Dennis Padilla: The comedian who played young FPJ in the movies

by Rachelle Siazon
Dec 16, 2020
Comedian Dennis Padilla looks back on his showbiz beginnings starting from when he played as the young Fernando Poe Jr. to his hosting stint in Lunch Date to his second wind in showbiz at the age of 58.
PHOTO/S: Totoy Bato / @dennisastig Instagram / Mandurugas

Dennis Padilla is a veteran comedian best known for his starring roles in classic comedy-action movies in the 1990s.

Belonging to the class of comedy action actors, he didn't have the stereotyped physique and gorgeous looks of movie headliners. But he could vanquish villains, win hearts of ladies, and make us laugh at the same time.

Some of Dennis's popular movies are Astig with Janno Gibbs, Cara y Cruz with Raymart Santiago, and Ang Tipo Kong Lalake with Joey de Leon.

FAMILY BACKGROUND AND EDUCATION

Dennis's real name is Dennis Esteban Dominguez Baldivia. He was born on February 9, 1962 in Caloocan City, Metro Manila.

His father, the late veteran comedian Dencio Padilla, aka Prudencio Baldivia, hailed from Nagcarlan, Laguna and his mother, Catalina Dominguez, was from Mabalacat, Pampanga.

The Baldivia couple later settled in Caloocan City where Dennis and his seven siblings—Samuel, Glenn, Jennifer, Gene, Richard, Ched, and Rot—grew up.

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In elementary and high school, Dennis studied at the Notre Dame High School of Manila in Caloocan City.

He finished college at the University of Sto. Tomas with a bachelor's degree in Political Science.

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STINT AS A CHILD ACTOR

Dennis was exposed to the world of showbiz at a very young age because of his father, Dencio, who was often cast as a sidekick of the King of Philippine Cinema, Fernado Poe Jr.

The famous FPJ happened to be his godfather, too.

Dennis also knew way back then that acting was his destiny, having played the role of a young FPJ in many of the screen idol's movies.

Now 58, Dennis looks back on his showbiz beginnings in this one-on-one interview with PEP.ph (Philippine Entertanment Portal) last December 12, 2020.

Dennis tells PEP.ph: "I did about four or five movies as the young FPJ. I was Totoy Bato.

"Remember the classic film of Fernando Poe Jr.? The start of that movie was me, a boy na running sa rice terraces.

"The history of Totoy Bato began with my character, I was the young Totoy Bato and then eventually became Fernando Poe Jr..

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"I was also the son of Fernando Poe Jr. in the classic film Asedillo where he won best actor.

"Marami pa akong ginawang movies as a child actor, and then I stopped."

Dennis was nine years old when he did Ang Anino ni Asedillo (1971), where he played an obedient son who, in the first 20 minutes of the film, was shown being physically abused by his father.

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He was 15 years old when he did Totoy Bato (1977).

His dream to become a star was put on hold, however, when his father insisted that he finish his studies first.

Dennis recalls: "Sabi ni Tatay, 'Hindi, huwag ka na muna mag-artista. Tapusin mo muna yung high school mo. Pag-graduate mo ng high school, saka tayo mag-usap uli.'

"Pag-graduate ko ng high school, gusto ko talaga mag-artista. 'Hindi, hindi. I want you to be a lawyer.' Dream kasi niya yun nung bata siya.

"When I was in college, sabi ng tatay ko, 'Hindi ka puwede mag-artista. Kung gusto mo, Sabado at Linggo, puwede ka mag-artista. Pero you have to finish your college degree.'

"Gusto niya makatapos ako ng AB Political Science para eventually mag-law proper ako."

starting afresh via lunch date and another fpj film

Years after he graduated from college, Dennis pleaded with his father to allow him to try his luck in showbiz again.

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"Sabi ko, 'Tay, graduate na ako ng Political Science. Baka puwede naman mag-artista na muna ako bago ako mag-law proper.' So pumayag tatay ko.

"I went to one of his shootings, I was driving for him. He was doing No Retreat... No Surrender... Si Kumander."

The movie starred Fernando Poe Jr., Susan Roces, Sheryl Cruz, and then upcoming superstar Randy Santiago. It was directed by Pablo Santiago under FPJ Films.

Dennis was waiting for his father on the set of the movie when a role in the movie meant for another actor all of a sudden dropped on his lap.

Dennis Padilla gets smitten by Sheryl Cruz who was eating with

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Dennis vividly recalls: "There was one scene na may date si Sheryl and Randy.

"Meron isang villain na babastusin sila habang kumakain sila sa isang restaurant, 'tapos ipagtatanggol ni Randy. Yung character na yun, hindi dumating sa set.

"Sabi ni Pablo Santiago, 'Naku, di dumating. Papaano ang eksena rito? Kailangan marunong umarte. Babastusin si Sheryl habang naglala-lunch?'

