JON SANTOS is best known in the entertainment industry for his satirical impersonations of famous—and often controversial—political personas in the Philippines.
Having made a name for himself in this regard, Santos headlined the concert, HuGot your VOTE! WTF: Wala Talagang Forever (Sa Malacañang) in time for the May 9 national elections.
Successful as it was, Santos, nevertheless, is happy to be taking a break from such kind of shows. Come June, the premier comedian-impersonator is returning to what he calls his “first love”—the theater.
On May 18, Santos was officially introduced as an addition to the cast of Rak of Aegis, the hit musical-comedy production by the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), which will run for the fifth time from June to August.
Of this development in his established career, which includes acting for film and TV, Santos is very much excited and—believe it or not—nervous.
“Kinakabahan pa rin [ako]. Alam n’yo naman ang roller coaster [feel]ng isang live performance. Kung sa mga stand-up comedy at one-man shows sobrang laki ng nerbyos ko, ano pa kaya kung nakasalalay ang linya ng ka-eksena mo sa’yo,” Santos told The Manila Times at the sidelines of the musicale’s launch at the PETA Center in Quezon City.
“This is a show with a big cast and big scenes where you can destroy a moment by not doing your part,” he added.
Santos, though a veteran, has every reason to feel the pressure of starring in Rak of Aegis. Why so? Because the original production, for its reality and ingenuity, has already garnered not just a strong following from discerning Filipino theatergoers but also multiple recognitions from respected award-giving bodies.
Telling the story of Aileen, a promodizer with big dreams of raising her family from the knee-deep floods that have plagued their town for months, the original Filipino musical features songs from the iconic band Aegis like “Luha” “Halik” and “Basang-basa sa Ulan.”
Describing Rak in his own words, Santos said, “. . . it has the singing, the OPM, the Pinoy-ism, [and]the setting of a black box.”
In Rak, Santos is actually an antagonist. He is the developer responsible for the floods in Brgy Venizia, the play’s setting.
He alternates with Rak veterans Julienne Mendoza and Gie Onida, whom he considers very generous in guiding him to tackle his character the way he should.
“May bagong twist sa mga eksena ni Fernan na tuwang tuwa ako as a character kasi hindi mo masabi kung good guy o bad guy. Kasi ang buhay hindi naman always black and white, may bad na may konting good, may good na may konting bad.”
But will his take be funnier considering he is a veteran comedian?
Humble as ever, Santos replied, “I would be very happy if it would be a happy Fernan kasi very welcome ang comedy sa pyesa. The whole production gives so much allowance for the funny parts, noon pa man. At hindi lang tawa kundi tawang pop culture.”
Santos also expressed how honored and challenged he felt to be able to sing Rak’s new song this season, which was composed by musical director Myke Solomon.
Asked what took him so long to audition for Rak, Santos replied he did not have the courage to do so in the beginning. “Dinaga” was his choice of word to describe his feeling back then.
“Dinaga ng dinaga [akong]mag-audition for a play that is truly demanding. Isang mundong walang special treatment. Hindi pwedeng dito lang ako mag-rehearse, na ito lang ang kaya kong ibigay,” he explained.
Thankfully, Santos was encouraged by mainstream actors like Jet Pangan and Eula Valdes who can manage multiple entertainment media like TV, theater, and music all at the same time.
“Kaya naman pala, kailangan lang ng abilidad,” he enthused.
Santos last major theater production in which he starred in the lead role was Priscilla Queen of the Desert, staged two years ago.
He believes that Rak will be a completely different experience especially since it is set in a “laboratory” type of environment where he expects to further improve his craft.
“There is education. I am surrounded by teachers. The cast has voice teachers, directors, production managers, acting coaches. Parang full circle tulad noong nag-teatro ako sa school,” Santos ended.