recalls the group being trimmed down to five people, then to three, “Nag decide si Central Office [ng ABS] kung sino sa’min ang kukunin, and nagulat na lang ako nung minessage ako na ako na ang official TV host.” He even felt nostalgic as he tried to remember how it felt when he first heard about the news, “It’s my first year with ABS-CBN this September. To cut the story short, I wasn’t really expecting anything. Nakakaproud lang. I hope this doesn’t sound like mayabang. Ang sarap mag reminisce.”
The question is, was it ever part of his plan to pursue a career in the media? He tells us that he was always into performing, “Ever since I was young, or maybe when I was in high school, I was into performing arts. I guess I can say I liked the feeling of being able to show my talent, which was dancing.” He even jokes about wanting attention from people, “Buti na lang, I have at least one talent. I won’t deny na siguro I enjoyed the attention and I’m really papansin (laughs).”
According to the young host, he took up Bachelor of Arts in Communication in college because he thought the field could lead him to be an artista after. But he reveals that he was not the best performing student and it made him realize that his college major wasn’t going to take him anywhere near his dream, “Nung na-try ko na mag on-cam, because of Broadcasting, I started to hate it. Also, na-realize ko na yung course ko won’t take me to films and pagiging artista, but instead to news. Eh ayaw ko nga [ang news] kasi I did poorly sa radio broad, TV broadcasting.”
His disappointment led him to pursue his dream outside school. “I went for modelling instead— runway and print. Also, TV Commercials, yung endorsements talaga, had VTR shoots, dance performances, indie films, casting dito, casting doon, and nag-enjoy ako.”
But it’s never too late, as they say, and finally, the Cordilleran boy was given the chance to be part of one popular local show. From comic segments, to funny but informative live demos, to entertaining interviews with locals and even public figures, and to delivering the news, there is no denying that Mark has already become a household name in the locality. People may see him as a pro in the business, but he knows that there’s still more to learn in the field. So what’s the biggest challenge that he’s faced while working for the local network? “[It’s] pressure not just from your superiors, but pressure from everyone who sees you. The thing I learned about it though is that, you won’t really be able to please anyone, and that’s okay. What’s important is that at least, sana, out of a hundred viewers, kahit isa lang, ma-inspire mo, and mapagaan mo ang pakiramdam nila.” The best thing about the job is being able to influence others, he says. “Best thing is when you get to meet a person who watches you regularly and they tell you [how much] joy you bring them, and that you inspire them.” He adds, “Kapag may mga bata na nagmemessage sa mga social media accounts ko, and they tell me they wanna be like me, I feel accomplished.”
You may wonder, how does a local figure act on the streets? Mark considers himself an ordinary local kid no matter what, but his sudden transition from normal folk to TV personality must have been an overwhelming challenge for him, or for anyone in his position. How does he deal with that? “I guess we are all just human and we get tired, too. Di ko din naman masabi na I am all smiles kahit sa likod ng camera. I am naka-poker face minsan, and di ko namamalayan na there are still people watching. I sometimes get na ang suplado ko daw pala, but I don’t really intend to be like that. Most of the time though, for sure, lagi akong friendly, though nakayuko lang ako.” He also believes that people from Baguio don’t really care about celebrities, no matter how big their name is, “Hindi ako umiiwas though, kasi Baguio people don’t come up to artistas na national nga eh. They or we just don’t mind, ewan ko ba bakit (laughs). So how much more para sa’kin?”
But he does meet people who recognize him and he tries his best to acknowledge them. “People talk to me though, and have pictures dito sa Baguio pag nasa events ako or shoots. Pero pag mag-isa ko lang, hi lang [and ngitian].” The NMK host says that people outside the city are mostly the ones who come up to him, “People who approach me for photos are more often yung mga viewers from La Union, Ilocandia, Cagayan, Tuguegarao, Isabela, Pangasinan, Tarlac.” He adds, laughingly, “My fellow Cordilleran’s do not eh.”
Being on a daily television show can attract a lot of fans and supporters, but it can also draw criticism and hate because not everyone will agree with what you say or do. Expect a lot of bashing especially when you’re starting out, so they say. “[I’m sure] na not everyone likes me.” Mark is happy that he hasn’t received a harsh comment from a viewer yet but he is ready for it, “I know there will come a time, I will come across an unpleasant message pero by then, I know it’s really that way. People are entitled to their own opinion, just as I am. I’m really very thankful na people are very nice.” He is also well-aware that every day, people receive hate messages that they don’t deserve, “Before we say anything, think if, one, is it true? Two, is it necessary? Three, is it kind? If we cannot love everyone, at least, we should learn to respect them.”
In fact, he believes that people only see half of who he really is, and just like everyone else, he worries about his insecurities, too, “I don’t think kasi na all people see me as who I really am. Madami ngang papuri pero I don’t really think that all of those are truly for me. Most of the time, I feel na I don’t deserve those praises kasi I’ve got lots of insecurities.” To look decent, poised and perfect will always be part of the responsibilities of a personality like him, “I may look confident, but that’s because I have to. I sometimes feel na I deceive people. I wonder what they see on TV, pero I know kasi na I’m not that ‘taraki’ boy they see (laughs).” Despite these challenges, he continues to strive to be a better person for the job, “I always tell myself to be humble, and to realize na there are lots of things about myself I gotta work on pa.”
