Rak of Aegis is an original Filipino musical featuring timeless songs of the rock band, Aegis. Now on its fifth run, Murphy Report had a hearty chat with some of the musical’s cast members to understand what makes it click with the Filipino audience and determine the secret to their overwhelming success. Read up on what veteran theater actors Robert Seña, playing the role of Kiel, and Isay Alvarez-Seña, playing Mary Jane (MJ) have to say about their experiences being part of the cast from the beginning of the musical. Also playing the role of MJ is musical actress Tricia Jimenez, and she shared with us her emotions on joining the musical for the first time. We had a good laugh talking to Alisah Bonaobra, who plays Aileen, as she tells us all about what she’s looking forward to as she debuts in her first musical play.
 

Robert Seña for Murphy Report

“It’s good that we have theater companies like PETA and they still do original Filipino musicals, even plays. Yung advocacy nila to uplift Filipino culture is intact, so it’s good.”

Veteran theater actor Robert Seña plays the role of Kiel.

 

Rak of Aegis is on its fifth run.  What do you think pulls the audience in?

Isay Alvarez-Seña: In the beginning we never thought it would be this successful. I guess, it’s because of the music and the characters. I think the audience can identify with each and every one of us on stage.

Robert Seña:  Marami ng following because the story is very simple but the music is very good. We have new cast members as well. Interesting panoorin yung roles na gagawin ng ibang artista.

 

How is the 5th run different from the other runs? Has it changed?

Robert: There are some new songs, sort of a new approach. There are new punchlines to make it fresh for all of us as well.

Isay: I can’t say there’s a difference except for some added music and some added things on stage. But like in any musical, dapat naman wala talaga, not unless it needs to be changed, dapat wala.

 
issue_02_RakofAegis_4Watch out for Tolits and Aileen as they add to the show’s kilig factor.
 

How is Rak of Aegis different from your previous experiences in theater/performing arts?

Robert: First time ko gumawa ng musical na adaptation or music from a band. Usually original songs talaga. Sa acting pareho lang naman. The difference is this is very simple but with a heart.

Tricia Jimenez: Ang saya kasi niya eh, kwelang-kwela. Tapos kuhang-kuha niya yung gusto ng audience, yung humor ng Filipino, kuhang-kuha niya. Lalo na how we talk now at kung paano tayo mag-isip. Kung paano kumilos ang mga bata ngayon, totoong-totoo sa play. Kaya nakaka-relate tayong lahat maski na mayaman ka, mahirap ka, matanda, bata, nandun yung X factor kumbaga.

 

Isay Alvarez Seña for Murphy Report

“In the beginning we never thought it would be this successful. I guess, it’s because of the music and the characters. I think the audience can identify with each and every one of us on stage.”

Isay Alvarez-Seña shows off her vocal prowess in the musical, as she plays Mary Jane.

 
 
Alisah, is this your first time joining a musical?

Alisah Bonaobra: Dati po nag-join na ko pero parang organization lang. Ngayon lang po ako nakapag-join ng talagang from PETA and yung mga kasabayan ko talagang big time.

 

Kamusta yung experience so far and how is it different from your other singing experiences?

Alisah: Actually, nung first time ko na starstruck ako sa kanilang lahat kasi first time ko makasama as cast member din so kahit nasa esksena na  ko at sila na yung nanay ko, tatay ko, mga kapitbahay ko parang lutang  pa rin ako tapos iniimagine ko na ako pa rin yung audience tapos sasabihan nila ako ng “Hoy, Alisah, part ka na ng cast!” Yun lang, tapos sobrang overwhelmed.

Yung Rak of Aegis, siguro ang masasabi ko dito mate-test ang tibay ng lalamunan ko kasi sa ibang singing contests, once ka lang kakanta or mga thrice pero dito ilang shows, 82 shows, tapos hindi natin masabi kung ilan mapupunta sa akin, so talagang sabakan ng lalamunan ito.

Please give us a short introduction of your character in the play.

Robert: My character is Kiel. He’s a shoemaker, but very desperate since the shoe industry is deteriorating especially in the Philippines kasi nga most of the shoe factories, they get their materials from China na kaya humihina ang industry ng sapatos. Also, yung mga owners sa China na nagpapagawa, kaya disappointed siya tapos may mga baha-baha pa.

Isay: Mary Jane, the barangay captain, her character is very strong. She’s very caring for the barangay. Maybe the misgiving of Mary Jane is her relationship with her son, Kenny, but towards the end, naayos naman. All is well.

Tricia: I’m also Mary Jane. Siya yung negosyanteng single mom na trying to make ends meet. Meron siyang sapatusan na empleyado niya yung tatay at nanay ni Aileen, which is awkward kasi ex niya si Kiel. So since siya yung may pera at siya yung negosyante, medyo tinatry niya lang to work it out para matulungan niya kasi mahal naman din niya ang pamilya nila.

Alisah: Ako po si Aileen Dimaraan and nagiisang anak po ako ni Tatay Kiel and Nanay Mercy. Ako ay isang 21-year-old na nagtatrabaho sa isang mall. Ako lang po yung positive sa work kasi yung mga kasamahan ko masyado silang negative sa boss ko, hindi kasi sila binibigyan ng bonus. Tapos si Aileen po sobrang umaasa siya kay Ellen DeGeneres. Hindi humadlang sa kanya yung kahirapan nila. Hindi humadlang sa kanya yung pagod at estado ng pamumuhay nila. Basta ang nasa utak niya sisikat siya.

 

Can you identify with your character?

Robert: Pareho kami sa advocacy na we want what is good for the community. We don’t like yung mga short cut na trabaho. Ayaw namin yung nagkakalat sa paligid kaya nagkakaroon ng mga baha. And he’s very loving.

Isay: Yes, kasi having children, is not that easy. Everyone is different. Kenny is like my child. You need to understand him more for you to appreciate him. He’s doing something else. Maybe he’s trying to make something out of it pero ikaw tingin mo wala kasi you’re so used to the young na wala lang, doing nothing pero may passion din naman sila.

Alisah: Yes, super! Si Aileen po kasi, medyo matanda lang ako sa kanya ng isang taon. Ako po, honestly, umaasa din ako kay Ellen DeGeneres kasi last two years nag-viral din po ako sa youtube and nagexpect din po talaga ko na aabot kay Ellen, yung “Let It Go” po. Kaso hindi po siya umabot kay Ellen. Eh ngayon po may nagva-viral ulit so, baka makarating na yun kay Ellen! Sana naman.

 
Rak of AegisRak of Aegis ─ a musical that showcases Filipino pride.
 
Please give us an idea of your preparation for your role.

Robert: Physically I had to lose some weight and grow a bit of a beard and moustache para medyo dumumi ang look ng konti. And also you have to understand kung ano talaga ang issue ng barangay na hindi na napapansin ng government at kung may nakakalimutan ba sila.

Isay: I was just true to the script the way I see Mary Jane. Our director allowed us to explore. Actually most of the things I’m doing now, it also came from my co-actors.

Tricia: Since napanood ko na kasi siya two times, may idea na ko how to play the kapitana. Hindi naman komplikado, pero ang tao naman sa totoong buhay, madami ka naman talagang sides, di ba? Meron kang negosyante side, may loving side, as a mom dapat strikto ka, hindi naman strikto pero dapat nakikinig sa yo ang mga anak mo. Si Kenny yung anak niya, in a way humuhugot ako ng experiences ko sa mga anak ko. Kasi yung mga lalaki talaga hindi nakikipag-usap yan eh so kailangan mo sila pilitin para makipagusap sa iyo which is nangyayari kay MJ sa anak niya. Yung, “Usap naman tayo, anak. Alis-ka ng alis eh.” Ganun din, I have a son who’s studying in Boston, so parang nakakalungkot na pag iniisip ko na yun ang sinasabi niya na, “Aalis ka eh”. So yun, yung pagka-nanay ko, yun siguro yung preparation ko para sa role ko.

