[1 of 3] Falling Deeply For His First Love, The World Of Theater: How Papa Neil Tolentino Crafted His Journey Following His Passion - The Best Filipino Motivational and Inspirational Speaker | The VoiceMaster of The Philippines

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Wednesday, November 27, 2019

[1 of 3] Falling Deeply For His First Love, The World Of Theater: How Papa Neil Tolentino Crafted His Journey Following His Passion

A veteran theater actor, dubbing director, playwright, and ADR scriptwriter are just a few of the numerous accolades under Papa Neil Tolentino's colorful career. In the industry of dubbing, he spearheaded as a director those classic Koreanovela, Mexican telenovelas, and anime series including Daniela's Diary, Stained Glass, Lovers in Paris, Rubi, Streetfighter, Princess Lulu, Dos Amores, and Gata Salvaje. 

Moreover, he is a pioneer instructor of VoiceWorx from its early batches back to 2005 and until the last class for Batch 50. He helped more than a hundred aspiring voice artists to jumpstart their career in dubbing and voice acting. 

In this 3-part article interview, know more about the veteran director through his first love, the world of theater. 

Papa Neil Tolentino for "Sindak 1941" (Photo credit: Vino Oriarte)

Discovering The Passion For Theater In His School Days: A Prodigy Excelling In Different Fields

Papa Neil's immersion and familiarity with theater started in his early pre-teen years. It wasn't an ordinary exploration as he was immediately trusted with his first big role. He reminisced as well as how he excelled in the other areas and discipline not related to theater. He recalled, "Una akong nagteatro, I was 11-yrs old. First time kong mag-theater 11-yrs old doing “Juan Tamban” so bida kaagad. Tapos grumaduate na ako ng elementary, nag-highschool ako sa special science high school. So paano nagkita yung science at arts? From 1st yr to 4th yr, mas science ako then I learned that I could write. May mga classroom plays lang and we have to write our own materials so natuto ako. Doon naman ako nagsimulang magsulat. Then, merong mga performances like contest-contest sa school, sali ako at nanalo like singing contest. Basta may contest sasali ako. Then, I’m a sports guy, swimmer ako eh. Yun ang nakakaloka: napagsama ko ang sports, arts, science...and I’m excelling in all fields kung ano yung pupuntahan ko. Medalist ako ng swimming. Lumalaban ako ng national quiz bee for history. Tapos nag-aaral ako sa isang science school. Tapos I’m very passionate about the arts. So nagsama-sama yun, di ba magkaiba yun? Magkakaibang disiplina yun eh at favorite subject ko math. Malabo for an artist to be a math lover. Ako kasi ganun, I love math and I enjoyed the arts so much."

Committed to learn and grow more in the artistry of theater, Papa Neil ventured out on auditioning for a prestigious acting workshop. This further honed his craft in theater as he learned from the experts and veterans in the industry. He shared, "Tapos after high school, I auditioned for scholarship on acting ng Actors’ Foundation Workshop. Ito yun kina Leo Martinez, Johnny Delgado...so out of a thousand plus who auditioned, I was one of the lucky 24. Nag-contract kami, under two years kaming contract. Then nagkaroon kami ng training on acting under kay Eric Morris. Then we have Dan Villegas for movement, being one with Michael De Mesa, improv with Leo Martinez. Ganun yun mga dinaanan. Inaral ko yung pag-arte."

Even in his college years, he relentlessly pursued the art of theater, "Noong college, pumasok ako sa FEU. Bago FEU, BS Math muna ako sa Earist. Tapos sabi ko, ‘Ay di ko matatapos kasi naging busy ako sa teatro’. Ang nangyari lumipat naman ako ng FEU. Sabi ko eeny meeny miny moe ako, pinagpilian ko Nursing, Med Tech, o Mass Comm. Eeny meeny miny moe lumabas Mass Comm so Mass Comm ako nag-enroll. Then meron doon na drama classes. Merong FEU Theater Guild so I become a member of it. Naging officer ako ng speech arts club. Then kinain na ako ng theater. Noong kinain ako ng theater, immersed na talaga, I left school kung kailan 4th year na ako."

Papa Neil Tolentino as Igme for the musical "Himala"

Learning Intensively In Theater While Entering An Open Door For Dubbing

Papa Neil completely embraced his passion for theater that he rose to the challenges. Not only did he become a playwright and actor but he also learned to do stage management, production design, make-up, and other equally important tasks to present a full production play. "I started in Tanghalang Pilipino. I applied for apprentice lang ako for stage management. Eh Totay Bibo ako. Kapag wala yung isang artista, ako yung stand-in. Natuwa siguro yun direktor ko noon na si Dennis Faustino who directed “Walang Sugat” before. Sinama niya ako sa cast. Naging staff na ako, cast member pa ako so double compensation. Then kasama ako sa lahat ng tour nila. From then on, I decided theater yung life na gusto ko, performing.", he said.

