Thursday, February 11, 2010


It’s 11 in the evening and I finally see him. He still looks fresh and camera-ready, that John ‘Sweet’ Lapus, who spread the contagious ‘Dizzizzit’ catch-phrase and who occasionally imitated Sheryl Cruz, stands near the hotel entrance, taking a whiff of the Makati air.

He turns to his side and sees me approaching. “Chuchie?” he asks, as if I had been her long lost kababata. I acknowledge.

Then the chit-chat starts.

“Nagpunta ako sa lamay last night. How ironic sa lamay ng mother ni Direk Wenn Deramas ako nakaramdam ng happiness. Nakita ko kasi yung mga old friends from ABS-CBN.”

Cutting off, he asks me to join him in his suite, where he stays for the night for a show the morning after, to continue the interrupted talk.

In his room, he preps his chameleon face for a post-interview photo shoot while the question and answer carries on.

What is your definition of laughter? I ask. “For me laughter is the sound of happiness,” he answers in the middle of foundation and concealer application. “For me all people who laugh because they are happy. It’s as simple as that. And at that very moment they laughed, I believe that they were very happy. Nowadays we really need laughter because of what’s happening in our country, in our economy, and in the entire world for that matter. We all deserve to laugh at least once in a while.”

This part of the conversation, commencing a few days after Ondoy’s onslaught, is filled with emotions and sympathy to the afflicted. With this, Sweet refers to laughter, coupled with profound and heartfelt prayer, as the “perfect weapon of our community who is now suffering so much. Prayer and laughter are for free and very accessible. I recommend that. Isip tayo ng ganung slogan tapos pagawa tayo ng maraming sticker.”

He stifles a snicker.

“Hindi naman ako ganun kayaman para mag donate ng ganun kalaking halaga, maliban sa pagvovolunteer nagdadasal ako ng bonggang bongga,” he says. “I take refuge in knowing that there is a God and that He is powerful, He will provide and He will save us. Sabi nga ni Santino, may bukas pa. magdasal ka lang and everything will be ok.”

The Show Must Go On

Seeing Sweet prep for the shoot, a comparison surfaces. His life as a comedian, actor and television host is as intricate and as thorough as the way he applies his MAC eyeshadow. “Kailangan bongga ang itsura ko sa picture, kailangan fresh na fresh!” he says. I thought, could be because he doesn’t want the world to see that he, too, is tired? That he, too, is in pain?

“To be honest, I’m sure most comedians would agree, kaming mga komedyante, kami yung may angst at malulungkot ang buhay. Kapag nasa stage na pag nasa tv na ang galing nilang magpatawa pero deep inside malungkot talaga. The show must go on.”

Living the Sweet life

Despite the downsides, prayer and a hefty sense of humor have catapulted Sweet to that bull’s eye of fame where only few comedians have triumphed to hit. That same bull’s eye, perhaps, is bound to give him his very own house and lot.

“Wala kasi akong sariling bahay at lupa kaya tanggap ako ng tanggap ng labada,” he quips. “I have Showbiz Central every Sunday. The following weeks I’ll be taping my new show in GMA 7 with Richard Gutierrez and Heart Evangelista. I also have a sitcom Show Me Da Manny.”

In between, he was able to do a movie with Senator Bong Revilla in Panday, which will be for the Metro Manila Film Festival. He’ll also be doing a Shake, Rattle and Roll movie and Nieves with Marian Rivera.

“Madami akong raket ngayon. Tapings, shootings, live shows, pictorials, ribbon cutting, baptismal, confirmation, minsan nga eh tatanggap na rin ako ng babang luksa, tulian session, tumatanggap na rin ako ng ganyan ngayon.”

Wow escapes from my mouth, the sole word that I can pronounce after his litany of projects. “Pero lahat naman support lang,” he is quick to add. “Like yung sa Panday, isa akong baklang mananggal, the first ever baklang mananggal in Philippine movie history. Sa Shake, Rattle and Roll I’ll be the designer who gets killed by a mysterious wedding gown. And yung sa Nieves naman I’ll be a gay mermaid. O di ba? Baklang sirena naman ako! Bongga!”

He giggles.

When translated to the English language, the word bakla or bading means GAY. He seconds it by saying that gays live up to their moniker, that they are really happy, and that it’s rare to see one so sullen. In fact, he adds that gays are easily spotted because of their wacky and bubbly nature.

Laughter, still the best FREE medicine.

Hearing his subtle giggle, I quickly ask, what can you say about those people who take life seriously? He takes a deep breath and shifts his seat to face me. “Ay nako! Ma-stress sila at baka atakihin sila sa puso. So if you take life seriously mamamatay ka sa stress because life is serious itself. From global warming to recession, to sickness and death. Wake up! Live life to the fullest! Parang ang panget naman kung namatay ka ng malungkot or namatay ka ng seryoso at least namatay ka naman na may ngiti sa iyong mga labi. ”

I am almost done with my incessant querries and he, too, is doing the finishing touches on his face when I hit the follow-up. How can laughter contribute to one’s wellness? Is it that effective?

“Ah, very effective!” he says with utmost conviction. “I have seen people who have great bodies but when you look at their faces they look sad, they look depressed because they don’t laugh; they don’t appreciate the good things in life. “

True in every sense of the word, Sweet’s statement somehow fits snuggly in nooks and crannies of the aesthetically-enhanced world today. “Ang iniisip lang nila yung mga bagay na pangit, mga bagay na malungkot, mga bagay na nangyari sa kanila thus making them more and more depressed. So to counter that depression ang ginagawa nila nag-eexercise sila oo nga gumaganda yung katawan nila pero yung well-being, yung utak mo. You hit the gym para gumanada katawan mo pero yung mind set mo naman hindi maganda and I’ve seen people, friends even, na ang ganda ng katawan pero malungkot.”

Bee Happy

Destined for great belly-aching laughter, the word happiness clings to Sweet the way a Siamese twin would. His answer to my question, what would your profession be had you not become a celebrity is a sharp one.

In a snap, he kids he probably would have been one of Jollibee’s prized mascots.

“Malamang ‘pag nalaos ako mag apply ako sa Jollibee kahit mascot lang basta ma-fulfill ko lang yung dream ko na maging part ng Jollibee. Dun ako sa loob ng Jollibee na sumasayaw sayaw, magaling ata akong sumayaw!”

A Piece of Peace

“When you laugh there’s this sense of joy and sense of lightness, and a piece of peace. After my death, I’d want to them to remember that to the very day I died I entertained people. Bongga yun,” he concludes—and smiles.

(published in Laughter as Medicine section of ZEN Health Magazine November-December 2009)

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