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How Vlogging Helped Wil Dasovich Take Control Of His Life

When the award-winning content creator was diagnosed with cancer, he turned to his craft to channel a positivity that resonated with his followers

by Chinggay Labrador | Jul 13, 2018

Wil Dasovich has found a way to not only capitalize on the newfound publicness of everyday life, but also imbue his own work with an inspiring message

Meet the content creator who’s innovating new media in the Philippines.

It’s an intensely hot day—the sun is beating down on Makati at high noon. Wil Dasovich, YouTube vlogger, model, content creator, erstwhile actor, rolls into our shoot location—literally—on his bike. He’s got a lot on his plate. Backpack slung through his arms, hand holding a camera mounted on a tripod, arms covered up for sun protection, and hair profusely wet from sweat, he apologizes for coming in late for the shoot. “I really got it from the kuyas at the gate,” he remarks. “They wouldn’t let me in with my bike.”

The noontime ride would have been a quick 30-minute cardio session, save for Wil’s run-in with the village guards, which he was eventually, able to slink his way out of. Wil has garnered a reputation for being down for ‘whatever.’ His upbeat demeanor and willingness to engage with anyone under just about any circumstance give him a plucky, playful charm—there is a charisma about him that gets him through sticky situations.

PHOTO: Shaira Luna

It’s been 4 years since Wil launched his YouTube channel and as of press time, he’s got an impressive 1,225,402 subscriber count, 153,081,314 views and a following that spans the world over. His content has been so impressive on the platform that he was recently acclaimed Vlogger of the Year at the 2018 Shorty Awards in New York.

“It’s funny how everyone here (in Manila) congratulates me for scoring a TV appearance and being a guest on a talk show but don’t know anything about the Shortys,” he comments. The Oscars of new media has been running for nine years now, celebrating folks all across Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube and all the social networking sites.

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“Through my work, I’ve slowly become a big fish in a small pond here... but once I got to the Shortys I was a small fish. I was seated right beside David Dobrik, Casey Neistat was right behind me,” he recounts. “I can’t even begin to grasp what one million subscribers looks like—at the most, I’ve been around 40,000 people in a packed stadium, you know? These people around me have 10 million, 15 million subscribers.”

Wil continues to amass a following online through his daily vlogs and an absolutely keen perception of what works and what doesn’t. His smarts come intuitively—he just knows what the public will love. But that’s not to say that the idea for a channel landed on his lap as soon as he stepped out of university.

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In 2013, Wil was fresh out of college and decided to take three months backpacking around Asia. “I just wanted to hit as many countries as I could,” he says. The Philippines was an obvious choice. “It was on my bucket list because I’d lived my whole life in the States, detached from Filipino culture, in a mostly white community. There were only two half Filipinos in my entire school. I was very curious about the culture and the language.”

Wil’s deep dive into learning Filipino during his stint here was his gateway to the entertainment industry. He may have been spotted by an agent while having a meal with his mother at Greenbelt, but beyond the commercials he started filming while in Manila, it was his deep commitment to learning the language that began to endear him to his Filipino audience. “I never really liked the idea of just speaking one language—America’s one of the few countries where it happens. I mean, my mom speaks five!” he comments. “I just wanted to make sure that I didn’t get ‘nothing’ out of (my stay in the Philippines). I could at least come out of it learning a new language.”

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Five years after his first time in the country, Wil now maneuvers through colloquialisms like a pro. “But nothing about learning the language was organic or easy. It involved a lot of me breaking friendships and isolating myself,” he remembers. Wil took a method actor approach to his studies. Instead of immersing in Filipino communities, he took to the books—hard—and took anyone who refused to speak to him in Filipino out of the equation. “I was savage about it—just very ‘beast mode.’”

Out of formal language books, old Pugad Baboy comics, and beki speak he would pick up on shoots, Wil had formed his own take on the language, which ultimately earned him his charm. Regardless of his approach (“I don’t recommend it to anyone—conversational is better”), he hit his goal and has seen it impact his life in ways he could have never imagined.

Learning posed many battles for Wil growing up. “I understand it when people say ‘school’s not for me.’ My friend, for example, would study for an hour while I would study for five, and we would get the same grades. It was tough to see how time consuming school was for me—I didn’t enjoy it,” he remembers. “But I see the value of it—I suffered, but I got out with good grades and it’s the skill (you derive) that’s important. It’s what humbles you and makes you realize it’s all worth your time. It’s all about going through the grind.”

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PHOTO: Shaira Luna

Wil harps on the merits of learning outside the classroom—his instinct for entrepreneurship has helped boost his views, allowed him to capitalize on viral content, and monetize his channel. “It’s about influencer marketing—the power of gaining a loyal following. I invested in everything I did and as digital marketing started blowing up, I researched, looked at (the trends) and broke them down,” he says. This penchant for what sells along with his insatiable drive to learn the culture plus Wil’s serendipitous dip into the world of YouTube created an almost alchemical blend fueling his current success. “While traveling, I was already making videos on my phone and cutting them together. I never thought I would share them with the world—it was vlogging for fun before I knew what ‘vlogging’ was.”