However, life has a series of ups and downs. A true fighter won't sulk in a corner but instead, he will make the most out of the opportunities and challenges. At one point in Papa Neil's early adolescent year, he decided to leave his first love, the theater. But, it became an added blessing as he accepted the chance to enter the world of dubbing. He narrated, "Maraming pang mga plays pero at 22 nag-asawa na ako. I’m forced to leave the world of theater and concentrate more on dubbing. It was 1994 that Danny Mandia asked me through Ronnie Abario to write ADR Scriptwriting. Si Tatay Danny nagsabi sa akin ng ‘Gawin mo lang, translate it beautifully and synched it.’ Yun lang instructions niya sa akin. Tapos si Ronnie, siya yun writer ng pilot show, hindi kaya kasi may directing project na siyang dumating. First directing project niya so ako yung nagsulat. 47 episodes yun, akin lahat yun. That’s my first time to write."

His in-depth skills in acting had given him more avenues to showcase his other competencies for dubbing. One opportunity after another led him to be entrusted as a dubbing director. Papa Neil recalled, "Bago ako pumasok sa dubbing, it was early parts of 1994 I had a taping of Hiraya Manawari sa ABS. Active actor naman ako eh. Vangie Labalan heard my voice so she invited me to be part of Marimar. That’s my first dubbing experience doing three different characters. Na-enjoy ko naman yung ganun. Then I have to leave kasi may theater. The calling of theater is always stronger. First love eh so doon talaga ako. Then come 1998, I became a director through Lyra Mae Padilla. She recommended me to Milette Santos-Mortiz sa project na Fortune Quest. Nagsusulat lang ako tapos nirecommend ako kasi noong nag-dudub sila walang direktor, ako naman nandun just to see how my script goes. Natuwa si Nanay Milette that she was there. Ako direk nang direk pero di ko pa alam gumamit ng “talk back”. I give instructions nang sumisigaw ako. Pumapasok boses ko sa booth, sobrang lakas. Yun pala may pinipindot para marinig nila. From then on, naging direktor na ako from 1998 until the present I’m still in ABS-CBN."

As Papa Neil is always grounded to his roots, he never forgets his struggling days as he asked for financial support from Danny Mandia for his own family. It never crossed his mind that he will become a dubbing director in the future as it wasn't part of his plans. His humility have brought him to bigger breaks on this other side of his career. "I’m with Koreanovelas, telenovelas...ang daming hit: Daniela’s Diary, Paloma, Gata Salvaje, Rubi. We have beautiful telenovelas before. Pero nag-start akong mag-dub kay Danny (Mandia) din eh, noong nangungutang ako sa kanya noong 1993. Pinag-dudub niya ako ng Poseidon saka ng Ultraman Ace. Pero nangungutang lang ako doon and I never really enjoyed dubbing. Pero di ko alam mag-didirek ako sa future, wala akong iniisip nang ganon. Pumunta ako ng ABS (ABS-CBN) para mangutang kasi wala na akong pambiling gatas ng panganay ko.", he recalled. 

Papa Neil Tolentino as Gorio for "Sindak 1941" (Photo Credit: Vino Oriarte)

Working With Your Passion: Papa Neil's Reminder To A Fulfilling Career

Papa Neil admitted that he is truly an artistic person and loves interacting to more people. A monotonous routine in his career would be detrimental to his health and career. This is why he always finds joy, purpose, and passion in the commitments entrusted to him. He never wants to call it a job. He explained, "Kapag dumating ako sa point na pag trabaho na ang tingin ko, ibig sabihin hindi na ako masaya. When I don’t enjoy going to the studio anymore...when I dread the time nakikita ko mga dubbers ko then I know hindi ako masaya sa proyekto ko o sa katrabaho. Yun lang naman ang gauge ko. Masayahin ako. Ayoko ng problema. Ayoko ng issues. Ayoko ng drama. Maganda ang buhay. Let’s be more appreciative of all the things we see, be it good or bad. Appreciate them and take them in. Enjoy them for whatever they’re worth. Ang magandang guro ng buhay ay ang karanasan natin, mabuti man o masama. Hindi mo ma-eenjoy yun saya kung hindi ka nalungkot, di ba? Kailangan mong daanan lahat yan. Kung saktan ka during the process, part yun. It’s given or it’s bound to happen. Enjoy it, such is life! Ganun lang ako lagi. Di ba sinasabi nila ‘You move on. You move forward. If you’re not happy, you move out.’ Quotable post, di ba! Hahahaha!"

Achieving more than his personal goals, he had long time began giving back to the community by means of spreading love through his love for art. He proudly shared, "Ngayon, dubbing director ako at theater actor pa rin ako. I enjoyed acting and directing at the same time doing my advocacy of promoting love for the art para yun ang maging instrument ng kabataan, para matuto sila at learn to love people. Yung tao matuto magmahal ng sining at sa kapwa."

Truly, a clear indicator of success and happiness in one's life and career is when a person chooses his passion more than the promises of job security like how Papa Neil Tolentino  worked tremendously to attain it. Find out more about the veteran director in the next parts of this article interview. 

Papa Neil Tolentino for Himala

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