3d scanners-Why playwright Rody Vera joined the cast of ‘Rak of Aegis’
Veteran playwright, actor, director, screenwriter and singer Rodolfo “Rody” Vera joins PETA’s smash hit “Rak of Aegis” as Fernan the shrewd businessman. Handout
MANILA — Many were surprised when the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) introduced Rody Vera among the new cast members of its long-running hit “Rak of Aegis.”
Admit it or not, in the small village that is Philippine theater, Vera is one of the Most Valuable Players, a legendary rock star but without the bloated ego and “I’m-the-center-of-the universe” attitude.
Playwright, screenwriter, actor, director, singer rolled into one, Vera has become as rare as the mythical unicorn. Or better yet, one of the few sweetest wines that one could taste in a lifetime.
Vera admits he never thought of joining one of the biggest original Filipino musicals ever staged in theater history, now on its sixth run with 300 shows and counting. So why did he accept?
“Magandang break sa pagsusulat. Singing naman. Wala naman kumukuha sa akin, e,” Vera said, half in jest. “Kaya nung naisip ng PETA imbitahin ako, pumayag na ko.”
It was Maribel Legarda, director of “Rak” and PETA’s artistic director who invited him. Over the years, he thought of joining but modesty and shyness stopped him.
“Nahihiya ako kasi ‘di ko naman genre talaga ang rock, biritan. And when they asked me, I asked them kung sure sila,” he said, followed by his contagious laughter that has become familiar among theater people.
“Pero yung role ni Fernan hindi naman ganoon na grabe ang birit,” he added.
Fernan is the shrewd businessman-villain rin “Rak” whose subdivision project causes the flooding in Barangay Venizia. Other MVPs who essayed the role in the past were Nor Domingo, Jon Santos, Gie Onida and Juliene Mendoza. In the ongoing run, Onida and Mendoza alternate with Vera.
Vera said he didn’t think of any role besides Fernan. “When they gave that to me, I felt it was probably the closest to my vocal quality. ‘Di kasi hulma sa pop rock ang boses ko. But I'll try my best,” he said, laughing again.
Writing has always been his first love but Vera has acted in a lot of musicals, though not every year.
His first musical was PETA’ s production of Aurelio Tolentino’s “Kahapon Ngayon, at Bukas” in 1991. It was turned into a musical by Louie Pascasio and directed by Chris Millado. It had actors Vince Gealogo, Upeng Galang- Fernandez and Jojo Atienza, among others. Vera played the third Tagailog.
“Then there was PETA's first sung-through musical, ‘1896’ in 1995, written by Charley de la Paz, music by Lucien Letaba, and directed by Soxie Topacio. I played the role of Andres Bonifacio,” he said. The other actors were Ariel Rivera, May Bayot, Bodjie Pascua, Lionel and Cynthia Guico.
In 2005, Vera played Padre Damaso in Tanghalang Pilipino’s re-staging of "Noli Me Tangere,” written by Bienvenido Lumbera, music by Ryan Cayabyab and directed by Paul Morales. It had actors Arnold Reyes, Lena McKenzie, Angeli Bayani, Jon Joven, among others.
In 2008, Vera also appeared in Tanghalang Pilipino's production of "EJ: Ang Pinagdaanang Buhay nina Evelio Javier at Edgar Jopson," which predates recent original Pinoy rock musicals like “Sa Wakas” and “Rak” in terms of using the songs of an existing rock band.
Rody Vera and Juliene Mendoza in 'EJ.' Photo from the Facebook page of Rody Vera
“EJ” had The Dawn providing live music accompaniment with vocalist Jett Pangan playing Edgar Jopson. “I was his alternate,” said Vera. Written by the late Ed Maranan and directed by Chris Millado, it had Ricky Davao playing Evelio Javier, alternating with Juliene Mendoza.
“Then I appeared in TP's ‘Stageshow’ in 2012, a musical written by Mario O'Hara, directed by Chris Millado, using the Pinoy music of the ‘50s and ‘60s. I played multiple roles, especially Bobby Gonzales. I was fortunate to have won the Gawad Buhay Award for Best featured Actor in a Musical (tied with Noel Rayos) of that year,” Vera said.
Last year, he also sang at the two-night concert celebrating PETA’s 50th anniversary. In her review for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, theater critic Cora Llamas wrote: “It was well-known playwright Rody Vera who brought the house down with his stirring rendition of songs from ‘Kabesang Tales.’ Dramatic and literary storytelling may be Vera’s greatest gift, but after this performance, one wished he could take a break once in a while and perform in a musical.”