Eventually, Wil decided to put this fascination for video as a medium into his own hands. “I thought, ‘I understand what people like.’ I can make a series out of my life—make a little show,” he remembers. Wil pitched his ideas to mainstream media and every single person he met shut him down. “Think about my Art of Tagalog series—they could have monetized that and made tons of money from that, but they didn’t.”

"It’s so gratifying to watch the evolution of this platform. No one respected content creators before because mainstream TV was what was cool. But now, things are turning the other way around—and it’s the artistas and the mainstream trying to penetrate this platform"

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“I was also crushed because I discovered that everything I wanted to do was already being done by a group of guys—these halfies immersing in Filipino culture, doing what I wanted to do.” Wil is referring to the Island Media Asia guys—a group of five half Filipinos who eventually earned a spot on TV5 with the docu-series Juan Direction. “They came from nothing and became huge stars. We met, became friends and it felt so cool. But they also taught me that in this country, showbiz takes you in and can throw you out.”

When the Juan Direction guys’ show came to an end in October 2014, they teamed up with Wil, forming the vlog squad, instigating the vlogging boom in the country. In just a few years, Wil’s efforts has helped change the public perception of taking out a camera in public and filming yourself. “It’s so gratifying to watch the evolution of this platform. No one respected content creators before because mainstream TV was what was cool. But now, things are turning the other way around—and it’s the artistas and the mainstream trying to penetrate this platform. Now, we’re respected and we actually have places that recognize us and award us for our work. We’ve gone from getting dirty looks and judgments to being respected.”

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The recognition has taken Wil full circle, bringing him his first role in a movie—the Paul Soriano-directed film Siargao, starring Jericho Rosales, Erich Gonzales, and Jasmine Curtis-Smith. “One of the first commercials I ever did was with (Direk Paul) and I vlogged it. He remembered me and caught how the vlogs went viral,” Wil recounts.

“Erwan Heussaff and I did our first collab when we went to Siargao for a week just to have a raw experience—have fun, create content. That series for me was special—it came at a time when I had 100,000 subscribers and the video got millions of views. People loved our interaction, maybe because I’m this high energy, carefree person and Erwan’s an introvert—he’s very reserved. We’re two totally different people and it worked.”

Siargao was inspired by that one trip Wil took—the movie’s lead character, played by Erich Gonzales, was a vlogger. “It was a good business move for them, too.”

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PHOTO: Shaira Luna

What with his career and his life in the Philippines coming full circle, with Wil now in a relationship with fellow social media and cosplay phenom Alodia Gosengfiao, you would think that this creator’s got everything on the up and up. Just as Wil’s channel and opportunities were beginning to skyrocket, he was diagnosed in 2017 with Stage III Colon Cancer cancer. “It was a big hit, it was unfortunate. I was in the prime of my career for three years,” he said. “My first thought was, ‘Dang it, we had the year lined up,’” he laughs. “‘No more work?’ And I’m so passionate about my work. My second reaction was, ‘Okay... this is kind of scary.’”

Through nine rounds of chemo, Wil took it upon himself to keep a positive mindset. He vlogged through his sickness, using his work as a way to power through his illness and to keep his viewers involved in his life. “I didn’t have a choice—I have a fan base that looks up to me, motivates me, and inspires me. I had to do my best to motivate everyone, too. I didn’t want to let cancer bring me down—at minimum, I wanted to use it as a vehicle to help other people. And doing something for others—that kept me happy. If you’re going to go through a battle like that, you might as well get your body in tune with your (mindset).”


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After months of chemo, Wil went through a scan that cleared him for surgery. “They took out the tumor, which was really small. And then they went on to take a foot of my intestines out just to see if the cancer spread anywhere else,” he said. Wil came through clean. “It was the biggest weight off my shoulders.”

Getting back on track early this year meant continuing to create meaningful content. “My goals have been the same from the beginning. I just want to continue doing what I’m doing—to open new perspectives for people,” he says thoughtfully.

Wil’s move to Manila and his travel experiences have helped open him up to diversity so much, it’s a message he feels is important to impart in his videos. “Traveling is so great and I want to share why it’s so good for you. It’s important to experience different cultures, different beliefs, practices, religions, political (leanings)—whatever. There aren’t enough people out there showcasing diversity. I want open-mindedness to be part of my message in the Philippines,” he says. “People need to know that you don’t need to have all the same beliefs and ideas. Everyone can come together because at the end of the day, we all have the same basic, moral values.”

It’s a lot to think about, for a format that subsists on short, 10- or 15-minute videos. But there’s no doubt that Wil can make it happen, after all, he’s got the chops to prove it can be done.

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“Now that I’ve gotten my ‘milestones’ out of the way, I want to focus on making great content.” We have no doubt that he’s got the will to make it happen.

Photography Shaira Luna  Styling Debra Bernales  Grooming Amanda Padilla


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