I remember seeing this week’s Face of Salam for the very first time on the red carpet of a Malaysian entertainment awards show some six years ago. He was suavely dressed standing next to a well-known Indonesian singer and was posing for the many cameras flashing towards him.
It didn’t look like he was used to the attention, but you can tell he was learning to embrace it. Despite having worked in the Malaysian entertainment and media scene for almost 15 years at that time, I had no idea who he was, then.
But of course days later pictures and videos of that awards show were shared in the mass media, and that was when I found out he was actually the singer to a famous Malay song called Pencuri, which was playing on most local radio stations at that time.
But here’s the catch. The singer is not Malay or Malaysian to begin with.
Born Marcus Macaraig Echivarre, the rather youthful-looking gentleman actually hails from Cebu, the second largest city of the Philippines.
Popularly known as Mark Adam by his Malaysian fans after reverting to Islam following his marriage to Malaysian Norazah Redzuan, Mark is now currently one of Malaysia’s most popular celebrities.
With more than 1.3 million followers on his Instagram account, the mild-mannered Cebuano came to Malaysian shores to earn a living as a singer performing at various hotel lounges almost 2 decades ago.
I can still recall interviewing him for the very first time on a local English language TV show many years before. He was very polite and yet seemed rather shy for a singer. He even apologised in advance if his command of the English language wasn’t satisfactory. But those days are long gone.
Fast forward to present day, the coy Mark Adam is no longer. In fact he is now a confident speaker in front of the camera. He not only sings but now makes casual jokes on live TV and succeeds seamlessly in making people laugh. And surprise, surprise, he can now do all this in fluent Malay!
Yes within a mere 6 or 7 years not only has he been singing in Malay but he also speaks the language rather fluently. So fluent, that Mark has joined the leagues of some of Malaysia’s most popular Malay speaking comedians after successfully participating in local reality shows which showcased stand up comedian groups and actors. He nonchalantly shares his humorous videos on his Instagram account daily and gets a lot of positive response from his Malay speaking Malaysian fans.
The Mark Adam today wears many hats. From starting out as a singer, he is now a vocal teacher, an actor-comedian and also a popular judge on a few Malaysian singing competition TV programmes. He even opened a music school called Suara Academy, where he trains young talents who wish to become entertainers.
However, none of this obviously happened overnight. Mark worked hard to get where he is now. And he is thankful for all that he has achieved.
“I am thankful for everything actually. For this life that God has given me and for all the things I have achieved, said the soon to be 40 year-old singer.
Mark also admits that he is also thankful that he found Islam unexpectedly.
Being a Filipino where Islam once had a bad reputation due to political conflicts, Mark never knew much of the religion and only perceived it as something negative.
“But all that changed when I came to Malaysia after just about one month. The first friend I made after coming to work in Malaysia totally transformed my perception of Islam.
This friend worked as a cleaner at the hotel I was singing at and I think he is the kindest human being I have ever met. And he was of course a Muslim, “exclaimed Mark.
“Then fate would have it, I met my wife who is also a Muslim on my father’s birthday on July 14th and fell in love. Then we got married and the rest as they say is history.
After marrying a Muslim and becoming one I started to slowly learn about the religion. I learned how to pray, read the Quran and everything else about being a Muslim. Alhamdulillah I am still learning after all these years,” Mark continued.
Mark admitted that if he did not meet that kind friend of his, perhaps his thoughts about Islam would have remained negative and unchanged.
“However, everything has already been written. God has carefully planned all this, and I am glad He did,” said Mark.
After becoming a Muslim, I realised how beautiful the religion is. And how everything that is stated in the Quran is true. Everything has already been told about what will happen and it is up to us to be the best Muslims that we can be. The end is near, we don’t know when but it is coming so we must prepare ourselves,” Mark added.
Mark was also fortunate enough to be given the chance to perform his Umrah a visit to the Holy grounds of Mecca and Madinah) a few months back with his wife and his good friend Shuib, a well-known Malaysian comedian who is also the husband to one of our past cover stars, Sarah Raissuddin.
“Shuib is one of my good friends who taught me about Islam, so apart from the knowledge I got from my classes at The Muslim Welfare Organisation Malaysia (PERKIM), Shuib also played a big part. In fact he was the one who mooted the idea of performing the Umrah,” uttered Mark about his Islamic journey.
When asked how his family in the Philippines took the news of his reversion to Islam, Mark said they accepted it and didn’t ask many questions at the beginning.
“The questions started coming in after they met my wife. And you know, my mom even expressed her interests to revert to Islam after seeing my wife and I. And I told her it is up to her and I will not force her. But most importantly, there is no conflict. They accept and sincerely respect my choice.
It is nice to see that people are more accepting of Islam now back in my hometown in Cebu. Before this it wasn’t easy to find Halal food or even see people donning the headscarf. But now in my village, there is actually a Muslim family and some members of that family wear the hijab. And people know where they can find Halal food. It is such a nice change,” Mark added with a smile.
The Malaysian Mark
After becoming a Muslim in Malaysia, Mark’s life has also changed for the better. With a solid career in showbiz, Mark has also left quite a mark in this country which he has been calling home for the past 17 years.
“I love Malaysia. I love the people. I love the fact that it is a multi-racial country and yet everyone has that similarity called kindness. Despite whatever problems the country faces, people are still actually very united and very kind towards one another. This is something I notice and I hope it will remain that way,” said Mark when asked what he loves most about Malaysia.
“I also love Malaysian food, from the famous Nasi Lemak (rice cooked in coconut milk served with cucumbers, eggs, chili, and a variety of other sides), wantan noodles, Chicken rendang and right up to the famous ‘Roti Canai’ (Pratha in most countries). You know I have been so ‘Malaysian-ised’ that even when I fly back to my hometown in Cebu, I must have something spicy in my meal. This is all due to the Malaysian habit of consuming spicy food.
Before I came to Malaysia I couldn’t even eat spicy food. But after getting married I lived with my mother-in-law and I was forced to eat spicy dishes and eventually got used to it,” Mark explained as he giggled.
Clearly, Mark has a soft spot for Malaysia. For in this country, he has become a household name and is no stranger to the nooks and cranny of the cities.
“You know I don’t get lost in Malaysia but I can actually get lost in Cebu when I go back to my hometown! Thank God my wife remembers her way around in Cebu.
That is also why I will follow wherever my wife goes. And where fortune brings us. If God’s fortune leads me elsewhere then I guess that is where I’ll go. But for now, Malaysia is my home and I couldn’t be happier,” ended Mark on a happy note.
Mark Adam is currently one of the cast members of ‘Keluarga Baha Don’, a comedy TV series showing on an Asian OTT platform called VIU. He is also set to appear in his first movie coming real soon. After releasing a single called ‘Amnesia’ early this year, Mark is also ready to introduce his first recording artiste named Mirza which he discovered from his singing classes at the Suara Academy. We at SalamToday wish Mark all the best and hopes for his continuous success. Inshaa Allah!
Behind the Face of Salam
- Face of Salam : Mark Adam
Project Manager & Co-ordinator : Shah Shamshiri
- Text: Shah Shamshiri
- Editor : Ili Farhana
Photographer: Bustamam Mokhtar, White Studio
- Graphic Designer: Asyraf Tamam
Stylist : Ayyman Rahim
- Art Direction: Helmi Anuar
Make-up Artiste : Jib Salim
- Hair Stylist: Hamidi Jamili
White shirt, tie, black pants: Wardrobe
Blazer: Ugly Pretty
Trench coat: Uniqlo
Shirt, Jacket, Pants: Kit Woo