Phillip Palmos, also know as Phi Palmos, is one of the best performers of time. In fact, he had perfomed live in one of the productions of PETA’s “Rak of Aegis” . No doubt about this witty and talented icons’ charisma, beside, after the show, some of the prominent entertainer in the country gave him a warm of applause and a tight hug like a real prominent being. That’s the reason why the singers of Aegis invited him to the Concert in CCP last February to do some duet songs.
In this Psst.Ph Part of the Story Series, Phillip Palmos talks to us about his career in theater world and his experience in the industry.
Full Name: Phillip Salvador B. Palmos
Screen/Stage name: Phi Palmos
Location: Originally from Pasay, but currently residing in Quezon City.
Education: Bachelor of Mass Communication from Universidad De Manila
Tell me something about yourself that people don’t know: Contrary to common misconception, I am not named after the action star and Brocka baby, Philip Salvador. As in ni hindi sumagi sa isip ng mga magulang ko. Nakaka-offend naman sa kanya. Kaloka! Haha!
What is your current state of mind before we continue with the interview? I’m peaceful. I’m at peace.Nakapag-breakfast kasi ako eh.
When did you first know you wanted to become a stage actor? I never wanted, dreamed or wished to be an actor. I want to sing onstage. Singing is passion. It’s my way to communicate and it has always been an outlet for me. But to act, be onstage or onscreen is something that just happened almost accidentally. I revere and have so much respect for great performers and adored the likes of Meryl Streep and Shamaine Buencamino. I would mimicked their performances and would make impressions of it in front of friends for fun and entertainment, but never thought myself as an actor.
I enrolled to TP’s Acting workshop not because I want to be an actor but because I thought, at that time, that to know the actor’s process will greatly help me with my writing because during that time, I just finished a script for CinemaOne Originals. But after the workshop, when we showcased R’meo and Johehl, an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, ayun, wala na akong nagawa. I think you can say that after that, the rest is history.
What was the first show you ever did? And hows the experience? My first professional show is Rody Vera’s Ibalong for Tanghalang Pilipino. It was a memorable experience and I believe the reason why I was so drawn to theater and made me decide that this is something that I really want to do. It is first in so many ways. That’s the first time I experienced a dressing room, to be able to perform at the Main Theater, and go on a tour. For a first-timer, that’s a lot! Something I will never-ever forget. Its also very close to my heart because I consider Bicol, the birthplace of my mom, as my province. And Ibalong is the epic from Bicol. So, to do a musical about that place is like a full circle.
That’s also where I met Myke Salomon, who pushed me to audition for the show that have changed my life. Hehe. So yeah, I will never forget that. And also, I have cultivated friendships from that show that I will forever cherish. That’s where Opaline Santos, great actress who is an Urian nominee, and I became really close, and now we are housemates.
What has been your favorite role so far? Okay. That’s hard! Its like I am being asked to choose from my children. Haha! I have to choose three because of how significant they are, both in my career and my life. Is that fine? Wala naman kayong magagawa din.Charot. Haha!
Bambi (AngBayot, angMeranao, at ang Habal habalsaIsang Nakakabagot na Paghihintay sa Kanto ng Lanao del Norte – UP Repertory Company)–First saw it as one of the Revisited plays in Virgin Labfest. I knew then that I want to play the part of Bambi. Then in 2014, while still working in Bangkok, I got an offer from Emman dela Cruz to play this role. I immediately said yes. I moved heaven and earth just so I can lay this part. It was very difficult mainly because it is a two character play, just talking to each other. Add to that the kilometric lines. It was very memorable because it made me aware and be emphatic about our Moro brother’s century long struggle and oppression. This is due to the presence of Sir Ogie Braga who have pain stakingly goes to almost every rehearsal explaining the context of the play.
Ada (The Adventures of ZsaZsaZaturnnah, the Musical – Bulacan State University – Performing Arts Department) – This is a dream role. I remember saying this to Sir Tuxqs Rutaquio, the definitive Ada, that I consider Ada the holy grail of gay roles. I first watched Ada swallow the Zaturnnah in its RCBC run. This is also the first time I witnessed the great Nar Cabico, who became my Beztee. Although in this version, I was not able to sing the glorious music of Sir Vince de Jesus, this is special because it is all new compositions. The staging is also new but I was able to recreate the memory and the feeling I had when I first watched this show.
Jewel (Rak of Aegis – PETA) – Well, for obvious reasons. This is the role that changed my life and have opened a lot of opportunities. This is the role that made people took notice of this new petite actor. Haha! Also, it is the role that made me Lea Salonga’s personal favorite. To say that it is every gay boy’s dream is an understatement.
Have you ever played someone of the opposite gender? (If not do you want to try it?) What was that like? To play the opposite gender is actually not the problem. To play my own gender is a much bigger problem. Hahaha! I would be able to play a girl anytime, but to play a straight guy, is really hard. Even if its only for a brief scene. I played one of the generals in Mabining Mandirigma. I remember in one rehearsal, Sir Chris Millado told me, “ Phi, you are so light. I need weight! You are a general.” Because of stress, all I can say at that time was, “Uhmmm Sir, can we wait for the boots?!” Ayun, wala na siyang nagawa. Pero in fairness, umabot naman ako. And everyone is surprised that I am the same actor who played Jewel. Nakakataba ng puso.
