Phi Palmos goes from stage to screen and back

Totel V. de Jesus

Posted at Dec 04 2022 07:09 PM | Updated as of Dec 05 2022 02:58 PM

Phi Palmos goes from stage to screen and back

MANILA -- By now, the name Phi Palmos has become a household name. At least for those who’ve been binge-watching Filipino films on Netflix since the pandemic. He is Bok, one of the lead characters in “Doll House”. Top-billed by Baron Geisler, this heart-wrenching family drama on father and daughter relationship brought many to tears. When it was released in early October, it stayed on the list of top 10 Filipino movies for the whole month in the most popular streaming platform in the country.

Palmos has appeared as the gay best friend of one of the lead characters in various soaps and other films. But for theater lovers, Palmos’ breakout role is the original Joel/Jewel in the Philippine Educational Theater Association’s massive hit, “Rak of Aegis”. The solo scene where he sings “Sinta” while shifting from soprano to baritone while standing on a plank above a murky canal of flood water will stay in the mind of the audience as one of the most engaging, vocally challenging moments in Philippine theater history. 

The role opened doors for Palmos. In one show, director Antonette Jadaone was in the audience. In no time, Palmos made a worthwhile plunge from stage to television, playing Fifi, the gay friend of Nadine Lustre's character Leah in one of the top-rating primetime series on ABS-CBN, “On The Wings Of Love.” And the rest is history. 

But theater has always been home for Palmos. A year for him won’t be complete without doing theater amid his busy schedules acting for television and the movies. 

A few weeks ago, he was part of Floy Quintos’ comeback play for Dulaang UP, the most-talked about one-act-play “The Reconciliation Dinner.” It had a limited one-weekend run and many are waiting for another staging or at least, a streaming schedule. Again, Palmos’ character as the witty, brilliant gay son of a “Pinklawan” couple has a monologue that almost stole the show. 

This weekend, Palmos is back as Rosanna in this year’s second staging of another hit musical “Mula Sa Buwan.” It runs at Samsung Performing Arts Theater in Circuit, Makati City until December 11, with performances on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays at 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Phi Palmos goes from stage to screen and back

It’s been a long way for someone who worked for five years in the BPO industry as customer service agent. With talent put to good use and determination to succeed, Palmos has become one of the most sought-after character actors for the stage, television and film. 

We had an online tete-a-tete with this versatile, much-awarded multi-platform actor. To retain the spontaneity of the conversation, we retain the flow in Filipino language. Here are the excerpts. 

Q: So how's it been since the pandemic after the last lockdowns, your life on stage and doing the Netflix’s “Doll House”? 

Phi: “I don’t know if this is being insensitive or what but, it’s been wonderful. Of course, the first few months of the pandemic was challenging but, I am very fortunate because I was not forced to change gear in terms of my career or the work that I do to survive.

“Although, during the first few months, inisip ko na talaga na mag-call center. I was a call center agent before I became a full-time actor. But after the ‘El Bimbo’ streaming, some online projects, and one movie came which really helped me. So, my main source of income during that time is still acting and performing. 

“Nakakalungkot to see some colleagues, actors who are great, na nag-shift gear just to survive. That is why I am so grateful that the ‘El Bimbo’ stream happened. Sobrang gandang birthday gift talaga nun. When I did ‘Boyette, Not A Girl Yet’ for Star Cinema, we were one of the first to shoot at the height of the pandemic. The staff and crew are on full PPEs in scorching heat. Grabe. But we’ve survived. I was able to do movie and series during the pandemic. 

“’Doll House’ came unexpectedly. It was almost the end of 2021. I worked with MAVX when they’re still N2 Production for ‘Fangirl/Fanboy.’ It was a fun shoot. Kuya Lucky, (Erwin Blanco) who is the owner of MAVX, briefly talked about working together again so after almost five years, when they contacted me, I was really excited. 

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“They really are very good in terms of taking care of their actors and staff and it’s no difference while we were shooting ‘Doll House.’ I was excited about ‘Doll House’ because though I get to be funny, I was also given a serious dramatic moment which I don’t get often in roles I have previously played and for that I am really grateful. Kaya nakakatuwa din na people who watched ‘Doll House’ noticed it.”

