Tribute: Miguel Faustmann in the eyes of friends, colleagues from theater

Totel V. de Jesus

Posted at May 19 2022 08:34 PM

Miguel Faustmann in the eyes of friends
Miguel Faustmann as Scrooge in ‘A Christmas Carol.’ Photo by Gian Nicdao

MANILA -- In the end, it’s the roles Miguel Faustmann portrayed that most fans would remember him. But for his friends, colleagues and co-workers on and off-stage, it was his kindness, humility, jolly nature coupled with excellence and dedication to work that made him one of the greats.

Faustmann, who was born August 9, 1954, died peacefully in his sleep on May 16, 2022. He was 67.

Alexandra Faustmann, his niece, posted on May 18, in her Facebook account the family’s official statement: “It is with great sorrow that the Faustmann Family announces the death of Victor Miguel Xavier Faustmann y Lago.

“He passed away peacefully in his sleep last 16th of May, 2022.

“Memorial service and inurnment will be held in July, upon return of the family to Manila. We request for prayers for the repose of Miguel and please give us space and privacy during this mournful time.”

The announcement was also shared by her father, Juan Luis.

Though it was announced earlier Faustmann died on Sunday, May 15, Alexandra told ABS-CBN News via Facebook messenger that since her uncle was asleep, there’s no way to confirm if it was on the 15th.

Alexandra also told ABS-CBN News most family members are coming from Spain, thus, the July schedule of memorial service. She declined to name them for privacy reasons. She volunteered to share that her uncle Miguel was the second youngest among six siblings and her dad was an older brother.

Tributes continue to pour in

Fans of local films and theater will always have a character to remember if the name or a picture of Miguel Faustmann comes up.

Among the memorable roles Faustmann did in theater, among the more popular was Ebenezer Scrooge, the grumpy, stingy old lonely businessman in several local stage adaptations of Charles Dicken’s 1843 novella “A Christmas Carol.”

In recent years, Faustmann portrayed the role twice.

Grade-school pupils and teenaged theater fans would remember him from 9 Works Theatrical’s’ hit staging of “A Christmas Carol” at the open-air Globe Theater in BGC, Taguig City in 2016, directed by Robbie Guevara. Due to its massive success, it was restaged again in 2017.

Much earlier, Faustmann had played the role in Repertory Philippines’ 2014 staging of “Scrooge the Musical,” alternating with Chinggoy Alonso and directed by then Rep’s artistic director Baby Barredo. Incidentally, the theater icon and Rep co-founder Barredo died last year. Alonso passed away in 2017.

Miguel Faustmann in the eyes of friends
Miguel Faustmann playing Uncle Scrooge with Gabo Tiongson as Tiny Tim. Photo courtesy of Diohanna Plantado Tiongson

But older theater followers would know Faustmann in hundreds of plays mounted by Repertory Philippines, where he served as actor, director and set designer. If we’re going to count how long Faustmann’s professional acting career had been, it would be 47 years since he started with Rep in 1975 as part of the ensemble in “Hello, Dolly.”

In an Inquirer article for Rep’s 2019 staging of Eric Chappell’s “Father’s Day” in which Faustmann played patriarch Henry Willows, he said he was more comfortable doing plays than musicals. “Musicals are more of fantasy — entertaining for an audience because of song and dance. But we don’t burst into song in real life,” Faustmann told theater critic Vincen Gregory Yu.

Miguel Faustmann in the eyes of friends
Miguel Faustmann in 'Father's Day.' Handout

In the same Inquirer article, Faustmann’s memorable roles for Rep were mentioned: “Juan Peron in ‘Evita,’ King Arthur in ‘Camelot,’ Don Quixote in ‘Man of La Mancha,’ Capt. Von Trapp in ‘The Sound of Music,’ Martin Dysart in ‘Equus’ and Fagin in ‘Oliver!’”

Behind the stage, theater critic Vladimir Bunoan in his review for Rep’s 2018 staging of Ken Ludwig’s “A Comedy of Tenors,” wrote how “Faustmann has become Rep’s go-to director when it comes to farces.”

In the same article, Bunoan mentioned Faustmann played the famous opera singer Tito Mirelli in “Lend Me A Tenor,” which was a predecessor of “A Comedy of Tenors”. He also directed Ludwig’s “The Game’s Afoot” for Rep in 2017.

