Shuttling between LA and Cavite
It’s easy to understand why Philippine Volcanoes rugby team player John Odulio opts to stay in the family home in a Cavite subdivision.
It’s a bucolic neighborhood, where the sight of turkeys roaming the streets is commonplace and fireflies still light up the night sky.
“I love the tranquility here,” says John, who’s a member of the jury for the GMA 7 reality show “Survivor Philippines: Celebrity Doubles Showdown.”
When they first moved to suburbia 17 years ago, John recalls, the place seemed daunting – overrun by tall grasses and eerily quiet at night. Now, he points out, the area is fast-growing. A major mall has been built right across the village gates. “My grandmother, who’s based in the United States, loves it here. She would just walk to the mall,” John says.
He recounts that, as a kid, he found the house, with its high ceilings, too huge. “I’d get dizzy just looking at the chandelier.” Not anymore. The wee kid, now 24, is six feet tall.
John shuttled between the United States and the Philippines in his teens. “When I was in high school, I often spent summer vacations in Los Angeles, where my father’s mom and other relatives live.”
This Cavite home is dotted with souvenirs of family trips to the United States, Hong Kong and Japan.
He says that growing up between two cultures, he experienced the best of both worlds.
“In the United States, you learn to be independent and to mingle with different kinds of people,” he explains. “But it’s really more fun in the Philippines. All my friends are here.”
For him, living south of Manila means sticking to a healthy lifestyle. It’s just 30 minutes from Makati, he points out, and a quick drive to Alabang and the PhilSports Arena in Pasig, where he practices with his rugby teammates. “The reason we moved here was, it had become too polluted and congested in Manila. Here, there are lots of open fields. I grew up close to nature.”
When he was in kindergarten, he and his mom would walk to his school, just a few blocks away. These days, he jogs routinely around the village.
As a kid, he joined the Youth Olympics. “I was seriously into sports: Taekwondo, track and field, basketball, boxing.” In college, Austrian friend Stephen Chase introduced him to rugby and John was hooked. He has won numerous medals in the sport. Two years ago, he was recruited into the Philippine team, the Volcanoes.
The sports streak runs in the family. Dad Ricardo plays golf and mom Cristina has won in various dart tournaments.
John admits that getting the boot on “Survivor” was a disappointment. Plus, he didn’t like being portrayed as someone who’d do anything to win. “It’s just that I’m competitive. I was really into the game,” he says.
John is a self-confessed homebody. “I sometimes go out at night, but I’m no party animal.” A typical gimmick night would be “just a few glasses of beer with my friends in a pub or sports bar.”
He’s quite skilled at the art of being alone without feeling lonely. “I could just sit in the living room strumming my guitar or playing video games, or reading,” he says. His reading fare is eclectic—from marketing and business books (“Buying In” by Rob Walker) to dating manuals (“Rules of the Game” by Neil Strauss).
Or he could sit all day watching his favorite cable channels, ESPN, Discovery and National Geographic.
In his free time, he hits the gym. “I try to work out at least three times a week,” he says. “But when we have a game, I make it four times. I’m into heavy weights. Plyometrics.”
His bedroom is minimalist. New mag wheels for his car are stacked in one corner. Wind ornaments in the Philippine tricolor, from a roadside vendor in Tagaytay, hang by the window. Mom placed a lamp on his bedside table.
An entire wall is painted with graffiti art by friend Lee Salvador. The art work reads: “Riot is the voice of the unheard.”
“Lee did it on the spot,” John says. “The doodle looks so cool.”
Photos of memorable games are displayed all over the house. One shows the Philippine Volcanoes at the Taj Mahal after a game in India. Another picture is of John playing with foreigners in Subic. “That was the day I got drafted into the Philippine team,” he recalls.
The middle child (and only boy) in a brood of three, John practically lives on his own here. His older sister Abby has her own family, and the youngest, Sofia, lives in LA. His parents divide their time between LA and Cavite.
In the morning he prepares his own breakfast, toasting bagels or mixing a protein shake.
But he shares the house with several four-legged friends. “Our favorite is Wayne the chow chow,” he says. Wayne used to be Sofia’s pet, but has “adopted” John as master.
By the way, the hunk is a registered nurse. “My original plan was to practice nursing in the United States,” he says.
He actually passed the US board exams and is a certified Advanced Cardiac Life Support provider. He definitely knows his way around the emergency room, but is thankful that he didn’t have to use his nursing skills on fellow castaways in “Survivor.”
The most harrowing incident on the island was the snake bite suffered by Stef Prescott, John says. “I had been in that situation before, so I didn’t panic,” he recounts. “I just carried her to the paramedics.”
Another seldom-seen side is this athlete’s love for music. John wants to cross over to show biz. “Aside from singing, I’d like to try acting, too.”
Photos by Rodel Rotoni
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