Alisah: Actually po, napanood ko na siya once. Nung first run yata kasi dati po isa ako sa nagbebenta ng ticket, so nagkaroon po kami ng opportunity na mapanood yung play ng buo. Si Ate Aicelle po ang napanood ko nun tapos sabi ko, “Kelan kaya ako tatapak sa stage na yan?” Yun po, tapos sabi ko, “Ang saya ng ganyang experience!” Dati po ako lang nagbebenta ng ticket, tapos ngayon nakakataba ng puso kasi ako na yung nasa play! Grabe, para po akong nilalamon ng stage! Dati audience lang ako, ngayon ako na po si Aileen.

Alisah Bonaobra for Murphy Report

“Dati po ako lang nagbebenta ng ticket, tapos ngayon nakakataba ng puso kasi ako na yung nasa play! Grabe, para po akong nilalamon ng stage! Dati audience lang ako, ngayon ako na po si Aileen.”

Alisah Bonaobra debuts as a theater actress.

 

What have been the challenges in preparing for “Rak of Aegis”?

IsayMaybe the singing kasi medyo mahirap ang kanta. Your voice should always be in tip-top shape. Yan, husky na nga lagi. Bumalik na naman ang pagka-husky ng boses ko kasi nga pwersado.

Robert: Yung script niya is very limited lang for the character to express his role, so you have to reinvent some lines to put some more of your character in the story. Some of the singing parts are hard. You have to understand it’s from the Aegis band. Also it needs a little bit of harshness para sa earthy sound ng barangay kabit dun sa rock genre.

Tricia: The songs are hard to sing for me because I’m a soprano. I was classically trained in UP College of Music under Profesora Fides Asensio, so yun yung pinagaralan ko nung bata ako, classical music pero ito, puro birit!

Alisah: Challenges— siguro po yung experience ko. Kasi nga po first time kong mag-theater and mag-act. And yung mga kasabayan ko sobrang beterano na so kailangang ko po silang pantayan para maging maganda. And hindi naman po naging mahirap kasi lahat po sila nakasuporta po sa akin. As new cast member, sinasabihan nila ko ng, “relax ka lang” and “enjoy the scene”.

 

Who do you think is your target audience?

RobertNgayon, I believe it’s ABCD. The only thing, of course, watching a musical is quite expensive.

Isay: Ah, everybody. Everybody can watch the show kaya nga maganda, even with the whole family.

 

Random question, have you encountered audience singing with you while you’re performing on stage. Since we all know that Aegis’ songs are popular, sumasabay ba sila?

Robert:Yes, but without sound. You know why? Because the theater is small unlike kapag nanood sila sa malaking lugar, feeling nila hindi sila naririnig ng katabi nila.

Were you familiar with the songs of Aegis before this musical play?

Robert: Believe it or not, ngayon ko lang siya narinig. `Coz I wasn’t here in the ’90s. ’90s siya, di ba? Alam ko lang noon yung “Basang-basa sa Ulan” kasi I hear it sa commercials. Finally, when I learned about the songs, it’s quite poetic in a sense saka the melody is unique.

Isay: Of course medyo familiar yung “Basang-basa sa Ulan” pero yung iba hindi masyado.

Tricia: Doon lang, noong nanood ako. The first run, doon ko lang siya talaga nakilala na ganun pala sila kasikat, marami pala silang fans at saka ang lalakas ng boses, grabe!

Alisah: Opo, simula pa po bata kami, yun na po talaga kinakanta naming magkakapatid.

 

Among all the songs of Aegis, which one is the most striking for you?

Tricia: Yung “Basang-basa sa Ulan”, gustung-gusto ko yun.

Isay: There’s a new song, “Sayang na Sayang”.

Robert: “Luha”. I like the lyrics and melody.

Alisah: Yung “May Bukas Pa”. Pero yung sa “Rak of Aegis” po yung “Basang-basa sa Ulan”

 

Tricia Jimenez for Murphy Report

“Theater is life. Kapag nanonood ka, makikita mo yung buhay mo and you make your life easier kapag nakita mo na ganun talaga ang buhay eh. Don’t be discouraged, mahirap talaga, basta cool lang tayo.”

Musical actress Tricia Jimenez joins Rak of Aegis for the first time.

 
What is a memorable experience so far?

Isay: Bonding with the cast.

Robert: The friendship, the company. We’re like a family. There’s tatay, there’s nanay. Ate Isay is the nanay and I’m the tatay. Gusto nila kami bumalik sa show kasi feeling nila kailangan ng tatay.

Tricia: Nung nagre-rehearse na. Kasi di ba iba-iba yung Tolits, iba-iba yung Fernan. Ang mga Fernan sina Jon Santos, ang Kiel sina Robert Sena, si OJ, nasa-starstruck ako sa kanila. Every time ako may kaeksena. Minsan nanonood ako kasi nasa-starstruck ako sa kanila tapos natatawa ako so sabi ng director sa akin, “Hindi pwedeng tumawa! Masanay ka na.” Ewan ko, pero kasi if you see me watch, ilang beses ko na siya napanood sa rehearsals, tawa pa rin ako ng tawa! So I need to control myself, kapag ako na nasa eksena, hindi na ko pwede matawa.

Alisah: Yung group workshop. Yung ice breaker kasi dun po sa part na yun talagang nahihiya ako sa kanila. Imagine sina Ms. Isay, sina Sir Mike tapos yung ibang artists po para dati nangangarap lang ako makapagpa-picture sa kanila as a fan pero ngayon, kinakausap ka nila as part of the cast, as anak nila, as kapitbahay. So nung nag-ice breaker kami, talagang nakikipaglokohan sila kaya ako parang, “Wow, ito na talaga iyon.” Actually ngayon po, medyo-medyo nagsisink-in na po sa akin ang mga nangyayari pero nung mga 20th day namin ng rehearsal, talagang parang naguguluhan pa rin ako, ngayon parang sobrang saya na. So nararamdaman ko na si Aileen na sumasapi na siya sa akin.

Please describe PETA and its importance to art and culture.

Robert: It’s good that we have theater companies like PETA and they still do original Filipino musicals, even plays. Yung advocacy nila to uplift Filipino culture is intact, so it’s good.

Isay: Kasi PETA has been pushing and giving the arts and culture to the Filipinos especially to the young kaya nga siya educational theater. And they’re not only doing it here in Manila, they’re doing it all over the world, so I really commend them.

 

Finally, give us one word to describe “Rak of Aegis”.

Robert: Puso

Isay: Universal

Alisah: Natural

Tricia: Fun. Pwedeng isa pa? Real. Kasi this is real life. Theater is life. Kapag nanonood ka, makikita  mo yung buhay mo and you make your life easier kapag nakita mo na, “ganun talaga ang buhay eh.” Don’t be discouraged, mahirap talaga, basta cool lang tayo. Makakasurvive ka sa kung ano man ang problema na pagdaraanan natin. I think that’s the message we want to impart.

The clamor to see it again has been strong, people have spoken and voices can no longer be silenced. We are finally given another chance to take a glimpse at what people have been asking for over and over, and over again. Now, why would you want to waste another opportunity at seeing Filipino creativity, musicality, and artistry all in one musical production?


Rak of Aegis is brought to us by the brilliant minds of Liza Magtoto (playwright), Maribel Legarda (stage director) and Myke Solomon (musical director). It will be shown at the PETA Theater from June 17 to August 28, 2016, with 3pm and 8pm schedules.
marker

CREDITS

Interview and Text – Dane Raymundo

Photography – Cris Legapsi and M Espeña

Siem Reap translates to Defeat of Siam, recalling the centuries-old battle between the Khmer and the Siamese.  Also known as Siemmarat or Siam’s Territory, it is home to Cambodia’s ancient cities.  These days, it is one of the go-to destinations for backpackers looking for adventure, for a dose of culture and history mixed with modern-day conveniences.

Whether you travel to Cambodia as part of your itinerary on an extended trip around Asia, or you do so with a distinct activity in mind, maybe to visit Angkor Wat because you have turned X-years-old, or to try every bar in Pub Street, or to go attend a yoga retreat, there is something beautiful about the way the old and the new find themselves coexisting in beautiful Siem Reap.