What show/shows are you currently working on? I am currently preparing for my Birthday Concert. It is entitled Chasing Chances. It will be at Fab Bar in Malate where I am also a regular host every Sunday. It’s going to be a very intimate show. It will be a birthday salubong. My is on May 13, it’s a Sat. My actually birthday is May 14.
In terms of a theater prod, I am still praying and waiting for a Virgin Labfest part. Haha. It has always been a dream to be part of Labfest, so yeah. I hope this year I get to be part of a play in the official line-up.
Have you ever forgotten your lines, or a prop, or choreography during a performance? What happened? Okay. I have forgotten a line and choreography, and, missed a cue. The missed cue is really hilarious. It was in Ibalong. Kristofer Kliatchko and I was doing a selfie and I was so mesmerized because that’s the first time I did it to Tope’s surprise. We were so engrossed we were actually posing and finding the right light. We completely forgot that we should have been in the wings minutes for our entrance. And then, we have heard the sound cue. Para siyang tunogng latigo, then after that, the monsters will scream. We heard the latigo sound cue and then heard the monster’s cry, ayun na, tumakbo kami ng pagkabilis-bilis. Ang malala pa, Tope is one of the soldiers nahuhuli sa isang halimaw. So, naloka si Delphine Buencamino, walang humuhuli sa kanya. Nakakaloka talaga! Hahaha
Our face was made into a meme na may nakalagay na wanted. It was really hilarious, but memorable. Sobrang nakakatawa pagnaaalala ko.
What is something that you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting out as an actor? I wish na mas magaling pa akong sumayaw. Yun lang talaga. Para matawag akong triple threat. Charot! Haha! J
Besides acting, what other training have you had (voice, dance, stage combat, etc.)? The only training I had was the Beginning Acting Workshop I had with TP facilitated by Sir Tuxqs Rutaquio and Nicolo Magno. It’s a good thing that there are many dance classes now, I might enroll in that too. In terms of singing, I am self-taught. Ang foundation ko lang is being a choir when I was in elementary and high school. But I get to feel that I need to have my voice trained. Tumatandana eh. Haha!
Let’s talk about the “Rak of Aegis” tell something about it? Did you audition on that play? Did you expect that you will get the role? I remember during the cast party of Ibalong, Myke Salomon told us about this musical based on the songs of Aegis. We were all excited. He told me that there’s a role that is perfect for me and told me to audition. The audition is two days, I was so nervous that I did not go during the first day. I dread audition. I am frightened during audition.
That night, Myke messaged me and told me that I have to audition and that he is expecting me. Jerald Napoles also messaged me that night. Sabi niya sa akin, “ Beh, mago-audition ka ba sa Rak?!” Sabi ko, oo, kaya lang super kinakabahan ako. “ Sabi niya, “ Gaga! Mag-audition ka. Magdoble-karaka, kasi walang nagdoble-kara today. At yun ang hinahanap nila.“ Buti na lang, that’s really my plan. That I will sing it in doblekara. I asked pa Kuya Je kung kailangan bang mag-costume ako. Sabi niya wag na, paandar daw ako. Hahaha!
The next day, I came to PETA. Still very nervous. Myke was the one playing the guitar and Tsang Maribel, the director was there. The minute I walked inside the room, Myke said “ Tsang, here’s my recommendation for Jewel,” which made me even more nervous. Buti nalang, the audition went well. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Speaking of role, your the one who really give the amazing performance, how did you prepare on that role? Esp the songs of Aegis. Well, thank you very much if you think that I did an amazing performance.
When we were rehearsing, I envision Jewel as someone who has not finished school, but was well-read and watched a variety of shows on TV. So, may alam si bakla, at may taste siya. That’s how I see him. This is to connect to the fact that it was Jewel’s idea that Kenny pursues designing shoes. In the character history and story I did when I was developing Jewel, it was him that supplied the idea to Kenny to ask Kapitana MJ to ask if she can finance their designs.
Preparing for the role was easy because I was able to create a character that is very relatable and three-dimensional. Plus, Jewel is quite like me. It is only the Aegis songs that need a lot of psyching up to. During the first-run, nage-Aegis kami ng 10am! Di makatarungan beh.Hahaha!
And memorable experience while doing the show and the learning? When Regine Velasquez watched the show. I was completely frozen backstage. Taratang-taranta ako ‘cause she is my inspiration. Chona fan akong malala! I was so happy when they congratulated us. Grabe. And off course, the article of Lea Salonga calling me her personal favorite. Hindi ko yun makakalimutan.
Rak is more than a show for everyone who became involved in it. It really became a family. From the artistic staff, to the cast, down to the crew. We are always looking forward doing the show. Nakaka-miss actually. Re-run na! Haha!
