Gawad Plaridel recipient Jun Urbano’s plea to Filipinos: Bring back this country’s glory
Comedian Manuel “Jun” Urbano Jr., who is this year’s recipient of the prestigious Gawad Plaridel, said he came to the awards ceremony dressed as his alter ego, Mr. Shooli, because the latter is “capable of telling people things that I have no guts to say.”
Gawad Plaridel, given by the University of the Philippines System, honors Filipino media practitioners who have excelled in any of the media and performed with the highest level of professional integrity in the interest of public service.
True enough, with him dressed as Mr. Shooli—who is supposedly from Mongolia, but speaks in weird Tagalog with a Chinese accent—Urbano’s acceptance speech was funny, rousing, hard-hitting and loving in varying degrees.
“Tomorrow, my speech will make Filipinos feel guilty,” Urbano told Inquirer Entertainment one day before he received his award on Oct. 11 at the UP Cine Adarna in Diliman, Quezon City.
“I will tell them that Mr. Urbano couldn’t make it because he felt shy to be around the smart and intelligent people of UP, because he is used to talking only to politicians. I will also tell them that Mr. Urbano gave me a piece of paper where he supposedly wrote down his ‘thank you’ speech, but I lost it in a taxi on my way to the venue, and so I would just talk about my experience living in the Philippines instead.”
To some 500 audience members, Urbano talked about the time in the 1950s when he thought that “Filipinos were the best people in Southeast Asia;” when the Philippines was second only to Japan in terms of economy; when it was still the top exporter of sugar and rice; when other Southeast Asians would come to the Philippines to study, “Because all the good universities were here, and the IRRI (International Rice Research Institute) was here.”
Urbano said that 70 years later, he returned to Manila only to feel disappointed after discovering corruption in government and even EJK (extra judicial killings). “What happened to you, Filipinos? I hope that since you were once a great people, you can bring back this country’s glory, put it back to its rightful place at the pedestal… To the youth who are here present, you are more than the smartphones and gadgets you are holding. Use your knowledge to improve the country.”
Urbano said it was critic and professor Nicanor Tiongson who recommended that he be given the Plaridel award. “Three names were submitted and mine got chosen. I can’t believe that there are people who appreciate what I do. I make funny comments on politics and other issues—that’s natural to me. I guess I got it from my father,” said the eldest son of National Artist for Film Manuel Conde, who was himself a director, actor, producer and writer.
“I didn’t realize other people found it impactful. At this age, I feel so lucky to be able to receive this award. Mr. Shooli, I think, is the reason for this award, so I told the organizers that I will just give them a performance that will entertain but, at the same time, make them think,” he told Inquirer Entertainment.
Meanwhile, National Artist for Film Ricky Lee, who was a Gawad Plaridel recipient himself, said it was high time that Urbano gets recognized. “He is a kababayan and I’ve worked with him before. For a while, people forgot about him. They stopped mentioning him. Only a few know that he’s very much around and is still active,” Lee began.
Deserving of recognition
“Sometimes, we have this tendency that when we see someone doing comedy, that it isn’t serious, but, actually, what a comedian does is more biting, more painful. I think he is deserving of the recognition,” said the award-winning screenwriter. “Also, it’s good that Jun started uploading YouTube videos of Mr. Shooli doing his thing so that more people can watch and hear him express his thoughts.”
Urbano’s YouTube account, @MrShooli, currently has over 20,000 subscribers. He claimed that the experience of choosing to become a content creator was both enlightening and disappointing. “My intention to bring Mr. Shooli into YouTube is a sincere and serious one. I take serious subjects and tell them in ways that are comical,” said Urbano. “But I guess not so many people appreciate satire. I also don’t want to make loose comments, but these content creators who I’m seeing on YouTube are not of my calibre. I cannot do what they are doing.”
This was because he said the intention of most of these content creators was merely to destroy morale and spread negativity. Some of them would just pick random news or issues and then give their own interpretation. It’s like everyone has their opinions, not necessarily respectful and informative ones. I admit, I’m losing my drive to continue this vlog, although I have a lot of friends who are encouraging me to continue.
Urbano is also a writer and a director. In the 1980s, he created Mr. Shooli for his TV show “Mongolian Barbecue.” Mr. Shooli predated Hollywood’s tactless foreigner, Borat. His dilemma about Filipinos was parallel to Borat’s confusion about the American way of life. Urbano wrote and directed “Juan Tamad at Mr. Shooli: Mongolian Barbecue,” “M.O.N.A.Y.” (Misteyks Opda Neyson Adres Yata) and “Voltes V.”
The Gawad Plaridel trophy was created by National Artist for Sculpture Napoleon V. Abueva. Since 2004, it has been given to 15 outstanding individuals from the fields of radio, TV, movies, newspaper and transmedia. Urbano was awarded under the category of TV, advertising and film. INQ