Before carving his niche in Philippine cinema and television, the late Direk Wenn Deramas honed his love for the arts as a member of University of Santo Tomas’s theater group, Teatro Tomasino.
On the fifth night of his wake, his fellow Tomasinos, whom he called his second familly, held a private mass in his honor.
This was followed by a special tribute to their departed comrade.
John ″Sweet″ Lapus, who had worked with the director in several films and TV shows, met Direk Wenn through this theater guild.
Direk Wenn was already a graduate and served Teatro Tomasino as an honorary member while John was still a freshman.
In an interview with PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal), John recalled the first time he met Wenn.
He reminisces, “Doon kami nagsimula, doon kami nagtagpo ng aming landas.
"I do remember that particular day—Christmas party ng Teatro Tomasino of 1989—so first Christmas party ko na a-attend ako ng Teatro Tomasino, doon ko siya unang nakita.
"Kaya alala ko pa, sabi niya, tinanong pa niya kung ano pangalan ko raw. Sabi ko, new member lang ako.
"Tapos, tinanong niya anong course ko, sabi ko, ‘HRM ako.’ Tapos sabi niya, 'Yeah, HRM din ako.’”
They soon worked together in a comedy play that Direk Wenn helmed. John was part of the cast.
“Forte niya talaga mag-direct ng comedy. Lalo na mga monologues, favorite talaga niya 'yan,” John remembers fondly.
John felt honored to be part of the group Direk Wenn mentored in their theater guild.
When the late director ventured onward to the bigger stage of ABS-CBN, John followed close behind.
They collaborated in the showbiz-oriented talk show Showbiz Lingo, where majority of the production staff were also members of Teatro Tomasino.
“It was really easy for me to enter showbiz via Showbiz Lingo as a staff,” John says.
THE COLLABORATION As members of a theater guild, they both learned to respect each other’s craft.
Direk Wenn had high respect for his fellow comedians that he gave them the freedom to freely interpret and put their own personal stamp on their craft.
John admitted this would be one of the things he will sorely miss about Direk Wenn.
He says, “Sabi ko nga sa post ko the other day, mami-miss ko yung director na hinahayaan lang ako, kasi ganun si Direk Wenn.
"Lahat ng mga artista niya, lalo na kapag komedyante ka na, nirerespeto niya yung kakayahan mo as an actor, as a comedian.
"So kapag komedyante ka, 'O, ito sasabihin mo sa eksena na 'yan.’
"Hahayaan ka niya magbigay ng sarili mong inputs or makikipag-usap siya sa 'yo tsaka niya bubuuin ang isang eksena.
"Ganun siya makipag-collaborate, especially sa mga komedyanteng actors niya. 'Yan yung napansin ko sa kanya.
"Kapag hindi komedyante, talagang tinuturuan niya, tinutulungan niya.
"Kapag kapwa niya komedyante, mataas respeto niya sa kakayahan, kaya kinu-consult kami most of the time.
"So, mami-miss ko yun.
"Siya lang yata yung director ko na meron kaming collaboration every scene or every movie na ginagawa namin.
"I do remember na si Direk Wenn nagsabi nung staff pa lang ako sa ABS-CBN, isa siya sa mga taong nagsabi, 'Alam mo, bagay sa 'yo mag-artista!’ Staff pa lang ako noon.”
When Direk Wenn became a director, he kept his promise to make John a star.
KEEPING PROMISES John owed a lot of his memorable roles to his late director and comrade.
Most of Direk Wenn’s direct-to-TV movies featured John in guest roles.
Then in his first comedy film in 2002, Kung Ikaw Ay Isang Panaginip, Direk Wenn casted John and another then-fledgling comedienne: Eugene Domingo.
“Then, after Kung Ikaw Ay Isang Panaginip, oh my God, di ko na nga mabilang, e!” he said, of his subsequent collaborations with Direk Wenn.
“Okay, after nun, Apat Dapat, Ang Cute ng Ina Mo and, of course, the very famous character, my character na si Beckie Pamintuan ng Moron 5 and the Crying Lady, siya rin may gawa niyan. It’s his concept.
"And, ayun, nakakapaghinayang na, you know, madami pa kami sana puwedeng gawin na pelikula or TV shows for that matter.
"Sad, sad, but okay na kami ng mga kaibigan niya. We need to fulfill his request and our promise naman to him and for each other na gusto namin masaya lagi.”
A comedy night is set to be part of tonight’s program at ABS-CBN organized by his friends and colleagues in media as part of their promise to the late director.