Solo traveling comes easy to some, sounds daunting to others, but even if dipping your toe in the waters of flying sans companion tends to ring scary to you, the likeness of Cambodia with the Philippines lessens the blow of being alone in an unfamiliar place.  Their huts, constructed from nipa palms, are similar to our bahay kubos; they have their versions of turon and suman, use coconuts for their milk, nectar, and alcohol; the rice paddies and the landscape; even the popularity of Filipino telenovelas made evident with children running around in shirts with Pinoy actors and actresses’ faces on it, offer a bit of home amidst the confusion of a new language, new place, and new culture.
 

Riding into the city, the lanes dedicated to tuktuks and motorcycles are busier. The tuktuks, similar to the larger tricycles such as those seen in Visayas and Mindanao, are their primary mode of transportation, each one decorated and tricked out with paint jobs, curtains, and ornaments much like our jeepneys, the seats elevated and upholstered.  Hotels are usually suffixed with Angkor: Gloria Angkor, Chateau d’Angkor, Diamond D’angkor; and just as their names suggest, all these structures mimic Siem Reap’s ancient architecture.  Although a room with a gigantic bed to yourself is very affordable, hostels for about a third of the price provide everything a traveler needs, cheap, clean rooms, 24-hour meals, and sign-up boards to join temple tours and other historical sites; an especially great option for the alone and unused to striking up conversations with strangers.

Pub Street has become a sort of legend of its own, a busy, noisy row of streets lined with restaurants, neon signs screaming “Pint for $.50”; traditional Khmer cuisine flanked by German, Italian, and American restaurants; a decent Beatles-themed pub; several establishments dedicated to pizza (both regular and happy, if that is your thing); pushcarts selling fried scorpion, snakes, spiders; ice cream shops and hip coffee bars that serve smoothies and granola bars; stalls with spices and dehydrated fruit; several spas; rows upon rows of shops with jewelry, elephant-print pajama pants, shirts, and bags, and beautiful paintings of the temples, monks, and the Cambodian countryside.

What is an air-conditioned haven for the templed-out, the sunburnt, and the hungover by day turns into a crowded, colorful bacchanal by night.  If your goal is to have a good night’s rest, then even the prettiest boutique hotel in Pub Street won’t keep the noise away.

Sieam Reap, Cambodia

“Hopefully, in your journey, you realize that traveling alone does not necessarily doom you to being lonely. Whatever obstacles you may encounter when it comes to differences in language and culture, are easily overcome through a shared genuine passion and interest in widening your horizons. “

The wonderful thing about Siem Reap is that the conservation of temples is of prime importance, and development near and around the ancient ruins remain minimal and unobtrusive, no buildings towering over these structures, no traces of trash left in the wake of visitors.

Biking from Angkor to Angkor is common, with e-bikes quickly increasing in number.  If on a tight schedule, the Small Circuit tour takes one to several of the more popular temples.

Tickets allow access to all temples depending on your tour and preferred number of days to complete it (one, three, or five days).  It’s recommended to visit Angkor Wat in time for sunrise or sunset, where those wary of crowds can stay among the banks of the moat surrounding the temple, perhaps with a chocolate croissant and coffee in hand.

Although it is possible to wander around the largest religious monument by yourself, it is good to note that authorized tourist guides will be upfront about rates, will always be in uniform, and have proper identification.  If you find yourself chasing the Angkor at sunset and getting talked into following a shifty-eyed stranger into dark hallways away from the milling tourists, if you feel reluctant to hand him your phone for a photo against the temple, or unconvinced when he tells you that he lives with the monks and has been assigned by the government to give tours, then you better walk toward a group of people as calmly as you can, and refuse to pay the exorbitant amount he may demand from you, even if he raises his voice or chases after you, even if he did know the spots to take pictures of you looking uncomfortable despite the pretty surroundings.  Exit gracefully and board your tuktuk while trying to cry as quietly as possible.  Come back another day, perhaps with solo-traveling friends you were lucky to have made, and then take all the time you need to wander up and down the corridors, inspect how identical the carvings are throughout the length of walls and from pillar to pillar, perhaps wonder at how they were made, and why not attempt at the narrow steps that only the kings used to ascend?

 

Ta Prohm may be known as the setting of Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider, but the structure’s beauty goes beyond its fame.  Thick roots wrap around the carved walls, growing around and tearing through stone, proving that nature can always reclaim dominance over things manmade.

Bayon Temple, with the two thousand gigantic smiling faces fronting every compass point, is striking even from afar.  Located at the midpoint of Angkor Thom, the temple represents the intersection between heaven and earth, King Jayavarman blessing you from every direction.

Lazy nights can be spent wandering around Pub Street after scoring a full dinner of rice, two kinds of curry, palak paneer, and naan for three dollars.  If you absolutely insist on going home penniless, buy artistic black and white snapshots of young monks going about their day at the temples, splurge on a brass apsara statue, some leather shadow puppets, or chance upon a boutique that sells modern-cut dresses made from traditional Khmer cloth.  If spas are up your alley, Four Hand Massage, where two masseuses work on opposite ends of your body in unison, might be a great way to cap off your successful first solo trip.

Hopefully, in your journey, you realize that traveling alone does not necessarily doom you to being lonely.  Whatever obstacles you may encounter when it comes to differences in language and culture, are easily overcome through a shared genuine passion and interest in widening your horizons.  And in the event that you do find yourself dining, walking, and touring solo, these are rare moments wherein you truly get to know yourself, away from the conventions of daily routine, free to sleep in, eat whatever you want, wander wherever you please, or decide to skip that Angkor altogether, never having to answer to anyone but yourself. marker

CREDITS

Text – Jette Vizcocho

Photography – Cris Legapsi

Silverlens Gallery is known to be one of the leading contemporary art galleries in the country. Murphy Report got a chance to talk to Isa Lorenzo, an art gallerist and one of its founders.

How do you choose your artists?

We base our programming on the artists we represent.  The first thing we look for is that the artist has a deep understanding of their own practice, that they’re actually in conversation with a bigger art world, not just their period or just in the Philippines.  It’s a bigger picture approach.  They have to be technically good, the work needs to be properly finished.  They need to be disciplined, they need to be ambitious.  They need to have the same interest in the contemporary art dialogue as Silverlens does.
 

 
Having met so many artists, can you tell who will become great?

Some artists are serious, most are not.  It’s not about being great.  You don’t come across greatness.  What’s important is the work is good.  If the work is good, it will eventually find a home, or a way to show itself continuously.

 

Can you define the Philippine art scene?

Just like our singers, we are really great cover artists.  Filipinos are great copiers.  Most of the time it’s not a good thing because people don’t want that.  Why are you going to make a painting, like a Vermeer when there already is a Vermeer?  What we look for and what we’re constantly trying to push are our unique voices, not necessarily new, but unique, unique to themselves.  They’re not trying to copy anybody. They are who they are.  That’s how we have reached working relationships with many of our artists, like Maria Taniguchi, Gabriel Barredo, Patricia Eustaquio, the like.  They are all individuals who are very much their own, you can throw them anywhere in the world and they will be fine.

 

How do you stay up to date when it comes to art?

We are constantly looking at art.  Even in our downtime, on vacation, that’s all we do.  We have a very wide network within the region, and growing around the world. We see and participate in a lot of art fairs.  It’s a constant education and curiosity about what’s going on, not just in the Philippines, but outside as well.

 

You have galleries in Hong Kong and Singapore, can you tell us more about them?

It’s just one Silverlens.  We do different shows in different parts of the world.  So at any given time, we have several shows going on.  It’s either we are mounting the shows, or we have partners showing our artists, either a museum partner or a gallery partner.

 

Isa Lorenzo of Silverlens Gallery for Murphy Report

“Silverlens has paved the way art is seen and experienced. We want to be known as a pioneering gallery that makes opportunities happen for our artists, and whenever we start working with an artist we tell them, with everything that they do, it has to add value to the bigger picture.”

Who are your usual patrons?

We have a very strong core of local clients, and they have become friends over the years.  The Filipino reception has been good, it’s growing.  But we are more excited about the global art world discovering the Philippines, and that’s what’s happening right now.