"May nagsabi, 'Eto si Dennis na lang gamitin niyo, yung anak ni Dencio.' Ako raw. So I did that part."

No Retreat... No Surrender... Si Kumander was released in theaters in 1987.

During the filming of the movie, Dennis easily established rapport with Randy, who had observed how he did his small part well even on a short notice.

Recounting their conversation, Dennis says: "While we were shooting, sabi ni Randy, 'O, Dennis, okay ka pala. Marunong ka pala.'

"'Oo, dati rin akong artista nung bata ako. Kaya lang, nahinto kasi nag-aaral ako.'

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"'Tapos sabi niya, 'Mamaya samahan mo ako. Kasi lunch break naman. Malapit lang ang GMA-7.'

"Sabi ko, 'Bakit?' 'Meron akong noontime show, Lunch Date.' Sabi ko, 'O, sige.'

"Sumama muna ako sa kanya. Iniwanan ko muna si Tatay sa set. Pumunta kami ng GMA."

At the time, Randy was a very popular singer and host of the GMA-7 noontime show Lunch Date.

Arriving at the GMA-7 compound, Dennis was shocked to see fans going wild with excitement when they saw Randy's car.

He relates: "Pagpasok ng kotse ni Randy sa gate ng GMA, oh my god, daan-daang fans yung kumakalog ng kotse namin!

"Wala akong idea, superstar pala yung kasama ko. Si Randy Santiago superstar pala, grabe.

"Bawal sa loob pero napilitan yung guwardya papasukin yung kotse ni Randy.

"Nagkakagulo yung fans sa labas. Napaka-wild. talagang kinakalog yung auto na ganun.

"Pagbaba ko ng auto, 'Grabe, Randy, superstar ka pala.' 'Hindi naman. Meron lang tayo mga fans lang.'"

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Dennis was so impressed by Randy's popularity that it fueled his desire to return to showbiz.

He recalled asking his newfound friend-colleague a favor, "So anyway, when we went to the show proper ng Lunch Date, dun ko nakita. Grabe sikat na sikat pala ito.

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"Kinausap ko siya, 'Rands, bigyan mo naman ako ng part sa show para makabalik ako.'

"Binigyan niya ako ng part. Meron siyang ini-skit portion ng Lunch Date. From that day one na nag-start ako dun, tuluy-tuloy na yung career ko dun. Naging regular part na ako ng Lunch Date.

"Until one day, from being an extra to a supporting host, hanggang maging lead host na ako ng Lunch Date together with Randy, Giselle Sanchez, Joy Ortega.

"That was the time na nasa Broadway na kami. That was one of my biggest breaks."

10-PICTURE CONTRACT WITH VIVA FILMS

His stint in Lunch Date paved the way for Dennis to be noticed by Viva Entertainment's head honcho Vic del Rosario.

He was 29 years old at the time and still waiting for a big break in his showbiz career

He tells PEP.ph, "They were looking for a sidekick for Robin Padilla na gagawa ng first movie team-up with Sharon Cuneta.

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"Pinapuntahan ako ni Boss Vic sa Broadway. Sabi ng tao niya, 'Vic del Rosario wants to talk to you. Puwede ka ba mamaya after ng lunch break?'

"So I went to Viva office, they offered me to be the sidekick ni Robin sa movie nila ni Sharon which is the classic and blockbuster movie Maging Sino Ka Man."

Maging Sino Ka Man was released in theaters in 1991.

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After that, Dennis was immediately given a 10-picture deal by Viva Films when he went to see the film company's bigwig, known in showbiz circles as Boss Vic.

Dennis came home feeling elated over his movie deals with Viva.

His father Dencio, however, was furious that he signed a contract without telling him first.

He recalled, "Sabi niya, 'Bakit mo pinirmahan iyan? Ano ka ba? Ni hindi mo tinignan details. Di mo binigay sa akin. Dapat ako kinausap ni Boss Vic.'

"Sabi ko, 'Tay, may edad naman na ako. Alam ko na iyan.' 'Hindi. Hindi mo alam ang pasikot-sikot sa showbiz.'

"And then I showed him the contract. Sabi pa niya, 'Ano ba? Ang baba-baba ng presyo na binigay sa iyo.'

"Sabi ko, 'Tay, hayaan mo na kasi bibigyan naman nila ako ng malaking break. Siguro naman after doing this movie baka lumaki pangalan ko.'"

Dennis eventually proved to his father that he made the right decision when he started earning money from his movies.

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He also gave a portion of his salary to his parents.

Smiling, Dennis points out, "Mula noon, good shot na ulit ako sa kanya."

His first movie in a starring role was Mandurugas, which was released in 1992. The promo poster of which is still displayed at the actor's home.

"It earned about PHP25 million nung 1992. Box-office hit yun," he proudly adds.

