Last seen in the Chito Roño movie “The Healing” and in the teleseryes “Genesis” and “Indio,” actor Roberto Arevalo returns to the stage to play the patriarch in Tanghalang Pilipino’s production of “Mga Ama, Mga Anak,” which opens at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Little Theater on Feb. 21, under Joel Lamangan’s direction.
Arevalo says the role feels like a transition, because in 1979, he played the son Selo in the three-act play by Nick Joaquin. The director then was Lino Brocka, and in the cast were Boots Anson Roa, Hilda Koronel, Lloyd Samartino, Alicia Alonzo and Ben Rubio as Zacarias Monzon.
Of that production, he remembers Brocka as a meticulous director who inspired the best from his cast.
“Brocka was a creation of theater and it was only natural that he became known as an actor’s director,” he says. “My role as the son was equally important, but I could sense that the role of the patriarch was indeed meaty with all those intense moments on stage, not to mention the kilometric lines Ben (Rubio) had to memorize.”
He never thought that, after three decades, the role of Zacarias Monzon would fall on his lap, occasioning his comeback to theater.
“The character is my opposite in real life, and I guess that is where the challenge is,” says Arevalo. “He is a womanizer and he abuses his children. As I read his lines, I felt as though his wicked ways were exaggerated and that he invented those horrible traits for himself. He sounds demented after a stroke and, indeed, he is not a very likable father. But you come to terms with his life towards the end of the play where his character becomes more humane.
“The part is really open to interpretation. So now I am imagining people who are like that and think of people who are closer to the character. When I see people like that, I study them closely, how they move and think. I even pay attention to the mannerisms. Joel (Lamangan) and I are still groping, but he felt we could go on stage already.”
In “Mga Ama, Mga Anak,” adapted into Filipino by National Artist Virgilio Almario and Jose “Pete” Lacaba, Arevalo co-stars with a stellar cast that includes Spanky Manikan, Jackielou Blanco, Celeste Legaspi, Cris Villonco, Madeleine Nicolas, Edgar Allan Guzman, Banaue Miclat, Peewee Ohara and the TP Actors Company.
It was during his college days at the Ateneo de Manila that a friend who taught in UP first invited Arevalo to appear in plays like “Medea” and “The New Yorker From Tondo.”
He also recalls being in “Kapinangan,” directed by Behn Cervantes, and playing Tom in a production of Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” staged at the Philamlife Theater. He was the father in “The Diary of Anne Frank,” and was in the musical “Bernardo Carpio,” again directed by Cervantes and staged at the Manila Metropolitan Theater.
His work with Cervantes extended to the cinema. He played an important role in the director’s debut film “Sakada.”
Coming from a family of artists, there was no way Arevalo could escape the call of theater and film. He is the son of film actor, composer and musical scorer Tito Arevalo. National Artist for Film Gerry de Leon was his uncle. Jay Ilagan was a cousin and so is Liberty Ilagan, while Hermogenes Ilagan, the father of the sarsuwela, was his grandfather.
He recalls: “I have fond memories of my grandfather who used to live on P. Tuazon Street in Sampaloc. I remember being seated on his lap when I was about four or five, and he loved to entertain his brothers and sisters. Ironically, nobody encouraged me to be in show biz. I took up business in Ateneo hoping to be in the corporate world. But I’ve found myself doing one movie after another since 1960.”
Arevalo has won several acting honors, including the best actor trophy in 1965 for “Sa Daigdig Ng Mga Api,” directed by Gerry de Leon. His leading lady also won best actress—and she happens to be Barbara Perez, his wife.
Arevalo says his experience in theater has helped him cope better with his film assignments.
“It is only in theater where you land good roles unthinkable in films. Let’s face it, theater is more demanding intellectually. Theater helped me acquire the facility for good memory, and with it, good discipline.”
“Mga Ama, Mga Anak” runs Feb. 21-March 9 at CCP Little Theater. Call 8321125 local 1620/1621, 0917-7500107.