 

What is art for you?

Art is everything from the way you make your eggs in the morning, the way you speak.  These artists, their creativity is visual, it’s tangible.  Art is everywhere.

 

What legacy do you want Silverlens to be remembered for?

Silverlens has paved the way art is seen and experienced.  We want to be known as a pioneering gallery that makes opportunities happen for our artists, and whenever we start working with an artist we tell them, with everything that they do, it has to add value to the bigger picture.  We encourage them to think of themselves as artists whose work needs to be seen.  Every show has to give birth to bigger and better opportunities.

 

What are your future plans?

We are moving to a bigger space in the latter part of the year that is better planned for our exhibits.

 

 

Any challenges?

Being in the Philippines is a challenge.  We have issues with shipping outside and bringing pieces back in.  Sometimes we work with artists who are not yet ready. They don’t understand the magnitude of what a show means and that they have to invest time and energy. marker

 

For more information about Silverlens and their upcoming exhibits, please visit their website.

CREDITS

Interview & Text- Dane Raymundo

Photography – M Espeña

Nuel Rivera is a 19-year-old aspiring director, composer, playwright and theater producer. A graduating senior at De La Salle College of St. Benilde, this young blood has already won awards for his work. He shares with us his fresh insights and promising outlook on the theater scene.

 

Give us a description of what you do.

I am a director for theater. I also write scripts, and I compose music for musical theater. That’s my foundation, but I also do experimental theater. These break off from the traditional musicals. They’re like revues. We feature pieces in a bar-type show, but it’s still set like a theater. The pieces can be a monologue series or a poetry reading series.

 

What inspired you to be a playwright and a director?

I grew up in the theater. I was exposed to different kinds of shows. When I hit 4th year high school, I realized there were shows that didn’t have a lot of substantial messages or themes for their audiences. As an audience member who grew up in the theater, I wanted new things to be shown and presented. And I wanted to be the one to do that.

 

What full shows/musicals have you done so far? Tell us about them. Which one are you most proud of and why?

I’ve done two full-length musicals, Numb and This is Who We Are; one straight play, The Storyteller, and one experimental theater production called Things We Can’t Control. These are apart from my smaller productions.

Numb was my first full length musical. We staged it when I was in 2nd year college. It was about a popstar who had fallen in love with a drug dealer. It shows the downfall of the star’s career because of her attraction to this guy. I wanted to show how fame works against your personal side.

The Storyteller is set in 9/11. It’s about a ballerina and a writer who find themselves caught in the 9/11 attacks. This ballerina becomes paralyzed from the waist down because of it. She loses hope too, thinking that the writer has fallen out of love with her. But he assures her that he has not. This show talks about love, and how you love someone for who they are, not for who they will be.

Things We Can’t Control was my most recent show. It was an experimental theater production. We staged songs and short scripts. The production dwelled on how we embrace unexpected things that transpire in our lives and how we respond to them.

I would say I’m most proud of This is Who We Are. Even I was shocked on how the piece turned out. It was staged in 2015 at De La Salle College of St. Benilde’s annual theater festival called “Crossroads”. The piece is set in New Orleans about victims of Hurricane Katrina. There’s a group of friends who try to get their lives back on foot after the hurricane. This piece came a few years after typhoon Yolanda hit Tacloban.  What I wanted to do was tell people that they don’t need to disregard their dreams just because of a calamity or whatever happened in their lives. In this piece, the characters aren’t getting this exact thing they wanted or what they were dreaming of, but they get hope revived in them.

 

Nuel Rivera, PlaywrightNuel Rivera, Playwright

“As an audience member who grew up in the theater, I wanted new things to be shown and presented. And I wanted to be the one to do that.”

What awards have you received for your shows?

In 2014, Numb won Best Playwright for “Crossroads”.  This is Who We Are won 3rd best play. Just recently, I won the Pioneer Insurance Stories of Hope competition.

 

Describe your life as a young playwright and director in four adjectives.

Not really adjectives. But I’d really like to say. “Living the dream everyday”. It’s stressful and tiring, but I don’t feel it. Because somehow I just know that I’m built for this. It’s what I wanted.

 

Did you ever have to deal with being underestimated in this field because of your age?

(laughs) Yes!

 

How did you get over it?

I use that to my advantage. I like surprising people with my age. I don’t slam it in their faces that “I’m a young kid trying to compete with them.” But at the same time, I like how I’m young and able to have this kind of opportunity in putting up shows. So I just focus on making sure that I put out something good.

 

Describe your process in making a musical. How long does it take to prepare for it? What are the stages involved?

Contrary to how other writers do it, I actually don’t outline. What I do is I just go with it. Normally, I develop one or two characters, and I go with whatever comes to mind in that moment I decide to write. I people watch, too and draw inspiration from others’ experiences and the stories I hear.

Four months is enough time to produce a musical. There’s pre-production, where we fine tune the creative aspect and audition actors. That happens in the first month. Then we give ourselves 14-21 rehearsals. It doesn’t need to be every day, but in can be scattered in the next 2 months. And then there’s production where we have a week to put out the show. And then finally, post-production.

 

You’re only 19, but you’re already fulfilling some dreams. What else do you want to accomplish?

I want to go back to acting. I started acting when I was 8. But when I entered college, I had to put that aside. A few months before I entered college, I auditioned for a show. The producer said, “I want to hire you, but I don’t want to take the opportunity of college away from you.” She was saying there’s a world out there. She said, “I want you to see it so that you can also mature before you come back to acting.” At first, I couldn’t understand that. I really wanted to do the show. Fresh out of high school, you do get sick of studying and want to make a living already. But I get it now. I really do. And I want to go back even more because of my exposure to directing and producing shows.

 

What is your vision as a director/ producer? Where do you see your shows being staged?

Well, I actually don’t like staging shows in traditional formal theaters. I look for open spaces. I look for galleries that I can partner with. I look for warehouses, maybe even basketball courts; anything different that takes away the tradition of a big platform stage.

Maybe that’s just my vision as a producer of shows. I mean, I want to show different kinds of material, so why not stage it differently?

 

Which theater actors and actresses would you want for your plays?

As a director, my vision is getting new blood. Preferably people who don’t have experience in theater. Because the thing is, I was exposed to theater at a young age, and I saw how it helped me.  It developed my character, made me explore aspects of my personhood. Acting helps people. I want to give that opportunity to people who want to be onstage but never got to.

 

What kind of difficulties do you think young playwrights face in the Philippine Scene?

In the theater scene, a lot of them are already established. It’s really hard for young blood to penetrate the industry. It will take a lot of hard work. Especially if we want to be competitive with these big names, it will take a while. It will take years. That’s how my vision for staging plays in different locations and staging different kinds of materials come into play. I can use it to establish my own identity, and it’s not about competing with the big names either.

 

What was the most unforgettable moment of your life as a young director?

During one of our rehearsals for This is Who We Are. I asked an actor friend of mine to handle a workshop. One of their activities was to find a corner in the room and just let out all their frustrations, especially in the context of dreams. For a good half hour, all my actors were screaming and crying. We were heard throughout the whole school. We were rehearsing at the top floor. People from downstairs told me that they could hear the screaming and crying.

That was the first time I realized that my job as a director is more than just mounting the show. My actors, the people I work with, they have certain frustrations. There are feelings that need to come out. As the director, you’re like the “Dad” of the show. You’re responsible for your actors.

 

What has been the reception of the Filipino audience to your work?

The number one thing I get is, “You’re so western!” Which I’ve learned to embrace because that is the foundation of my theater background. It was purely western. But I’m trying to incorporate a lot of local influences through character development and storyline. That’s one reception. Others love the idea of being exposed to something else, that’s not typical. It’s something new to them, and they welcome it. It’s like a palate cleanser. Another reception is that they love the music. I don’t want to take full credit for that because I have a partner, Tin Caberto. We write all the songs together. They say that our songs are made for theater, but they can imagine it being heard over the radio. And I like that.

 

issue_02_nuelrivera_3-768x512

“A story is an instrument for truth. And I don’t refer to truth as in an established truth. You can feed people a lie and call it a truth. That’s what you can do with a story.”

