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Gerald Santos: Filipino performing artist in London and Copenhagen

Gerald Santos: Filipino performing artist in London and Copenhagen

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Playing the role of Thuy in the international production of Miss Saigon in Denmark and the UK, Gerald gets the chance to experience the life of an expat in Europe.


When Gerald Padua Santos, 32, was declared the champion of GMA7´s Pinoy Pop Superstar in 2006, never in his wildest dreams did he imagine that one day he would be part of one of the world’s most prestigious musicals and live in two of Europe’s most exciting cities. 

The Navotas-born singer, tagged as the Prince of Ballad, started singing at seven and began competing in amateur singing contests at ten. Because of his beautiful voice, he was always made to belt the national anthem during flag ceremonies, sing at family gatherings, even in wakes.

At 15, after joining almost 50 amateur singing competitions, he and his dad lined up at 4AM alongside thousands of applicants to audition for the second season of Pinoy Pop Superstar Reality TV singing competition. He made the cut to compete in the weekly episodes and was eventually declared the season´s grand winner. 

His victory made him an all-around star composing songs, waxing albums, staging concerts, winning entertainment awards left and right, hosting in variety shows and acting in TV series, documentaries and films.

Falling in love with theater

It was his role as Rizal in Gantimpala Theatre Foundation’s Sino Ka Ba, Jose Rizal that introduced him to the world of theater. Working with seasoned actors, he learned the importance of discipline and the genuine bond among the cast. “It was an eye-opener. I fell in love with theater,” says Gerald when we meet up for an interview. He is visiting Barcelona  for a couple of days before going back to the Philippines after his stint in the Danish production of Miss Saigon came to an end.

Ten years after he won the competition, his career hit a snag. Projects became thin on the ground and new artists were taking the spotlight. He considered quitting showbiz but before he could throw in the towel, a curious case of providence would redirect his career path.

“I was doing Pedro Calungsod the musical when British theatrical producer Cameron Mackintosh´s team was in Manila scouting for actors for the UK/International production of Miss Saigon.”

– Gerald Santos
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Theatre actor Gerald Ramos played a total of 617 performances as Thuy in London and Copenhagen.

Gerald auditioned for Thuy, a Viet Cong officer and one of the antagonists. Betrothed to his cousin Kim, Thuy completes the love triangle with Chris, the American soldier Kim is in love with. “I don’t think Thuy is a villain, he is just misunderstood, a victim of circumstances. I really wanted to play him.” 

Gerald will never forget the day the big news came. “I got an email telling me I got the part on Christmas eve! I cried, I was jumping. God was telling me not to give up.” In May 2017, he arrived in London to begin his expat journey.

First taste of expat life

Despite it being his first time living abroad, Gerald fared fairly well in adapting to his new lifestyle. “I learned to cook!” Rehearsals were every Monday to Saturday, 9AM to 6PM. On Sundays, he stayed at home to rest, taking extra care of his voice and health not wanting to miss a performance. “Whenever Cameron came for a visit, we were excited and nervous. But he was really nice.”

The opening night at Curve Theatre came after months of watertight preparations. “I prepared myself emotionally and physically. I slept for seven hours the night before, drank a lot of vitamins and steamed my vocal cords.” The  producers were in full force, so were the critics. Gerald was so nervous he almost threw up. “But my nerves helped me tackle my first scene which was an intense confrontation with Kim.”

The reviews came out and the critics didn’t fail to notice his moving performance. One critic highlighted his powerful voice and one mentioned his unnerving turn as Thuy. “There was one article with a photo where I was lying down after being shot. I was teary eyed. I took some photos and sent them to my family and my manager back home. The producers congratulated us personally.”

London life suited Gerald well. Even though he was performing eight shows a week, he still found time to go out with his cast mates and travel in and out of London.

“I was enjoying my life. I even acquired a British accent. London is cold but I love it, I love the culture, the people.”

– Gerald Santos
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Gerald appreciates the kindness of kababayans in London and Copenhagen.

And just like most OFWs, he also sent money home. His hectic timetable notwithstanding, there were times when he would miss his family and his dogs.

Gerald had performed a total of 553 shows and saying goodbye to Thuy on their last night in March 2019 was very emotional. “I was going to miss everybody.” While in London, he auditioned for the role of Marius in Les Miserables, his dream role. He reached the third stage of the audition but COVID-19 happened. “It was not my time yet.”

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Playing Thuy one more time

Gerald went back to the Philippines to revive his showbiz career. He got  the part of Anthony Hope in the musical Sweeney Todd together with Lea Salonga. But it seemed that he was not over playing Thuy just yet. In 2021, he got an offer to reprise his role in the Danish production of Miss Saigon. “At first, I was hesitant. My career was picking up. Besides, I was a bit scared of the language.” In the end, Gerald relented.

In December 2022, armed with a 3-month Danish language course, Gerald was back in Europe. “I was so happy. I had missed European life. Danish people are very kind. They have this work-life balance principle.” Now that he was more mature and no longer new to living abroad, his second take at expat life proved to be a breeze. 

By now, he must have known Thuy like the back of his hand, but playing the role in Danish is such a  big challenge. “I learned not to overthink. I will forget my lines and lyrics if I do. And I can’t add-lib in Danish!” Gerald did a total of 64 performances in Copenhagen.

The idea of staying behind also entered his mind but he saw that there were few roles for Asian actors in Denmark. “At the moment, home is where my next destination is. I have new projects waiting for me there.” 

Upon returning home in July this year, Gerald´s work in Miss Saigon earned him the Outstanding International Filipino Performer award from the Philippine Finest Business  Awards group, the Distinct Outstanding Theatre Singer/Actor of the year from the Philippine Distinct  Men and Women of Excellence and the Outstanding International Filipino Artist of the year award from Asia Pacific Luminare Awards. 

“Living abroad has given me a wider view of the world and has deepened my admiration for Filipino expats. Expat life is not easy. You need luck. You have to be independent, mentally and spiritually strong. I saw the kabutihan ng puso at galing of our kababayans. I have so much respect for them.”

– Gerald Santos
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Gerald is not closing his doors on another chance of living an expat life in the future. As long as he can sing, he can be anywhere in the world. “Singing is my purpose. I feel alive when I sing and being in this industry is like in a marathon. It is not a sprint race, you are  constantly running.  Just never give up.”

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