In its official statement on Faustmann’s passing, Repertory Philippines described Faustmann as “beloved and highly esteemed REP actor, director, and set designer.”

“A veritable titan of the REP stage, Miguel effortlessly traversed theater, film, television, and radio, with his trademark stamp of outstanding excellence and impeccable artistic virtuosity and generosity. What an immense incalculable contribution his tremendous body of theatrical work is to the theater industry, and to Repertory Philippines,” it added.

Three times as MacArthur

In films, Faustmann is easily recognized for his role as General Douglas MacArthur. First was in Jerold Tarrog’s biopic on General Antonio Luna “Heneral Luna,” released in 2015 and its sequel about General Gregorio Del Pilar “Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral,” in 2018.

Faustmann played the American general for a third time in “Quezon’s Game,” which was produced and released by Star Cinema in December 2018. This time, Faustmann’s MacArthur is a retired general.

Miguel Faustmann in the eyes of friends
David Bianco played General Ike Eisenhower, his real-life wife Jennifer as Mamie Eisenhower and Miguel Faustmann as General Douglass MacArthur in 'Quezon's Game'. Photo courtesy of David Bianco

“We earn better in films and TV, but theater is always my first choice,” Faustmann told Yu in the same Inquirer article. “I always wanted to be in theater. Since elementary (in La Salle Green Hills), I was always in school plays. In high school, I joined Teatro Fil-Hispanico doing a number of Spanish plays.”

In her Facebook account, Rep’s current artistic director Liesl Batucan-del Rosario posted a photo of her and Faustmann in a scene from “Father’s Day.” She played Faustmann’s ex-wife, Sue Willows.

“I am not ready to say goodbye. And so I will not.

“I will simply say ‘Till we meet again’ my utterly sweet immensely gentle and absolutely kindhearted lionhearted V.Miguel Faustmann. As actor, director, set designer, you were impeccable perfection. And all throughout your stellar life you were virtuosity and generosity and kindness and humility personified. You are the absolute real deal. You were born to tread the boards and oh how mightily and humbly and gloriously you inhabited each character you portrayed.

Miguel Faustmann in the eyes of friends
Liesl Batucan and Miguel Faustmann played ex-couple Sue and Henry Willows in 'Father's Day', one of the last productions in Repertory Philippines they worked together. Photo courtesy of Liesl Batucan-del Rosario

“Each set you designed, a masterpiece. There will never be another Miguel Faustmann. What a great loss to our Repertory Philippines family. What a great loss to the theater world. A great loss to the arts. But you live on dearest Migs in every fond anecdote and every unfading tender memory and every unforgettable line you ever uttered with crystalline perfection upon the stage, your true home. I cherish you forever. Here comes the sun, little darling,” she added.

About Faustmann’s illustrious theatrical career, Batucan-del Rosario told ABS-CBN News via FB messenger: “I have had the immense joy and privilege of having been directed by him; and also the great joy and honor and adventure of being his co-actor in countless REP productions, playing the entire gamut of characters — from daughter, niece, wife, girlfriend, secretary, friend, foe, and everything in between. What an adventure. He was hands down THE BEST. The ultimate best.”

“When he was onstage, he was so truthful, so imbued with generosity and purity and simplicity of artistry, so truthful, so direct and so real, so multi-dimensional, that it was so easy to get lost in the world of the story and just run with it, with him, and with the rest of the cast. What an artist. What a titan of the stage. What an immense incalculable contribution his artistry is to the theater,” Batucan-Del Rosario said.

Young theater actor and tenor Arman Ferrer shared stories on working with Faustmann, who he calls Tito (uncle). In “A Christmas Carol,” Ferrer played Fred, the kind-hearted nephew and only living relative of Scrooge.

“Tito did ‘A Christmas Carol’ without alternates or understudies. He was ‘Scrooge’. When I'm offstage or at the sides I would watch him and he was amazing! The best! My favorite scene is the last part where I (Fred) welcome him (Scrooge) back to our family. I always get teary eyed during that scene. He reminded me so much of my grandparents,” Ferrer wrote in his Facebook tribute.