Define what a “story” is in your own words, by your own experience.

A story is an instrument for truth. And I don’t refer to truth as in an established truth. You can feed people a lie and call it a truth. That’s what you can do with a story. Whatever you put out there, these are things that people can and probably will believe.  So it’s the way that you use the story to impart a certain truth. It’s what’s vital for the writer to do or establish.

 

Can you define “art” and relate it to your role as a playwright?

I have a professor who told us that art is anything that makes you feel. I have to agree with that. You know that not feeling is a feeling. You stare at an artwork and if you don’t feel anything, that’s still feeling something. And art is exactly like that. Art is anything that makes you feel. As a playwright, that is your job, to make sure that the audience feels some things. That’s what I always work after. Is it gonna make them feel happy, encouraged, sad, or hopeful? Or what if they don’t feel anything?  I’ll take that.

 

What kind of stories do you want your audience to remember you by?

With all my stories and all the songs so far, what I’ve noticed with my trends and themes is that it’s always encouraging. I hate it when people decide for themselves that this is “the end” of something for them. “This is the end of my dreams”; “This is the end of all the good things in my life.” And the thing is, I’ve lived through that. I thought that there was an end, too. You hit a bump on the road and you think you’ll never be able to do more. But it’s not the end. I think that’s just like a false belief the world has said to us. marker

CREDITS

Nicole Gusto

Interview & Text – Nicole Gusto

Nicole is a part-nerd and part-artist. She geeks out on words and stories that have life…
the ones that are definitely worthwhile. She is in love with summer (if summer could ever be a person).

Photography – Cris Legaspi

 



 
How did you get into paint conservation?

It was in 1999 when the National Museum came up with a comprehensive program on restoration of easel paintings.  I was very lucky to have friends who are with them.  They invited me and it ran for a total of 16 months.  It was almost like attending an MA program.  This was sponsored by the National Museum, the Agencias Espanola, and National Commission for Culture and the Arts.  I was a graphic designer during that time, there were around 20 of us in the program, and our teachers came over from Spain.

We were there five days a week, eight hours a day, and it was composed of several courses from the basic restoration of easel paintings to the more advanced courses like polychrome statues.  We were taught to develop a critical mind. In art restoration, it’s not just looking at the colors, it’s also studying the texture and the approach of the artist.  You must know the materials and their conditions.  All these will help you prepare a conservation program or intervention.

I really value my conservation training.  I have been restoring for almost 15 years.  I have learned to be very patient, to be very careful with assessment, so the artwork will receive the proper treatment.  Every project is a challenge to me, because it tests my knowledge and skill.  One must have a very outlook when you study a painting.  Growing up, I wanted to be a doctor, but my father could not afford to send me to medical school.  Now I am a doctor of paintings.

 

Tell us about your group ACES.

Seven of us who graduated from the program set up an organization Art Restoration and Conservation Specialists in 2001, and worked together for around 10 years before we went our separate ways. Restoration is a team effort, it’s something you cannot do by yourself. In my team we have chemists, we have several artists, even an accountant.  You need to have many eyes looking at the project.  A chemist would look at it differently, and an artist would look at it very differently.  I can see things that they can’t see, and they can see things that I can never see.
 
 

June Dalisay

“One conservation principle that a conservator must follow is that anything that you add, you should be able to remove. Everything should be reversible and removable.”

 

Tell us about some of your projects.

We did a partial restoration of The Spoliarium.  It was such an honor and such a wonderful experience.  We had to set up scaffolding so we could check every square inch of it.  We removed the aged varnish and cleaned the painting.

We also did the Botong Francisco mural at St. Paul University.  Manila Hotel has an art collection as well, and they invited me to restore them, among these Amorsolo’s Early Traders painting.

The last restoration project our team made was for CCP.  We worked on four murals of Jaime de Guzman, each one about 6 by 5 feet.  He was one of my favorite painters, so I was happy to do it for them pro bono.

Right now I am also a trustee and finance officer for Erehwon Center for the Arts, a non-profit organization that promotes art in the Philippines.

 

What did you do before ACES?

I was a graphic designer. I used to paint and I had several one-man shows.  I suppose it’s just natural that I segued into art restoration because I studied art.  My very first solo-exhibit was in 1982 for watercolor paintings.  I’ve had a show in Italy, and I’ve made some good friends out of my clients, some of my paintings were brought to USA, Australia, and Canada.

 

Can you run us through the procedure of art conservation?

One conservation principle that a conservator must follow is that anything that you add, you should be able to remove.  Everything should be reversible and removable.   First, we have to document the front and back to record the physical damage of the painting.  Next, we test all the colors to see their condition.  Then we clean the painting.  Once we had to remove thick varnish from a piece, and it was very difficult, it was very thick and tough, we had to do a lot of run throughs.  We flatten the cracks by using organic glue and a heated spatula, similar to ironing a wrinkled blouse.  Afterwards we apply putty, let it dry, and retouch areas of paint loss.  You have to visualize what was there before, see it in your mind.

 

How do you see the future of art conservation?

People would tell me I’m a jack-of-all-trades.  I do restoration works on canvas, paper, sculptures, photopaper.  In other countries, there are specialists for all of these, but here in the Philippines, I have to learn how to do all these because nobody would.  There are very few conservators, not more than ten.  There is a need to train young people to do conservation work, which is my advocacy right now. marker

CREDITS

Interview – Jenette Vizcocho and Dane Raymundo

Videography – Lisandro Molina, and M Espeña

Editing – M Espeña

Text – Jenette Vizcocho

 



 

We follow a painter with such palpable passion for his craft. He has an extraordinary amount of artistry for someone who just yearns to paint or as he puts it, “Gusto ko lang talagang magpinta”. He humbly talks about his excellence in art, the simplicity in life, the radical emotions behind some of his art works and the importance of his family. Join us as Mark Andy Garcia leaves us speechless at his admirable, brazen honesty about the art industry.

 

Anong klase ka na estudyante ‘nung high school and college? Painter ka na ba talaga?

‘Nung high school and college tahimik lang ako. Nagkainteres ako sa painting ‘nung college pero nagdo-drawing na ‘ko simula pa ng elementary. ‘Nung time na yun, wala ako sa kahit konting pag-iisip na magiging profession ko siya. Gusto ko lang siya ma-enjoy. ‘Nung college ako, diyan ko nakuha ‘yung pag-aaral ko kaya nagustuhan ko na rin.

 

‘Yung family mo huge part ba ng creativity mo? Na-influence ka ba nila?

Oo, pero actually ayoko tawaging “inspiration”. Motivation. Ang “inspiration” sa mga amateurs yan. Nagtatrabaho sila kasi inspired sila. Kahit sino pwedeng sabihin yun eh. Ako, ito ang buhay ko.

 

Ano ang kahulugan ng pamilya sa iyo?

Part ko. Kasi iniisip ko, magtatrabaho ka para sa sarili ko lang? Ang boring! Kapag ang tagumpay wala kang pagaalayan, ay walang kwenta. Ngayon ko na-aappreciate ‘yung nanay ko nagaattend ng exhibit ko kasi dati di ko nararamdaman yan kasi masyado silang busy sa trabaho para makapagaral kami. Nagtatampo-tampo pa ko noon, yun pala para sa amin din yun.

 

Itong talent mo natural bang dumating yan sa iyo?

Yung interes ko siguro natural pero yung talent kasi sa tingin ko talagang binigay ng Panginoon yan kasi kung ako aasahaan ko lang sarili ko, wala ako magagawa. Hindi ako magaling. May mga blessings eh, dun ko masasabi na binigay lang.

 

Natututunan din ba ng pagiging artist?

Natututunan. Actually, wala namang ipinanganak sa mundo na alam na talaga niya ang art. Talagang pagaaralan tapos experience. Wala namang bata diyan na ipinanganak na magaling na kaagad. Sa experience niya kaya niya nalalaman ang mga bagay. Yung mga part na yun ang magseshape sa artist eh.

 

May nagsulat na mood-based ang style mo. Naga-agree ka ba dun?

