He was a lecturer, creative consultant, actor, baritone, stylist, decorator, landscape artist, essayist, poet, culinary artist, editor and sage—the late Antonio Salac Santos couldn’t be pigeonholed.
To many, he was the perennial Peter Pan, playful, adventurous and idiosyncratic despite the thinning, salt-and-pepper hair at 55 years old.
Friends described him as “brilliant” and “genius.” Like a genie, he could do anything on the spot at your command.
Although Santos never completed his degree in AB Broadcast Communication, he was invited to lecture because of his experience in media.
He played Emilio Aguinaldo in Johnny Manahan’s epic TV series “Kasaysayan ng Lahi”; worked in the advertising sections of Business Day and Philippine Daily Express; edited Man, one of the early magazines in the ’90s catering to male readership; and joined big ad firms such as Hemisphere-Leo Burnett and J. Romero & Associates.
Since 1999, Santos has done pictorial direction for the fashion pages of the Inquirer Lifestyle section. He took the stiffness that was so common in other magazines then by creating mis en scènes for Inquirer’s spreads.
In 2003, he gave the now-defunct Elan section a younger look with bolder graphics. He produced dramatic and out-of-the-box pictorials with Jun de Leon, Nap Jamir, Wig Tysmans and Tom Epperson, and did digital imaging with Bobot Meru.
His aesthetics were distinct: saturated colors, natural lighting and maximalism. His theater background enabled him to teach his subjects how to pose or emote in front of the camera.
With his knack for artfully arranging objects and making subjects laugh, Santos handled many pictorials for Cocoon magazine.
Friends will miss Santos’ puckish humor; the help which he gave unconditionally; and his cryptic words of wisdom.
One of his last poems encapsulates his belief in life, death and rebirth. “In the winter of the soul/silent./Seemingly still./Spring awakening.” Marge C. Enriquez
Dream what you want to dream;/
Go where you want to go;/
Be what you want to be,/
Because you have only one life/
And one chance to do all the things/
You want to do./
May you have enough happiness to make you sweet,/
Enough trials to make you strong,/
Enough sorrow to keep you human and/
Enough hope to make you happy./
The happiest of people don't necessarily/
Have the best of everything;/
They just make the most of/
Everything that comes along their way./
The brightest future will always/
Be based on a forgotten past;/
You can't go forward in life until/
You let go of your past failures and heartaches./
When you were born, you were crying/
And everyone around you was smiling/
Live your life so at the end/
You're the one who is smiling and everyone/
Around you is crying.