Why Tom Rodriguez is feeling 'high' these days

By Boy Abunda, The Philippine Star

Posted at Oct 16 2012 12:22 PM | Updated as of Oct 16 2012 08:22 PM

Since emerging from the "Pinoy Big Brother" house, Tom Rodriguez has been swept up in a whirlwind of exciting things happening in his career. The reality show alumnus whose big dream back then was to be a comic book illustrator, found himself thrust into a whole new world when he joined showbiz, and that world hasn’t stopped turning since.

In the process, he has discovered a lot of new things about himself, and one of them is that he can sing well. Tom became part of an all-male group called VOIZBoys with JR Siaboc, Guji Lorenzana and Nico Antonio (Tom replaced original member Ronnie Liang) and the exposure he got there gave him more confidence in his singing.

“When they put me in that boy group, I really learned a lot kasi everyone in that group, talagang established singers na,” relates Tom. “I was the only one that had no background and no experience. JR was always giving me advice. The guys will sing tapos gagayahin ko sila.”

KLa Rivera and Tom Rodriguez in 'Aladdin' rehearsals. Photo from the Facebook page of Atlantis Productions
Growing up in the US with two older sisters, Tom did a lot of karaoke during family gatherings, but as far as singing goes, that was it. “’Yun yung bonding time namin ng sisters ko,” laughs Tom. “When it was my turn, kakantiyawan ako. ‘Wow, singer ka pala!’ So when I would sing (with the group), parang gan’ung level lang. Most of what I know, I learned from JR. Being part of VOIZBoys helped me, 100 percent.”

Tom even got ribbing from the entertainment press. When he was in VOIZBoys and had their first album, they did a press conference. A reporter asked, “What does it feel to be with all of these singers? You have no experience. You’re not a singer.” And Tom, in a rare moment of self-deprecation, laughed, “Ewan ko nga, eh.”

Since then, slowly but surely, Tom has emerged from his shell and gained more confidence in his performing abilities. But perhaps the biggest test of it was when he decided to audition for Atlantis Productions’ "Aladdin" — and for the title role, no less.

But his journey to the stage began when he was still living in the US. It was his sister who introduced him to the world of musical theater.

“I was watching productions and I really loved it,” recalls Tom. “I came here to the Philippines but never in a million years did I think I would be in a musical. My friends would say, ‘Tom, try mo.’ And I would say, ‘Ayoko nga, walang Take Two. Hindi ko kaya ’yan, nakakatakot.’ But I was always very impressed by theater actors. I just never saw myself doing it. I didn’t really think I could.”

Until one day, auditions were announced for two new musicals — "Rock of Ages" and "Shrek." An inquiry was sent through Star Magic, and Tom, who must have been feeling cocky that day, decided to go and auditioned. But as soon as he set foot in the audition room, his nervousness got the better of him. Needless to say, he didn’t make it.

Months later, another audition was announced, this time for "Aladdin." Instantly, Tom decided that he wanted to try out again. “I thought, ‘It’s Aladdin!’ Eh, gustong-gusto ko ‘yon n’ung bata ako. It’s one of two Disney movies that I really connected with and genuinely love so I couldn’t pass up the chance.”

At the time, Tom was taping for "Angelito: Batang Ama" and didn’t have time to learn a new song. The only one he knew by heart was "A Whole New World" so he decided to sing that. “Nag-tago ako sa kotse ko during taping breaks and I kept practicing the song,” he laughs.

The next day, after taping was packed up in the morning, Tom drove straight from the set to the audition venue. “Sobrang takot ko, parang kinakabahan ako. Sabi ko, ‘Eto na naman, ano kaya ang gagawin ko?’”

He nearly buckled when he came face to face with director Chari Arespacochaga who asked, “What are you singing?” When Tom told her, she said, “How original” which made him scared all over again. Fortunately, he didn’t forget any of the lyrics.

He got a callback and during the callback, they gave him another song to sing, "Proud of Your Boy."

This time, Tom bagged the lead role. When he found out, the first thing he did was call his sister in the US and shared the good news. “I really can’t believe it. It’s like I have my own genie who granted me a wish — and now I’m a prince!” he says.

This is just the beginning of Tom’s new journey. It’s a big challenge for him, having to act and sing at the same time. He’s nervous but he’s determined to pull this off.

“It’s like doing something new again. I always get stage fright kasi before I do something. Even now, I sing, act and I do fashion shows. Before you go out, sa backstage, iba ’yung kaba, iba ’yung takot. But once you’re in there, there’s something so rewarding about expressing yourself. Ibang klaseng high. Kahit na takot na takot ako, I’m really looking forward to it because it’s unlike anything in the world.”