Nung una hindi. Kasi hindi ko naman iniisip kung ano ipipinta ko bukas. Halimbawa, may exhibit ako parating, wala ko sinusubmit na proposal na ito ang ipipinta ko. Ang ginagawa ko niyan, nagpipinta lang ako bago dumating ang exhibit tapos hinuhugot ko yung mangyayari sa araw ko. Halimbawa, biglaan namatay ang tatay ko, dun ko kukunin. Di mo naman masasabi yan eh. Kaya ako di ako nagsusulat. Gusto ko kung ano na lang.

 

Mark Andy Garcia

“Kaya ko nga ginagawang subject yung sariling buhay ko kasi nga gusto ko makita nila kung sino talaga ko na walang tinatago, na ako talaga. Hindi ko naman iniisip kung ano iniisip sa akin ng iba. Basta nagpipinta lang ako.”

Sabi nila iba daw yung style mo dati, realism ba?

Hindi. Lahat naman realism. Siyempre masunurin ako, estudyante ako nun eh. Wala naman eskwelahan sa arts na magtuturo ng distortion, abstraction o ng surrealism. Dinadaanan pero hindi tinuturo kasi lahat ng tinuturo sa eskwelahan basic. Basic kasi ang realism. Ibig sabihin ng basic, pundasyon siya. Kailangan siya ng lahat ng artist na marunong magdrawing. Wala pa yata ako nabasa na malaking pangalan sa art industry na hindi marunong magdrawing.

 

Sa tingin mo bakit ka naging pintor?

Ewan ko. Nung simula naman hindi ko naisip kung bakit ako naging pintor. Basta gusto ko lang magpinta. Ang alam ko lang gusto ko yung arts. Sa usapin naman ng purpose, maganda yan. Very interesting yang purpose. Sa mga artists yan yung hindi narirealize ng marami. Hindi masagot ng marami kung para saan talaga ginawa nila. Sa tingin ko ang purpose ng art ko para sa sarili ko rin.

 

Paano mong gusto ma-identify as a painter?

Simple lang. Gusto ko simpleng painter lang ako. Kung ano lang talaga personality ko, kung ano nakikita ng iba, gusto ko yun talaga. Kaya ko nga ginagawang subject yung sariling buhay ko kasi nga gusto ko makita nila kung sino talaga ko na walang tinatago, na ako talaga. Hindi ko naman iniisip kung ano iniisip sa akin ng iba. Basta nagpipinta lang ako.

 

Visual journals daw ang paintings mo, kasi kung ano nararanasan mo yun ang pinipinta mo. Sa ngayon ba ganun pa rin?

Oo ganun pa rin. Kasi wala akong interes sa ibang bagay. Gusto ko talaga yung buhay ko lang.

 

Kumusta ka ngayon, Andy?

Okay, masaya. Marami na rin nagbago. Dati madrama pa ko sa buhay. Pero di ko na iniisip yun. Siyempre nagkakaproblema, pero di na ko gaya ng dati. Siyempre nalulungkot pero di na gaya ng dati na down. Kung gusto ko naman sumaya, eh di magpipinta ko. Maraming pwedeng gawin para maging positibo. Mindset, sa tingin ko. Kailangan ayusin mo pagiisip mo. Hindi lang sarili ko ang tinitingnan ko, nandyan yung mga kapatid ko.

 

Sa mga bumibili ng painting mo, tinatanong ba nila kung ano meaning ng painting mo?

Yung iba parang wala naman interes malaman yung meaning. Gusto lang nila meron sila nun kasi meron ang kaibigan nila. Actually mas naaappreciate ko yung bibili sila ng painting sa akin na wala silang pera tapos hulug-hulugan. Mas naaapreciate ko yun kasi feeling ko talaga gustung-gusto nila. Gusto ko, gusto mo rin, parang ganun.

 

Alam mo ba kung tapos na painting mo?

Alam ko. Kahit tingin ng mga tao na hindi pa tapos, ako, alam ko. Minsan may painting ako na matagal ko ginagawa. Ang kapal-kapal na ng pintura hindi ko matapos kasi mahirap talaga. Kasi mali din ako kasi hindi ko pinagisipan. Kasi ang talagang pagagawa ng art, siyempre titingnan mo subject. Kung wala ka pang subject, magiisip ka tapos lulutuin mo sa isip mo saka mo ibabato sa canvas para madali. Kasi talagang luto na bago mo ilagay sa canvas. Minsan kasi sa canvas ko kinakapa, wala akong idea. Parang naglalakad ka pero di mo alam kung saan ka pupunta tapos sa gitna palang saka ka magiisip kung saan ka talaga pupunta. Minsan successful, minsan hindi. Mahirap yun eh.

 

So dapat may idea ka muna?

Oo, dapat iniisip. Kasi kapag di mo iniisip, nakakatawa. Kapag hindi ko gusto pinipinturahan ko na lang ulit. Sa iba siguro nilalabas pa nila yan, eexhibit pa tapos lolokohin mga tao na may kwento yan.

Ano yung pinakameaningful painting ang nagawa mo?

Meron dati pero parang binalewala lang ng nakabili. Kasi nung nag-abroad ako, naging Kristiyano ako dun sa Saudi. Tapos paguwi ko dito, nagpaint ako ng portrait ko na sa tingin ko, “ganda nito ah”, masayang-masaya ko. Parang pinaint ko yung saya ko dun bilang artist na may Diyos. Tapos sa first solo show ko yun nilabas. Nakuha ng isang collector tapos binalewala lang niya, pinagswap-swap ng kung anu-ano. Nung simula medyo nasasaktan ako eh. Isipin mo ganun kahalaga sa akin yun tapos sa ibang tao ganun lang. Pero kung isipin ko ngayon ganun siguro talaga.

 

Sa industry ninyo?

Hindi, sa lahat ng tao.  Ganyan talaga ang mundo.

 

Anong art work yun?

Ang title nun ay “Self-portrait with a Two-edged Sword”.

 

Pero wala kang tinatabing painting?

Merong mga nakatago. Hindi ko binebenta. Meron ako dun yung subject na tatay ko na nasa deathbed. Sinali ko sa Philip Morris yan tapos nanalo. Dun kasi kapag nanalo ka sa iyo pa rin ang painting, pwede nila bilhin pero hindi ko ibinenta kasi hindi naman ako nagugutom. Wala pa naman akong karanasan na nagpinta ako tapos wala akong ulam. OA naman yun. May iba ganun eh, “I’m a starving artist.” Tamad ka kasi, di ba? Meron time dati na wala akong kinikita pero nung time na yun, masustansiya pa din naman kinakain ko. Nangunguha ko ng malunggay sa kapitbahay. Tapos, halimbawa, meron akong 10 pesos, bibili ko ng tokwa at pechay. Hindi ako nagugutom. Kalokohan yun.

 

Ngayon ano na kinakain mo?

Nagluluto ako. Marunong kaya ko magluto. Ang galing ko kaya magluto!

 

Mark Andy Garcia

“Yung mga lumang painting ko nanakikitaan ng mga dark, mga radical na emotions, pinipilit kong balikan yun gamit ang bagong painting ko ngayon para masaayos.”

 
Ngayon, ano yung latest art works mo?

Itong mga bago nakaconnect pa din sa lumang paintings ko. Yung mga lumang painting ko na nakikitaan ng mga dark, mga radical na emotions, pinipilit kong balikan yun gamit ang bagong painting ko ngayon para masaayos. Meron akong painting dati na hard core, ang dilim eh. Kinukuha ko ngayon ulit tapos aayusin ko na. Iba yung treatment pero parehong subject ulit.

 

Mas may tapal ng colors?

Hindi, ang painting kasi parang communication, parang pananalita. Pwedeng ganun pa rin sinasabi mo pero pwede mo ibahin ang pagkakasabi. Parang ganun.

 

Yung message mo ba importante sa iyo maiparating sa viewers?

Hindi importante sa akin yun. Wala akong pakialam kung hindi nila naintindihan yun, basta ako sa akin nakaconnect ako sa painting ko.

