There have been rumors spreading since years back that actor-comedian Jon Santos—the reason why he had been away from mainstream entertainment—had gotten hitched and is now living the life with his spouse.
Is it true?
PEP meets Jon. Looking energized and, yes, radiant, Jon Santos did not look like he had aged a bit after a two-year absence from TV and movies. The funny guy, who has made us laugh and see sense from his impersonations of Cory Aquino, Miriam Santiago, Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada, Juan Flavier, Kris Aquino, his personal favorite Vilma Santos, and many others, is back to resurrect his ‘characters'. At the same time, his presence reminds us that comedy is not just fun but eye-opening as well.
"May halong stage fright," Jon, whose strength is in political satire, half-joked when asked about his comeback. "Kasi iba na ang tagisan ng galing ngayon...ang daming bago!
"Ang maganda naman sa mundo ng comedy, there's always a place for you everywhere, ‘tsaka you can age—kalbo ka, you gain weight, tumaba ka, okay lang."
Jon is raring to again have a go at it and give his (funny) two-cents worth on the present politics. "Kasi parang recharged ka na naman... at may time ka nang gumanti. Dun lang naman daw tayo nakaka-seek ng konting revenge," he said on his funny attack on serious topics like poverty and corruption.
He admitted to being very fortunate to have a support group who collaborates with him on his materials. "I have this group of friends who have been writing panahon pa ng dorm [namin] sa UP (University of the Philippines), mga UP friends na mga suki na—alam na nila yung habits ng [politicians, celebrities] gamay na gamay na nila."
Aside from his group, Jon also acknowledged his mentors: Tessie Tomas (who gave him his start while he was still a UP student), Willie Nepomuceno, Nanette Inventor, and Mitch Valdez, who have stood by him through the years. "They all welcomed me with open arms, pinag-audition ako, binigyan ako ng hanapbuhay, bubong sa ibabaw ng ulo ko..."
He will soon be seen on TV, in a Judy Ann Santos soap opera, Humingi Ako Sa Langit and this coming November at the Music Museum in a comedy series, Da Spooftacular Showdown with Candy Pangilinan, John Lapus, Pooh, Pokwang, Kim, Vice Ganda and Kaye Brosas.
When we commented on his happy aura and still-slim physique, Jon laughed, "Talaga? Alam mo naman dapat, Ate Vi (Vilma Santos) pa din tayo, ‘di tayo pwedeng maging Bobot (Edgar Mortiz)."
He is into yoga, he shared. Aside from giving him flexibility, muscle control and a fit body, yoga has helped relieve him of stress. "I alternate with gym. Fortunately, natanggal ko pagso-smoke. I was a social smoker for some time, pero a decade ago na."
True enough, a lot of things have changed in Jon's life. The two years he was away from the limelight, he said he spent at a desk in an office, "I was Ortigas-based. Ortigas ang tirahan, Ortigas ang trabaho, I did not even drive. Sa acting, there were the tours, corporate shows... seasonal e, a third of the year lang ang intense, corporate shows. I was also in [the Peque Gallaga film] Hubad ... And I was also busy setting up the household thing."
So are his domestic activities a clue to his new status? Is he married?
Jon Santos and love. It need not be asked of Jon if he was in love. Judging from his glow and the telling smile, he was. Is. But did he really tie the knot with someone?
"Sa harap ng judge sa Toronto, Canada," he confirmed finally.
Jon Santos and partner, West Stewart, sealed their love in civil rites on August 24, 2005 at the North York Family Court in Toronto, Ontario. Ontario is one of the eight provinces in Canada that allows same-sex marriages.
"Nagulat na lamang kami na hindi kailangang maging resident ka ng Toronto para magkaroon ng commitment ceremony sa harap ng judge," Jon related. "Kahit siya, hindi naman Canadian."
West Stewart is actually half-American and half-Italian, "but 100 percent Vilmanian!" Jon emphasized. "Kaibigan din siya ni Ate Vi, kaibigan ni Edu [Manzano]. Kapitbahay ni Edu." Jon's 53-year old industrialist-spouse "na madalas nasa mga environment projects, is based and very happy here, and I'm very happy that his company [ay] nagke-create ng mga trabaho para sa mga Pinoy. Madalas nga lang [siya] nasa Visayas, Mindanao para sa mga projects."
"January 2005 kami nagkakilala sa dinner ni Tessie Tomas. Kaibigan [siya] ni Tessie at ni Roger [Tessie's husband]. Tessie is a friend of his and parehong may kinalaman sila sa science and environment ni ka Roger."
Although it wasn't love at first sight, the meeting was enough to start a solid friendship that developed into a serious relationship.
In July 2005, West proposed. "On one knee," Jon relayed, reliving the moment and revealing that though there were no tears, he had felt certain West was the One and he gave him his, "Yes, I will."
"Sometimes when you are very, very sure of something, you heave a sigh and, ‘Oh my goodness, I've never been so sure about anything."
His and West's certainty translated to an exchange of vows, with the spouses both wearing suits and exchanging rings they bought for each other. "'Yung rings, KKB (kanya-kanyang bayad). Binili ko yung kanya, binili niya yung akin."
And not even a locally believed bad omen was able to stop the rite from happening. "Nung araw mismo ng [exchange of vows], di namin naiwasang magkita ulit... nagkita kami sa gym... di ba, di dapat magkita bago ‘yun?"
But nothing untoward happened. The couple honeymooned in San Francisco right after.
