The Education of David Chua


Charting his career trajectory, 15 years since, by happenstance, he landed his job as an onscreen talent, David Chua, beams at the idea of becoming more that what he ever thought he would be. A far cry from a university pageant graduate-turned creative, he has since seamlessly donned the hats of model, actor on television and films, before eventually stepping into the world of production as producer, and director, captivating audiences with his multifaceted talents, and evolving worldview.

Charting his career trajectory, 15 years since, by happenstance, he landed his job as an onscreen talent, David Chua, beams at the idea of becoming more that what he ever thought he would be. A far cry from a university pageant graduate-turned creative, Chua has seamlessly donned the hats of model, actor on television and films, producer, and director, captivating audiences with his multifaceted talents, and an evolving and strengthening dedication to his craft. His journey is a testament to the boundless possibilities of artistic exploration and a shining example of how one individual can make an indelible mark across various domains of the industry. 

Narrating his journey to Rank Magazine, Chua shares his journey, akin to a canvas gradually filled with diverse hues, paints a remarkable picture of twists and turns that led him from childhood sketches to an unexpected role behind the camera. An ardent childhood passion for drawing propelled him through school contests, where triumphs and setbacks intertwined.

His college years at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) initially directed him toward a Fine Arts in Painting course, though he completed only up to the second year. Chua’s journey took an interesting shift and a leap when after being crowned Mr. UST, he was approached by individuals like John Lapus and Jonas Gaffud, who saw in him, the makings of a potential artist. This twist of fate led him to auditions for ABS-CBN’s adaptation of My Girl. With no background in acting and lacking connections, he secured a secondary role in a love team alongside Regine Angeles.

Suit, Edwin Tan.

While his ABS-CBN journey was marked by character roles and the label of the proverbial ‘villain,’ Chua’s resilience did shine through. The pandemic-induced closure of the network shifted his focus to learning camera work and editing, skills he honed during this dormant period. Fate also led him towards the fruition of his own production house— the Dark Carnival Productions. From childhood sketches to unexpected acting roles and, ultimately, film direction, Chua’s creative journey underscores the beauty of embracing unplanned opportunities.

As he shifted mediums, Chua expresses how acting became and will always be his first love. “I really love acting more because I am able to learn a lot of things from it. I went through different workshops and nakatanggap ng iba’t ibang judgment from different directors and I was able to adapt to their critics.”

Not long after, gaining the moniker ‘Filipino Oppa,’ Chua embarked on his journey as a heartthrob and budding actor more than a decade ago. He perceived this branding as a chance to elevate his career within the industry, reframing it from a potential limitation into a stepping stone for his capabilities.

He states, “Hindi siya naging limiting for me and actually mas nakatulong pa siya sa career ko. For me, your fortune is always up to you. Ayoko rin namang ma-brand na ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ kaya that branding helped me become more confident with my own body and my overall talent as well.”

Embarking on the creation of the heartwarming sitcom Good Will, Chua delves into his voyage of shaping the series while simultaneously honing his expertise in the realm of production while revisiting his love of being in front of the camera. In the midst of the pandemic, the concept behind Good Will’s tale began as an idea intricately woven around the story of Chua’s own experiences. 

The journey of this series was not without its challenges. As the story was pitched across various platforms, it eventually found its home with Net25. However, a need for fine-tuning arose, a delicate process that required aligning the narrative with family-friendly parameters, this transformation also saw the evolution of the title to “Good Will,” an homage to the protagonist’s quest to fulfill ten virtuous deeds before inheriting a substantial sum–a narrative thread intertwined with values set and echoed by the Ten Commandments. 

Chua discloses, “Pandemic time, hindi pa Good Will title niyan before. The director and writers who were with me, nag-create muna ako ng isang idea about sa yumaong ina, naiwan yung anak, tapos naghahanap ng mapapangasawa yung guy and binase ko talaga siya sa kwento ko. We were able to pitch it to different platforms and nakapasa sa Net25.”

He furthers, “Evident ang 10 good wills per episode and kaya siya titled like that kasi may ‘magandang mana.’ When we pitched that sa Net25, they said na mas okay and mas maganda kasi the audience will be able to get life lessons from it.”

