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When Charice became Jake

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A STILL from Jake Zyrus’s music video DMN.

HE BURST into the limelight as a little girl with a big voice, becoming an internet sensation, earning the recognition of composer David Foster and of American celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Ellen Degeneres, and singing with vocal heavyweights like Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli.

But Jake Zyrus — formerly Charice Pempengco — decided to leave the limelight at the height of his career and do what he always wanted to do: live his life as a man. This he then chronicled in his recently release autobiography, I am Jake.

“For me, the story and my experiences is [all about] survival. I wanted it to be a book about survival, especially for those who have depression and tried to take their lives for the same reasons I tried to take mine. And I want them to know that even if our experiences differ, we can survive,” he said in vernacular during the book’s launch on Sept. 21 at the 49-B Heirloom Kitchen restaurant in Quezon City.

The 140-page book tells relates his turbulent relationship with his mother, the sexual abuse he suffered from a family member, mental illness, his career, and, ultimately, his transition.

“I don’t believe in fairy tales, I believe in reality,” he said of the book.

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Many a chapter is dedicated to describing how he felt before he transitioned, where he said he didn’t feel like he was free, and how he felt when he had his top body surgery to have his breasts removed.

“My boobs were gone. I couldn’t believe it. My eyes filled with tears over the realization that beneath the bandages was a flat chest — the chest that I had always wanted. After years of living in a body that didn’t feel like mine, I felt a sense of ownership,” he wrote.

He was likewise jubilant when he stopped having his period due to the testosterone injections he was taking, noting that he ordered all the sanitary pads in the house be thrown away because he didn’t need them anymore.

The book is both poignant and hopeful. He noted that he may not be “worth $16 million anymore but I assure you I am richer than Charice.”

“Today, for the first time in my life, I actually have my own house. It’s not big, but it’s mine,” he said in the book’s last chapter.

While many bemoaned the loss of the rich, high-register voice he once had as Charice — the loss due mostly to the testosterone shots he takes — he tells people “steeped in nostalgia” to go on YouTube to “replay my best hits and past performances as many times as they want to.”

During the launch, he said that he is now able to fulfill his dream to be a balladeer now that his voice has grown deeper.

“My voice did not get ‘destroyed,’ as some say. It simply became deeper. If you ask me, it sounds so much better now because you can feel my soul and essence with each bar I sing,” he wrote.

I am Jake is available for P295 online via www.anvilpublishing.com and will hit the shelves at National Bookstore and Powerbooks starting Oct. 5. — Zsarlene B. Chua

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