Rare is the breed of artists who excel in putting images on canvas at the same time passionate about acting on stage or the screen.
In the Philippines, the numbers are few and far in between. Among the prominent names include Mike Austria, Joey de Leon, Maria Isabel Lopez, Xian Lim, Cris Villanueva, Ian Veneracion, Solenn Heussaff; and the most celebrated in this period of the millennium, Heart Evangelista.
Rarer are those who turn in magnificent works using almost every medium – oil, acrylic, pencil, charcoal, watercolor, pastel, pen and ink, crayon, solar from the sun, soldering, and even coffee [yes, coffee] – at the same time splendid in acting, excellent as guitar player, can write and carry a tune, direct films, good in sculpture as well and superb in computer graphics. And possess good looks too.
Of this latter breed is Emmanuel San Pedro, an Asia Pacific College [now School of Multimedia Arts or SOMA]AB Multimedia Arts major in Film graduate, who has more than 150 works to his credit since he devoted full-time on his craft.
Called Manu both at home, by friends and in media circles, the 31-year-old son of a painter and a homemaker who also paints, started drawing at the age of nine, but realized his potential only four years ago when he decided he is not cut for the corporate world.
“I was lucky to have my on-the-job-training [OJT] in MTV Philippines and got absorbed after graduation,” he began in this interview with The Sunday Times Magazine.
Although he was able to use his major field of study only once by doing a 15-minute indie film, his exposure to the production side of TV including editing [“Uploaded”] and even acting as himself in “Eman Is The Man” then getting into graphic arts – all paved the way for his present disposition now.
His largest work had been for the mural measuring 12 feet by 14 feet [and 12 feet by 12 feet 20-feet high ceiling]of a theme restaurant which could have easily fetched him P200K but ended getting just a pittance for it. Of late, though, his painting of global boxing sensation Manny Pacquiao has reached the senator’s hands complete with authentication certificate that the masterpiece is no less than by Manu San Pedro.
“I began uploading doodles and sketches on social media during breaktime when I had a short stint in the construction business of my friend back in 2013. I was overwhelmed by the positive comments and responses and that pushed me to concentrate on my artistry,” he shared.
When he decided to go on his own, his manager when he was artist for [eyewear brand]Ray-Ban became his partner to establish Artisan Mnl in Sta. Rosa City, Laguna but not without going through the starving phase that artists endure in practicing their craft.
“I had my share of being downtrodden, yung walang-wala talaga at yung pagiging recluse. Ilang years din yun,” he said smiling as he looked back during his struggling years.
They conduct art workshops and he finds fulfilment in sharing his skills especially to kids, young ladies and lolas, who at their age still find to belatedly express their artistic inclination.
Group exhibits helped him connect with other artists; and social media especially made him a byword in art circles.
The angst in his chinky eyes must have communicated a lot attracting offers to act on stage and the silver screen. He was cast as agent in the Vice Ganda-Coco Martin starrer “Beauty And The Bestie” where one of his works was bought by the late director Wenn Deramas’ friend and gave it as a gift to the noted filmmaker.
Upon the recommendation of entertainment journalist-talent manager Ricky Gallardo, San Pedro’s soft yet fiery features got him the role as the Japanese soldier Hirohito in the restaging of the play “Lagablab” produced by Artists Playground that ran in October last year without the benefit of an audition.
“Sumabak agad ako sa workshop, on the second session I already memorized my lines. Alternate lang ako supposed to be but I did both the opening and the closing shows,” he related.
Reviews of the play always praised his acting grit, landing him in the radar of the entertainment press. One such review was published on ABS-CBN News digital portal. “Manu San Pedro was consistent as Hirohito with his monotone deadpan delivery of Japanese-accented Filipino. His gentle-looking facial features were so right for his insidious character. Every time we see him on that stage [it]reeked with tension,” it said.
He expressed desire in essaying the role again should a nationwide tour pushes through. “The character at the start is evil, but has heart, with redemption in the end, that’s why I like being Hirohito,” he said.
San Pedro has found an enclave not far from the family residence in Las Piñas. Its homey ambiance is different from the stereotype artist workplace. Here he spends his time creating pieces, strumming the guitar when the painting gets stressful. He was lead guitarist of a band composed of friends and classmates way back in college.
“Sa bahay kasi, pag naglaro kami ng pamangkin ko [who inherited from him the passion of drawing]wala na akong magagawa. Dito, paggising ko I make it a point na may matapos ako, relaxed na sa bandang hapon basta may na-achieve na,” he said, pointing to several pieces in his home-cum-gallery never been seen publicly even on social media, with his jujitsu uniform hanging by the staircase.
Seeing his name in a sheet of paper – invitation, artist roster, exhibit participants alongside established painters like Raul Lebajo – is one of his fulfilments since deciding to become a full-time artist. He was also one of those given the opportunity to honor celebrated Spain-born but Philippine-raised Juvenal Sanso in an exhibit last year.
Three pieces in pen and ink that he wants to keep for himself are that of a tiger, sea turtle and eagle for his unfinished Wildlife Series.
“Drawing with ballpen is time-consuming, four weeks each, although not continuously done everyday. Dapat sampu ang gagawin ko for the Wildlife Series, pero tama na muna yung tatlo, and I might get back to finish the other one, which is a chameleon,” he said, adding that many people were interested to buy those, but he had to beg off however big the offered amount was. He pointed to The Sunday Times Magazine the reflection on the tiger’s eye is him drawing the jungle creature.
The artist is a confirmed pluviophile. “I find solace and peace of mind during rainy days,” he shared, with one work affirming his love for the rain.
He’s set to do “Silenced” exhibit along with other SOMA alumni in July at Gallery Anna at SM Megamall and Asian artists exhibit in Jakarta, Indonesia in August. He’s also working on “Ponder” series which will be displayed in an upscale establishment in the metro.
San Pedro simply signs his works, “Manu.”