Remembering to stay as grounded as possible, he also makes it a point to not be the ‘unreachable’ type. “I respond to all messages, or kahit mga message requests, lalo na yung mga pakiramdam ko na talagang nag-effort.” He still visits all the local places in town, despite his local figure status, “I still go to my go-to places. Yung mga canteen, karinderya, turo-turo, and mga local places na pinupuntahan talaga ng mga locals. I still can go to those places, and if may makarecognize sa’kin, then nakikipagkwentuhan ako. I go there alone. Madalas! (laughs) Kasi I used to go sa mga places na yun naman alone talaga, even before.”
Although his task on the local show can be overwhelming, there are other things that he is busy about outside the job and he tells us that he tries his best to prioritize what is most important in his life. He shares that he spends quality time with her daughter Aria whenever she’s around. He also considers himself an “ulirang tito” as he still fetches his nephew and niece in school. Family time is always a priority for him, “I guess I balance it really well. Siguro dahil I’m the family driver! (laughs) My family goes on a trip like minimum twice a month, out of town. Kahit La Union lang.”
But does the 24-year-old even have time for himself? “I hit the gym, regularly. Like regularly once a month (laughs). Gardening somehow became my thing din. Photoshoots on the side din.” He adds about another hobby, “I’m not a surfer, pero I know how. At least get to the shore without falling (laughs). Wala akong tricks.”
At his age, there is no doubt that Mark has already accomplished something special. It is unquestionably a huge deal to have the power to influence others and inspire young people, and to have the power to change thoughts without you even knowing it is quite fulfilling. But there will always be room for more dreams. The local host is not scared to admit that he wants to go national, “I don’t know how pero it’s never wrong to be ambitious. I wanna be or at least try to be a morning show host sa national TV. And to be able to host big events, too.”
His life isn’t close to perfection, he admits, and because of his experiences on and off screen, he has his own share of realizations — remarkable things that he has learned after meeting individuals and families of different backgrounds, “We have to always be thankful for what we have now, for where we are now, for our life right now. Kasi, even if we say na andami nating problems, really, lots of people got worse.” He shares about the story of someone he met who somehow changed his perspective and disposition, “I met a man who was in a motorcycle accident. He lost his ability to move, and even speak. Half his skull was removed. He needs to undergo operation; his life is in so much risk, his wife left him, took their kid with her after the accident. I saw in his eyes how determined he was to be better, and that big hope he has. I hope I’m getting the message across. Despite all he’s going through, nakakangiti pa din siya, with the help of her mum translating or ciphering what kuya was saying. She said na kuya still always prays to God. He believes na God will heal him. He is inspiring, and he is hungry for life.” It made him believe that life is worth living for, “I hope tayo din, we learn to love life, be hungry for it. Kasi we all know life isn’t perfect and andaming problems. Gusto na nating sumuko, pero ang sarap kayang mabuhay. People are wishing and praying for life, for their families, friends, and for themselves. Samantalang, andami sa’tin [are taking our lives for granted].”
He adds, “We should always be grateful sa kung anong meron tayo, dahil kahit hindi natin gusto ang mga nangyayari sa’tin at the moment, the thing is, we were put in this situation kasi kailangan nating pagdaanan. We have to understand na there’s a reason for everything. God has a purpose.” He may be smiling in front of the camera every day, but he could not deny the fact that he has struggles, too, “Hindi ko din to masabi minsan kapag nahihirapan ako, pero believe that God has a greater plan for you. Whenever life seems na it’s not going according to plan, I tell myself ‘Your plans are superior to mine’. We have to love Life and life will love us back, let go of little things that do not matter, and focus on the bigger picture.”
Even with all that’s going around in his life right now, he still goes back to the most precious part of who he really is, “Remember that you have things money cannot buy. Family and friends. They are your greatest treasures. These are the ones that matter most. And dahil meron ka nito, your family and friends who love you, you are blessed, and you should be thankful.” His message to anyone pursuing their greatest desires? “Always be hungry for life, and reach for your dreams. Work hard for it, and never forget to ask God for wisdom and leading.”
It’s evident that Mark remains true to who he is, and he knows that besides his career in local show business, there’s more to life and he’s willing to experience the best of both worlds. In fact, he’s more than just the dashing guy-next-door and chinito we see on TV. He’s also a loving dad, a responsible “tito”, a good son, a great friend, and a big dreamer. Fame is just around the corner, but he doesn’t allow himself to be blinded by the limelight. With this, it’s certain that Mark will shine with his determination and attitude, even behind the cameras.
Catch Mark and the rest of his morning show barkada! Watch Naimbag Nga Morning Kapamilya from Monday to Friday at 6:15 to 7:00 am, at ABS-CBN TV 3. #ABSCBNRegional30
Photos courtesy of Mark Hora
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