Charmed life of Miguel Castro

Raising the curtains 
By Walter Ang
July-September 2006 issue
Metro Him magazine

After Miguel Castro decided to leave his bucolic childhood in Lipa behind to pursue higher studies in the loud and crazy streets of Manila, he soon had to choose between college, his job, and pursuing his growing interest for the performing arts.

The stage wooed him over from the classroom and he hasn't looked back since. While Miguel is soft-spoken and projects a come-what-may attitude, a relentless zeal for theater broils behind those limpid eyes.

Cutting his teeth with Gantimpala Theater Foundation, Miguel started out developing his acting chops under the tutelage of theater pillars Tomy Abuel, Mia Gutierrez, and Roni Lazaro. Since then, he's essayed character roles and lead roles, protagonists and antagonists. He's also forayed into broadcast with occasional roles in television drama anthologies. He's currently in ABS-CBN's "Bituing Walang Ningning" in a supporting role.

Miguel eventually tested his mettle in related disciplines like writing and directing. Just recently, he translated and adapted Arthur Schnitzler's "La Ronde" (the play that Nicole Kidman's "Blue Room" was adapted from) into a treatise on Pinoy machinations of love and power called "Laro."

Not one to back down from exploring self-expression, during a time in his life where he was "surrounded by writers like Danton Remoto and Rinehartt Linmark," Miguel was also inspired to write short stories. One of his works, "Lucy," was eventually included in an anthology of short stories.

Aside from just committing his thoughts to paper, this second of ten siblings also works with paper. During one summer hiatus from the theater season, "I helping out my grandfather and father in our family bookbinding business and, out of boredom, I started designing some paper products like boxes. Friends saw what I did and my business, Castro Designs, grew from there." The business grew exponentially, bringing Miguel to different countries to meet clients and establishing him in Manila as the premier designer and supplier of Venetian masks.

While serendipity seems to play a constant role in Miguel's life, giving him the leeway to explore his other interests, he always returns to his theater roots. "In fact, even if my business has become the main source of income for my family, I see it simply as a way to supplement my career in theater," he states.

There didn't seem to be anything else that Miguel would want, except one thing. "For fourteen years, I was told that I couldn't sing," he confesses. Then along came a little musical called "St. Louis Loves Dem Filipinos" that finally changed everything. Not only was Miguel cast in a singing role, it was the lead no less.

Getting pointers from cast-mate Lionel Guico, Miguel immersed himself in the milieu and immediately felt right at home. "I always get very nervous in the few minutes before the curtain rises when I do plays. But when I was doing St. Louis, I never got nervous, I always got excited." Finding himself in a breakout position was such a memorable experience for Miguel that "[St. Louis] erased the memories of all the past roles that I have ever done. It is now my favorite production."

Encouraged by glowing reviews, Miguel has even ventured to produce an album. A collection of "narrative ballads," the album brings together new compositions that have a theatrical sensibility mixed with a pop edge. "I was able to get my good friend composer Vince de Jesus to allow me to sing the songs he had written. I picked out songs that I liked and since Vince is also a theater artist, we understood what the other wanted. We wanted a sound that "sounded" like it was from a musical."

As the curtains rise on yet another act in the charmed life of Miguel, audiences will have the chance to see another side of him in this album sassily titled "Miguel Castro Sings."