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MANILA – For Nathaniel Cruz, you know you've accomplished something big if you have haters bashing you.
Cruz is happy with the attention, both positive and negative, that he is getting for being the first winner of the comedy video contest "America Meet World".
"Natuwa din ako kasi nagkarooon ako ng haters. Alam mong na-attain mo na kung may bashers ka na hindi natawa. Ok lang. Welcome naman ang lahat ng opinion," he gamely said.
But the win made his family and friends even more proud of him. "Kahit nga yung mga hindi ko kakilala tuwang-tuwa sila," he said attributing it to the Filipinos' sense of Pinoy pride and nationalism.
He knows that the achievement could be the start of something big for him in the comedy industry.
His entry "Junjun: The Social Media Savvy Beggar (Episode 1: Hunger) bested 131 entries from 21 countries around the world.
The prize would give him the chance to travel to New York for two days and three nights and meet with the executives of the comedy show, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
"Hopefully, something would come out of the meeting either possible guesting or possible tie-up if ever magustuhan nila yung concept ng video ko pwedeng ma-develop pa. Kung baga, maga-advice din sila ng comedy advice sa material ko," Cruz said in an interview with ABS-CBNnews.com on Friday.
Last minute entry
The entry, written by Cruz and directed by his director-friend Henry Posadas, received 14,310 votes and was viewed 24,055 times.
What's funny, Cruz said, was that the winning video was not really supposed to be his entry to the contest.
"Yun na nga ang nakakatawa dun. My director and I shot that video early 2013 pa. Tapos sa contest na ito, may iba akong ibinabalak na i-shoot dapat. Sa totoo lang, kahit sa tingin ko ok naman yung Junjun first episode, tingin ko parang cute lang siya," he said.
He added, "Hindi siya yung LOL na gugulong ka. Bordering on cute siya kaya balak ko sana iba ang i-shoot. Iniisip ko sana kung gaano katinding singer ang mga Pinoy tapos lalagyan ko ng angulo parang sketch".
However it didn't happen as planned. "Di natuloy dahil wala akong nakuhang director na available, hanggang sa magde-deadline na din yung contest. Sabi ko kailangang mag submit ako sayang naman," he said.
But believing that everything has a reason, Cruz decided to submit the material that was readily available--and that was the first episode of the "Junjun" project.
"Ito naman si Junjun nandoon nakabinbin, sabi ko ok itong episode na ito dahil wala halos na dialogue tapos yung punchline nya sa huli medyo universal naman. Sige pasok ko na lang. ok na yan," he said.
Training ground: Home
He revealed that he first noticed the comedian streak in him even before becoming a doctor. Yes, he is a doctor, a radiologist, by profession.
"Sa bahay mo naman mapapansin yan. Ikaw yung bato ng bato ng hirit, hanggang sa mag carry over sa barkada, sa high school, sa college," he shared.
In fact, he has become a regular face in their village, hosting Christmas parties.
"Parang nahasa, naging training ground ko yung village namin, na carry over yung hosting sa mga events, sa school, hanggang ngayon sinusuwerte na may paid events.
And when not too busy with his work, he is honing his skills in stand-up comedy as part of the group called Comedy Manila.
"Ako lang ang doktor doon. May ilang attorneys, may dentist, may writers, yung iba businessmen....halu-halo," he said.
And where does he get his idea for his next act?
"Yung mga experiences na nakakahiya o akala mo failure ka o na-depress ka…Yun ang mga powerful experiences na pagkukuhanan mo ng joke, ng pagpapatawa, na tingin ko therapeutic at the same time. Tawanan mo na lang kaysa magmukmuk ka," he said.
He also uses latest scandals and stories that trend on social media for his comedy materials.
Dolphy, TVJ fan
Cruz grew up watching iconic local comedians like the late king of comedy, Dolphy, and the comic-trio Tito Sotto, Vic Sotto, and Joey de Leon (TVJ). Among the foreign personalities he looks up to include Borat star Sacha Baron Cohen, Jimmy Kimmel, and Will Farrell.
When asked if he was able to successfully recruit someone from his rank to try comedy, Cruz said "Wala. Parang takot lahat. Parang pinapaubaya sa akin lahat ng kahihiyan. Ako na lang daw ang humarap".
Nevertheless, he encourages everyone to at least try comedy. He assures them that putting a smile or hearing someone burst into laughter is "the best drug in the world".
"Who knows? Baka yun ang umpisa at magustuhan mo. Makakalimutan mo kung gaano kahirap ang buhay sa trabaho mo," he said.
What's next for Junjun?
He disclosed that they were able to release the second episode of Junjun called "Amalayo" on video sharing site, YouTube.
"Based on the Amalayer yun. Di ko ma-submit sa States kasi tayong mga Pinoy lang ang makaka-gets nun kung ano yung spoof ni Amalayer. Nakabinbin na episode 3, hopefully mailabas ko this March," he said.
With him heading to New York hopefully by end April, supporters may soon find themselves watching a future episode of Junjun the beggar in the Big Apple.
"Kung maswerte sa mga meetings doon eventually magre-release din siguro ng mga episode na Junjun in New York, Junjun international pulubi," he said.
Why Junjun, by the way? He said it was a catchy Pinoy name. It is typical Filipino to give a child double names.
"Dami kong pinagpilian noon pero Junjun ang pinakamay dating," he said.
With the success of the first video episode which he also starred in, does he get those second glances of recognition?
"Ang nakapaskil kasi yung mukha nung pulubi, si Junjun Pulubi. Doon, gulu-gulo buhok ko tapos hindi naman ako nakasalamin tapos butas-butas pa yung damit. Siguro yun pa ang nakikilala ng mga tao kaya kahit paano nakakatakas pa ako sa regular kong itsura," he said.
But he was quick to add, "pero it won't hurt kung may makakakilala sa akin".