New world opens for Mark
SOUNDS FAMILIAR - Baby A. Gil (The Philippine Star) - August 8, 2014 - 12:00am

Mark Bautista was discovered 10 years ago in the TV reality search for talent show Star For A Night. He sang Ngayon At Kailanman and came in as runner-up to grand prize winner Sarah Geronimo. Aside from his singing prowess, the thing that most people remember about the former architecture student was that he rode a cargo boat from Cagayan de Oro to get to Manila to be in the finals of the contest.

Mark’s parents were going through hard times. In fact, the reason why he stopped his studies and  joined Star For A Night was to be able to help them financially. But he almost gave up when he got word that he had to be in Manila to continue into the competition because they could not afford the plane fare or even the regular boat fare. The heavens though intervened and gave Mark his chance. The kindly captain of a cargo boat agreed to take Mark to Manila.  And that was how it all started.

The cargo boat story came to mind again while watching a still unbelieving Mark talk about his upcoming trip to London. Out of the hundreds who auditioned in Manila, Mark was personally picked out by director Alex Timbers to play the part of President Ferdinand Marcos in the pop disco musical Here Lies Love. So thanks again are in order to the cargo boat captain. He got Mark started off on a journey that has given him a successful singing career for a decade and which will now take him to the London stage.

While he never thought seriously about the theater, destiny seemed to be pushing him to it with unplanned detours in his career. Truth to tell, his few theater ventures in the past have all resulted in positive reviews.  He played Crisostomo Ibarra in Noli by Bien Lumbera and Ryan Cayabyab with director Audie Gemora. He was the unemployed Jerry Lukowski in The Full Monty directed by Chari Arrespacochaga. Still, Mark remained wary about performing in more musicals. “Hindi para sa akin yan,” he would often say when the subject cropped up. Interestingly, it was Mrs. Ligaya Salonga, mother of the original Miss Saigon Lea, who gave him the nerve to try out for Here Lies Love.

Mrs. Salonga chastised Mark for not joining the auditions for the West End revival of Miss Saigon that were held here two years ago. It was in those tryouts where his fellow singing champ Rachelle Ann Go bagged the role of Gigi in the musical. Mrs. Salonga, who must certainly know a theater actor when she sees one, told Mark, “Ikaw, bakit hindi ka nag-audition sa Miss Saigon? Kagaya mo ang hinanahap nila doon.” 

So feeling like he got this massive endorsement from somebody who knows the theater, Mark vowed that he would be around for the next Miss Saigon auditions or whatever else comes along. And that was how he found himself among the hundreds of local talents trying out for Here Lies Love. “It is a song and dance role. I sang Kiss by Tom Jones because they asked for a fast number. I was also asked to read a speech in the script and I danced. I just did my best. Then I forgot about it.” A few weeks later, while in Hong Kong for a show, Mark got word that he will play President Marcos.

Here Lies Love is The Public Theater’s production of the musical composed by the ex-member of the legendary New Wave band Talking Heads and Grammy winner David Byrne and dance music star Fatboy Slim about the life of Filipino First Lady Imelda Marcos. The story covers the rise of Mrs. Marcos from a young girl in Leyte to the powerful First Lady of the Martial Law era. It is now running at the Public Theater in New York with Jose Llana, Ruthie Ann Miles and Conrad Racamora. Playing the other roles in London will be Natalie Mendoza as Imelda and Dean Joan-Wilson as Ninoy Aquino. Gia Macuja Atchison, who auditioned in Manila is also in the cast. 

Previews are set to begin on Sept. 30 at the National Theater’s Dorfman where it will run until January, 2015. Mark will have to be in London for rehearsals by Aug. 26 but he will be leaving earlier to see to his living arrangements. The unexpected development that he never imagined would happen in his wildest dreams has thrown Mark’s life topsy-turvy. “I said goodbye to Sunday All Stars. I turned down a new TV show. I cancelled all my bookings up to January.  Recordings, concerts are all on hold. I am going shopping for winter clothes. I am thinking of my budget, my income, the bills to pay. Iniisip ko, can I afford to live in London? Bahala na.” 

He now wonders how long it will be before the enormity of what is happening to him brings him down to earth. But he treasures this unexpected opportunity and is going to check out other options while in London. Perhaps, he might be able to do Thuy in Miss Saigon. What about another musical? Che Guevarra in Evita? The Phantom? A new world is now open for Mark.

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