Art/Style/Travel Diaries

John Moran is hilarious villain Padre Alfaro in PETA’s Walang Aray

With the successful run ending Sunday, the actor talks about role—and gives clue on the next musical about famous band

John Moran as Padre Alfaro (Photo from PETA FB page)

Making people laugh is hard. Ask any actor, especially if you play the villain who not only makes the lives of the lead characters miserable but must also stay delightful in the eyes of the audience.

John Moran plays the horny, cantankerous leader of the Spanish friars, named Padre Alfaro, in PETA’s (Philippine Educational Theater Association) musical rib-tickler  Walang Aray, which ends its run this Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, at the PETA Phinma Theater, QC.

The farce is adapted from Severino Reyes’ classic 1896 zarzuela Walang Sugat by playwright Rody Vera, with original music by Vince Lim, and directed by Ian Segarra, one of PETA’s veteran members.

It is about star-crossed lovers Tenyong (played alternately by Gio Gahol and Jon Abella) and Julia ((Shaira Opsimar, Marynor Madamesila) at the tail-end of the Spanish colonial period.

Walang Aray has been described by critics and theater lovers as the successor to PETA’s sensational musical, Rak of Aegis—phenomenal successes that kept audiences returning. One saw it nine times and became a show buyer.

Now, just to show how “evil” Padre Alfaro is. When the friars learn of an “ouster plot” against them by a group of activists called Katipuneros, he contemplates on using “Tokhang” against them. His advisers try to hush him, not to even think about it.

Padre Alfaro’s power extends to the members of the Spanish national police or the guardia civil.

When the Katipuneros stage a street protest in Intramuros, there is traffic advisory read by a guardia civil written on what looks like a scroll, telling commuters and calesas to avoid the street where the rally is being held. The advisory, supposedly issued by the MMDA, ends with the now notorious line: “Ang hindi sumunod sa kautusang ito ay kontra sa kapayapaan, ang kontra sa kapayapaan ay kalaban ng bayan (Those who oppose this advisory are enemies of the state).”

Padre Alfaro desires Julia and would do anything to have her.

Since it’s a comedy, two of Padre Alfaro’s subordinates are Padre Salvi, a “guest” character from Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere, and Padre Camorra from El Filibusterismo. In Noli, Padre Salvi lusts after Maria Clara,  and Camorra is another lustful friar who makes an attempt to rape and eventually causes the death of an innocent Filipina named Juli in Rizal’s second novel. Together they are called “mga anak ng tupa (sons of the sheep) or Da Alfaronians.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by PETA THEATER (@petatheater)

It would take a brilliant comic actor to execute a character like Padre Alfaro, funny and hateful at the same time. And Moran has owned the role as if his character was written by Vera with him in mind.

When PETA returned to live theater after the pandemic, in Walang Aray, from February to May this year, PETA did 41 sold-out performances, and Moran did Padre Alfaro  all  41 times (he had an understudy).

For the limited three-weekend re-staging that started October 6, Moran is doing all performances until Sunday, October 22.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by PETA THEATER (@petatheater)

We congratulated him for being the “main tormentor” in Walang Aray. It has become a definitive role he will be remembered, which he did the entire run.

“Maraming salamat po! Didn’t really expect for the character to be well-received by the audience,” Moran told The

“I auditioned for Walang Aray but they didn’t give us characters to choose from, so it was sort of a general audition. It was online via video submission, and no callbacks. So, I was really surprised and challenged that Kuya Ian assigned Padre Alfaro to me,” he added.

We were surprised to learn from Moran that Padre Alfaro is the third time he is playing a priest.

The first was in Batang Rizal, a musical about the journey of a boy named Pepito who accidentally damages a statue of the National Hero Jose Rizal, and while trying to fix it, travels back in time to the era of Rizal.

Moran played another  priest-like character called The Little Monk in Ang Buhay ni Galileo, a play on the life of Italian inventor and philosopher Galileo.

Moran is a Journalism graduate of the University of Santo Tomas where he started his theater stint as member of Artistang Artlets. He is a senior artist-teacher at PETA and serves as facilitator, visual artist, writer and director. He’s been with PETA for the past 15 years, and has played supporting roles and also as part of the ensemble. He has conducted theater workshops for kids and adults in the Philippines, Japan, France and Germany.