 

Ngayon may mga struggles ka pa ba as an artist?

Struggle sa pagiisip, minsan kasi masyado na tayo busy. Hindi kasi naiintindihan ng iba, akala nila pwede mo naman gawin ang ibang bagay sa umaga, sa gabi magpinta ka. Hindi totoo yun. Dapat painting lang kung painting. Hindi yan usapin ng oras eh. May oras kung sa may oras pero yung isip mahirap ifocus. May iba siguro nagagawa yun, pero ako hindi pa.

 

Ano gusto mong legacy maiwan sa mga tao?

Gusto ko kung ano lang yung ako talaga. Ang sa akin lang, gusto ko lang makita lahat-lahat ng ginawa ko.

 

Ano pa ang mga plano mo?

Typical lang, walang kakaiba, magpipinta. Ang totoo naman kasi, dati ang gusto ko lang talaga magpinta, pero nung nagpipinta na ko, naisip ko, kagaya din ng ibang profession, madami din yang side. Hindi lang pupwedeng pagpipinta lang alam mo. Meron yang business side. May psychological side yan kasi pipiliin at pipiliin mong magpinta ng mabibigat na subjects. Akala ba nila ganun-ganun lang? Madedepress ka kapag mahina ang loob mo. Yung pinipili kong subject pati ako naaapektuhan. Para kang nanonood ng horror, pagpikit mo hindi ka makatulog. Alam mo naman na walang multo pero parang may multo, parang ganun. marker

CREDITS

Interview & Editing- M Espeña

Videography – Cris Legaspi and M Espeña

Text – Dane Raymundo

The mere mention of “Ballet Philippines” brings one’s thoughts to ballet dancers performing a world-class production at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). But amidst the awe of such flawless performances, often, one finds himself wondering how much time, discipline, artistry, and passion is entailed to come up with one successful show.

Ballet Philippines is one of the longest-standing and most established dance companies in the country. And it is not without reason that they have been in the industry for more than four decades. That’s four decades of teaching and producing local ballet dancers that can surpass international standards.

Murphy Report is honored to have had the opportunity to talk to Ballet Philippines’ Artistic Director and ballet dancers, to get a more in-depth perspective of what the company is all about; pre, during and post- productions ̶ ̶ from their artistry to their emotions and the challenges they face, we got it all covered.

 



 

Interview with Paul Alexander Morales, Artistic Director of Ballet Philippines

Can you describe Ballet Philippines?
Paul Alexander Morales, Artistic Director of Ballet Philippines

Paul Alexander Morales
Artistic Director of Ballet Philippines

Ballet Philippines, they say, is a pioneering professional dance company in Manila. It was founded in 1969 by Alice Reyes with the help of Eddie Elejar. Alice is really a modern dance choreographer and Eddie is a classical dancer. So it was a combination of the two. They had their first concert here at the CCP in 1970. We are coming up with our 47th season and, really, the idea of Ballet Philippines is to create some sort of a national ballet through a professional dance company. Before ballet Philippines madami tayong dance company sa Manila, but none was professional in the sense na yun lang ang gagawin mo. Hindi siya hobby, full time work siya for the dancers, so it’s really to professionalize the craft of dancing pero kasabay din nun yung pagcreate ng Filipino content. So it also features a lot of Filipino choreography, and of course the talent of Filipino dancers, designers and composers. Ballet Philippines is that twin idea of creating Filipino work and Filipino talent. For the talent development, we have a long-term scholarship program. I myself was a scholar here in the 80s. It was because there was a company like Ballet Philippines that could support the arts that I was able to pursue my dancing.

Define ballet and what makes it a form of art?

I think Ballet in French just means “dance”, so we can take dance very broadly. In the Philippines dance is very natural. Indigenous communities have their own dances. Sabi nga ng mga foreigners, Filipinos are really good singers and dancers. Dancing is a natural talent. Every country has its way of developing their own style and their trademark in dance, pero ang maganda sa ballet is that there is an international standard, especially today na meron nang youtube and you can watch everybody, so it pulls up the work. Everybody is encouraged to do better work.

You were mentioning about how you’re putting in a musical score and all these things, and we’ve always been curious about the process. Can you just give us a run-through of how it works?

To make a ballet, usually there are many ways to go about it, and sometimes iba yung process, but I would say the traditional process is it starts with an idea. So let’s say we’ll do a ballet about this story and then usually you employ a librettist, who writes down the story. Sometimes it’s based on another story, it’s an adaptation or there’s a historical approach. The librettist then hands it over to the composer, the composer creates new music, and eventually the designers will design. They have a set designer, lighting designer, costume designer and then the choreographer. Usually the choreographer is there from the beginning of the process. Usually, siya talaga yung magaguide. It’s his or her approach to the dance. So to come up with a new ballet, you need all these creative input, even without the dancers. So yung dancers iba din yung kanilang contribution, which is the actual movements of the dance.

This is very technical and tedious, so how long does it usually take to make one production?

One production will take one or two months, but usually the preparations take a year or so. You really want to be prepared. At Ballet Philippines, we present 4 major productions every year and it rarely repeats. So parang kasama sa aming mission yung we always present something new. Yun yung aming subscription season, so people can support the company by getting a subscription to all the four shows that we’ve prepared all throughout the year.

How do the dancers attach their own creativity in their performance? How do they express their individuality and make the move their own?

As choreographers, we ask them not to emote so much with their face. Their artistry is something you see in their approach to the music. In the musicality; their phasing. You may have the same move, but they are able to express it differently. They give the audience a different feeling through that. Sometimes it can include facial expressions, but beyond that, I guess, it’s how the body expresses. It can be a happy jump, a very angry jump, but the particular timing, in relation to the space, gives you that expression.

How has ballet and Ballet Philippines changed over time?

Kanina dun sa sinasabi nating history, it’s very important to note about modern dance. Modern dance pioneers such as Isadora Duncan or Martha Graham have a big impact in the Philippines, especially in Ballet Philippines. Our first show was all modern dance. It is beyond ballet, but also uses some properties of ballet, like it’s presented in the theater, but it presents different stories and different movements. There’s also contemporary dance which is what the choreographers do now. More like exploration of movements. There’s not one particular style. Like music, classical ballet, it’s interesting to go to because you know what you’re going to get, but of course within that parameter there are still many interpretations. With contemporary and modern dance, the options are much wider. The Filipino dance, in particular, I would say some of our choreographers here, two in particular are very, very noted for their works that create Filipino themes and Filipino movements. One of them is founder, Alice Reyes. A lot of her early works that have become very acclaimed are about Filipino stories and using this modern dance movement. Later on, my teacher, Agnes Locsin, started doing ballet called “Neo-ethnic”, based on Filipino dance movement combined with modern dance movements.

So you’re also tailor-fitting it to the Filipino audience?

Yes, and also to the Filipino body.

But what has been the reception of the Filipino audience?

I would say the Filipino audience is very diverse. The programs we present are also very diverse so it reflects that. We have pieces, for example, that are for children or for the whole family. Once in a while we have pieces that are more mature or for the adult audience. Often, we have pieces about the Filipino culture. But Manila is very cosmopolitan, so the programming is very eclectic. Maybe dance is an acquired taste. So the best would really be for people to come and see our show.

What are the challenges in the country?

Well, for one thing, we should really celebrate that Manila is one of the few cities in the world, that actually has 3 ballet companies. Since Ballet Philippines started, we put up a good standard that everyone would try to emulate. All the three companies are still struggling in the sense that we have to develop an audience. We have little government support. Most ballet companies in other countries would really have a long-term program, a sense of security. More or else ang art sa Pilipinas isang kahig isang tuka, so kung ano yung makikita mo, pwede mo siyang idevelop sa next show, but wala yung sense of plan. We are approaching our 50th anniversary, this is what we are thinking about how to make it even more sustainable. Sustainable naman siya because you can see it happening and we are employing a lot of dancers. So the dancers here are paid full-time for the whole year. And they get all the benefits like insurance. But I would say, unlike in other countries, malayo pa tayo sa maaring ibigay. A lot of times, I won’t say all the time, our dancers end up exporting themselves at some point because they want to help their families. Like in Hong Kong Disneyland, when it opened, we had a lot of dancers who went there. Muntikan na magsara ang company. We have a lot of dancers in cruises. We have a dancer who just finished the tour of “Cirque de Soleil”. But of course you want to develop the scene here more.

