Actor Juan Miguel Severo on failure, happiness, and life before OTWOL

The following essay, titled "Instant Coffee Irony," was sent to Rappler by Juan Miguel Severo, who plays Rico on Antoinette Jadaone's On the Wings of Love. Aside from being an actor, Severo is also a musician and a spoken word artist.

MANILA, Philippines – There are certain moments that make us re-evaluate our life choices. To me, those moments come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Once, it was after watching a movie starring Jolina Magdangal and Marvin Agustin for the nth time and realizing how fond I am of things most people my age have already grown out of.

Another was during Typhoon Yolanda, when I found too many holes in our roof I knew I could've gotten fixed during summer. Whenever I feel like sulking, I also intentionally turn the life-reassessment mode on by listening to Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide" on loop. But I never thought I would have one induced by something like this.

Weeks ago, I was in a horrible funk and it was 3-in-1 instant coffee's fault.

I started performing spoken word poetry almost a year ago. It was a logical choice then. I was an unemployed actor itching to stand in front of an audience and I love writing my angst and issues away. I thought, if I wrote my own material I wouldn't need to audition. I am aware of how self-serving the decision was. How escapist it was of me, even. I wish I could say that I was aiming to build something greater, but that would be a total load of bull. The fact of the matter was as simple as this: I really had to appease my need to perform lest I go crazy.

And God, was I able to. To this day, I find the rush addictive as ever. The response has also been so overwhelming, it made me think I was doing something right. I became so engrossed in it that it had gotten to a point where I didn't notice I've been neglecting other aspects of my life, especially online freelance writing―the one job that had been constantly there to pay for everything else that I love.

Simply put, passion took over and it made me lose my balance. I was never the organized type, yes. I've always been the "I'm just gonna have to wing it!" guy. I learned too late that the money I'd been spending to go out and perform those unpaid gigs was much more than what my day job was paying me.

It happened two weeks ago. I went to a nearby sari-sari (convenience) store to buy a pack of 3-in-1 instant coffee and found myself embarrassed because it apparently became P7 from P6. One peso difference and I was flustered. I didn't have any more left in my pocket. I told the guy manning the store I'd come back to give him the missing peso. I ran back to the house. I picked the few remaining 25 centavo coins in my coin jar. I went back to the store to give them along with what remained of my dignity. Avoiding eye contact, I took my sad little pack of instant coffee.

I drank it a couple of minutes after I got home. And no, Coco Martin, it wasn't as "yammy" as you said it would be! It was more bitter than I could remember! It tasted like failure in my mouth and I sipped every last stinking drop of it.

"Aren't we supposed to be great by this time?" Angelica Panganiban's voice kept playing in my head like some Vine video I couldn't close the window of. Stop rubbing it in, Angelica. (Note: This line was said by actress Angelica Panganiban's character in the movie That Thing Called Tadhana.)

With my 7-peso coffee and self-respect emptied on my writing table, I stared at the list of available online jobs nagging me from the laptop screen and decided that none of them read as enticing as spoken word. Still, I opened the job posts in separate tabs as I told myself, "Think about the first time you ate okra! It made you want to puke but at least you know it's good for you!"

My wallet was silent on the table then, fat with receipts and bus tickets, evidence of neglect. I took it, removed all the clutter, inspected its pockets and found nothing but a hundred-peso bill and some useless cards: an expired ID, a debit card for an account that's now on its minimum balance, a membership card to a place I don't even have enough cash to commute to, that mall advantage card I never really learned how to take advantage of.

However, amidst all the uselessness, I found one that to me screamed of privilege: a Starbucks card. A student from Saint Benilde gave it to me as a token of gratitude when I agreed to judge a Poetry Slam they held in the campus. I checked the card's balance online.

It had enough to buy me two grande caramel machiattos and a free piece of cake I can get on my birthday.

"It's like 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife!" Ate Alanis Morissette sang to me. And with a crazy laughter, I sang with her in my head, all the way to the chorus, while searching for jobs I could take to finally get myself that knife. An invitation to perform spoken word at an event in UP Diliman was to arrive a few hours later that day and, still without a new writing job, I was to gladly accept it with the condition that they'd have to cover my travel fare.

Ang Huling Tula na Isusulat Ko para Sa'yo Performed by our guest speaker, Juan Miguel Severo, during UP PsychSoc's Hugot Only Please: A Talk on the Psychology of Hugot, held last April 24, 2015 in Palma Hall room 400."I change the last line from time to time and for this particular performance, the line is from the film Islands by Whammy Alcazaren."Thank you again to all those who attended! We look forward to seeing you in our future talks. Posted by UP PsychSoc on Monday, 4 May 2015

 

Yesterday, I'd finished the last cup of instant coffee I could buy from what was left of the travel allowance they gave me. I was dead tired from hours of looking for work then, I'd closed a hundred tabs of job posts singing good advice that I just wouldn't take. I continued browsing the album of my most recent performance until I finally saw a picture of me, smiling toothlessly with kind strangers. God. I was happy.

"And who would've thought, it figures." – Rappler.com

Juan Miguel Severo wrote this piece in April of 2015, 5 days before he started taping for On the Wings of Love for which he was cast as a recurring character. The video of his performance of the piece Ang Huling Tula na Isusulat Ko Para Sa 'Yo from the mentioned UP Diliman event went viral a month after this article was written and eventually led to him writing and performing spoken word in OTWOL. He has bought quite a number of instant coffee packs since then.