Jun Urbano is a multi-faceted, Filipino actor and director, who is best known for his creation and portrayal of Mr. Shooli in the ‘90s hit political satire Mongolian Barbecue.
Urbano is also the son of the late Manuel Conde, a National Artist for Film who directed and acted in classics like the Juan Tamad series (1940 to 1960) and Genghis Khan (1950).
But who is Urbano without the Mongolian costume and beyond the shadow of his father? This Father’s Day, The Sunday Times Magazine uncovers Urbano simply as a son and father himself.
Object of affection
Urbano grew up in Sampaloc, Manila in a typically large Filipino family. As the eldest of seven siblings, he was fondly called Jun—short for Junior—by family and friends.
“I am the eldest and I am fortunate to have been the object of my dad’s affection,” Urbano
related to The Sunday Times Magazine.
It was mostly Urbano whom Conde brought to work with him, and each time, the young
Jun would watch his father in awe on the set of a movie.
One of his fondest memories was going to shoots of the Christmas movies of LVN Pictures.
“Whenever it was Christmas and I knew that dad was shooting for LVN, I immediately ask to go along with him especially for the shoot of the finale which was always a big dance number,” Urbano remembered.
“I would bask in the reflected glory of being beside Nida Blanca or Nestor de Villa, who were the blockbuster actors during that time,” he added.
Urbano’s gratitude for being the apple of his father’s eye goes very deep, for, as he admitted to The Sunday Times Magazine, not only did he have six siblings back home who also vied for their father’s attention, but he also had siblings from his father’s children by different women.
“I know them and I love them all. And thankfully, my mother, who is very kindhearted, does too. So I know how they felt whenever dad had shortcomings with them,” Urbano said.
“They would tell me, ‘Kuya nung birthday ko sabi ng daddy pupunta siya sa bahay.
Maghapon ako sa binta, hindi naman dumating [Kuya, father told he would come on my birthday. I was waiting for him by the window but he never came],’ or ‘Kuya, nung graduation, ako lang ang walang tatay [Kuya, I was the only one without a father during graduation].’ Masakit diba?
“That experience kept me on the right track as a husband and father to my children,” he declared. He also learned to love is mother even more.
He expressed, “Because dad was an actor, director, producer and writer, he was always away from home. So it was really my mother whom I could credit for molding our characters. She passed away only last year, but I didn’t cry because I knew where she was going.”
His father Conde passed away much earlier in 1985.
In Conde’s footsteps
From his childhood until later in life, Urbano saw his father create many significant films. It was but natural for the awestruck son to follow in Conde’s footsteps—even if he tried to avoid it.
According to Urbano, when he was a teenager, he had no idea what he wanted to pursue.
Without a clear path, he took up Journalism at the Ateneo de Manila University only because he knew that the professors—who were veteran journalists—were always absent from class.
But even while studying, his father’s genes got the better of Urbano and propelled him to become very active in directing school plays.
Urbano tried to practice his degree after graduation—and was even employed by The Manila Times for a short while—but he realized in the end that journalism was really not for him.
And so as the public knows him today, Urbano became an actor, director, producer and writer like his father.
However, Urbano unlike his father who is a film luminary, conquered the advertising industry, and is the genius behind many of the best Philippine TV commercials.
“My line of work became directing TV commercials. I did it for 40 years and I made all the classics for San Miguel, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Safeguard, Tide, and many more,” he said.
He added, “I reigned as the top commercial director of my time. But I never studied directing.”
And of course, he has no one else to credit for his professional success but his father. “It was my dad who taught me but unknowingly pa. He didn’t know he was teaching me because as I told you, I only came to watch whenever he was directing. And all along, I was learning na pala,” Urbano explained.
Pros and cons
Ubano also told The Sunday Times Magazine how being his father’s son had its own pros and cons.
“I was always overshadowed by the name of my father,” Urbano admitted. “Before, I was always ‘Si Jun Conde, anak ni Manuel Conde.’ Palaging naka-associate sa akin yung pangalan ng tatay ko, para bang wala na akong sariling substansya [I was always associated with my father’s name, as if I didn’t have my own substance].”
It was from this that he decided to use their real surname rather than the screen name Conde. “Para kung sumikat man ako, hindi sasabihin, ‘Anak kasi ni Manuel Conde yan eh.’
Kung wala rin namang nangyari as akin, hindi din nila ako masisisi na anak ako ni Manuel Conde. [I thought if I were to become famous, people couldn’t say that it’s because I’m the son of Manuel Conde. And if I didn’t make it, they couldn’t say it was because I was just the son Manuel Conde]. I sink or swim on my own merit,” Urbano rightly explained.
Besides directing over 2,000 TV commercials, Urbano is most recognized for his work in the Mongolian Barbecue, thanks to the witty character of Mr. Shooli.
He clarified, however, that Mr. Shooli was not inspired by his father’s Genghis Khan, rather by his Filipino-Chinese friends who speak with a Chinese accent. He dressed Mr. Shooli as a Mongol so as not offend his pals.
His only intention was for Mr. Shooli to tell how much the Philippines had changed for the worse over the years.
Still, he admitted that being Conde’s son gave him a huge advantage in show business. He said, “It really helped that at the back of people’s minds, ‘Uy anak yan ni Manuel Conde.’ I enjoyed it especially when I was a child.
“But when I was trying to establish myself, I proved that I can do it on my own. Thankfully, I had my father’s genes!” he quipped.
Asked to comment on his father’s conferment as a National Artist for Film in 2013, Urbano could only say, “It would have been better if he were still alive [when it happened], because my father, he didn’t know his capability.”
He explained, “My dad was ahead of his time when he was making movies. Biruin mo, as a Filipino, he thought of making big films with foreign themes like Genghis Khan and Siegfried, Germany’s mythical hero.”
Indeed, Conde’s works contributed greatly to Philippine arts and culture. Genghis Khan was the first Filipino film to earn international acclaim when it was screened at the Venice Film Festival in 1952. In 2012, a fully restored version of the film made its homecoming at the international film fest.
“My father was my source of inspiration,” Urbano proclaimed.
All for his children
After sharing his treasured relationship with his father, Urbano just as interestingly talked about his own children. The revered director, who recently celebrated his 75th birthday on June 8, is blessed with four boys, Manolito, Ramon, Christian and Morado, who are already in their 40s and 30s.
As a father, he related that he never hit his boys as punishment. “I think parents hit children in the past to frighten them. But for me, times have changed. Matatalino na ang mga bata, pwede nang paliwanagan. So to my boys, I just tell them what they should and shouldn’t do.”
What is it like to raise four boys? “Sobrang saya kasi sobrang gulo!” Urbano exclaimed, adding they all grew up laughing at his funny antics.
“I will sacrifice everything for my children. I brought them to this world, and it is my responsibility to raise them well,” he vowed.
Asked if any of his sons also followed his footsteps like he did his father, Urbano named his youngest as his “successor.” “He also wants to direct commercials. Right now, he is a production manager of an advertising company.”
Urbano’s two elder sons are now living with their own families in the United States while the younger two are still with him and his wife Victoria.