Willie Nepomuceno, also known as Willie Nep…
Willie Nepomuceno, also known as Willie Nep, is an impersonator and television, stage, and film actor. He was born in Marikina. He is the eldest son of Leonardo Nepomuceno, a policeman and amateur boxer, and Francisca, a beautician and pianist. He graduated with a degree in fine arts at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman in 1971. He took a short course at the Asian Institute of Management, and also studied voice and musical composition under the tutelage of famous baritone and voice teacher Aurelio Estanislao.
While a student at UP, he was active in campus politics. He was the founding chair of the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan, served as managing editor of the student publication Philippine Collegian, a member of the UP Student Council, was with the speakers bureau of the Movement for a Democratic Philippines, and was with the historic Diliman Commune in 1971. He was active in pre-martial law protest rallies in the 1960s and 1970s where he agitated demonstrators with his witty and hard-hitting impersonation of President Ferdinand Marcos. In 1970, he delivered his own state of the nation before fellow student protesters when Marcos addressed Congress on the state of the nation.
While a university student, he worked as a graphic artist at ABS-CBN in the late 1960s. His first appearance on television was as an occasional guest in the gag show Super Laff-In, 1970-72, ABS-CBN. He left television when martial law was declared in 1972. He worked as an illustrator for textbooks at the Science Education Center in Diliman, Quezon City. He was also a project manager at the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) until the late 1970s. He returned to the entertainment industry, while still with DAP, when he did a stand-up impersonation of popular show business people and President Marcos in the first Tinig Awards of the National Press Club in 1979.
He has since then been known for impersonating celebrities, such as singers Rico J. Puno, Mike Hanopol, Freddie Aguilar, Anthony Castelo, Darius Razon, Elvis Presley, Stevie Wonder, actors Dolphy and Fernando Poe Jr, martial arts expert Jackie Chan, boxer Manny Pacquiao, politicians Luis “Chavit” Singson and Alfredo Lim, and the religious such as Jaime Cardinal Sin and Pope Francis. He has spoofed four presidents: Marcos, Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada, and Benigno Aquino III. He has caricatured Estrada since the latter was mayor of San Juan.
On television, he co-hosted the game show Game na Game (Really Game), 1979, BBC 2. During the EDSA Revolt in 1986, he was in the so-called Victory Broadcast on Channel 4, together with fellow artists, when the station was taken over by anti-Marcos forces. His most important show was the lampoon gag show Ispup (Spoof), 1999-2004, ABC 5, with comedians Leo Martinez, Jon Santos, and Candy Pangilinan. It parodied broadcast programs and commercials. The actors mimicked and caricatured television and film personalities, politicians, and public figures. The sketches lampooned current political events, such as the Abu Sayyaf hostage taking, the ineptitude of the police to combat drug lords, and corruption in high places.
Nepomuceno played important roles in the horror film Black Mamba, 1974, and the bio movies Chavit, 2003, about the life of Ilocos Sur governor Luis “Chavit” Singson, and The Guerilla Is a Poet, 2013, about the struggles of Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Ma. Sison. He popularized songs that mimic the voice and style of prominent figures. Examples of these include “Do the Sherap,” 1991, which imitated the voice of former president Estrada, and “Opisina” (Office), 1991, which copied the vocal staccato style of actor Dolphy. He has recorded five voice-music albums and produced successful shows in the Philippines and abroad for a cause, such as raising funds for victims of media killings.
His important works in theater were the live comedy shows E-Pal: The Musical (Grandstander: The Musical), 2013, and The Votes of the Philippines: The Repeat Show, 2015, both at the Music Museum, in which he parodied local politics. In The Votes of the Philippines, he ridiculed presidential hopefuls who spew everywhere their inconsequential political agenda, then later on chastised them for their wanton theft of the treasury, lack of wisdom, and disregard for truth. One of the most hilarious segments of The Votes was the video showing the attempt to escape from prison by detained characters Sexy, Pogi, and Tanda, referring to senators allegedly involved in corruption.
Because of his humor, Nepomuceno has received veiled threats on his life and career, ranging from libel suits to physical harm.At the height of martial law, Information Minister Gregorio Cendaña warned him to stop imitating Marcos. He prefers to call his humorous mimic acts impressions rather than impersonation. His shows and performances, which he himself writes, are “more of a soul-searching recollection, for the collective moral sense or lack of it that our people are leaving as legacy to the next generation” (Galang-Pereña 2015).