Published in Eastern Visayas Journal on March 9, 2021
The people of Leyte and Samar are known for their natural talent and love for the arts. One Waray who parlayed his talent in singing, dancing, and acting to a successful theater career on the prestigious West End in the United Kingdom is Miguel “Egie” Diaz of Tacloban City. Egie candidly admitted never in his wildest dreams did he think he would perform for British royalty and American movie stars.
He was a struggling student with undiagnosed dyslexia at the then Divine Word University (DWU) of Tacloban.
His teachers were worried that he would not pass the National College Entrance Examination (NCEE). Every graduating student back then had to take the NCEE to be eligible for college. Yet, he defied the odds.
He did not only get a passing score but he also get accepted by the university as a working student. Egie performed with the Katulinan Dance Troupe as a DWU scholar. After graduation, he joined the staff of the then Leyte State College as a teacher and as head of drama and stage management of the Human Resources and Development Center (HRDC).
He teamed with choreographer and teacher Jess de Paz and together, they produced many local shows. His path to international fame and fortune began with that serendipitous moment in April 1989 when he saw an ad in the newspaper announcing an audition for male singers for a brand-new show premiering in London. He flew to Manila and was among the 8,000 Filipino hopefuls who auditioned for legendary producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh and his team.
He impressed Sir Mackintosh with his rendition of the classic song Impossible Dream and was one of only eight male performers chosen for the London show. Still giddy with his successful audition, what happened next was a whirlwind of preparations. By July, he was already in London as part of the original cast with Lea Salonga rehearsing at Theater Royal Drury Lane for Miss Saigon. Egie spent the next 10 years rising from the chorus to principal roles and lead parts.
The cast maintained a grueling schedule of eight shows a week with matinee shows on Wednesdays and Saturdays. He performed for various headliners, most notably the late Princess Diana who was the patroness for a charity gala. Tom Cruise congratulated him when he and Nicole Kidman talked to the performers after a show. After his stint with Miss Saigon, he performed in the King and I at the London Palladium. The theater experience led him to discover more about himself.
He was finally diagnosed as 40% dyslexic which explained his struggles at school and which he compensated for by being an aural learner. Aural learning is understanding through hearing and speaking. He also discovered a business flair for flipping houses. He bought a flat in London for £40,000 and later sold it for three times the amount.
He bought a house for £125,000 and sold it for £1.3M. He then bought a hotel in Bristol and now runs The Elms Guest House. Blissfully retired now in the UK and enjoying the well-earned fruits of his labor, he nevertheless still enjoys singing before an audience. Egie developed his alter ego Lady Imelda as a live cabaret drag act to continue to connect with people.
He does his own hair and makeup, designs and sews the glamorous ball gowns he wears on the show and talks to people for an interactive and engaging performance. In the time of the global pandemic, he is sharing his cabaret act live on his Facebook page every Saturday and Sunday night at 8:00 PM, UK time. The weekend performances showcase his impressive vocal range and stage presence, a continuous source of pride for Warays all over the world.