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THREE-TIME COUNCILOR IN CALOOCAN CITY

Dennis also entered politics when he ran as a councilor in Caloocan City in 1997.

He ran for public office with then incumbent Mayor Rey Malonzo as his running mate.

"Nung 1997, the mayor of Caloocan, Rey Malonzo, he went to my house sa Caloocan. We had a casual lunch with my dad.

"Sabi ni Mayor sa akin, 'Dennis, baka gusto mo ako tulungan sa Caloocan. Kukunin kitang konsehal.'

"Ayaw ng tatay ko na naman. Alam mo naman ang erpat ko. 'Ay naku, wag mo na pasukin yang pulitika. Okay na iyang pag-aartista mo. Okay naman career mo.'"

Then Dennis went alone during his second meeting with the mayor.

"Pinaliwanag niya sa akin mundo ng pulitika. Tinanong ko rin, 'Magkano ba suweldo ng konsehal? May allowance ba ako?' Kasi I will sacrifice part of my career to do public works.

"Sabi niya, 'Yeah, I know you'll be losing this much in a month kasi you can't do movies every month if you're the city councilor of Caloocan because youll be serving 192 barangays. Think it over.'"

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Convinced by the mayor, Dennis asked for his parents' blessing to run as city councilor.

He vowed to do his best as an actor and public servant.

"During that time nag-bloom naman pareho. I was able to divide my time as an artista and as a councilor. I was working and serving our district.

"They would follow naman my schedule kasi kailangan ko rin kita ko sa movie and TV dahil di naman ganun kalaki ang kita ko as a councilor.

"Hindi rin naman ako marunong magnakaw. Hindi ko kaya."

Dennis became a city councilor for three consecutive terms from 1997 to 2007.

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SECOND WIND IN SHOWBIZ

Until now, Dennis says he could hardly believe that he still gets to do lead roles under Viva Films.

In 2019, he starred in the comedy film Sanggano, Sanggano, at Sanggwapo together with Janno Gibbs and Andrew E. The late Eddie Garcia also had a special participation in the film.

"The truth is last year nung in-offer ni Boss Vic na magbida ulit kami, parang si Andrew lang ang confident na magbida pa ulit, e.

"I was not that confident. And the same with Janno. I was calling Janno, 'Pare, magbibida pa ba tayo? Happy na tayo sa pagiging support ng bida, tatay ng bida, uncle ng bida, kuya ng bida. Okay na ako dun.

"'Kasi nung time na bida pa tayo sa pelikula, lumipas na yun. Baka ma-flop pa yung pelikula.'"

But Dennis said Vic del Rosario was determined to push through with the movie project.

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"Sabi ni Boss Vic, 'You can do it, the three of you. Marami pa rin kayong followers. ang problema lang wala silang medium or channel para makita kayo mag-perform ulit. So I'm giving you this vehicle and I trust in this vehicle.'"

Dennis also said Viva's head honcho became convinced because reruns of old movies of Dennis, Andrew E, and Janno via cable channel or through an online streaming site have been attracting high viewership.

"He decided to produce Sanggano, Sanggago at Sangwapo. It made money. Nagulat din kami sa kinita.

"Sabi ni Janno, 'May mga humahanga pa pala sa atin. Puwede pa pala tayo magpatawa.'

"So they decided to make a part 2."

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The trio joined forces again for the 2020 Metro Manila Film Fest entry Pakboys: Takusa.

Beaming, Dennis says, "So I consider this year and last year as second wind ng career ko, kung kailan ako nagkaedad."

Now that his daughter Julia Barretto is under the management of Viva Artists Agency, Dennis hopes to have a better chance to make movies with her.

"Lahat ng bida sa showbiz naging daughter ko na. Kim Chiu became my daughter for Bride For Rent. Erich Gonzales became my daughter in I Do.

"Toni Gonzaga became my daughter in a movie and teleserye. Sarah Geronimo became my daughter in Breakup Playlist.

"Si Julia na lang ang superstar na hindi ko nagiging anak sa pelikula—yung tunay kong anak."

Julia had been a talent of ABS-CBN's talent management arm Star Magic since she was nine years old. But the 21-year-old actress transferred to Viva in September 2020.

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Dennis notes, "Tignan mo, tinutugma talaga ng panahon. Viva is now handling the career of Julia. She signed a five-year contract with them. Maybe it's destined to happen."

DENNIS PADILLA'S CHILDREN AND FAMILY LIFE

When asked about his family life, Dennis is candid about having fathered seven children with three women.

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He says matter-of-factly, "I have seven children with three mothers."

He has two children with Monina Gatus: Diane, 30 and Luis, 29. Monina is the daughter of Emmanuel "Boy" Gatus, the producer of the 1980s sitcom Iskul Bukol and variety show T.O.D.A.S.

