Model-actor Paolo Gumabao, Paul Chen in real life, is a natural-born Filipino who relocated in Taiwan when he was just 1 year old and moved back to the Philippines at 13 years old.
Now 24, Paolo currently plays the character of Noah Vallesteros in Mars Ravelo’s “Darna” and Supt. Raymond Train in the upcoming Philippine historical action film “Mamasapano: Now It Can Be Told”, a Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) entry.
Paolo breathes love and acceptance as he shares his thoughts and experiences on having two dads and his first encounter with his biological father – former congressman (3rd District of QC), businessman, basketball player and 80s actor - Dennis Roldan, when he was 14 years old.
When Aster Amoyo, host of “TicTALK with Aster Amoyo,'' asked Paolo on how he initially felt when hismmother, Sheryl Sorreta-Chen, told him about having another dad (his biological father), after
eavesdropping on his aunt about his half-sister, beauty pageant titleholder Michelle Imperial Gumabao, he said: “No, I’m not mad. Why would I be? I mean, parang, si Papa naman he treated me like his own son talaga. To the point na hindi ko nga napansin na hindi niya ako anak eh, diba. Minahal niya ako kung pa’no niya mahalin yung anak niya, yung kapatid ko, si Ryan, ganun din pagmamahal niya sa akin. So para sa akin, wala akong hinanakit sa kanya for not telling me this small detail that doesn’t really matter to me kase ang nangingibabaw para sa akin is yung love and yung acceptance niya para sa akin at syempre kay mommy kase tinanggap niya ‘ko kase mahal niya si mommy.”
Growing up in Taiwan, Paolo often wondered why he physically looked different from the locals and his half-sibling, Ryan, but was completely certain that it might just be his prominent Filipina mother’s genes, Paolo recalls with amusement.
According to Paolo, he reconnected with Dennis when he was 15 years old, a year after he found out that Dennis Roldan was his biological father. He took the opportunity to ask for Dennis’ mobile number through his mother’s “gym friend”, who is also a common friend of Dennis, when his mom left them together for a short while.
Feeling nervous, he immediately contacted Dennis’ mobile number. Overwhelmed with mixed emotions, as expected, Paolo dropped the call after Dennis answered “yes (this is Dennis Roldan), who’s this?”. “I called him again,'' Paolo recalls mustering the courage to finally have a conversation with Dennis, which led to physically meeting him the same day. Walking down the aisle of Home Depot, Paolo and Dennis were already looking at each other, as Paolo was getting closer to approach Dennis.
Being a few inches apart, Dennis gave him a skeptical look – “anak nga kita”, Dennis approved himself. Recalling the moment, “’Di na kailangan”, was Dennis’ answer to Paolo when he asked him if a DNA test should be done, Paolo shared giggling. Dennis, being a pastor that time, Paolo attended his service for the day and to his surprise, Dennis introduced Paolo to everyone as his son.
Arriving to Dennis’ home, Paolo was asked to wait in the car as Dennis went inside alone to initially break the ice. “Guys, this is your brother,'' Dennis later introduced Paolo to seven of his half-siblings, including model-actor Marco Gumabao and “Papa’s wife”, “Tita Lollie”, (professionally known in showbiz as Lollie Imperial) whom Paolo calls with endearment. As Paolo describes, he was welcomed with warm hugs by everyone.
“We started our relationship with love and acceptance agad,'' Paolo on how his closeness with Dennis and the family came to be. Paolo very much appreciates how nice, loving, caring and very accepting they are. Most especially that there was no judgement, opposing to public skepticism. “Kala ko panganay ako”, Paolo shared enthusiastically, having met his 7 half-siblings which included his older sisters - he emphasized due to the fact that he grew up having none.
“My mom did not tell me stories, bad stories about my biological father. She was not the type na “alam mo yang tatay mo na yan, hindi ganun.'' The only thing that she would tell me before is mabait daw siya and very caring.” This built a foundation without hatred, even before Paolo physically met his biological father, Dennis Roldan.
When asked on how his mom, Sheryl and step-father, Pao, found out about Paolo’s reconnection with Dennis when he was 15 years old, he said that it was through his former handler, “mommy Shane”, with whom he shared the news and insisted to not tell his mom but did anyway.
“At that time natatakot ako kase ayoko malaman ng step-father ko kase baka magtampo siya. I didn’t want them to feel like dinisregard ko lahat ng pagmamahal na ibinigay niya sa akin, pag-alaga sa akin. Yun lang naman, ayoko masaktan si papa.” On the contrary to how he felt, “walang nagbago” is how Paolo described his current relationship with his step-father, Pao Chen. He shared that they still talk everyday and that Pao is happy for Paolo on having met his biological father, Dennis.
When asked about any regrets Paolo may have about meeting Dennis, he wished that he could have met him two to three years earlier as Dennis was incarcerated in 2014 (reclusión perpetua without parole), not long after they met, as Paolo felt.
Paolo used to actively visit Dennis in New Bilibid Prison, Muntinlupa but given the strict protocols because of the pandemic and his busy schedule with tapings, it’s not as often as before. He ended his interview with Aster with an “I love you” to his “Papa Dennis” and eagerness to soon visit “Papa Pao” in Taiwan to bond over playing basketball together. Paolo also reminded his “mommy (Sheryl)” to “calm down” as he’s working very hard for their dream house. (Jennifer Kaye M. True-Santos)