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Any memorable encounters with the people you’ve been impersonating?
There was Joseph Estrada when he was still San Juan mayor. I was set to perform at a Mowelfund awards night, I think. [firstpara] We had no script, so we had to improvise. I decided to do Fernando Poe Jr. and Erap. The dialogue went something like (doing FPJ voice): “May box-office hit ka pala. Congratulations.” (shifting to Erap voice) “Para saan, pare? Asyong Salonga?” (FPJ voice) “Hindi, Erap.” Ang daming sinabing pelikula. Finally (shifting to Erap voice): “O, eh, sa’n ako naka box-office?” (shifting to FPJ voice) “Sa Office of the Mayor, Erap.” Tawanan ang tao. 

Except he, I suppose.
Nagalit siya. After about six months, I was at a Natalie Cole concert at the Manila Hotel. I went to the CR, and as I was washing my hands, I heard his voice sa likod ko (in Erap’s voice): “Alam mo, pare, hindi ko kursunada ‘yung mga birada mo sa ’kin eh.” (in his own voice) “Boss, comedy ’yon eh.” (Erap’s voice) “You know those people, they respect me. Pinagtawanan ako eh.”

I don’t remember what else we talked about and how it ended. Basta ang feeling ko, nanlalamig ako at parang two-inches above ground ‘yung mga paa ko. But on hindsight, I had to admire him for that. Kung ano ang nararamdaman niya sasabihin niya sa’yo. 

How about former President Marcos?

With Marcos, it wasn’t he himself who confronted you but those around him, usually the military. They would attend my shows, and they would invite me to their table, saying, “You know, Mr. Nepomuceno, we admire your shows. Very good. But you know presidente natin ‘yan...ganoon, ganito. Kung pwede huwag mo nang gawin.”

O-oo lang ako. Siyempre, militar ‘yan. But next day, if I had a show, I’d do it again. Hindi pa nga martial law binabanatan ko na siya. 

Any memorable encounters with him?
One encounter I had with him was in Laoag, during a fiesta, I think. The audience requested me to do my Marcos impersonation. Marcos arrived with the First Lady and some foreign visitors. That was when I saw the couple lose their poise. Nagpapaluan talaga sila sa katatawa.

Then we went with other entertainers to the so-called Malacañang of the North. Picture-taking with the President. Naisip ko, “Ano kaya saksakin ko ’to.” (laughs). Siyempre, I was then a semi-retired activist. I realized then that he really appreciated humor. Instead of having himself placed on a pedestal, at least my act humanized him. But of course everything I said had a double meaning.

But didn’t you feel that you were giving Marcos better PR?
No. I felt that I was helping people validate whatever common feelings they had against Marcos through my jokes, which were mostly satirical.

Of course, Marcos realized that.
Of course, a guy that intelligent wouldn’t want me to be his court jester.

And yet he didn’t have you jailed. Why?
I don’t know. Baka naman magaling din akong magdala. ‘Pag live shows all-out ako. But when I did shows in Malacañang medyo tempered. Entertainer naman ako.


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Interview by: Alexander T. Magno
Photo by: Jo Avila

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