In PETA’s original rap musical for children about William Shakespeare titled William, he played Richard. For another PETA original musical that uses the songs of the late master rapper Francis M, titled 3 Stars and a Sun, he played Poy.

John Moran is one of PETA’s esteemed actor-teachers. (Photo from John Moran)

In Tagu-Taguan, Nasaan Ang Buwan, an original children’s play by J-Mee Katanyag, he played Jepoy. He also played Caliban in The Tempest Reimagined, and in  the underrated, under-appreciated A Game of Trolls, a musical on Martial Law and on the rise of fake news and disinformation, Moran plays the slain, revolutionary and poet Emman Lacaba.

He also had ensemble roles in Care Divas, Batang Rizal, Mga Kwento ni Lola Basyang and Rak of Aegis.

We asked Moran about the challenge of playing the funny kontrabida, Padre Alfaro. “It wasn’t easy ‘finding’ Padre Alfaro because the notes given by kuya Rody Vera are quite far from the Padre we see now. During the reading he wanted Padre to be super macho, ‘yung parang tito mong toxic masculinity ang personality,” Moran told

“But working on the character, it just didn’t feel natural or organic for me, so I sort of went back to childhood memories of priests and a little Google search of Catholicism during the Spanish era, and focused on the opulence and flamboyance of the Church,” he added.

“So it was a challenge to create the character in a way that is organic to me yet still staying true to what the materials demands.”

His hard work paid off.

“Challenging din pala when people approach me and say ‘nandiri sila sakin as a manyak. Hindi po ako ganun in real life, super shy po ako! (They told me they abhor me as a sex maniac but I’m not like that in real life. I am super shy),” he said, laughing.

When Walang Aray was initially presented in PETA’s laboratory sessions in 2018, it was an entirely different animal. The laboratory is meant to critique new materials and so Walang Aray had several revisions.

Moran got involved only in the latter part of 2022, when it was ready for to be staged for theater followers longing for live theater after nearly three years of the pandemic.

“Since we launched last November, I have been doing Padre Alfaro. I have an understudy, Caai Habla, who also plays almost every male track in the show,” he said. “Which is why we could not afford for me not to do the show kasi it will mess up everything. So bawal magkasakit, maaksidente, mawalan ng boses!” he added, laughing again like a mischievous priest.

An actor cannot be this good if one has no role models or idols to look up to in Philippine theater. Moran names his top two “lodis” in his PETA family. One is PETA’s artistic director Maribel Legarda.

“I’ve worked with her through many productions in PETA and I owe a lot of my growth and confidence as an actor sa process na binubuo niya in her productions,” Moran said.

Legarda directed two of PETA’s enduring hit musicals Rak of Aegis and Care Divas, among others.

“Plus, my trajectory talaga is to develop as a director for PETA someday, and I have learned a lot from tita Maribel in this aspect,” Moran added.

Another is PETA’s senior actor-teacher-director Melvin Lee. “I was a product of PETA’s Summer Workshop when I was 19, and kuya Melvin was my first acting teacher,” he said. “Noon at hanggang ngayon I have admired him for his dedication to the craft. Have you seen ‘Care Divas? My God! What a force! That level of consistency and intensity is what I aspire to achieve.”

Between comedy and drama, which is more challenging to do?

Moran fell silent for a while, lost in thought like a true, religious person after Confession. “I’d probably choose comedy over drama just because as a person, masayahin talaga ako (I’m a cheerful human being in real life). They both have their own challenges. I guess it all boils down to the material. But I would love to be cast in a very dramatic role.

Gulatin mo sila at mag serious actor ka. Ganyan (Surprise them and play a dramatic role),” he said, laughing again like Padre Alfaro.

After Walang Aray, Moran is eyeing a role in PETA’s next original musical for 2024, which will be announced on Sunday’s 8 p.m. closing show.

He gave a clue—it’s from a classic film adapted into a musical using the songs of a famous contemporary band.



Sign up for our Newsletter

Sign up for’s Weekly Digest and get the best of, tailored for you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *