Feb 25, 2008

I don't heart Panagbenga

It's been a crazy month, February - and to make matters worse: it's Panagbenga season.

I don't wanna seem like a flowerfest scrooge, but I hate Panagbenga: pardon me but it's hard to get me excited about a 4 hour parade that features school kids dancing the papaya song played by a drum and lyre band. I'm not a big fan of Isuzu Elf trucks covered in moss with some girl I don't know with a sash riding in the back throwing candies and waving at me. I like the occasional corn cob but to see thousands of corn vendors lining up the length of Session Road just isn't right: in between hotdog stands and cellphone accessories and Marikina shoes stalls. And it's as if Session Road isn't filthy enough on regular days, as if teh city isn't in the middle of a garbage crisis, it breaks one's heart to see the piles and piles of garbage left by the tourists and the merchants every single night for a whole week.

And what do they call this ravaging of the city's main artery? "Session Road In Bloom!". No, my friend, in bloom Session Road is not these days, it's more like Session Road's doom.

You stay home and turn on the tv and there's our mayor, in his cute shorts having a tete-a-tete with a recently convicted (and alas, pardoned) plunderer. Someone who stole hundreds of millions from the people apparently deserve a seat at the VIP section: Welcome to Baguio. I wonder where he's staying while he's here? At the very controversial log house on millionaires row or the equally controversial residential log house inside Camp John Hay?

We needed to go online so with one hand holding Leon and Aeneas perched on my shoulders and RL and Garbiela trying to catch up behind us, we braved the traffic and walked up from Bunrham Park (filled with tourists, stalls and garbage) to Session Road (filled with more stalls, more tourists, more garbage). You cross the road from Prime Hotel towards Cid Educational Supplies and I believe you've seen the rest of "Session Road's Kabloom". Shoes from Marikina, corn and hotdog vendors, E-load/Autoload stalls, and the occassional stall selling plants. We were stalled (pun intended) in the middle of the road: a dragon dance in progress... followed by a group of unicyclers (one was having a hard time getting back on his unicycle on Session Road road's uneven surface) and a phalanx of clowns on stilts. Ok, THAT was kinda nice. I walked right up to the guys on stilts and had Aeneas high-five two or three of them, which embarassed him, and eased my way to the other side of the road.

It's been said countless times before, if you're from Baguio, you'll never to fail to bump into a friend while walking up or down Session Road. But that's another thing I hate about this whole thing: even with the hundreds of thousands of people that squeeze thesmelves in between the commercial stalls and corn and hotdog vendors on Session Road during Panagbenga, it's hard to come across a friend.

Feb 20, 2008

They come and go

Among the things I enjoy about moving to a new house is packing: documents and photos specially. I came across an article by Vince Cabreza for Sun Star magazine back in 1996 when we first mvoed to Baguio: it was a feature on Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll. Browsing various souvenir programs of our productions in the last 12 years made my day - from the xeroxed pages of SDRR to printed sepia cover of Pangarap to the full color poster of Jesus Christ Superstar.

I was reminded of James, who played Pepe in one of our stagings of Tonyo at Pepe. James lived with us for a year or so when we were with Ado and Meg in Leonila Hill up to the time we moved to Wing's glass house in San Luis. we spent countless nights discussing acting, directing, various playwright's. James was not in school when we met him, since joining our productions under OSP, James has moved on: finishing his studies and eventually publishing two or three books (one he authored and two book of poems he edited). Last december he visited us and brought copies of those books for us, signed by the author (him)self.

Russell was a lanky freshman taking up masscom in SLU when we first met him... he didn't immediately get to join our productions but he would always be there at the gate manning the ticket booth, or ushering people in, or assisting backstage. He would come straight to our house in Malvar from school, and just hang out. He finally went onstage in that play on children's rights that I wrote: Taguan, Habulan, Patintero, and then the musicals Pangarap and Once on this Island after that. Since then he has worked for a call center, a media network giant, and currently asevents manager for a mall. He recently got in touch with us: he wants to feature excerpts of our productions at the mall he's working for, and the possibility of performing full runs of thos productions there.

Amar was the reluctant leading man in A Prelude To A Kiss - from a supporting actor, he was promoted to lead star when an actor backed out and we had to re-cast the play. He performed as Pepe also, two runs ahead of James. When we're not director-actor, we we're kuya-ading. He would come, enter our house as if he also owned it, which is quite true: I did the same whenever I'm at their house. Auntie Susan, Amar's mom, was like a mother to us and was a great lola to Leon when he was a baby: taught him to eat rice with coffee (Yice and feefee!), buy potchi at the sari-sari store, how to duck-walk, and gave him the nickname: Yankee, binaligtad na Kiangan, where RL's maternal relatives come from. Aabha, Amar's sister, toilet trained Leon. Amar and another ex-OSP artist, Ronald, once felt it was ok to break into our house in Q.M. to wait for us right there in the comfort of our living room. We arrived late at night and found both of them asleep: they needed help writing a letter. Amar also marketed some of our productions, and is now based in Manila and is into sales and marketing and will be a father himself soon. He called recently just to ask how things are with us.

Mad was a junior when I was an artist-in-residence in Brent. She was introduced to us by her English Teacher and big OSP fan, Bryan Powles (who left Brent in 2001 but has still maintained contact up to now) right after graduating high school and took a year off from school to work with us. She joined the prduction staff of a Tonyo/Pepe production, helped with make-up and production design of Manifest Destiny and Pangarap and Once On This Island... She is now in New York studying filmmaking, and despite the distance, has managed to remain close to OSP. She's coming home next month with my brother.

Some of them stay, some of them go, some of them remain close, some of them don't even look back. Some of them once believed, and and stopped believing, some even mock the ideals of OSP after they leave.

May mga ibang may napala, may ibang wala, may ibang naniniwalang walang mapapala sa mundo ng teatro, lalo na siguro sa Baguio. The latter isn't exactly untrue.

In our journey to provide the community with an alternative form of entertainment that would consistently present relevant social issues, we remain...

Letters from OSP usually end with the above lines... I'm just glad that at least there are some, who may have moved on to something else, but have remained believers and have not lost faith in the vision of Open Space Projects. - and whatever it offered, provided and stood for and against.