looking and talking exactly like a Philippine president. Or seamlessly imitating
a Hollywood/local showbiz celebrity. Be sure to have the proper costume,
makeup, and wig. Dramatize a typical situation or interview, exaggerate your
gestures—all the while keeping the original personality traits, mannerisms, and
voice intact. Above all, as if it was the easiest thing to do (which isn’t),
make the audience laugh!
impersonation. We’re not talking about look-alikes in scandal-mongering Net
videos, of course, or fraudulent posturing that could land you in court and/or
a form of stand-up comedy, impersonation is similar to, and may include, impressionist
techniques. An impressionist, like the popular Frank Caliendo in the U.S.
who does Pres. Bush, can tell relevant anecdotes or do a mock interview while
impersonating his subject. He creates one solid impression; for example, a
stupid Bush pretending to be in authority.
Impersonators put themselves completely in the
shoes of whoever they want to satirize or make fun of, whether that public
figure likes it or not—the more controversial, or adored, the better. The whole
package, from makeup to unique speech accent, portrays the real-life person with
funny twists and turns. It can be a one-person stand-up act or part of a TV show,
movie or play. Impersonators also dance and sing expertly like their chosen
so, audiences come away with impressions that may intensify what they already know
of the personality or with a new way of looking at fame, human frailty, social
manners and politics.
Filipino actors and actresses have ventured into impersonation but only a
select few can be so hilarious that they’re famous for whom they’re not in real
life. Performers like Willie Nepomuceno, Tessie Tomas, and Jon Santos have all
been successful in this field. It’s a wonder that they can perfectly imitate not
just one but various personalities in different fields.
who create their own character are of a different class and caliber, and so,
are not included here. Worth mentioning is TV director Jun Urbano who created
the Mongolian Mr. Shooli on IBC-13’s Mongolian
Barbecue (1989-99) and who entertained audiences mainly through political satire.
are PEP’s Top Ten impersonators/impressionists, who are among the most
sought-after in showbiz.
NEPOMUCENO. Willie Nepomuceno, the Philippines’ Master Impersonator,
has portrayed more public figures than anyone in the business. He started his
art as a hobby in childhood, to impress uncles and aunts during family
gatherings. His favorite then was imitating the singing icon of the ‘50s and
‘60s, Sylvia dela Torre. Only in college did Willie discover that people pay
good cash to watch an impersonation.
Willie wanted to become an actor or a singer. But strict requirements for wannabe
actors kept him out. “Dapat pogi, eh hinde naman ako puwede doon!” He chose
instead to impersonate the top stars of the day: Victor Wood, Edgar Mortiz, and
Tirso Cruz III, among others.
his first stint as an imitator, Willie only did voice changes; eventually he
imitated his subject’s look as well. His performance was so smooth, Willie could
be Erap in one minute then switch to Dolphy in the next. He also imitated
former president Fidel V. Ramos, the late Fernando Poe Jr., and even Jaime
TESSIE TOMAS. The Original Queen of
Daytime TV may be considered an inspirational stand-up comedian because the
characters she portrayed—Amanda Pineda, Margarida, Meldita, among many others—paved
the way for Jon Santos, Allan K, Candy Pangilinan, and other actors to include
impersonation in their repertoire.
creativity brought her into some of TV’s most watched programs, like Teysi
ng Tahanan, Compañero y Compañera with Rene Cayetano, and the sitcoms Onli
in da Pilipins, and Abangan ang susunod na Kabanata. Her style and
distinctive approach on comedy look almost natural and lifelike that people
might forget that they’re looking at Tessie.
Notable Impersonation: “Imelda Marcos”
of the few actors who can impersonate a man or a woman with perfect ease and
gusto is none other than Jon Santos. His forte lies in his makeup and costume,
becoming a funnier version of the person who’s lucky enough to be imitated by
has been impersonating people for more than 19 years now. He focuses on what’s
hot in the current scene, be it in politics or showbiz. Among his favorites are
Vilma Santos, Juan Flavier, Kris Aquino, Miriam Defensor Santiago, and even the
difficult ones like Ara Mina, Maui Taylor, and Oprah Winfrey.
of Jon’s most notable impersonations is “Vilma Santos.”
Joey’s natural comedic aura and cheer have won him the laughter of many fans by
imitating some of America’s
cultural icons like Tarzan, He-Man, the Lone Ranger, Barbie,
Superman, Mighty Mouse, Elvis Presley, and James Dean.
acts, represented in his old films, have brought him box-office hits on a
shoestring budget. How come? You won’t
see the real Tarzan get hit on the head by a three-foot supporting actor. That’s
an instance of Joey’s creative humor and resourcefulness.
of certain people may bring on criticism, of course, but Joey’s wit and his
ability to capture his mass audiences allow him to get away with it.
