After his supporting roles in A Very Special Love and You Changed My Life, Rowell Santiago takes on a role in the teleserye Tanging Yaman. But the ‘80s actor-turned-director was quick to clarify that he has no plans to make it his full-time career anytime soon. “Hindi ko tinalikuran ang pagiging director ko. Actually I am doing a concert for Martin (Nievera) and Pops (Fernandez) in February. Bago ko ito tinanggap nakalatag na rin naman yung mga gagawin ko. Regarding the future, it really depends. But definitely yung job ko as a director pa rin ang priority ko. Although maluwag sa dibdib ko na gawin ito dahil gustong-gusto ko yung mga katrabaho ko. Nae-enjoy ko ang behind the scene sa teleseryeng ito,” he shared during the press con of Tanging Yaman last January 4.
Rowell didn’t want to accept the project at first because he is familiar with the “horror stories” about the long working hours on the set. But he couldn’t resist the chance to play the role of Juan Policarpio, a fireman whose heroic deeds will pave the way for him to become the future president of the Philippines. “To be honest, it took ABS-CBN to really court me because I don’t think I can do it with my schedule. Never in my life din ako nagkaroon ng teleserye. So it took me one or two weeks to really say yes dahil sinabi ko sa kanila na kung gagawa ako ng isang teleserye, tatak ABS-CBN na dahil dun sila magaling. At masaya ako dahil may kabuluhan at napapanahon ang kwento ng Tanging Yaman,” he related.
Asked if he has someone in mind when portraying his character, Rowell revealed that his look is actually inspired by the late Senator Ninoy Aquino. “Alam kong mahirap ang working hours, so nagbakasyon muna ako sa Hong Kong. [Part of my preparation] is to look for a pair of glasses so nagpunta ako sa isang store. I wanted something different from the one I used in my last two films. May isinukat ako and nung tiningnan ko yung sarili ko sa salamin, nagulat ako kasi parang salamin ni Ninoy,” he exclaimed. But before anyone could start speculating about his statement, he was quick to say that he’s not trying to endorse anyone through his character in the story. “Ako na yata ang pinaka-apolitical na tao. I don’t even have a presidentiable at the moment. Kailangan ko lang talaga ng salamin para hindi mangawit yung mata ko sa [contact lens] plus makakabuti rin para sa script.”
With the 2010 elections coming up, the entertainment press couldn’t help but relate the political issues in Tanging Yaman with real-life situations. One example is the part where Mylene Dizon gets to be the chief of staff when her brother Rowell takes over the presidency. Given the chance to be in that same position, will he also let his sister call the shots in running the country just because she seems to be more knowledgeable than him? “Hindi naman completely walang alam yung character ni Juan Policarpio kasi kahit fireman siya sa una, grinoom naman siya para maging mayor, tapos senador bago maging presidente. [Pero sa tanong ninyo kung ia-allow ko ang kapatid ko] na siyang magpatakbo ng bansa kung halimbawang ako’y maging presidente, parang bakit ako pa ang iboboto ninyo? Sana siya na lang. So sa personalidad ko, hindi [ako papayag na mangyari yun]. Kung binoto ako ng tao, dapat ako mismo [ang umaksyon]. Kung may pagkakamali ako, dapat ako ang sumagot. Hindi ako aangkas sa dunong ng ibang tao,” he answered.