Top, Proudrace. Trousers, Nina Amoncio. Overcoat, Zara.

Underpinning this effort was the producing prowess of Victory 8 Media, serving as line producers and orchestrating the budget flow from Net 25 to Victory 8, and eventually to his own production entity, Dark Carnival Productions. As Chua’s vision comes to life on screen, it showcases the convergence of storytelling, values, and collaboration in the world of entertainment, inviting audiences to ponder the resonance of Good Will in their own lives.

Juggling the responsibilities as an actor and a producer of the show, Chua had a fair share of struggles wearing two hats all at once. Chua recalls, “During Season 2 nahirapan talaga ako kasi lahat pinapakialaman ko because nung season 1 even the logistics ng van, transportation and the crew meals iniisip ko. There was a poignant moment during a lock-in, where I found myself in tears, questioning my capacity to endure.”

Chua’s journey reflects the intricate balance required of an artist who not only performs in front of the camera but also shoulders an immense degree of responsibility behind it. His narrative is a testament to evolution – an evolution of roles, responsibilities, and a profound understanding of how each facet contributes to the tapestry of creativity.

In the realm of production, holding the reins of content is paramount. For Chua, the process entails more than just storytelling; it involves a dynamic orchestration of vision and resource management. Chua’s philosophy revolves around a symbiotic relationship between content and financial viability.

He elucidates, “While you wield the narrative as a producer, it’s also crucial to detach personal funds from the equation. Instead, I prefer to pitch my concepts to networks. Personally funding your film can be risky in a landscape brimming with formidable competitors, including the vast expanse of online streaming platforms.”

The allure of production, for Chua, is the autonomy it offers in nurturing creative expression. This autonomy extends beyond storytelling; it encompasses the ability to shape a team’s dynamics and influence the narrative’s trajectory. “Producing is a realm I’m drawn to because it allows me to amplify my creative aspirations. I find solace in steering the ship, molding the story’s contours according to my artistic vision,” he reveals.

The world of an actor offers a cocoon of care, where one steps into the tent and is ushered into a realm of pampering before gracing the set. Yet, for Chua, this perspective shifted as he ventured into production. A transition that illuminated the multifaceted nature of the industry, revealing the contrast between the pampered sanctuary of an actor and the intricate web of considerations in production.

Chua articulates this transformation by noting, “In the realm of production, a broader canvas emerges. It’s not just about stepping into a tent, but about diving into the pool of budgets, checking weather forecasts para sa shoot, and adhering to strict shooting schedules aligned with financial constraints. My comprehension deepened, and nagsimula akong mag-empathize with the directors and the entire production team. Sobrang nag-iba yung mindset ko dahil dun.”

Blazer, Edwin Tan. Trousers, Nina Amoncio. Overcoat, Zara.

The transition unearthed a profound understanding of the gears turning behind the camera, revealing the essence of collaboration. Chua explains, “When you’re privy to the backstage of filmmaking, you grasp the true meaning of ‘pakikisama,’ or working harmoniously with others. It’s a valuable insight that encompasses the essence of the industry.”

Life’s rhythm demands an unceasing openness to adjustment. This sentiment resonates deeply in the wisdom shared by Chua, who highlights the essence of embracing change in an ever-evolving world. In his journey, shaped by personal loss and the shifting tides of the industry, Chua’s insights underscore the urgency of innovation.

In the wake of his mother’s passing and the closure of ABS-CBN, Chua recognized the imperative to keep pace with innovation. He emphasizes, “Life’s pace is swift, and we mustn’t linger in the bad and always find a way to adapt to the idea of change. Whether in personal matters or professional endeavors, readiness for change is paramount. I often remind myself, ‘We must always follow the path of innovation.'”

Chua’s perspective extends beyond technological advancements; it delves into the realm of human interaction. He underscores the pivotal role of interpersonal relationships in achieving success. “A fundamental truth I’ve embraced is that 80% of success hinges on how we connect with others. Dapat yung pakikitungo mo sa tao hindi nakabase sa kung sino at ano siya. Dapat pantay-pantay dahil kung ako yung tinanim mo, eventually, yun yung iha-harvest mo.”