"I'm very happy to be alive at a decade na nagkaroon ng pagakakataon, ng kahit sino, na ma-unite kahit sa harap ng isang huwes," Jon enthused. "It was really something... kasi wala naman [gano'n] sa Pilipinas."
The civil union that took place in Canada gives the spouses a list of legal privileges with each other, "I think kung nakatira ka sa Canada, puwede kang magdugtong ng apelyido. I think kung sinuman ang gustong mahuli ang apelyido, like siguro Jon Santos Stewart or Jon Stewart... ay, pero meron nang Jon Stewart..."
Other than in Canada, specifically in the Philippines and the laws governing the country, the civil union is not binding and null.
"Lahat po ito icing on the cake," he stressed. "Ang pagkaka-describe niya [West sa civil rites], parang may regalo ka na linagyan mo lang ng ribbon. 'Tsaka alam namin na may nagtataas ng kilay.
"Para itong... parang nakasakay ka sa helicopter, minsan di ka dapat tumitingin kung saan-saan dahil mahihilo ka. Huwag ka masyadong tutungo so... if you're in a certain place na ayaw mong ma-defocus sa masyadong iniisip ng tao, fo-focus ka ulit sa mga magulang mo, mga kaibigan, malalapit sa'min who gave their blessing."
And it wasn't that he was hiding his ‘new status' from the public, it was just because there was no opportunity to divulge it as he was not that active in showbiz then, he explained. "May mga times na it feels so ordinary. May mga times na parang nakaka-culture shock i-share or even i-discuss, ‘asa sa inyo na iyon.
"'Pag nadi-discuss ng mga tao na medyo hindi masyadong open, nakaka-conscious, may feeling ka talagang natataasan ka ng kilay, di ba? Di naman tayong lahat may oportunidad na live and let live, may time talaga na nakakailang na ang buhay mo a little bit different, then nagtatago ka na naman, then ‘asa bahay ka lang and then you get reminded about the things that are important...
"Ang mahalaga sa ‘kin, in the end, yung mga taong malapit sa akin, yung family and friends, are happy for me."
Indeed, Jon is in love and his family is happy about it. "[West is] a great man with a great heart, napakabuting tao... di ba mararamdaman mo naman kung pareho kayo ng mga goals, pareho kayong naghahanap na mag-settle down?"
He was sure it was love, Jon expressed. "'Pag alam mong puwede niyong pagusapan ‘yung U.S election, ‘tsaka laman ng CNN... tapos puwede niyong pagusapan ung uric acid, colonoscopy ‘tsaka rocking chair at magpalitan kayo ng adult diaper pagtanda niyo, ‘pag alam mong naguusap kayo ng long-term...
"When you talk about the not-so romantic things and when you go through things that are not so convenient, tulad ng pagod ka galing ng taping tapos di ka nakapagiwan ng iiniting ulam, you must be in a good place... I think you are probably doing things families are doing. I'm 43, he's 53, probably wala ng golden [anniversary] eto, so suwerte na mag-silver, di ba."
What does he love most about West?
Jon answered: "[His] tolerance and acceptance. Lock, stock and barrel." West is patient and understanding of his job as well. "Ke maghintay sa backstage ng isang booking, may mga tenga ni FVR sa cabinet, may mga props na tobacco, may mga fur coat ni Paris Hilton, may laruang aso na dala-dala nung Paris... parang first time akong naka-meet ng lahat ng ‘yon e wala lang sa kanya."
Jon also reported that West is slowly learning the language. "May konting Tagalog na siyang natututunan... (like)‘Mahal mo kow ‘, ‘lah lang' and ‘astig'."
The naughty question: Did he plan on getting pregnant?
Quick-witted, Jon replied, "Ay, magastos, mahal ang bigas." As for adopting a child: "May mga araw na good idea, may mga araw na parang sapat na yung charities or orphanages na nagkakaroon na kami ng chance to support." Jon supports four kids of Chosen Children Foundation in Silang, Cavite.
"May mga araw na nakakatakot na isipin [having a child]. Paano ba maging parent? Parang napakalaking step. May mga araw na parang, ‘why not kung merong pagkakataong maging bahagi ng paglaki ng isang bata'. For now, ang kaya ko siguro pet dog," he quipped. "Kaya spouse na muna [ako]."
Welcome, Jon. As the political climate heats up, what with the 2010 elections fast approaching, Jon Santos's brand of comedy will slowly but surely become very popular again. In effect, Jon Santos's career will get its own steam. He's very back in the showbiz ballgame again!
With his latest shift as the newest talent of Arnold Vegafria, expect a lot of buzz from the comedian soon.
Jon related that his life in the past two years had been half of the year living in the country, and half in the U.S. Getting back to mainstream entertainment might change that.
As for West, Jon said he might apply "in two years time, may nagsasabi na puwede siyang mag-apply for a retiring foreigner here, baka mas madali pang maging Pilipino siya. So [para] dagdagan naman niya yung alam niyang ‘la lang' at ‘mahal mo kow?'"
He looks forward to a lot of good things happening to him in the coming months. Jon said he has missed playing his ‘characters', most specially that of Ate Vi. "May bilin lang siya [Vilma Santos] sa akin, huwag na huwag ko lang maiuwi si Ralph [Recto]... yun lang naman. Otherwise, love niya ako."
No doubt many are anticipating Jon's comedy. Filipinos need a good laugh.