MANILA -- Robert "Betty La Fea" Racelis, a stand-up comedian, shared how he is able to deal with his personal problems by making other people laugh.
Racelis grew up deprived of love. His father hated him for being gay, while his mother favored his drug-addicted brother over him.
His father lost his job when he was still young. His mother, who worked as a secretary, had to raise six children on her own.
Their lives were fine at first, with his mother being able to send all of them to school. Things changed, however, when his mother retired.
"Iyung mommy ko aalis, pupunta sa kapitbahay, manghihiram ng ano, kung magkano mahiram niya. Basta may mabigay lang na baon sa amin. Mahirap," Racelis recalled.
He admitted that at that time, he was still unaware of the hardships his mother had to go through just so they can study.
"Basta ako naghihintay lang ng i-aabot niya, pero hindi ko pa na-rerealize noon na ganoon pala kahirap."
Things went from bad to worse when one of his brother got addicted to illegal drugs. Their mother used the money that was supposed to be used for Racelis' college education to buy a passenger jeep for his drug-addicted brother.
"Kasi nag-retire na siya 'di ba, may nakuha siyang malaki 'di ba, instead na sa tuition ko, ibinili niya ng pampasaherong jeep, para sa kapatid kong adiktus [drug addict] nga, so doon 'yun napunta. Ginawa niya 'yun para daw hindi na siya magtampo. Ganun ang dahilan atsaka para magbagong buhay na," Racelis said.
Seeing how difficult it was for his parents to continue supporting him, Racelis decided to stop studying. He looked for a job, and supported himself.
His brother's addiction worsened, and his other siblings wanted to send him to a rehabilitation center for treatment. However, their father refused to send his favorite son away.
Racelis' sibling decided to leave their house, leaving him behind.
It was also around this time when his father started showing how much he hated Racelis for being gay.
Instead of thinking of his problems, he focused his energy on working and on how he can make something of himself.
Through hard work, Racelis was able to get a college degree. He then pursued his dream of working in the corporate world.
However, he soon realized that the corporate world is not as shiny as it seems.
"Yung sweldo, ang liit. Ang baba, parang sa akin lang kulang pa. Kinakapos ako sa pamasahe, so nangungutang pa ako minsan. So hindi sapat, sabi ko parang hindi ito ang pinangarap ko," Racelis said.
It was around this time that a good friend of his invited him to an event at a comedy bar.
Like a good joke, timing is everything, and the timing of this opportunity, proved divine.
While watching other stand-up comedians on stage, Racelis realized that he can also be one of them.
"I want to be like that. Someday, I will be a stand-up comedian, like him," Racelis recalled telling himself.
At first, the job looked deceptively easy. One does not need either good looks or artistic talent to be a stand-up comedian.
However, Racelis soon realized that it is more difficult to be on stage than be among the audience.
His first show was a flop, but this did not stop him from improving his craft.
Soon, Racelis became well known in bigger comedy bars, having regular shows five times a week. He took up the character of Betty La Fea, and he became successful.
He was also starting to hone his talent, learning new tricks every time he performs.
"Kelangan, i-timing [ang punchline] mo, hahanap ka ng butas kung saan ka papasok," he said.
Because of his success, he was given an opportunity to appear on national television.
However, being successful did not change the fact that Racelis' father hated that he was gay, and appearing on national TV only made it worse.
Racelis tried to live with the fact that his father may never accept him.
But even as an adult, Racelis wanted to get his father's approval. He wanted to get the love he was deprived of as a child.
This acceptance came when his father finally watched him perform on stage.
"One time nanood siya ng show ko sa Malate, solo show ko sa Malate, sa Library, nanood siya. Sabi ko Dad, manood ka. Hindi siya mahilig manood ng sine, pero that time, naaya ko siya. Nanood siya. Ang saya noon, nandoon siya, nanood siya hanggang matapos. Niyakap niya ako, sabi niya ang hirap pala ng ginagawa mo, ang hirap ng trabaho mo," Racelis said.
Looking back, Racelis said he feels fulfilled every time he is able to make other people laugh and forget their problems even for just a while.
"Ang priority mo, yung audience mo, May responsibility ka, kelangan i-entertain mo sila. Once you step on stage, isipin mo nalang kasi nasa ibang daigdig ka. Lahat ng problema kelangan tanggalin mo ‘yun."
Racelis has been in the business for 14 years, and despite being one of the more experienced comedians, he still believes that he has not reached the peak of his career yet.
He is aware that he can never be a comedian forever, and this is the reason why everyone needs to have a back-up plan.
"Kelangan pa rin kumilos ka, hindi puwedeng after comedy bar, wala na, dedma na, wala na. There’s another life another comedy bar," he said. - Mukha, ANC, August 7, 2014