Will the real Isko Salvador please stand up?
Nenet Galang-Pereña (The Philippine Star) - July 25, 2011 - 12:00am

Manila, Philippines - Herman “Isko” Salvador  is a combination of  the three variants of  Peter in ancient lore and popular culture: The  Filipino folk hero, Pedro Penduko, the seeming simpleton who battles evil forces with his resourcefulness and quick wits; the French Pierrot, the 17th century stock character in pantomimes, who is always the butt of pranks, yet remains trusting and good hearted; and the global Brod/Prof.  Pete, the post-modern pastor and pedant who has a solution for every problem. His frail physique belies a strong character and a good heart  the secret of his staying power in a business where one is only as good as his latest pulse rating or box-office hit.  

 In his numerous incarnations, Pedro Penduko is consistently portrayed a normal human being who has no superpowers, but is transformed by a magical amulet (known as Mutya in the TV series). He was actually introduced in the 1994 and 2000 movies as a descendant of a family of legendary heroes but is a coward. Francisco Coching created a comics avatar of the funny superhero which debuted in Liwayway Magazine in the ’50s.

Pierrot is a bittersweet figure in the early Commedia dell’Arte with his physical insularity; his poignant muteness, his white face and costume, suggesting not only innocence but the pallor of the dead; his often frustrated pursuit of an inaccessible beloved Columbine, coupled with his never-to-be vanquished unworldly naïveté — all conspiring to extricate him out of the circumscribed world of the French dramatists and into the larger realm of myth. Much of that mythic quality is still inherent in the “sad clown” of our times.

Brod Pete is a recuperation of the tele-evangelist Eliseo Soriano of Ang Dating Doon, which was a staple for Philippine television in the late ’90s. It was the much-awaited segment of Bubble Gang, the top-rating gag show on GMA 7. Together with Brother Willie (Cesar Cosme) and Brother Jocel (Chito Francisco), the zany Brod Pete reinvented nursery rhymes, folk songs and even finger plays as their irreverent gospel. Their make-believe flock will ask the question: “May nasusulat po ba…” which Brod Pete will answer with a kabulastugan (inanity) culled from the juvenile ditty.

 The Voltes V theme used for the intro music was the cue for the studio and TV audience to brace themselves for a fanatical chanting of “alien” (instead of “amen”). With two sidekicks (actually his co-writers), Brod Pete poked fun at the folk religiosity of the Pinoy by answering random questions thrown by the studio audience, quoting from the children’s verses as if they were Biblical passages. The gag was a monster hit, so that a live performance was staged at the Araneta Coliseum no less, using the rah-rah refrain Raise the Roof as concert title.

But before Isko was Pedro, Pierrot or Pete, he was the hapless suitor of John and Marsha’s daughter, Shirley in the longest running (17 years) and most popular primetime comedy sitcom in the Philippines from 1973 to 1990, aired on RPN (Solar TV). It starred Dolphy with the late Nida Blanca, Dely Atay-Atayan and Maricel Soriano. The show’s cast included John Puruntong, his wife Marsha, their children Rolly, Shirley, and, later in the show, John-John, and his meddling and nagging mother-in-law Doña Delilah. This is where Salvador got the name Isko, which stuck to him as his screen name. A spin-off from the series, John and Shirley, aired on ABS-CBN in 2006 with only two returning cast members, Dolphy and Maricel Soriano, reprising their old roles.

This also gave Salvador, who finished AB Communication Arts from UST’s Faculty of Arts and Letters in 1980, to develop a friendship based on mutual respect with his idol, the King of Philippine comedy, Dolphy. “I am grateful to him for sharing with me his craft and his gift,” says Isko. Such is his gratefulness that he collaborated with the UST Arts and Letters Alumni Association (USTAAA), to confer on Dolphy the “Icon of Pinoy Humor” special award. Isko was himself conferred the UST AB GANTIMPALA Award for Entertainment by his alma mater, for his contributions to local show business as scriptwriter and performer.

From Ang Dating Daan, which turned Isko into a household name, he went on to other roles in different sitcoms, gag shows, concerts and movies, among them,  Super Klenk, Family Zoo, Yes, Yes Show, Klasmeyts, Ka-Pete Na, Kalong Pa, Daboy En Da Girl, John and Shirley, Nobody, Nobody But Juan and now, Pidol’s Wonderland on TV5.

But the joker has more good things coming his way. This month, he forged an alliance with fellow Thomasian Jojo Alejar of Medyo Late Night Show for a radio program every Saturday afternoon over DZIQ 990 AM. Jojo A. will be on board from 1 to 3 p.m. while Brod Pete will take the 3 to 5 p.m. timeslot. They also write a column.

Isko and Jojo are also venturing into sports promotions by organizing Life begins@40 Cagefest together with Ad and PR man, Teddy Pereña. Their league, which commences in September, hopes to provide a venue for bonding, fun exercise and networking for like-minded individuals 40 years and above. The three will even see action for their individual teams in the six-week tournament sponsored by Burlington BioFresh, Conti Balls, Pollen-B, Ester-C, Home Health Care, B-Meg, Sportshouse, Electrobytes, Pocari Sweat, Accel and Unilab. For details, call 894-3576, 759-5550, 0922-8001247 or  0918-9217160.

If he seems to be everywhere these days, his favorite philosophy-cum-slum book dedication explains it: Where ever you are, you are there.

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