Jojo Riguerra: From architecture to theater & showbiz

Amadís Ma. Guerrero - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – So there we were, a friend (a fellow theater buff) and I, watching this show Macho Dancers the Musical by Palanca Hall of Famer Nicolas Pichay at the Tanghalang Huseng Batute of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).

It was all about this group of macho dancers who were no longer in the limelight. They were kind of over the hill, and so they wanted to retire with all guns blazing, a show to end all shows. And so, even as disagreements sometimes erupted, they began to rehearse, bumping and grinding.

“There’s one who stands out with his looks and stage presence,” I told my friend and pointed to the actor in question. “That’s Jojo Riguerra,” he said.

The name didn’t ring a bell at first, and then I remembered: He was the handsome policeman who was the object of an adolescent gay’s affections in Maxie the Musical, the stage version of the hit indie film Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros. (He will reprise the role in a revival of the play in April 2016).

And he was also a hit with the audience at the PETA Theater Center and before that, the media during the press conference.

Jojo is from Bacoor, Cavite, where he attended St. Michael’s Institute and then took up Architecture at Far Eastern University (FEU) in Manila. There, so as to be excused from certain classes, they were required to attend plays staged at the art deco auditorium. “Natatawa ako sa mga actors,” he recalled. “Tipong hindi ko gagawin yun kailanman. Ironic. Look at me now.”

After graduating with a BS in Architecture, he worked for about two years at a firm applying what he had learned in school. But there was something about the profession that really didn’t satisfy his yearnings, so he put up an acoustic band and became its vocalist. Later on, he became a model and finally a stage actor. He had lead roles in Frank Rivera’s contemporary zarzuela Ambon Baha Ulan and as Crisostomo Ibarra in Gantimpala’s Noli and Fili.

Iba talaga ang charisma ni Ibarra,” observed Jojo of Jose Rizal’s hero. Screaming girl students treated him like a rock star at the AFP Theater and SM South Mall. And among those in the audience were his high school teachers who were surprised and delighted to see him on stage.

Then came Macho Dancers the Musical.

Macho Dancers was a work in progress,” said Jojo. “Sir Nick (the playwright) may dinadagdag at inaayos. He was present during every rehearsal, he was that hands-on. He would give us lines, and we could make our own lines. Bitin kami, as actors. Madami pa kami pwedeng idagdag, feeling namin. But all the actors were cooperative.”

For authenticity, Nick and director Ralph Peña even took the all-male cast to a gay bar in Pasay City, to observe how the real macho dancers moved and how they interacted with the customers.

His roles in Maxie the Musical and Macho Dancers the Musical opened doors of showbiz to Jojo, and he was invited to talk shows and to appear in teleseryes.

He is now cast as the villain Ping in ABS-CBN’s Pasíon de Amor, starring Jake Cuenca, Joseph Marco, Arci Muñoz and Ellen Adarna. It is a love story, and the dramatis personae are three brothers and three sisters.

As Ping, Jojo is the “hitman” of the contrabida Teresa Loyzaga, and thinks of dirty tricks to torment her enemies. After one year of taping, the show started in April and is still going strong, with good ratings. Book 3 will start soon.

Combining theater with showbiz seems to work well for the hunky actor, but his heart really belongs to theater.

“It has become my passion,” he said. “It’s not the money. Alam namin na wala namang malaking pera sa theater. I want to do my best so I can contribute to Philippine theater. When I work with veteran actors in theater and on TV, I observe them and learn from them. Marami pa akong matutunan sa theater industry.”












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