The singing actor Nonie Buencamino grew up in a home where music could be heard day in and day out. One of his brothers is Nonong Buencamino, the composer and film scorer for movies.
It was a large, well-knit family. Nonie was the 10th of 11 children; the eldest brother had died at the age of six before he (Nonie) was born.
Often there were family reunions with the siblings of his father Dionisio and the grandparents. “It was normal for us to put up a musical program every time,” he recalled. “I grew up singing in these reunions either with my siblings or singing solo. Most of us could sing or play the piano.”
He also sang in school during Christmas and other events. When they were younger, Nonong would get him to record his jingles or sing his “demo songs” to present to producers.
At Southridge High School, his mentor Paul Dumol, the eminent playwright, encouraged him to try theater; and that was when his love affair with the legitimate stage began. It is still going strong; in fact, it has reached its peak.
So many roles
Buencamino later took up Interdisciplinary Studies at the Ateneo de Manila, met and married Shamaine Centenera (who was from the University of the Philippines and even then making a name for herself as an actress at Dulaang UP).
“Shamaine was already Shamaine Centenera when I started at Dulaang UP,” once recalled Irma Adlawan, another formidable actress.
The Buencaminos had their first baby—and realized they could not live comfortably if they confined themselves to the theater. So Nonie entered showbiz as a movie and TV actor, and Shamaine became an assistant director for commercials.
“Now, after all these years, we’re happily crossing between the screen and stage as actors,” Buencamino says. “We’re lucky to have been able to send our four children to good schools.”
Through the decades, the actor has played so many roles in plays, musical or straight, contemporary as well as classical, but his favorite is that of the King of Thailand in the recent, lavish and long-running “The King and I” at Resorts World Manila.
“I performed it more than 30 times, thus allowing me to explore and grow somehow,” he enthuses. “Also, I was privileged to play out my scenes with a wonderful cast led by Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo.”
Even more challenging was his role as the playboy Tirso in Tanghalang Pilipino’s “Stageshow,” where he and wife Shamaine had to learn now to tap dance, along with the other dances of the era.
And now Buencamino faces what could be the biggest challenge of his career: He is the star performer of the first “Triple Threats” solo concert of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, to be staged at the CCP’s Tanghalang Aurelio V. Tolentino (Little Theater) on June 13, 7:30 p.m.
The term “Triple Threat” refers to a performer who can sing, act and dance at the same time. Other “threats” are Audie Gemora (July 5) and Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo (Aug.15).
Carmela Singco is musical director, and stage director is Kokoy Jimenez. Guests are Mitch Valdes, wife Shamaine and daughter Delphine Buencamino.
So, what can people expect?
“Maybe that I’ll try my best to interpret songs not only as a singer but also as an actor, even with songs like Tom Jones’ ‘Kiss” or Elvis’ ‘Teddy Bear,’” he says. “I will share some of my favorite songs from Broadway and a couple of songs I sang in musicals I’ve done with Tanghalang Pilipino.”
The versatile performer concludes on a religious note: “As a performer/person, I’ve learned that I’m only as good as my last performance, and that whatever I do becomes more special when I’ve sincerely offered it to the Lord. I don’t have to worry too much if I have prepared well. I don’t have to worry what others think of me and my performance if I really believe that what I am doing makes God known to others in one way or another.”