MANILA -- Singer and theater actor Floyd Tena has charted a number of credits for himself as theater artist. Interestingly, the forthcoming “Ibarra,” presented by Tanghalang Una Obra, is the first musical that Tena is doing alongside his son, JD.
The dad cannot be any prouder that he is sharing the stage with his son in “Ibarra,” with Piolo Pascual in the lead.
“I am both excited and nervous at the same time,” Tena told ABS-CBN News. “Excited because I’m finally allowing JD to do what he loves doing. And what a blessing to be also in the same musical with him.
“Nervous because I don’t know what to expect. He is a tyro in this field, but I am confident that he is in good hands with this brilliant team of directors and co-actors who promised me to be always there every step of the way.”
Since he is the veteran in the field, Tena prepares his son first with the latter’s songs, making him understand the text as the boy is not that well-versed in Filipino.
“I’m glad that he is very eager to know the exact meaning of what he is singing or saying,” Tena said. “I make sure that he has memorized everything before going to the rehearsals, since it’s easier for him to block the scene and focus on the characterization.
“Watching him do the process makes me nervous and happy at the same time. I catch myself teary-eyed seeing him do what he loves to do. He is extra hardworking because I always hear him practice his songs whenever I would pass by his room at home.
“I would also watch the blocking videos that our team sent us. I’m just glad that he has that kind of respect to the craft early on in his life.”
Meanwhile, JD is undoubtedly proud to be playing alongside his dad in the musical.
“I feel happy because I’ve always wanted to be in a play with my dad,” the son said. “He seems very hardworking and happy in what he does and he can guide me in the show. He asks me a lot of questions about Basilio and it helps me build my character.”
Landing the role of Basilio was a no brainer for JD, who has videos of his previous vocal performances uploaded online.
“They asked my dad if I was interested to do the role,” JD shared. “At first, my dad said no because I still have my classes. But upon checking with the school’s schedule, we finally said yes as ‘Ibarra’ wouldn’t coincide with my academic schedule.”
Admittedly, his studies have been challenging for JD, as he recently transitioned to traditional school from the long homeschooling done during the pandemic.
“The entire academic year was an adjustment to both myself and my dad,” JD disclosed. “When I get home from school, I can do my homework/tutorial first then rehearse my songs after. It’s a nice balance actually.
“Sometimes, I go to rehearsals straight from school. But I get to take a nap on the way. I am always excited to go to rehearsals because I get to meet my co-actors and know them better.
“The adult actors are so kind to us kids. It doesn’t feel work at all because we love what we do and I love the people I am performing with.”
While JD is undoubtedly proud to also share the stage with his dad, he is also thrilled to be working with Pascual, the other child actor Elian Santos as Crispin, and Nicole Laurel Asencio as his mom Sisa.
“They are all very hardworking actors,” JD acknowledged. “I know Piolo is a big star already, but when he is with all of us in the rehearsal room, he is very humble and always eager to learn. I guess that’s what makes him a superstar.
“Tita Nicole is a serious actor. She is always in character whenever we run the scene, But she can be funny offstage. Elian is fun to work with. He is goofy offstage, but he is serious onstage. I’m just happy I get to work with those kinds of people.”
JD describes his daddy as “very hardworking” who loves what he does. “He’s also very strict, but he balances it by being very sweet and loving at the same time,” the boy shared.
“I can talk to him about anything. I’m just lucky to have him as my dad as he can guide me while growing up.”
Naturally, the boy also has dreams for his single dad. “I want my daddy to have a very good, long and happy life,” JD said. “To stay healthy and safe. So I can enjoy my adult life more with him.”
When he grows up, JD dreams to become a pilot. “I want to travel to different places,” he said. “I’m always interested in aviation because I want to reunite families who are living far from each other.
“There’s a feeling of fun when you fly a plane and you see beautiful clouds above. And maybe do musical theater at the same time.”
“Ibarra” will be presented on birth anniversary of national hero Jose Rizal on June 19. Tanghalang Una Obra is producing “Ibarra” in time for the 125th year of Philippine Independence on June 12.
