MANILA — At first glance, singer-actor Tim Pavino looks like the younger version of award-winning actor and heartthrob Paulo Avelino. Comments on Pavino's YouTube videos attest to this similarity and Pavino acknowledges this.
"Ever since I moved here, it was when 'Walang Hanggan' was still airing and they would always say I look like a junior version of him. We’ve already met a few times in work settings, but it was never brought up in person that we look related. He’s a cool guy!" Pavino told ABS-CBN News.
A primetime hit for ABS-CBN, "Walang Hanggan" aired in 2012.
As we all know, Avelino played the title role in "Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral,” filmmaker Jerrold Tarrog's celebrated biopic of Gregorio del Pilar, the youngest general in the Philippine Revolution who sacrificed his life to prolong the escape of General Emilio Aguinaldo.
And now, Pavino is playing the first President of the Philippines. In today's language, Pavino is the millennial Aguinaldo in the re-staging of Repertory Philippines' "Miong," which starts Friday, February 15, and runs all weekends until March 10 at the Onstage, Greenbelt 1 in Makati City.
Pavino was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. He moved to Manila when he was 21 years old and later joined the second season of "The Voice of the Philippines" on ABS-CBN.
He may not have won the contest but as the years went on, he proved that perseverance and talent have been indispensable companions in one's journey to the top. He has since held solo concerts, recorded for Star Music and continued to hone his craft.
His version of "Never Enough" from "The Greatest Showman" has been widely shared and viewed on social media. His rendition simply grips you in the heart and his voice brings you right inside a performance hall and you are enthralled beyond the electronic barrier.
There's also the ‘90s OPM hit ballad by Neocolors, "Maybe", recorded live for an FM radio station, that makes you want to go back to the memories of high school (at least for those who are in their 40s and beyond). The way Pavino sings it effortlessly, it's like he's just telling a story while sitting on the radio booth.
Pavino started performing when he was 7 years old at the Nippon Kan Theater in Seattle and at the Meany Hall of the University of Washington. He grew up in the city that has been the birthplace of grunge acts like Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Soundgarden. It's also where where people drink a lot of coffee due to its gloomy weather. We asked him if somehow at some point in his childhood he became familiar with these musicians.
"Grunge was popular during its birth in Seattle, and people pay homage to it from time to time in downtown," he said. "But theater and jazz rule the streets these days. That is the kind of music that I grew up listening to in my daily life asides the Top 40 on the radio."
Now in his late 20s, it's a bit of a surprise that Pavino is playing the role of Aguinaldo when the controversial Filipino hero was of the same age.
"That’s true! We are about the same age when he declared (Philippine) independence," Pavino said.
"Miong" is written by Joy Virata, with music by Ian Monsod and additional lyrics by Freddie Santos.
Here are excerpts from our interview with Pavino.
Q: Of course, the million-dollar question, how does it feel being chosen to play the title role in "Miong"?
A: ”It feels like a million bucks!", to answer that million dollar question! But I have to say, it does bring on the nerves to play our Philippines' first President. This is my first lead role in a professional musical, and so it is truly an honor that Ms. Joy Virata and Repertory Philippines took a chance on me.
Q: Kindly describe Ms. Joy Virata as director.
A: Ms. Joy Virata, I have to say, is kind but fierce. She knows how to bring out the best of us with our hearts, and she continues to listen to our concerns. She knows what she wants to see on the stage, and like the actor she is, she can easily go on stage with us and show us exactly what it is that she envisions for the scene. After she has laid down the tools, she allows us to make the the scene our own and create alongside her. It's truly a privilege to work with her knowing how much she has done, and how much she means, to the Philippine theater community.
Q: Were you handpicked for the role or you were called to audition?
A: I auditioned for the part just like everyone else. I was amongst other actors who have already done lead roles in other productions, so it made my audition process even more nerve-wracking knowing I had never been a lead. I remember it was only a few days after the audition that I got the call from Repertory Philippines that I had got the role. Immediately after the call, I called my mom in the US and cried.
Q: What kind of preparation did you have prior to the rehearsals?
A: In preparation for the role, I had to first read up on my Philippine history. Being a Filipino-American born in Seattle, Washington, I wasn't as exposed to our country's history. I also had to start going to the gym and making sure my body was ready for what the role might demand.
Q: Could you tell us your past experiences in musical theater or theater in general?
A: When I was growing up, my mother tried to place me in small community theatre productions. I was always nervous to memorize lines, so I would rather stay in the background and eventually stopped going to workshops. It wasn't until I was in high school that my best friend Paulina tricked me into auditioning for our school's drama program. It was then that I was bitten by the bug and never stopped loving all kinds of theater, especially musical theater.
Q: How is the experience so far with "Miong," compared with being a live performer in a concert?
A: My experience so far in "Miong" has been quite the emotional ride. I'm doing things I never thought I was capable of doing. As a live performer, I know what I'm already capable of on stage and I know exactly how I want to portray myself when rendering songs to an audience.
But with "Miong," or in theater for that matter, it forces you to dig deep into the unknown corners of yourself. I'm finding that I am able to do things on the stage I never thought would be possible. But to do that you also need a great cast, director and team that continues to push the story forward with you. Each day we rehearse the same material over and over again, and so new choices appear. New meaning is continuously being installed into the show. It has been a worthwhile experience playing "Miong" thus far.
Q: How helpful are your fellow cast members during the rehearsals? How are you being motivated by them to be your best?
To my fellow cast-mates, if they are reading this now, you have been nothing but gemstones. You reflect a part of my soul that I am both afraid and glad to see on stage. You helped me become a better version of myself. To one cast member especially, I want to say "Thank you!" to Cara Barredo, who plays my wife Yayang in "Miong."
Cara was in a production of “The Fantasticks" with me, almost seven years ago, when I first moved to Manila. We have a certain connection on stage that even in the shortest moment where I can't find strength in myself, I just need to look into her eyes I'm fueled again to push the story forward.
Q: After "Miong," are you considering more roles in theater?
A:Theatre is already in my blood and I will continue to look for a new roles and challenges. You can be 100 people, or more, in a single lifetime through theater. It is a privilege to be an actor and to tell someone else's story.
Q: Anything you may want to add?
A: Thank you for allowing me to share a piece of my heart through this interview, and I hope you (readers) can come and watch us in "Miong." I promise you, you will leave the room not thinking of politics or who is right or who is wrong. You will leave the theater wanting unity, love, justice, and freedom for our country and for those around you.