If you could choose, who are the three actors would you really want to work with?Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino, Lea Salonga, and Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo. My theater Queens. Feeling ko nakatulala lang ako watching how they work. Iniisip ko pa lang kinikilig na ako!
Why do you think theater is important? Theater is important because it is a form that is more free from censorship which gives us a slice of life that is raw, thought-provoking, inducesus to be critical. Theater has made significant contribution for the liberty that we have now. It is a shame that people still needs to be reminded how theater, or any other type of performance can change, shape and cultivate the shitty state that we have always been in for a long time now.
Why do you think so many aspiring actors end up giving up on their dream? Because as of this time, acting, especially in theater, is not professionalized. Artists are not being given the benefits, acknowledgement, and distinction that they so rightfully deserved. How I wish we have something like Broadway’s Actor’s Equity who protects the rights of artists can be established here. Malay naman natin, with the efforts of AWPI and TAG, sana malapit na.
What is something embarrassing or unexpected that happened to you on stage? During one of the scenes in Rak, I slipped in the stairs and made a loud scream. Buti na lang patay na yung lapel ko, pero ang stage management, nakita ang pagkahulog ko. Tapos, yung mga tao sa gilid, kitang-kita, so, tawang-tawa sila. Hahaha!
What are some of the greatest fears you think actors/actress face? I am only speaking for my self. For me, it is the constant fear of sustainability. Gaano ka dalas ang trabaho. After ng prod, paano na? Etc. Classic concerns. Actors can handle rejections, we will soldier on. But the bills comes every month and your everyday needs doesn’t stop. Plus, off course you think about your future. Pero wala eh, ang sarap ng nasa entablado. That good performance. The applause, it erases those fears.
What do you need in order to become a successful actor? I am a fan of SMASH. The tv series about making a broadway musical. I still watch it whenever I am having questions or doubt about my life in theater. I remember when the character of Jennifer Hudson was asked to give an advice how to make it in the business, she said “Protect the work.” I have never forgotten that. People may badmouth and say cruel things about you to other people. But if you do good work, and protect it, the work will speak for itself. You will never ever have to defend yourself.
What makes a good stage actor in your opinion? Someone who is open and is willing to unlearn to learn. Someone who does not force his habits to other people but drops his habits and adapt to new situations given to them.
What is the most rewarding part of being a stage actor? It is the sheer joy of knowing that you were able to inspire someone to pursue their dream or support theater, or that you have provided a respite from all the craziness of life.
What are the pros and cons of being a actor? Please be specific. The pros of being an actor is the fact that you are being given a chance to tell a story. It may not be the most significant story but you are telling something for the character you are portraying. Meryl Streep summed it up beautifully, “ the real thing that makes me feel good, is that I know, I said something for a soul.” I totally agree with her. Such passion elevates us all.
The cons I do believe is the neglect of our government of our artists. Not just actors, but musicians, designers, who have contributed greatly to nation-building and defining our humanity as a country. That always breaks my heart because it is totally unfair and a travesty.
What goal are you working towards within your career and when will you know you have reached it? To have significant influence so that I can push for advocacies that I want to put shed light on and really create discourse. I dream to have such a profound influence on the work I will do in the future. How would I know it? Maybe when something like an Annual AIDS Benefit Gala is being held to help people living with HIV with their plight spearheaded by the theater community, and LGBT rights and sexual health is discussed amongst the actors ranks. When we become the beacon to alleviate suffering and discrimination. Pero mukang matagal-tagal pa yun.
What organizations do you belong to? I am not part of any organization as of this moment but, we are starting a group, together with some close friends from theater. We are still developing the path of this group and it is very exciting. Plus, my involvement in groups that conducts HIV and AIDS awareness campaign is still consistent.
If you weren’t a stage actor or an artist, what would you want to be? Why? I may have become a writer because that’s the reason why I enrolled in an acting class. If not, I am working in events, hosting. Which is like performing too. Haha!
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do what you do? Don’t be afraid to try new things. Explore jobs, and the task that is given to you. But always go back to what does these things make you feel. If it doesn’t feel right, then its not right. Grab every single opportunity but make sure that you learn from it. To be a freelance artist is hard, but if it makes you alive and it gives you that enormous satisfaction, everything will fall into place. We will survive.
How do you see yourself 20 or 30 yrs from now? I have my own theater company by then and I have started the Metro Manila Gay Men’s Chorus
What legacy you will leave on? Okay. That’s hard. Haha. I have no idea in all honesty. I just want people to smile everytime they will think of me. That’s enough for me. That’s the legacy I want.
Any final message? Its time to shine!! Hindi pa ba enough yun?Haha! Just continue to support any form of live performances. It is a great time to be involved in the arts dahil ang daming ganap sa teatro. Kaya sana tuluy-tuloy ang pagsuporta. Huwag agad manghingingcompli! At least ask for discount, nagbibigay naman usually eh. At pag may compli, automatic naman, so hintay-hintay lang. Diba?
The art of performance will save us all in ways we will never have expected.
Photos credit to Troy Espiritu and Phi Palmos official facebook page.