THE GIFTED FANNY SERRANO
In 1978, my girlfirend was a fashion model for Girard Peter Models. I was writing dramas for television that time. I don't watch any of the shows of the Girard Peter models, but one day my girlfriend insisted that I should watch, and I did. It was a dinner show at a plush night club in Ermita. The first thing that surprised me was that one of my friends at the YMCA, Henry Cando, was also part of the Girard Peter Models. His job in the show was to lift the women models, including my girlfriend. Henry and I worked out together at the YMCA GYM on Arroceros Street, with Joey Sanchez (Gino Antonio). Henry never told me and Joey that he was doing some modelling jobs. Nevertheless, it was a bit of surpise for both of us, because he didn’t know either that one of his co-workers was my girlfriend.
So there we were, laughing at each other while the models changed costumes. The intermission was a group called PAPERDOLLS. When they started their act, I had to watch them because they were very good. One of the members of the group was quite a looker. She performed so gracefully, and she was indeed a stunning woman. So I asked Henry who she was. Henry laughed so hard and said: “Man, he’s not a woman. He’s an impersonator. His name is Fanny Serrano.”
I was stunned. I really thought he was a woman. I looked at him again, and watching him perform showed no scintilla of evidence that he was indeed a he. Graceful movement, soft features, and a beautiful face – but a face that exuded some sadness, some vulnerability that almost broke my heart.
“I’ve got to talk to him,” I told my friend.
“I’m in-love with his face!” I said, and Henry blurted out laughing.
After the show, my girlfriend, Henry and I went to see Fanny. I introduced myself to him and I realized that his face was even more feminine tête-à-tête. I asked him if he had any experience in acting. He said no, only impersonating.
“Would you like to act with Rosa Rosal?” I asked him.
“Are you kidding?” he said, smiling.
I told him that his performance inspired me to write an episode of ULILA, and by just watching his movements, I just knew that he can act. He agreed, and I told him that I will let the studio send a script when I’m done with it.
The episode of ULILA was called FARIDA. It was the story of Alfredo, Jr., a.k.a. Farida (Fanny Serrano) a womanish-looking young man who was working as an impersonator in a gay bar without his father’s knowledge. He thought that something was wrong with him because he was feeling dizzy all the time. In their neighborhood, the macho men imbibibng alcohol outside made Farida the butt of their jokes. Unfortunately, his gayness was affecting his younger brother (played by Caloi Pimentel) who got teased a lot by his peers just because his older borther was gay. He would come home bleeding from fisticuffs. This constant rigmarole irked his father Alfredo, Sr. (Rolly Papasin). Alfredo Sr. punished Farida by hitting him so hard and dragging him out of the house and disowning his Junior because the latter was bringing nothing but shame in the family. The pleadings of Farida’s mother Tinay (Rosa Rosal) fell on deaf ears.
Farida stayed with his friends in the gaybar. A male dancer named Erwin (Rafael Lucas) was the most caring in the joint. Erwin was a komiks illustrator who was being paid so low that he had to moonlight as a macho dancer in the bar to finish his university degree. Farida was glad that Erwin was trying to strive for a better life. Farida had the same dream. He was trying to save up some money so he could go to college and change his life, and be accepted by his father and hoping that someday, his father would finally be proud of him. But for now, impersonation was the only available job for him that would pay better to fulfill his dream. One of the other impersonator in the club was UBANGGA (Joey Galvez) a dark complexioned funny impersonator who was also kind to Farida.
One day, Farida collapsed. He had an inoperable brain tumor. Ubangga and Erwin went to see his father but he refused to allow his son back to his house. Farida died. Tinay went to the hospital and hugged her son’s cold body. Alfredo Sr remained firm, unrelenting, untouched by his son’s death. But after the burial which he did not attend, we see him late at night, boozing up alone at the dining table, then shoving the bottles of alcohol and weeping, his whole frame shaking. He lost his son, after all. The son he loved but refused to tell him so when he was still alive.
This father and son story was directed by Mario O’hara, and during the taping, Mario and I were both stunned when almost all of the crew were deeply affected by the scenes involving Rosa Rosal, Rolly Papasin and Fanny Serrano. Many became tearful. Danny Vibas, a movie reporter, approached me after the scene where Fanny was beaten by Rolando Papasin, and whispered to me: “Joemarie, it’s too violent. I’ve never expected it this way,” he said, removing his glasses, and wiping his tears.
My hunch was right, after all. Fanny Serrano was indeed a fantastic actor. He played his role as if he was a veteran performer. He was the only new actor who made the crew react this way. When the episode aired, BBC-Channel 2 was stormed by phone calls. Televiewers where asking who Fanny Serrano was. It was the first time they saw him perform and yet his performance struck their hearts and minds. When TV week magazine came out, there were requests from viewers to cast Fanny again in future episodes.
Meanwhile, I got all the flak from the gay community. Many were mad at me for writing an episode about a gay person, which they claimed, of which I had no idea what it's all about to be gay. They accused me of ostracizing the gays by making the father beat the gay son unabashedly. They even told me to do another episode, but make sure that the gay son will fight back and kill his father! There was even a TV producer who confronted me after the taping, accusing me of being so irresponsible for writing a lifestyle that I was totally ignorant of. He even threatened me to bring up the matter to the Benedictos and he will do his best to yank me out of all my TV shows. He went on saying that if it were him who was being abused by his father, there is no doubt he's going to retaliate. Quietly, I told him: "well, why don't you write a script about that?" The more he got mad and screamed. "From now on, I don't want to see your face ever again. Just be careful. All the gays in UP are fuming mad!" He left and had never spoken to me again. I was not yanked out from the network, and the young producer suddenly disppeared. After six months, I asked Marcial Sanson where the guy was. Marcial told me that the guy was diagnosed with cancer of the mandible and died a few weeks after being diagnosed. The gays from UP never confronted me.
But going back to Fanny Serrano, his impersonation scenes as Carole King were fabulous. After being thrown out by his father, the next scene became so heart-rending when he performed “You’ve got a friend”, where Erwin and Ubangga were watching him. His costume was amazing, and he was the one who made it. I wrote several more episodes with Fanny Serrano in them and all of them had accented his wonderful gift in acting. What’s really funny was that Fanny killed Rolly Papasin in an episode called WALANG HANGGAN ANG DILIM NG GABI. In this episode, singer Romy Mallari played Fanny’s younger brother, and I was in disbelief when Romy performed the role so well. I never knew the guy was an amazing actor as well.
There you go, folks. Fanny Serrano is not just a very talented beauty specialist that many of you know him to be. He is also a very talented impersonator, actor and costume designer. A multi-talented individual that the Philippines can be really proud of.
Thank you, Fanny Serrano. You’re not only a wonderful actor and beauty specialist par excellence, but you are also an amazing person. Mabuhay ka.