“He directed us in ‘A Comedy of Tenors’. He was instructing Lorenz Martinez to do something onstage. Loy (Martinez” jokingly said ‘Miguel, if this doesn't work, and I get a bad review, it's on you.’ Tito Miguel replied laughing "NOOOO, trust me! It would be very funny, I tell you.’ True enough every time that scene came the audience laughed their asses off. A master of farce indeed!”

“A Comedy of Tenors,” a straight play with songs, was staged by Rep in 2018 in which Ferrer, in his debut for Rep, played up-and-coming tenor Carlo Nucci. Indeed, the play got awesome reviews.

“We still have our chat group and he would once in awhile greet us during our birthdays and holidays. Thank you Tito Miguel for these priceless moments. I'm happy also that we got to bond offstage. I'm glad that I was able to say that you are one of my idols. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I'll miss you,” Ferrer added.

Sweet Plantado-Tiongson, musical theater actress and member of the singing group, The Company, said she will always be grateful for the privilege of working with Faustmann. They were together in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” locally staged by Full House Theater at the Newport Performing Arts Theater in 2013.

Her son, Gabo Tiongson, played Tiny Tim in Rep’s “Scrooge the Musical” in 2014.

“I’m not super close to him but he’s really very kind. He even greeted me last December on my birthday. When I’m with the Rep friends, parties and get together, I’d see him. We’d talk and drink,” she told ABS-CBN News.

“Thank you for taking care of Gabo when he was your Tiny Tim. You’d always say how promising he was. Thank you and all that you are will be remembered forever,” she said in her Facebook tribute post.

Miguel Faustmann in the eyes of friends
Miguel Faustmann directed Rep's staging of 'Boeing, Boeing' in 2013. Photo courtesty of Repertory Philippines

Topper Fabregas was directed by Faustmann in Rep’s 2013 staging of the classic farce, “Boeing, Boeing!” He played Robert, the fumbling, naïve friend of three-timing pilot Bernard Whitford, played by American actor David Bianco.

“Am gonna miss you V.Miguel Faustmann. To have gotten to share the stage with you and to have been directed by you will always remain an honor. Your body of work as an actor will probably remain unparalleled for a very long time. One of our greats,” Fabregas wrote in his Facebook tribute post.

“The memories I cherish the most though are of you as the best drinking buddy, the liveliest (if messy) dressing room partner, the most generous audience member (during the rare times you weren’t the one onstage), my ex-carpool mate (you were such a bad driver though I would literally say a prayer before getting into your beat up white Mazda but I love you) and one of the kindest souls to have ever walked the planet. Not a mean bone in your body. We all love you, Miguel,” added Fabregas.

Bianco also remembered those years in Rep with Faustmann. He earlier worked with Faustmann in 2012’s “Next Fall,” Geoffrey Nauffts’ play on the exploration of faith in modern gay relationship. Faustmann and Bianco played father and son. The following year, Faustmann directed him in “Boeing, Boeing.”

The last time they worked together was for “Quezon’s Game” in 2018. Bianco played Dwight Eisenhower and Faustmann as MacArthur.

Bianco wrote in his Facebook page: “Rest In Peace sweet man. My friend. I can’t believe you died so young. Your legacy and heart have touched so many and we will miss you. I hope you light up the heavens with your humor! Thanks for being such an inspiration and for lifting others up and seeing the world with childlike wonder. I will miss you. Much love.”

His wife, Jennifer Blair-Bianco, was also part of “Boeing, Boeing” and she played Mamie Eisenhower in “Quezon’s Game.”

She wrote in her separate tribute post: “V.Miguel Faustmann, I kept hearing your voice all day today...in my car running errands, while potting the plants and preparing meals. I heard your infectious laughter. I remembered how you would rave about how sarap the food was and that we should try it!!! I thought about how much I loved hearing you tell stories.

“Oh, how wonderful a storyteller you were on stage, on camera and in life. I am so grateful I had the chance to work with you and share some very special memories (and lots of laughs) with you! You were always so kind to me and David Bianco. You were inclusive and we always felt so welcomed. You loved everyone and you loved life. Another bright light has gone out and you, Miguel, will truly be missed. Until we meet again dear friend. Besos.”

One of the greats

Robbie Guevara directed Faustmann in the 2016 staging and 2017 re-staging of “A Christmas Carol” for Nine Works Theatrical. But much earlier, they had worked a lot in various productions for Repertory Philippines.