Q: Naalala ko before, you had a bad experience with Baron during the Tanghalang Pilipino ‘Aurelio Sedisyoso’ run. So paano nabago ang iyong pagtingin sa kanya? Kwento mo 'yung ano reaction mo noong makakasama mo sya sa ‘Doll House’ at paano nabago ang iyong pananaw.

Phi: “Well, alam naman din ni Baron ‘yun, that bad experience during ‘Aurelio Sedisyoso’. But Baron was really a different man back then. Actually, when ‘Doll House’ was offered to me of which I immediately said yes, I didn’t know who was in the cast. So when I found out that it was Baron, I had a moment of silence. (laughter) 

“Pero naisip ko, this is work so, let’s do it. What I appreciate is that when Baron found out that it was me who’s going to play Bok, he called me and was very excited na magkakasama kami ulit. And he also pushed and ask the producers na ako na lang si Bok kasi it will be easy since we knew each other. 

“While filming ‘Doll House’, Baron was a consummate professional. Very collaborative too. And a very generous actor. I also realized while filming how wonderful and great he is as an actor. That despite of his dark past, he is still being cast because of his undeniable talent. It was really a gift. And it’s also a gift to work and share a screen with an actor like that. 

“I also felt that he changed and really worked hard for his sobriety. Ako naman, hindi ako naniniwala sa cancel culture. I am more on transformative justice especially when someone showed that they want to change. And they acknowledged their shortcomings and are really working hard to better themselves, who are we to condemn? Hindi naman din ako perfect. Golden rule di ba?” 

Q: Ilang films ang nasa Netflix na kasama ka? Ano ano ang mga ito ang iyong roles?

Phi: I was part of two series, 'Gen Z' and ‘OTWOL (On The Wings of Love)’ and three movies, ‘My 2 Mommies’, ‘Time and Again’, and ‘Exes Baggage’. Meron din akong super bit role sa ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’. I am usually the witty and funny best friend or assistant. That’s really my peg eh. And I like and enjoy playing those roles. But it’s only on ‘Doll House’ na credited ang name ko. Kaya when you search my name on Netflix, an for the first time, may lalabas ng isa. (laughter)

Q: Ilang run na ng ‘Mula Sa Buwan’ na ikaw nakasama? And in this new "version" tama ba, may nabago ba sa iyong role? I mean, more dialogue. 

Phi: “I first joined the cast of ‘Mula Sa Buwan’ in 2018. Magka-batch kami ni Myke (Salomon) and Gab (Pangilinan). Kami ‘yung bago nun. It was memorable for me kasi it was the first time I was given that role. A role traditionally played by a woman. When I played Rosanna in 2018, hindi siya outright LGBTQIA+ character. Dapat androgynous because my alternate is a woman. Here in the newest incarnation of this musical, I am so happy that Rosanna is an outright queer character. That’s the one big change for my character. Yes there are more dialogues pero more than that, what the character of Rosanna represents, para sa akin, yun ‘yung pinaka-importante. That more than his unrequited love from Cyrano, Rosanna is a beacon of empowerment and acceptance amongst these band of misfits and dreamers. Truly, the mother hen."

Q: Kwento mo naman yang pagsali mo sa ‘The Reconciliation Dinner’ na siyempre comeback play ni Sir Floy (Quintos) after ‘Kundiman Party.’ Nag-audition ka ba or inaya ka ng isang member ng produksyon? 

Phi Palmos goes from stage to screen and back

Phi: “Nung nilabas ang teaser poster for ‘The Reconciliation Dinner’, I am just as surprised and excited as everybody. I have no dreams or thought that I will be part of it. Basta nasa isip ko lang, excited akong mapanood. So, when Sir Dexter (Santos) messaged me on FB tapos sabi niya tatawag siya to talk to me, akala ko talaga for an event or magsasalita ulit in one of his classes which I really enjoyed. 