Padre Damaso wasn’t the original role Tena was eyed to do. Nor was it the original role he wanted to play.
“But things worked out this way and I am just thankful that I got the role,” he said. “It is a very complex role. He may be a villain in the story but dissecting the character, I found the human, vulnerable side of him and that’s how you make the character a hero.”
Tena is never too privy to share his journey as a single dad to JD, amid the challenges and joys.
“Being a solo parent is a blessing,” Tena attested. “I’ve always dreamt of being a dad since I was 21 years old. When you are given that something you’ve always prayed for, you will do everything to protect it.
“When that happened, it felt like every blessings that would come my way would just be bonuses since I got my ultimate dream already.
“Being a dad to JD made me realize that it’s never too late to dream of new things. That’s why, at 43, I am challenging myself with a lot of new things that I’m scared to do. I always pray for it and when it is given, I make sure that I’m prepared to accept it.
“Being a solo parent is challenging in the sense that I have to plan everything in advance logistically. Who brings him to school when I’m away for work, who fetches him, things like that.
“That is why I am grateful for friends and family who are always there to help me. I am even grateful for his teachers for understanding our situation. Without them, I don’t think I would survive. [Laughed]
“It really takes a village to raise a kid. This situation made JD a trooper and learn survival skills early in his life. And knowing he can survive in such situation makes me happy.”
When JD was younger, Tena would consciously hide from his son whenever he would practice at home for his songs, lines or anything about his musical theater work.
“I know how difficult and challenging the life of an artist is,” Tena explained. “But it really is JD’s passion in life. In pre-school, magugulat na lang ako when his teachers would message me that JD joined the talent competition.
“His song was ‘Walk Like a Man’ from ‘Jersey Boys.’ ‘Yun pala naririnig niya ako mag-practice at home and na-memorize na niya ang song. I mean, sinong five-year-old kid ang sasali sa contest na ang kakantahin ay song ni Frankie Valli?”
Obviously, JD took after his dad as far as being a musical artist in concerned. “It amazes me because I wasn’t like that growing up,” Tena admitted. “Believe it or not, I was a shy and timid kid then. I still am.”
Tena started his professional musical theater career late in life when he turned 30. He auditioned for Floy Quintos’ “Isang Panaginip na Fili” and snagged the role of Basilio.
“I honestly said to Direk Floy, ‘Direk, I’m 30 years old na po.’ He said, ‘Just shave and ‘di na halata ‘yan.’ And there I was, Basilio at 30 years old.
“The same year, Bulwagang Gantimpala was looking for Padre Salvi and they got me, too. So that year, I did both ‘Noli’ and ‘Fili.’ Also, that year we toured the US for National Artist Fides Cuyugan Asensio’s ‘Songs of Joseph.”
In 2012, when Tena did Luntha in “The King and I,” he remembered director Freddie Santos who made them sing the haunting “I Have Dreamed” in the final callback.
“I was paired with Lara Maigue who was still a student at that time,” Tena shared. “I was almost 200 pounds then, so I imagined both of us laughing deep inside while singing that song, kasi feeling namin para kaming mag-ama.
“But after that, Direk Freddie critiqued all Luntha aspirants one by one and when he came to me, he just smiled, almost about to laugh, and asked, ‘Are you willing to go to the gym?’ I said yes and I got the role.
“So I worked out almost every day and shrinked to 145 pounds in three months in time for our pictorial. I was just thankful that my directors saw the potential in me even if I wasn’t physically the prototype for the character I was auditioning for.
“Maybe, they saw the truth in my audition and a vision beyond the physicality. So for anyone out there who is insecure about his body or physical appearance, just go for it. Who knows, you get the chance to work with visionary directors.”
As to falling in love, Tena knows it will come at the perfect moment when he least expects it.
“I am not looking for it but I asked my son already if I could start dating again and he said yes. It is challenging dating a single dad because outrightly, I would say that my son would be my top priority and she/he comes in second. Always. That’s just the reality to it."