Tessie Tomas: Her own woman now
Dot Ramos Balasbas-Gancayco (The Philippine Star) - May 3, 2008 - 12:00am

If you are in any of the bookstores in the Makati commercial area, look around closely as this voracious reader must be the one checking out the latest in your book list. If you find yourself in a new restaurant, take a second look as the one on the next table could be this gourmet cook who is a self-confessed food lover (so much so that Le Souflé and Duo Restaurants have salads named after her). Go to Tropezz in Greenbelt 3, and you might bump into this unassuming celebrity eating cultured salad and ice cream from a nearby ice cream shop. Of course! She wouldn’t be calling herself the “Yagit ng Greenbelt” for nothing. This is Tessie Tomas living her life the way she wants to.

As cosmopolitan as she may seem, Tessie Tomas will always be the simple Samareña at heart. Though she left her birthplace Catbalogan, Samar when she was still very young, she can speak Waray fluently. “My father always reminded us to never forget our roots,” Tessie explains. “We spoke Waray at home and even after my father died at the young age of 56, we always went to Samar to visit. Up to now that I live in a Makati condo with my husband (a British marine biologist named Roger Pullin with whom she has two stepdaughters Lucy and Alice and three cuddly apos), I go back to my hometown at least once or twice a year.”  Being a Waray myself who has recently gone on a visit to Samar, I asked Tessie what  she can say about the seemingly still underdeveloped conditions of Catbalogan and other neighboring Samar towns. “It’s quite hard to comment on that. I might be mistaken again as planning to run for an elective position.” In fact, she has really been offered several times before. That is, to run as Governor of her province. But then her husband said, “If you do that, I will just go back to London.” Of course she chose her beloved husband over the thankless position of a Provincial Governor but that didn’t stop her from remaining active in several NGOs doing volunteer work for Catbalogan’s poor. She is presently president of the Catbalogan Foundation and has been at the forefront of several fundraising projects to help alleviate the plight of the less fortunate in her hometown.

Her passion for NGOs, which for her is a very personal thing that she does not want to brandish, compares with her passion for the performing arts which is also foremost in her heart. Although she was less visible the past year doing a lot of traveling (which she also loves to do) — going to Vietnam  all by herself, visiting her cute apos in England and her successful fashion designer son Robin in New York, doing a little shopping in Hong Kong, she is back to where she belongs, the showbiz world. She is in the cast of Ploning, directed by Dante Nico Garcia and starring Judy Ann Santos. She is also appearing in the indie movies 100 directed by Chris Martinez as the mother of Mylene Dizon and 2999 as impersonator of, you guessed it right, Madame Imelda Marcos. There is also a TV show in the works. But, in spite of all the movie and TV offers, she would want to have another live stand-up comedy act. “Doing stand-up comedy will always be my first love,” Tessie admits. She recalls performing before inebriated customers in cramped comedy bars. “That is how you are trained in this business. You have to learn to adapt to different situations that occur during live shows. It could sometimes be very difficult especially when you don’t get the reaction you want to get from the crowd. And so you try harder and develop your craft even further to move on,” Tessie shares.

Moving to TV and the movies from live shows was made easier by her experience as an advertising executive. From being on top of creating a brand or product image, she became the product and she knew very well how to handle it. She herself decided what materials she wanted to do for a live act, what image she wanted to project on TV, how many films a year she wanted to do. Of course, it also helped that she finished a degree in AB Broadcasting at the Institute of Mass Communications at the University of the Philippines.

Having started her showbiz career in the early ’70s and now armed with so many awards as a comedian, actress and host, Tessie for me, is one artist who has truly “arrived” and needs nothing to prove. Indeed, what she just wants now are good movie and TV materials, regular visits to her dearly-loved mom, siblings, and pamangkins, bringing them her home-cooked food, and strolling in the Greenbelt area whether with her husband or by herself. From Catbalogan to Makati; from cramped comedy bars to the big movie screen, this Samareña has truly gone a long way.

(For those who want to help build houses for the poor through the Gawad Kalinga, call 718-1738 to 41 or text 0917-5239777. E-mail me at celebrationsdot@yahoo.com or text 0927-5000833.)

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