“Pero ayun, he asked me kumusta ang scheds ko and all that. Tapos he offered me to be part of ‘The Reconciliation Dinner’. I was offered the part of Norby. The militant, activist, volunteer, vakla drag queen. It was a really fun character and is really close to me because I also volunteered during the campaign. I was an audience, I sang, hosted, H2H, lahat na ata. Also, the things that my character was saying in the play, in one way or the other, nasabi ko na din ata. You would think it's easy to play Norby but no. That’s why it was a really fun show to do. And also, it was a full circle moment. 

“The first DUP Play I’ve ever watched was’ Atang, Dulang May Musika’ written by Sir Floy with choreo by Sir Dex, and now my first-ever DUP play that I am a part of, silang dalawa ulit. Ang galling lang din talaga ng timing. Kaya Im just grateful. As in.”

Q: Tapos 'di ba binalita rin na babalik na ang ‘Ang Huling El Bimbo’ the musical’ sa 2023? Kasama ka siyempre?

Phi: Well, I was not invited na to come back to the show. And it's fine. I am also doing a musical slated for next year at bangga siya sa ‘AHEB’ so, ayun hindi ko din talaga magagawa. It was also ‘AHEB’ who taught me na kung sa ’yo, sa ’yo. Alam naman ng lahat na hindi ako nakapasa sa first run ng ‘AHEB’ tapos when I was ask to read for the rerun, pumiyok ako. So, akala ko talaga 'di ko na makukuha. But I was able to do it. So, kung iyo talaga, iyo talaga. So, this run, baka hindi akin. But it’s fine, it meant that we will see another actor tackle the role so that is exciting. And I wish everyone in the prod the best. 

Q: Going back to my first question, ilang pelikula na ba ang iyong nagawa at ano ano ang iyong mga roles? 

Phi: According to Letterboxd, I did 14 movies. My roles are usually gay. The witty and wise best friend, or colleague. Basta funny, witty, and wise. 'Yan talaga. Those are my character pegs. And I love playing these characters actually. People will always say kung hindi ba ko natatakot na ma-box o ma-typecast into these kinds of roles ang sa akin, eh bakit si Bea Alonzo o kaya si Meryl Streep, hindi tinatanong kung bakit lagging babae ang mga roles nila? So, 'pag bakla, dapat mag-straight role para masabing magaling? May range? So, ano ‘yun? Double standard? No, thank you. 

Q: Ilang beses mo na nakasama sa stage si Regine Velasquez?

Phi: “Once pa lang! Sa Love Gala, that was back in 2017. The story was, I was one of the first artist who said yes to the event. HIV and AIDS Awareness naman talaga is my advocacy and I make it a point to do something for World AIDS Day and Love Gala is on Dec 1, which is World AIDS Day. 

“My friend Nicolo Cosme is the one who broke the news to me while we were doing his photo shoot. As in halos maiyak ako. Iba kasi na 'yung idol mo also supports your advocacy. Kaya ayun. It was a career milestone. Tsaka nung nagpa-picture ako sa kanya, naalala niya ako when she watched ‘Rak of Aegis’. So, ayun, ang saya! Hihihi. “

Q: Ano pa ang iyong mga pangarap at hiling sa buhay? How do you see yourself in 10 years? 

Phi: “I’d like to represent the femme, openly-out, unconventionally-attractive but talented artists. I’d like to be an award-winning openly gay actor, kasi wala pa. At kung meron man, ang konti. Kaya when I was nominated for a FAMAS in the same year that queer actors like my best friends Nar Cabico, Gio Gahol, Topper Fabregas wer also nominated, it is really empowering. Kasi we all played queer characters and we are all nominated. Kasi pwede. And I believe it is high-time that we celebrate that kind of inclusivity and diversity in the industry. 

“In 10 years, siguro I want to write for theater or movies while I teach or mentor actors and performers. Ganyan. Kasi sayang naman ang mga natutunan kung sa akin lang sila. It will not grow. Knowledge and wisdom must be shared so that it will have its fullest effect that will benefit the common humanity.”

Q: What is your motto in life? 

Phi: “Kapag nakalaan, maluwag ang daan.”

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