The wish came true with “Rak” a year after.
‘In fair Verano’
As an afterthought, there’s someone in “Rak” that makes Vera nostalgic.
“Also nga pala, excited ako makasama si Renz. He was my classmate sa San Beda from grade school to high school.”
Verano is the pop singer behind the megahit incidentally titled “Remember Me.” He became part of “Rak” in 2015 run, playing Kiel, the father of Aileen, whose life story is the centerpiece of “Rak.”
Rody Vera with Renz Verano. Photo from the Facebook page of Rody Vera
“Nagkalayo kami ng landas ni Renz after high school. Ngayon na lang uli kami nagkasama. And I'm so happy to reconnect with him, sa isang musical pa. When he first appeared in season 4 of ‘Rak of Aegis,’ pinanood ko talaga siya. Tuwang tuwa ako noon and he was so happy to see me, too. Sumagi sa isip ko na sana magkasama kami, e, ayun, eto na 'yun,” he said.
“Si Renz Verano ang aming Rico J Puno noong high school. He was a dear classmate. He was, for a few years in elementary, our class president. During convocations and special events noong high school bumibirit na iyan ng mga Rico J. songs. So hindi kagulat-gulat na naging THE Renz Verano siya,” Vera added.
But while Verano was gearing into the path of the total entertainer, Vera was into theater.
“High school pa lang, hilig ko na ang theater. Pero hindi naman ako nakilalang kumakanta pa noon. I started really singing in my early 20s, sa PETA, and most especially when I joined and became artistic director of PATATAG, the political singing group in the late '80s. Dodjie Fernandez, one of the leading members of PATATAG, I learned eventually, worked with Renz Verano for a while. At binibida nga ni Dodjie na super galing ni Verano. I looked forward to meeting him again and seeing him in ‘Rak’ was that opportunity,” he said.
Another reason why Vera is joining “Rak” is because it’s good for his physical health.
“Magandang therapy sa aking COPD,” he said, referring to his cardio-obstructive pulmonary disease. He was first diagnosed in October 2013, when he had general respiratory checkup.
“The symptoms have already appeared months before. Akala ko lang delayed onset ng asthma,” he said, blaming those years when he was a heavy smoker.
“One of the great regrets of my life was smoking. I thought nakakatulong sa pagsusulat but when I stopped, parang wala namang pagbabago, nakakapagsulat pa rin naman ako. Eto, tuloy, naaapektuhan pagkanta ko,” he said.
He doesn’t drink because he has Asian flush. “Ang kaya ko lang apple beer. Minsan red wine, pero it’s not my thing talaga.”
Though he stopped smoking in 1997, or a period of 15 years before the diagnosis, he found out he’s had COPD, stage 1, which shows no symptoms.
In a BBC report, it was proven that singing is good for people dealing with COPD and others with breathing difficulties.
It cited a study on COPD and singing from Canterbury Christ Church University. Quoting one of the project’s authors, Dr. Ian Morrison, a senior research fellow, it proved that with singing, "lung function improved dramatically, particularly after about five months, once people had got used to what they were doing and changed their breathing habits."
In another study published in the journal BMC Pulmonary Medicine, singing is said to "act as an adjunct therapy—something you do in addition to your regular care plan.”
“But COPD has no cure, e. You can only maintain it. Slowly my lungs will deteriorate. Hopefully when I'm too old to do anything na. I intend to reach 97 years old. So while I can, gowww,” Vera said, with that contagious laughter again.
Vera’s debut performance in “Rak” is on Sunday, July 8 at 3 p.m. He’s doing a total of 25 shows or one third of all “Rak” shows till September.
Meanwhile, Vera announced plans of publishing more stage plays after his recent collection, “Tatlong Dula: Adaptasyon” published by the UST Press was launched last week at the Virgin Labfest.
It gathers three of his award-winning adaptations: “D’ Wonder Twins of Boac” (after William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”), “Tatlong Mariya” (after Anton Chekov’s “Three Sisters”), and Arbol de Fuego (after Chekov’s “The Cherry Orchard”). TP staged “Tatlong Mariya,” while “Boac” and “Arbol” were by staged by PETA.
We asked if he has plans of writing his autobiography before reaching 97, when his lungs might have collapsed and he is ready to hand the white towel. His answer: “Naku, hindi ako marunong niyan. Baka magmukhang porn.”
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