Oct 31, 2006

What it's all about...

In Kabayan, there’s no rush hour. Mornings are spent either taking walks or jogging around the school grounds. There’s a couple playing badminton right next to some young men playing 3 on 3 basketball. A policeman steps out the station and greets everyone good morning on his way to a few laps around the school. I’m having my first Camel of the day with a steaming cup of Kabayan coffee just outside the guesthouse, which is right across the school, beside the police station and a few paces from the municipal hall. A man asks for a light, I forgot my lighter inside so I hand him my lighted cigarette… he lights a fat joint.

The day before, we left Baguio a little after noon for the 4-hour drive to Kabayan in a rented Urvan packed with lighting and sound equipment, set pieces, props and costumes, cast and staff of 8. It was a good thing that the van only had a cassette instead of a CD player, the road to Kabayan wouldn’t allow a CD to play more than ten seconds of music without skipping. Towards sunset we were being welcomed by Kenneth at the municipal guesthouse: 2 rooms with 3 double-deck beds in each, one bathroom, a living room with bottomless jugs of coffee, a bathroom, a dining room that doubles as a workout gym for the policemen next door, and a kitchen. Men and women are supposed to stay in separate rooms, as the guesthouse rules dictate, but we decided that couples stay in one room and singles stay in the other… Freida stayed in our room even if Glen wasn’t with her.

We unloaded everything from the van and started setting up in the multi-purpose hall of the elementary school. We took a short break for dinner, and tried to finish the set-up that night so we can have the whole morning to see the town. We finished the set, positioned the props, prepared the costumes, put up the sound system and hung the lights. We were about to wire the par 38s when electricity was cut-off went out. Time to call it a night.

Not that the town emitted enough lights to obscure the sky at night like Baguio does, but the stars seemed a lot brighter when we stepped out of the hall. We spent the rest of the night drinking the carton of basi that a friend gave us.

The next morning, after that cigarette and cup of Kabayan coffee, we continued setting up. We finished with enough time to visit the museum and the cavern that held the skeletal remains of the town’s ancestors. We were back at the guesthouse by lunchtime, with enough to spare for a quick nap and a quick cold bath before the 1:30PM performance. An hour before the scheduled first show the students from the Kabayan National High School, a nice 3-kilometer walk away, started arriving.

This particular production has been touring the lowlands in the last couple of months – Lingayen, Candon, Sta. Maria – we’ve been performing it for mostly high school students and so we’ve had lots of practice performing to noisy audiences who were there because they were required by their teachers to watch, and just can’t wait for the show to be over. But we knew from the time Freida made her entrance from the back row onto the stage that this audience would be different. Not even the slapstick of Ethan and Lloyd was enough to stir up the wide-eyed students to make unnecessary noises. For the next 40 minutes or so, they sat there absorbing every word being said onstage and when the time to sing the National Anthem came at the end of the show, for the first time in a number of performances, the audience stood up promptly and sang with us.

The elementary students in the next show were no different from their manongs and manangs: they held on to every word, ever gesture, ever action on stage.

And I thought, this is what it’s all about.

With so much time to spare in the afternoon, but not enough to make a go back to Baguio without having to drive in the dark, we visited the Kabayan Youth Club’s library. We were shown the National Geographic documentary on the Kabayan mummies, which ended with a short lecture on the documentation process by Kenneth. A lot of us got excited by the library’s collection, but we couldn’t bring any of these books back with us, but that didn’t stop Boybi from borrowing Dune for the night. I went to bed with A Brief History of God and RL tried to go as far as she could with a Milan Kundera book.

Boybi didn’t get to finish Dune, he fell asleep at around 4AM with only a fourth of the book left.

I didn’t stay up that long on our second night, the 4-hour drive the previous day and the two performances earlier forced me to sleep early. I woke up to the smell of breakfast and coffee early the next morning; the teachers who’ve been taking care of us at the guesthouse came in early to cook to make sure that we’d be ready to go by 7AM.

After breakfast, with everything back in the now beat up rented Urvan, it was time for the long goodbyes. One teacher said that after watching the play, she realized that truly, the classroom can only offer so much, and art truly gives us a deeper understanding of the world around us. We promised to be back.

Nah, we begged them to have us back there again some time. This is what it’s all about.

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