The first time I posted this video online, in May 2009, my US-based friend Victor commented: whatever happened to rj rosales? he of the deep dark eyes like a pair of almonds floating on a crystal-clear moonlit pool, jaws as chiseled as the grand canyon, dimples as deep as the Bee Gees song and teeth as white as Zadie Smith's novel? my metaphors mix.
By the time he asked, RJ Rosales did seem to have faded from view. He had come to the Philippines already an accomplished young theater actor abroad, having been part of the Australian production of Miss Saigon and having headlined the original English-language musical Chang and Eng in Singapore, along with another Filipino theater actor, Roy Rolloda.
Good-looking, polished and evidently talented, RJ seemed destined for matinee-idol fame; but Philippine pop entertainment didn't quite seem to know what to do with him. He was an ABS-CBN contract star for a while, singing in variety shows, lending his voice to telenovela theme songs, acting here and there. But he never achieved the white-hot stardom enjoyed by others in the network. Sadly, he also didn't get to do any meaningful stage work in Manila.
His only theater appearance was a featured role in All About Men 2... Penis Talks Reloaded, Joel Lamangan and Ricky Lee's peep show-musical revue in 2005 where this gifted actor--whose theater credits by then already included, as his Wikipedia entry ticks off, leading roles in foreign productions such as, aside from Chang and Eng: the Musical, The Student Prince, Man of Letters, Cabaret and Forbidden City, plus numerous Singapore TV appearances that included Spin and Style Doctors--was reduced to cavorting onstage in the skimpiest of undies, at one point urging the audience to scream out--supposedly as a blow against sexual prudery--“Titi!”
But that came later, with the crudery and compromises that came with the business. In the video clip below, excerpted from the ABS-CBN and Ayala Foundation concert The Music of Dreams in 2001, RJ is all dashing, fresh-faced but self-assured hopeful (the concert was, in fact, his first major hosting stint in town at that time; co-host Pops Fernandez had to ask a bit about his background to introduce him to the audience). This is how I'd like to remember him--a beautiful young man, singing beautifully.