In discussing his career trajectory, Chua unveiled a profound advocacy that propels him toward self-improvement and professional transformation. “I’ve fallen in love with the embrace of Manila. My roots trace back to Tondo. Despite my fair share of challenges, including not speaking English fluently initially, my appearance—hair, nose—and my mixed heritage, which includes German and Chinese lineage, had people mistaking me for a Korean. Yet, Tondo is where I was born and raised.”

Chua has made it his mission to defy stereotypes about Tondo. He proudly promotes the vibrant community that holds his heart. Reflecting on the evolving image of Tondo, he affirms, “Tondo has transformed, and this is something I continually advocate for. I’ve found a sense of belonging there kahit dati nahihiya ako about it”  What was once a source of hesitation has now became his source of pride. This realization prompted him to establish ‘Dark Carnival’ in Tondo.

“I wanted to provide a space where artists and celebrities could come and witness the truth beyond the misconceptions that have been attached to the area,” he adds.

A significant wellspring of motivation in his mission to uplift his hometown is his cherished mother. This powerful influence serves as a tribute for Chua, propelling him to strive for greater heights and to establish a legacy that transcends Tondo, encompassing a profound tribute to his mother’s memory. 

Chua reflects, “During my childhood, my mother had a natural inclination to assist others, even though our lifestyle was humble. when she died I asked myself ‘what’s my purpose?’ Feeling ko nawalan na ako ng taong naniniwala sakin. Gusto ko gumawa ng paraan na matuwa siya as I realized that during her lifetime, wala pa akong napupuntahan o nararating.”

This quest for meaning sparked Chua’s dedication to his hometown, Tondo. He explains, “I immersed myself in understanding the essence of Tondo, recognizing its untapped potential. I wanted to not only make my mother proud but also contribute a legacy that would outlive my time – one that resonates for both my mother and the community,” 

He adds, “I really want to showcase the history of Tondo and why it was branded that way. My plan for my district is to have a tour kung sino man yung taong sikat sa Tondo like Lakandula or si Asiong Salonga and have a culture hub with arts, galleries, foods and tourism talaga. And hindi naman nating kailangan tumakbo [politically] para mangyari yun.” 

David Chua, in his forward-looking vision, identifies the pillars that will continue to shape his artistic voyage. With conviction, he says, “The realm of acting is a constant presence in my journey; it’s an inherent part that will always remain. Simultaneously, producing and nurturing Dark Carnival are pursuits I’m unwaveringly committed to – their growth is my priority, and I’m resolute not to relinquish them.”

Delving into the realm of directing, Chua treads with a discerning approach. He elaborates, “Directing is a passion that burns within me, a realm I deeply cherish. However, my choices in this avenue are deliberate. I gravitate toward projects that resonate with me on a profound level. If a project captures my heart, I’m poised to immerse myself in its creation.”

Chua’s trajectory echoes a commitment to artistry while embracing the dynamics of production, nurturing, and direction. His journey unfolds as an intricate interplay of dedication, discernment, and creative resonance – a testament to his unwavering determination to carve an enduring legacy within the artistic realm.

David Chua’s narrative is a symphony of stories marked by constant and consistent evolution, resilience, and impact. From his childhood love for drawing to becoming an actor, producer, director, and advocate, Chua’s story is a testament to embracing change and staying true to oneself.

His evolution from being a heartthrob actor to a multifaceted creator illustrates his unwavering dedication to his craft. His foray into production and the establishment of Dark Carnival showcase his entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to fostering positive narratives. Through his initiatives in Tondo, Chua not only dispels stereotypes but also reshapes the narrative of his hometown, proving that one’s origins need not define their potential.

Chua’s insights into production reveal the delicate balance required to excel. His journey emphasizes collaboration, innovation, and adaptability – cornerstones of success in an ever-changing industry. Driven by a desire to honor his mother’s legacy and uplift others, Chua inspires us to embrace diversity, follow our passions, and catalyze positive change. His journey reflects the transformative power of determination and a profound impact that reaches far beyond the screen.

Creative direction by Leo Balante

Photographer: Stephen Capuchino

Art direction and shoot assisted by: Jobo Nacpil

Hair and grooming by: Gabriel Laxamana

Location partner: Rise Above Studio