Roeder Camañag: Mr. ‘Triple Threat’

Amadís Ma. Guerrero - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - In theater parlance, a performer who can act, sing and dance with equal or almost equal dexterity is called a “Triple Threat.” One such performing artist is Roeder Camañag, who can emote, burst into song and dance up a storm on stage and TV, and in films.

In the Tanghalang Pilipino production of Nicanor Tiongson’s Philippine Circa 1907, he played a villainous US soldier who danced a la Gene Kelly. And in the more recent Stageshow, a posthumous work of Mario O’Hara, the actor played a singing and dancing Tirso Cruz, the playboy bandleader in the days of yore.

From the start, Roeder knew he was going to be a singer. He enjoyed participating in school activities and performing more than studying the lessons. “Perhaps, it was this deep desire and passion to perform which led the universe to open doors for me,” he recalls.

His break came when he became a recording artist for Vicor Music Corporation, and even came up with a hit song Sana Naman composed by Vehnee Saturno. And then, in 1992, he invaded musical theater with Gantimpala Theater’s Pepe ‘n Pilar. “That was when I experienced my love for theater,” Roeder says. “I have been in love with acting ever since and have happily stayed in the business for 25 years now.”

His debut on the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) stage came with Larawan the Musical, a takeoff on Nick Joaquin’s classic A Portrait of the Filipino as Artist, where he sang with Celeste Legaspi and interpreted the music of Ryan Cayabyab. “It was also special because I was able to work with the late Rolando Tinio — his last work,” he points out.

Roeder doesn’t mind being reminded that in the Tanghalang Pilipino production of Drakula, he bared what entertainment writers call the “family jewels.” Looking back, he admits he agreed to go nude out of curiosity: “I wanted to know how it felt. I did not have any regrets and it was quite an enjoyable experience, to let go of everything on stage.”

A greater challenge was Chess, the Musical, in which he was transformed physically and vocally into an old man. And in the Balagtas epic in verse, Orosman at Zafira, he again had to integrate acting and singing, and to learn demanding dance routines.

His first telesine was under Joel Lamangan. He played Gabby Concepcion’s brother in one of the big scenes during rehearsal, and the director described it as a good take. That, of course, encouraged the then young actor. He was a semi-regular in the ABS-CBN teleserye Princess & I.

In films, his biggest achievement was landing the lead male role in Lav Diaz’s nine-hour epic Death in the Land of Encantos. The director and cast journeyed to Italy for the premier of the film in the prestigious Venice International Film Festival. “The Venice experience is special,” Roeder declares. “I felt — and was accorded the respect — of being an actor. I also had the chance to hobnob with international celebrities like the late Heath Ledger.”

Actors to whom he doffs his hat to are Anthony Hopkins (“for his immeasurable screen presence and magnanimous intensity”), Meryl Streep and Cate Blanchet (“for their range and versatility as actors”) and our own Nonie Buencamino: “I am always in awe of his many gifts and talents, his passion and dedication. I also admire and look up to the very underrated Liesl Batucan,” who played his long-suffering wife in Stageshow.

How about comparing performing on stage with the movies/TV?

“Not much different,” he notes. “You are required to focus and be sincere in taking on your character. Except perhaps that when you’re on stage and performing live, you have to take extra special care with your audience and make that connection immediately.”

Working in theater-movies-TV with directors, colleagues and cast has made Roeder aware of the importance of discipline, tolerance and of taking risks. He declares: “My chosen craft continues to make me a better person.”


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