He has three children with his ex-wife Marjorie Barretto: Julia, 23, Claudia, 21 and Leon, 17. Marjorie started as an actress in the '90s and then became a councilor of Caloocan City in 2007.

Dennis's current partner Linda Gorton is a Filipino-Australian who is 23 years younger than him. They've been together since 2008.

They have two children Gavin, 8, and Maddie, 4.

MOVIES

  • Nardong Kutsero (1969)
  • Asedillo (1971)
  • Totoy Bato (1977)
  • Anak ni Waray vs Anak ni Biday (1984)
  • Taray at Teroy (1988)
  • Wanted: Pamilya Banal (1989)
  • Michael and Madonna (1990)
  • Humanap Ka ng Panget (1990)
  • Shake, Rattle & Roll II (1990) (segment "Kulam")
  • Robin Good: Sugod ng Sugod (1991)
  • Pitong Gamol (1991)
  • Ang Utol Kong Hoodlum (1991
  • Kaputol ng Isang Awit (1991)
  • Maging Sino Ka Man (1991)
  • Andrew Ford Medina: 'Wag Kang Gamol!
  • Onyong Majikero (1991)
  • Darna (1991)
  • Bad Boy II (1992)
  • Grease Gun Gang (1992)
  • Blue Jeans Gang (1992)
  • Mandurugas (1992)
  • Miss Na Miss Kita: Utol Kong Hoodlum II (1992)
  • Alabang Girls (1992)
  • Mahirap Maging Pogi (1992)
  • Row 4: Ang Baliktorians (1993)
  • Astig (1993)
  • Makuha Ka sa Tingin: Kung Puede Lang (1993)
  • Pusoy Dos (1994)
  • Pintsik (1994)
  • Kalabog en Bosyo (1994)
  • Cuadro de Jack (1994)
  • Ang Tipo Kong Lalake: Maginoo Pero Medyo Bastos (1995) S
  • Cara y Cruz: Walang Sinasanto! (1996)
  • Pablik Enemi 1 n 2: Aksidental Heroes (1997)
  • Si Mokong, Si Astig at Si Gamol (1997)
  • Takot Ako sa Darling Ko! (1997)
  • Alamid: Ang Alamat (1998)
  • Alipin ng Aliw (1998)
  • Bilib Ako sa Iyo (1999)
  • Pepeng Agimat (1999)
  • Pedro Penduko, Episode II: The Return of the Comeback (2000)
  • Basta Tricycle Driver ... Sweet Lover (2000)
  • Minsan Ko Lang Sasabihin (2000)
  • Akala Mo ... (2002)
  • Ang Tanging Ina (2003)
  • Asboobs: Asal Bobo (2003)
  • Can This Be Love (2005)
  • D' Anothers (2005)
  • Binibining K (2006)
  • My Only Ü (2008)
  • Noy (2010)
  • I Do (2010)
  • Ang Tanging Ina Mo (Last na 'To!) (2010)
  • Who's That Girl? (2011)
  • The Unkabogable Praybeyt Benjamin (2011)
  • Manila Kingpin: The Asiong Salonga Story (2011)
  • Moron 5 and the Crying Lady (2012)
  • Shake, Rattle and Roll Fourteen: The Invasion (2012)
  • El Presidente (December 25, 2012)
  • Ang Maestra (2013)
  • Raketeros (2013)
  • Sa Ngalan ng Ama, Ina, at mga Anak (2014)
  • Bride for Rent (2014)
  • Echosherang Frog (2014)
  • Maybe This Time (2014)
  • Mariquina (2014)
  • Praybeyt Benjamin 2 (2014)
  • The Breakup Playlist (2015)
  • Fruits N' Vegetables: Mga Bulakboleros (2016)
  • Can't Help Falling in Love (2017)
  • Sanggano't Sanggago't Sanggwapo (2019)
  • Pakboys: Takusa (2020)
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DENNIS'S TV SHOWS

  • Lunch Date (1987-1993)
  • Salo Salo Together (1993-1995)
  • Kate En Boogie (1993 to 1994)
  • Whattamen (2002-2004)
  • Home Along Da Airport (2003-2005)
  • Bora (2005-2006)
  • Palos (2008)
  • Parekoy (2009)
  • Angelito: Ang Batang Ama (2011-2012)
  • May Isang Pangarap (2013)
  • Alyas Robinhood (2016-2017)
  • Funny Ka, Pare Ko (2018)
  • Magkaagaw (2019)
  • The House Arrest of Us (2020)
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Comedian Dennis Padilla looks back on his showbiz beginnings starting from when he played as the young Fernando Poe Jr. to his hosting stint in Lunch Date to his second wind in showbiz at the age of 58.
PHOTO/S: Totoy Bato / @dennisastig Instagram / Mandurugas
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