from waikiki with love : remember tom babauta?

The star of Strangers in Paradise remained a stranger in paradise.

Tom Babauta. A name immortalized in swardspeak. “Tom Babauta na ako” means “I’m hungry.” “Tom” is short for gutom, get it?

For decades the Philippine movie industry has been graced by foreign “actors” who want to try their luck in local showbiz. In the 60’s you had John Saxon, who appeared as the token Caucasian in movies like El Pinoy Matador, a Dolphy movie shot entirely in Spain; and the Pinoy spaghetti western Sergio Leone take-offs starring Chiquito. In the 70’s you had Sajid Khan, an Indian looker who appeared in mindless romantic comedies with Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos. His career in the Philippines didn’t last long because Filipinos are inherently racist and not very keen on actors who have dark skin. He was displaced in the public’s affections by Junior the American singer.

tom_babautaIn the 80’s you had Tom Babauta, whose talent hung delicately on his cheekbones, triceps and his “big kahuna.” We don’t exactly know his progeny but legend has it that he was model for the original “Malakas” cracking out of a bamboo pole as depicted in the mural by Botong Francisco at the Manila Film Center. “Maganda,” on the other hand was supposedly modeled after the body of Coca Nicolas and
the face of Imelda Marcos. I don’t know if this mural still exists; maybe it’s hanging in the dining room of some fallen PCGG commissioner.

This ball-scratching monosyllabic dude was a dreamboat for casting couch directors. Rumor had it that he would do anything for a sandwich. His notable talents included: hula war dancing, baton twirling with fire on both ends, greased tightrope walking, lying on nails and broken glass, and last but not the least, fire-eating. Tom was so sought-after that Mother Lily made a series of Hawaiian-themed movies with social commentaries on Fil-American cross-cultural issues. At least there was a sense of authenticity when he was cast in these films. Another rumor was that his family was not
from Hawaii, but the Northern Marianas (The elected Governor of
Northern Marianas bears the name of Juan Babauta.). What the heck, no one will know the difference.

Tom Babauta had so much promise, and his career remained a promise. He appeared with Snooky in Strangers in Paradise. Then he starred with Rio Locsin in Waikiki , which propelled him to oblivion. From time to time he appeared in dramas and variety shows, notably in Lovingly Yours, Helen, where he played a balikbayan GI baby searching for his mother in Angeles. And yes, of our country’s 80 million population, I’m the only one who remembers this useless piece of information. If no one remembers what Tom looked like, think of David Kawena of Lilo and Stich, with curly hair.

In one of his final interviews in Manila, Tom Babauta graced the immortal Sunday variety show, Germspesyal. Here is the transcript of that conversation, plumbed from the depths of my memory.

Kuya Germs: Do you love Philippines?
Tom: Yes Kuya Germs.
Kuya Germs: Have you, ah, made love to a Filipina?
Tom: Duh?

And thus Kuya Germs brought Tom Babauta’s career to its final, inexorable doom.

guillermo ramos

8 comments on “from waikiki with love : remember tom babauta?

  1. kakaintriga naman ‘to. nasaan na siya ngayon? naalala ko high school ata ako nun nang sumikat siya sandali kasama si snooky.

  2. hahahahahahaha naalala ko when I was in 2nd year me and my classmates (all girls) bumili kami ng magazine na featured tong lalaking to na nakahubad with dennis roldan and a starlet named tessa tuazon. dennis roldan is in jail pero what really happened to tom and tessa.

  3. Sad to hear Dennis Roldan is in jail (hopefully he’s out by now) but let me introduce myself: ang tunay kong pangalan ay Zaneta (Beverford) Gordon a.k.a Tessa Tuazon. Nasa US na ako, umalis ako ng Pinas nuon 1987 pagkatapos nuong pelikulang Goodtime Girls. Talagang wala akong hilig sa Showbiz pero, it was a once in a life time opportunity kaya ginawa ko. Di ko alam kong alam nyo na si Raul Zaragosa (Beautiful Girl along with many other action movies) a.k.a. Terrence Beverford, ay kuya ko. Paminsan minsan umuuwi ako sa Pinas and did a cameo appearance sa Dobol Trobol with Dolphy. I still hang out with my movie industry friends, malay mo baka balang araw ma-convince nila ako na pumayag na bumalik sa pagaartista…

  4. Hi Zaneta! Nice to hear from you. If you can possibly provide me with some of your photos then as Tessa Tuazon and some info about your career here and how you are doing now will be appreciated … just send it to :
    Thanks for visiting ALIWAN AVENUE.

  5. Hi! I am sorry ngayon ko lang na visit uli ang page mo. Unfortunately wala na akong mga pics ko then as Tessa, I think it’s still circulating sa mga tabloids dahil from time to time ang mga pamilya at mga kaibigan ko sinasabi nasa newspaper nanaman ako. I can send you now pictures if you still want them, just let me know.

    I will send you a shout out para you can have my personal email address. Thank you sa pag up date sa mga entertainment sa Pinas… miss na miss ko ang ating bayan!

    Much love,

  6. Yeah, naaalala ko nga si Raul Zaragosa. Aside from Beautiful Girl, nag-appear din siya sa Hindi Laruan ang Puso (w/ Rita Avila, Cesar Montano, and Gretchen Barretto), Lintik Lang Ang Walang Ganti (w/ John Regala) at Alyas Baby Face (w/ Ian Veneracion, Jennifer Sevilla), atbp. Nasa Amerika na rin ba siya? Ilan sa mga huli niyang pelikula ang Deadly Brothers (w/ John Regala) at isang pelikula w/ Melanie Marquez.

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