Notable Impersonation: Fernando Poe Jr.
V. The Master of Disguise, according to his fans, is more like a cartoon character
than an impersonator whenever he imitates a person—or even a group of people—in
the GMA-7 gag show Bubble Gang.
as he is commonly known, is a pioneer in turning impersonation to the next
level by exaggerating a person’s looks and voice, usually emphasizing one feature,
like a mole perhaps.
over 50 impersonations to his name, it’s no small wonder that Bitoy can even
imitate fictional characters and foreign actors. Among his best impersonations
are Jet Li, Mike Enriquez, Regine Velasquez, Jon Bon Jovi, and many more.
not only impersonates actors and political figures but singers as well. Not
only that, he can make a joke out of the artists’ songs by creating hilarious
Notable Impersonation: Mike Enriquez
“Sweet” LAPUS. The ever-bubbly host of Showbiz Central did a good
impersonation of Sheryl Cruz back in the days when he was still a contestant in
gay beauty contests.
PEP blogger can also sound like a very convincing Inday Badiday. It was in Rock
da Vote where he unleashed his talent as an impersonator, and fellow stand-up
comics like Jon Santos and Tessie Tomas definitely made everything more amusing
is no pushover when it comes to comedy. He is confident, and can go head to toe
with nearly everyone in the business. His comedic imagination is relentless and
he can easily whip up a short skit that would send everyone in stitches.
the Teatro Tomasino alumnus uses his talent in doing what he does best: comedy.
Notable Impersonation: Kris Aquino
SANCHEZ. Giselle Sanchez looks like a beauty queen with her poise and
dignity. Pitch in a smart brain and you’ve got the perfect package. Giselle
could easily pass for a sexy star but chooses instead to be a sexy comedienne,
perfect for the men in her audience who
can hardly keep their mouths shut—not from drooling, mind you, but from
laughing at her antics and “don’t give a damn” attitude. Stand-up comedy is a
breeze for Giselle.
U.P. Mass Communications graduate became part of an organization in college
(Samaskom) and performed for the organization’s annual musical-comedy-variety
show, Live A.I.D.S. It was Tessie Tomas who discovered Giselle’s playful
personality, and eventually got her a small part in the sitcom Abangan ang Susunod na Kabanata.
playing trigger-happy in Abangan to portraying a wisecracking maid in Pugad
Baboy, Giselle has definitely stayed on to be one of comedy’s funniest (and
probably sexiest) celebrities. Her repertoire of naughty humor and playful
disposition make her a sought-after performer not only here but abroad as well.
PANGILINAN. Another one of Rock da Vote’s prized comedians is Candy
Pangilinan who, with her fellow stand-up comics, creates a series of riotous impersonation
comedies. Candy’s razor sharp wit has brought her success in skits and solo
performances—most notable of which is her Candy’s Be Love concert.
portrayal of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago is probably her most natural and
convincing impersonation, mainly because of the acute reference to the
senator’s stern bearing and matchless diction.
Notable Impersonation: Miriam Defensor-Santiago
POOH-QUIAO. Pooh, whose real name is Reynold Garcia, can easily be mistaken
for the People’s Champion as he possess nearly every facial feature—hair
(especially the bangs!), moustache, and the distinctive accent. Looks alone
won’t convince a crowd but Pooh can move nearly the same way as the Pacman, and
can pull off a convincing one-two punch and finish it off with a punch line.
was first heard cracking jokes and stories as an in-house performer at a comedy
sing-along bar in Malate, Manila.
His impersonation of Manny Pacquiao during those times were light, but became a
more serious affair when the boxer became a household name. Pooh’s extensive
research on Manny’s mannerisms earned him a ticket to celebrity status as he
soared with the champion boxer’s fame but on the comedy route. TV guestings and
opportunities to perform in major comedy bars earned Pooh a place among some of
the best stand-up comedians to date and, in time, became household name
BOY FACUNLA. Rene Boy looks like your average comedian until he transforms
into Ate Glow, the funnier (and much better) version of the President of the Philippines.
impressive impersonation of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo can truly convince the
unwary as he is faithful to every detail without crass exaggeration. Rene has
imitated other personalities such as Jolina Magdangal and Nora Aunor but it was
his GMA impersonation during the campaign period that made his mark.
the next time you bump into Erap or Ate Vi or Kris, make sure they're the
originals! Our very own impersonators are that good.