“Love you so much, Migs. I will really miss you… thank you for being the first to make me feel really welcome in Rep when I first joined. Thank you for the lessons I learned by just watching you act. Most of all, thank you for trusting me when I directed you in our shows. Not once did you give me a headache (even though you were quite known for it!) I will never forget you,” wrote Guevara in his Facebook tribute post.

Michael Williams, who also started in Repertory Philippines, had directed Faustmann in Full House Theater’s “Cinderella,” for Resort’s World’s Manila.

“He was my King, played opposite to Sheila Francisco’s Queen,” wrote Williams. “One of the kindest men who ever walked the planet. It seemed that he would live forever. RIP Miguel.”

For Rep, he and Faustmann had worked many times since the 1980s. In his Facebook tribute post, he posted a photo of him and Faustmann rehearsing for Rep’s “Zorba The Greek” in the mid-1980s.

Miguel Faustmann in the eyes of friends

“He was Zorba. That picture was a rehearsal of a dance we had together. I played Nikos (I believe, it’s been so long) and we played in Rizal Theater,” Williams told ABS-CBN News. At the time, Rizal Theater was still in Makati City, the area where Makati Shangri-La Hotel is located now.

Veteran actress Roselyn Perez worked with Faustmann in 2010’s Rep staging of “Equus”. She played the judge, Hesther Salomon, while Faustmann was narrator-psychiatrist Dr. Martin Dysart.

She also remembered Faustmann did the set design for Rep’s 2017 staging of “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.” She played Sonya, the adopted child in love with the gay Vanya, played by Williams. “He did the beautiful set so he was present during the production week,” Perez told ABS-CBN News.

In her tribute post, she wrote: “V.Miguel Faustmann where does one even begin to talk about this man? Not a single malicious bone in his body. An innocence so rare. Bart Guingona once so aptly described him as someone who moved in this world with no agenda. So open to life. You were such a good person and you didn’t even know it. Bravo, bravo, bravo Miguel. Thank you.”

Like all veteran actors who started in Repertory Philippines, Audie Gemora had worked with Faustmann for more than four decades.

In his tribute post with a photo of them singing together on stage with other actors for Rep’s 50th anniversary, he wrote: “Anyone who’s watched him perform or had a round of drinks with him will attest that Miguel Faustmann was unparalleled as an actor and a bon vivant who loved life more than anyone. That is why his passing is going to be such a huge loss for all of us who have had the great privilege to be his co-actor and friend.”

“Miguel joins the illustrious company of Repertory Philippines legends --Bibot Amador, Baby Barredo, Celia Diaz Laurel, Jose Mari Avellana, Bernardo Bernardo, Freddie Santos, Junix Inocian, Benita Steiger, Howard Collins, Sandy Donald, Teri Legarda Delos Santos,” Gemora added. And that Rep’s 50th anniversary concert in 2017, he remembered, was the last time they shared the stage together.

Like Gemora, acclaimed veteran film-TV-theater actor Bart Guingona had worked with Faustmann since the 1980s in various plays for Repertory Philippines.

“Goodnight, Miguel. Thanks for all the times we shared the stage,” Guingona wrote in his tribute post, with photos of them from the days they did Rep’s staging of “The Lion in Winter” by William Goldman in 1988, “Biloxi Blues” in 1989 and “The Sunshine Boys” in 1990, both by Neil Simon.

Miguel Faustmann in the eyes of friends
Miguel Faustmann (pointing a prop gun) and Bart Guingona in Neil Simon's 'Biloxi Blues'. Photo courtesy of Bart Guingona

The last time they worked together was the final iteration of “Tuesdays With Morrie” in 2014, one of Rep’s major hits that had several re-runs and tours since it was staged in 2008.

In a separate Facebook post with the picture of him playing Mitch Albom to Faustmann’s Morrie Schwartz, he simply wrote: “Good bye, Miguel. You were one of the greats.”

On Wednesday, Repertory Philippines announced on its Facebook page a Mass will be held on Friday evening, May 20, at 6 p.m. at the Makati Garden Club, Recoletos Street, Makati.

It added: “There will be an open mic honoring for Miguel right after the Friday evening mass. Anyone who wishes to share an unforgettable memory or fond anecdote or sing a song in Miguel’s honor is warmly invited to do so.”