The Bacoor boy who made good

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Celebrating Philippine Independence Day and Filipino-American Month in California
Celebrating Philippine Independence Day and Filipino-American Month in California

During a gig at Manila Baywalk, someone approached the acoustic band vocalist Joselito “Jojo” Riguerra, and asked if he was willing to be a ramp model. He thought it over for a week. Would he take on this new career or go back to designing structures and visiting construction sites?

“Deciding between these two paths was like standing at a crossroads.” Riguerra recalled. “And one road led to the exciting world of entertainment. Well, I chose the latter and got on a journey that transformed me into a ramp model and eventually a theater, film and TV actor. That moment of decision was like a pivotal moment in my life and led me to where I am today.”


Tall, personable, likable and intelligent, Riguerra seems to leave a good impression wherever he goes, be it Cavite, Manila or California, where his is now based.

I first saw him a few years ago in a serious play here in Manila, “a work in progress” about—of all things—macho dancers. Of all the actors who played macho dancers, Riguerra stood out because of his commanding presence and his acting ability. Much later, the author of the play, Palanca Hall of Famer Nicolas Pichay, would famously describe the actor as a “very nice guy and a great actor.”

Riguerra, who was in town recently for a brief visit from the United States where he’s based, is from Bacoor, Cavite, known for its anting-anting (amulets) and cockfights. His parents, apparently well-off, maintain an ancestral home there.

Loving parents

“I take great pride in my parents’ example and the values they instilled in me,” Riguerra said. “Growing up with them, I observed their long-standing patience, which I inherited from my dad. From my mom, I also learned to be straightforward and sensitive. Their kindness toward others is truly their strength, and I aspired to possess that same quality.”

While growing up, he considered himself an introvert. He would go out just to play basketball, and had only a few friends in the neighborhood: “So it came as a big surprise to my family and friends when one day they saw me on TV, as I had gone on a different path that required me to step out of my comfort zone.”

As a child, he dreamed of becoming an architect or a pilot. The former aspiration became a reality when he earned a BS in Architecture at Far Eastern University. Now, FEU has quite a reputation when it comes to theater, but surprisingly, Riguerra was not interested in the productions there. He became a theater actor only, while modeling; he accepted a key role in Frank Rivera’s long-running modern sarsuwela “Ambon, Ulan, Baha.”

“That marked the beginning of my theatrical journey,” he recalled.

Jojo Riguerra and costar in a pub- licity shot for the Hollywood film “Love and Karma”
Jojo Riguerra and costar in a pub- licity shot for the Hollywood film “Love and Karma”

The actor pays tribute to his mentors in theater, among them Lou Veloso, George de Jesus III, Dexter Santos, Adriana Agcaoili, Pichay, as well as the late Soxie Topacio and Tony Espejo. After many nominations, he turned to film and TV, “opening doors and windows that I had never imagined.”

Stage accident

In one play, “Maxie the Musical” (Bit by Bit Productions, at Peta Theater), the theater version of the iconic film “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros,” he played the role of the handsome policeman who is the love interest of the besotted Maxie. In one scene he slipped from third level to the second, and his leg got stuck. Nobody noticed, and he hung there precariously for about 30 seconds.

READ: ‘The Normal Heart’ returns, now at Peta Theater Center

He managed to free himself, and to rejoin the show, limping because his right knee was bruised and bleeding. “As they say, the show must go on,” he recalled ruefully. “And the adrenalin rush certainly helped.”

In 2019, Riguerra took his family to the United States for “a simple vacation” which did not turn out to be that simple. While in California, one of his mentors, the singer Ivy Violan, encouraged him to explore career opportunities in Hollywood.So he stayed. “I saw a glimpse of a brighter future, but please don’t get me wrong, I love the Philippines!”

Soon he landed TV commercials, modeling gigs and film projects. Right now he is excited about an upcoming movie titled “Love and Karma,” a Filipino romantic comedy inspired by true events during the COVID-19 pandemic and directed by the award-winning auteur Giovannie Espiritu.

“It’s an honor to proudly represent our Filipino heritage, carry our flag and showcase our culture,” declared Riguerra. —CONTRIBUTED INQ

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