Friday, August 06, 2010

Project 365 (230/365): Erik Mana

.:230/365: Erik Mana:.

Often drawing comparisons to David Blaine, the man known as “The David Blaine of the Philippines,” (A title he may or may not be happy about, but in my book, that’s a compliment.) Erik Mana is a 38-year old phenomenon who grew up in Canada and then proceeded to take his act to the Philippines, meeting much success and adulation from the public. With his penetrating eyes and his very deliberate way of speaking, very few people don’t take Erik Mana seriously once he hits the stage, or the streets. From his first two TV specials “Stranger” and “Mastermind”, it was very clear that Erik was meant to bring magic to new heights in the mainstream with his practically Western take on the art, and indeed, drawing comparisons to David Blaine himself, who does employ a similar style.

However, all comparisons end once you recognize that Erik Mana is his own man, and that he has a unique flavour all his own whenever he’s performing. He has run the gamut of mentalism, sleight of hand, and grand stage illusions. He has experienced road stories that would make people laugh, cry, and beg for more. He has performed in venues that he probably wishes he has never gone to. And even though he actually does children’s parties at times, I can only imagine how annoying it gets when he gets asked after performing something downright freaky, “Hey, do you do kid’s parties?”

Currently, as far as the mainstream is concerned, the first name that comes to mind when they hear the word “magician” is indeed, Erik Mana. Nobody even comes close, simply because he attacked the mainstream in ways nobody else has before, although this could only mean that there would end up being more room in the future for other mainstream magicians, which is precisely what the shows “Talentadong Pinoy” and “Pilipinas Got Talent” are amply demonstrating. What legends like Tamplin, tito Lou Hilario, and Rannie Raymundo have done for magic credibility within the community, Erik Mana has done for the mainstream, and as such, makes him worthy of recognition as one of the movers and shakers of the Philippine industry today.

I’ve known Erik from when I started in WAVE 89.1 as a jock, and I wasn’t really a professional magician yet until towards the end of my tenure there, where I really was just starting off, and nobody cared too much about what I was doing, since, hey, Erik Mana was already in the station. But instead of envying the man, it certainly made me look at what about him makes him command that kind of esteem. Of course, other more veteran magicians also command respect as performers, but more often than not, the respect they command would be among colleagues and a select few people who are not in the industry but in the know. Erik transcends that and commands respect from nearly everyone he comes in contact with.

The moment you see him, there’s just something about his demeanor that screams “legit”. It’s pretty much the same thing with David Blaine, except he doesn’t need to slur his words to seem mysterious (He’s a DJ! He’s not supposed to slur!). He does whatever he fancies to do, talks in the very deliberate but clear tone that he always does, and from there, people just can’t help but feel downright mystified, at times, even intimidated by him.

Personally, I feel that the gravitas Erik Mana possesses is his strongest suit. I can try to duplicate his material if I insisted on doing so, but I will not ever achieve the effect that he does whenever he performs his effects, especially his signature mentalism act, the drawing duplication. I recognize that my character takes my performance in a different direction from his, and as such, I can only watch him in fascination when he is at work, because unlike Penn and Teller or Derren Brown, there is no way I can attempt to emulate his style as he has truly mastered his command over his own reputation in a fashion that only he can.

So Erik, I know we don’t see or hear from each other much lately, but here’s my salute to you! Thanks for being one of the key people who put magic into the mainstream consciousness of this country more than it ever has, and know that in my personal opinion, anyone who has ever criticized you as “boring” clearly has never watched you at work. You are anything but.

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