Marco Mañalac first created a buzz last year when he scored the role of Allan Strang in the Philippine adaptation of the Tony-award winning play Equus, the same controversial role played by Daniel Radcliffe about a boy and his god-like fascination with horses. He was a popular bet in last year’s MYX VJ Hunt where he consistently garnered the highest SMS votes from viewers. And just last September, he walked the runway alongside the country’s sexiest men when he made it to the centerfold of Cosmopolitan Magazine’s hottest bachelors and joined the Cosmo Bachelor Bash. Marco started doing commercials and began acting when he joined the Trumpets workshop which also opened opportunities such as his hosting stints in the Nickelodeon channel. He’s hosted shows like Whacked and In the Can.
But before Marco became that familiar face on television and magazines, he was a self-confessed comic fan boy of Spider-Man and DC comics. He said he’s been a bookworm since he was a kid, and like most kids, started with all-time favorites like Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and Goosebumps.
Although a comic book geek, Marco does not limit his reading list to his childhood superheroes. His favorite books may be predominantly fantasy and sci-f (he’s read the Dark Towers series, Dune, Catch-22, Endoverse, Secret Invasion, Blackest Night,and the Star Wars novels), but the genres of books he has read go way beyond a typical boy’s preferences. He digs classics like Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness, as well as Chinese masterpieces like Journey to the West and Romance of the Three Kingdoms. And like many of us, he also enjoyed Harry Potter and the Twilight series. Marco took up Communications at the Ateneo de Manila with a minor in Literature, that’s why the books he has read are that diverse. And yes, he graduated Cum Laude, too. His love of reading ever since he was a kid enthused him to take up a course that would keep him in touch with literature and creative writing.
Marco is such a devotee of graphic novels, that while he was still a student at the Ateneo, he formed CAPES, an organization of comic book lovers that met every week to discuss and debate about the latest issues of their favorite titles.
“People have really strong opinions when it comes to their favorite comic books. One time, we had a heated debate on Civil War, about whether or not superheroes should reveal their real identities to the public,” he said.
The group also came up with weekly issues of comics that they themselves wrote and drew and sold to fellow students.
The other subjects he took up in college also introduced Marco to the works of Filipino authors. In his class with award-winning writer Rica Bolipata-Santos, they were required to read chick lit novels such as Tara FT Sering’s Almost Married and Getting Better. “I think they (chick lit novels) are great! The stories they tell are very real that you can relate to them. You’re drawing from your own experience, you’re feeling what the characters are feeling, and you’re going through what they’re going through.” Marco also cites Jose Dalisay’s novel Soledad’s Sister as one of his all-time favorite books. The novel relates the hardships that OFWs experience overseas and the further discrimination they live through when they return to their homeland.
“I go to bookstores whenever I’m in the mall. Plus, the comics come out every Wednesday in the US, so here I go to the bookstore to buy my copy either on Thursday or Friday,” says Marco. He has also passed along his passion for reading by telling friends and classmates about the books he read. “I started spreading the ‘good news’ in high school. In Facebook, my friends look forward to my Comic Pick of the Week. I started lending my books in high school but it’s so frustrating because most of my classmates didn’t return them to me,” he shares laughing.
Now as the latest addition to the list of NBDB’s Get Caught Reading endorsers, Marco is happy to be in the company of fellow hardcore bookworms.