The middle child of former Vice President Salvador Laurel and theater actress Celia Diaz-Laurel, Cocoy was the typical shy boy during his younger days. As a student, he was a target for older bullies at La Salle Greenhills where he finished his elementary and secondary education. With his shyness and reticence, people close to Cocoy were thus surprised to learn that he was joining the Romeo and Juliet of the Philippines search.
With his endearing handsome features and enchanting voice, Cocoy snagged the Romeo of the Philippines title. The nationwide search led to more theatre work. Cocoy first appeared in Repertory Philippines’ Plaza Suite, where his mom played the lead role. This was followed by the musicales Fiddler On the Roof and The Best of Broadway.
After several roles with Repertory Philippines, Cocoy went to Madrid to pursue his dream of becoming a portrait painter. He studied at the prestigious Academia Real de Bellas Artes where he learned to live independently and to deal with people of varied cultures and values.
When Cocoy returned to the Philippines for a vacation, producer Cirio Santiago spotted him and offered him a role opposite superstar Nora Aunor in the movie Lollipops and Roses. It also starred Hollywood actor Don Johnson who would later rise to fame in Miami Vice. This movie became a box-office hit, and Cocoy became a household name. He followed that up with a concert, Cocoy Live at the Meralco Theater with Ryan Cayabyab as musical director; another movie, Once Upon A Time opposite Spanish star Maribel Martin, followed, then a repeat of Cocoy Live.
But education was a must for the Laurels, so Cocoy went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and the Julliard School of Music in 1972. He received his diploma from Helen Hayes, the noted queen of the American stage. Back home, he did some more stage performances, playing the meaty roles of Che Guevarra in Evita and John Merrick in The Elephant Man.
In 1989, Cocoy left for London to play the assistant commissar in Miss Saigon, beginning what would be a long relationship with that hit musical. Later he played the lead role of the Engineer in Miss Saigon’s Australian version, reaping praises and good reviews from Australian theater critics. After 450 performances as the sleazy Engineer, Cocoy returned to Manila in 1996 and played Jose Rizal in the centennial celebration of Rizal’s martyrdom in Luneta.
Four years later, Cocoy focused on singing with renewed passion. He tried mainstream music via a Spanish album, Te Quiero. All the songs in the album reflect Cocoy’s life as a student in Madrid. A concert at the Music Museum capped the album’s success. In recent years he has focused more on his passion for painting and charity work.
Here we have a version of The Jackson 5’s 1971 hit ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’ and Jimmy Webb’s 1968 song ‘When It Was Done’.