(A Humbling Interview with Leo Valdez)
Prior to sitting down with Resorts World Manila’s gems, Apple Chiu and Tanya Manalang—the two actresses who made in the seven females shortlisted in the recently concluded ‘Miss Saigon’ exploratory audition exercises, we bumped into Leo Tavarro Valdez. I was fortunate to enough to have the opportunity to have a tête-à-tête with the King, prior to his contract’s ending on December 30, 2012.
Leo is King Mongkut of Siam in the latest offering of Newport Performing Arts Theater—‘The King and I’. With his portrayal of the king, the 25th Aliw Awards recognized him as Best Actor in a Musical production.
He has been playing the role since September this year and will still be doing it till May 2013, by that time—he will soon be paired by another theater stalwart, Repertory Philippines’ associate artistic director—Ms. Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo as Anna Leonowens.
Despite his stature, Valdez still remains humble and reachable by anyone. When asked how did he feel that he won the award as best actor, he flashed his kingly smile, wearing his shades and his hat (for him not to be recognized by the public where we were sitting at Starbucks), and said, “I have to say—I still felt anxious and excited at the same time.”
He is no first-timer to be named as an Aliw Awardee. He was in fact, given four recognitions, including the Best Male Performer and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. The Best Actor award—is his fifth.
“It is still refreshing to accept an award,” he added.
Leo revealed that being a performer and making it big was never his dream.
“I just want to sing. I started singing in amateur singing competitions.”
At the age of six, he sang ‘God bless You Merry Gentlemen in a church Christmas event, which afterwards, he was persuaded by his mom to sing in his school and earned awards.
When he came to the Philippines, after three years of studying architecture at a university, he went on to become one of the country’s best known performers. Also, he has ventured into musical theaters, which he earned the role of the ‘Engineer’ in the hit musical that Filipinos are highly identified with due to Miss Lea Salonga’s fame as Kim in ‘Miss Saigon’. But with all these, Valdez remains the unassuming actor-performer.
Valdez is an epitome of an artist that whatever success he has earned over the years—he has remained the humble Leo and has valued every journey he has gone through to reach where he is right now. He values hard work, the discipline, focus, and the love for his craft. He is grateful to God for blessing him good health in order to excel in his performances.
For him, every member of the audience deserves his 100% commitment to deliver a great show, which he believes many of which are watching and learning about the production[s] for the first time, he has done.
Also, Leo always put weight on the ‘trust’, the love and friendship that he has developed with everyone who helped him to get through all successes he has.
“I value the trust that Sir Mackintosh gave me by leading many of ‘Miss Saigon’ productions in many parts of the world; working with some of the best stage directors and artists there is; I have had the privilege of sharing the stage with.”
As a performer and an artist, he appreciates the standing ovations and the warmest of reception accorded by the audience every time he has his shows.
In receiving awards, he has this to say: “I value the awards without underestimating the honors and the responsibility that go with them. They are wonderful icing on the cake.”