How does Ballet Philippines improve its artistry and how do you set your standards?

The founder of Ballet Philippines has high standards; maybe a taste and a level of excellence. From the beginning we have to consider that you are a part of the international arena. We have a lot of guest choreographers that keeps us abreast with the international scene. The other really great thing is to tour and see other people’s works. The past few years, we’ve also been lucky to be in festivals and things like these.

What are the plans of Ballet Philippines in the next 10 years?

This June, we have a new festival called “Dance Manila”, which celebrates the professional dance scene in the Philippines. I think that’s a big push to recognize us. It’s something na bagay sa mga Pilipino because we want Filipinos to appreciate dance and dance history; how much dance has helped shape society and how it helps people in terms of employment. Our goal is to keep producing the best dance and building an audience for dance.



issue_02_balletphils_6
Earl John Arisola, Junior Principal Dancer

issue_02_balletphils_4
John Mark Cordero, Principal Ballet Dancer
issue_02_balletphils_3
Rita Winder, Soloist
issue_02_balletphils_2
Denise Parungao, Junior Principal Dancer
issue_02_balletphils_5
Cyril Aran Fallar, Principal Soloist
issue_02_balletphils_1
John Mark Cordero and Earl John Arisola

Interview with the Ballet Dancers

John Mark Cordero, Principal Ballet Dancer
Rita Winder, Soloist
Denise Parungao, Junior Principal Dancer
Cyril Aran Fallar, Principal Soloist
Earl John Arisola, Junior Principal dancer

Kindly give us a background of your career as a ballet dancer. What made you decide to become one?

John Mark Cordero (JMC): I started very late. I started when I was 18. That’s very late for a dancer. I thought it was the perfect job for me because I love the stage. I was too young to do the parts that I wanted to do in theater, but I still wanted to perform, so I asked my teacher back then kung ano pwede ko gawin, “magsayaw ka muna. Try mo”. From that point, nagtuluy-tuloy na, hindi na ko nakaalis sa CCP.

Rita Winder (RW): I started at 8 years old. Nagstart yun kasi sa lugar namin, sa barangay hall, may nagooffer ng dance. Eventually, ballet na yung tinuturo. Pinupush ako ng nanay ko tapos eventually yung teacher ko sa ballet, former member ng Ballet Philippines, mga pioneer members sila, pinush niya ko na magaudition sa Philippine High School for the Arts tapos scholarship din siya. Tapos since nakapasok na ko dun, eye-opener sa akin yung Makiling (Philippine High School for the Arts) kasi ang dami ko natutunan sa arts. Sabi ko, “After nito hindi ko ile-let go yung alam ko sa arts. After nito, sasayaw ako sa college.” Hanggang yun na nga nag-De La Salle College of St. Benilde ako na Performing Arts Major tapos in consortium siya with Ballet Philippines. Naging ito yung path at naging clear ang path papunta dito.

Denise Parungao (DP): I took up Bachelor of Performing Arts in Dance in De La Salle-College of St. Benilde and they gave me a scholarship. That’s how I entered Ballet Philippines. I started to love ballet when I was 13. I don’t know why. It’s just there. You decide that you love it and you want to do it.

Earl John Arisola (EJA): I started dancing in my province, in Iloilo. And nalaman ng parents ko yung Philippine High School for the Arts sa Makiling, Laguna and nag-scholarship ako dun. Tapos nag-pursue ako ng Ballet Major. Kasi noon kapag galing ka Makiling didiretso ka ng Ballet Philippines (BP) as a CCP Scholar. Nag-CCP scholar ako after ng high school then nag-dance major ako sa Benilde. I pursued dance here in BP as my profession.

Cyril Aran Fallar (CAF): When I was a kid, passion ko na talaga ang dancing. I also entered Philippine High School for the Arts as a Theater Artist not a dancer. After 2 years, I was a stage manager of a ballet recital. That time I was eyeing a girl who was a ballerina. Suddenly, I decided to pursue dancing. At first it started out as passion, but then I realized career ko na pala siya.

Define ballet and what makes it a form of art?

JMC: Basically, ballet is dance. Art form siya kasi there’s a certain technique and there’s a certain level at meron kang sinusundan. Meron siyang specific aesthetic at ginawa siya hundreds of years ago.

DP: Art is about expressing yourself and it’s very open to interpretation. Ballet is about dancing talaga and about expressing. Ako, more on expression siya. You move because ito yung feeling mo. This is my outlet.

EJA: Para sa akin ang ballet kailangan talaga ng discipline. It’s an art because ballet pieces tell a story and we usually play a role as ballet dancers and para mapakita mo sa audience yung story, kailangan you give life dun sa role na pineplay mo.

CAF: Ballet is a choice. Kailangan mo siyang maging choice kasi if you want to be a ballet dancer, you have to give 200% of your self. You have to sacrifice a lot. For me ballet is not just a form of dance, you have to tell a story. Nagiging art siya dahil sa passion mo together with your dedication and your discipline.

What have been the changes over time?

JMC: Sa limang artistic directors na na-experience ko dito sa Ballet Philippines, depende kasi yun kung saan isi-steer ng captain yung ship eh. Ito yung maganda sa Ballet Philippines, it’s a repertory company at the same time we create new works. So we have classical works from local choreographers and we also have new works. Ito yung nagpapabuhay sa Ballet Philippines at mabubuhay pa rin siya. Ang daming young choreographers na nandito. Madaming malilikot yung utak to do something na mage-evolve ang dance. I think ito yung heartbeat ng Ballet Philippines.

DP: Well, I’m young in the industry pero nakita ko pag nagsoshow kami mas marami nanonood especially kapag ang production ay Peter Pan, yung pang kids or related sa history like Crisostomo Ibarra.

What is your favorite or most memorable ballet production?

JMC: Actually yung last production lang namin, yung “Opera” with Redha. We never really had an opportunity to work with him na ginawa niya yung piyesa sa amin and first time itong nangyari, yung choreographer ginagawa niya sa sarili mo, sa katawan mo, sa pagkatao mo, sa iyo minomold yung character. Chinecherish ko naman din lahat ng experiences ko with our choreographers before pero kasi nagawa na yan ng iba eh. It’s just that this is something special kasi kapag ibang tao pinaggawa nun, example 10 years from now uulitin ang ginawa ko lahat dito, mahihirapan yata ako ituro kasi ako yun.

RW: Nagiging memorable kasi ang production para sa amin, usually kapag memorable din yung process na pinanggalingan namin dun like yung binabanggit ni JM na” Operakasi, kumbaga kami yung clay niya, parang ganun mismo yung ginagawa niya. Memorable din sa akin yung kay Agnes Locsin, yung “La Rev” niya, kasi yung process niya sa amin madugo na kailangan namin mag-intensive workshop sa kanya ng isang buwan mahigit sa Davao para makuha namin yung gusto niya, para pagbalik namin dito, mabilis yung trabaho at kuha na namin yung gusto niya gawin. Dugo’t pawis ang nilagay namin dun. Eventually, ang rewarding kapag ginawa mo na mismo yung piece.

DP: The full-length ballet Giselle, because the story is complete. It’s about love, forgiveness, betrayal, everything. The style is very beautiful. The music, yung feels. It’s on point. Everything goes well together.

JMC: Siguro for the readers, kailangan nila din maintindihan na madaming styles ang ballet. Di lang siya grand plié, jump, tutu, at least okay yun, you have an idea of what to expect pero hindi pare-pareho yun ng style. Depende yan sa era, kapag Giselle romantic yan, di ka pwede magtaas ng leg ng ganito kataas. Iba-ibang period, iba-ibang style. Iba- iba din ang atake. I guess, dun makikita ang maturity ng dancers. Kapag alam nila kung nasaan silang lugar at ito lang. Kumbaga may purity or sincerity sa ginagawa sa arts. Ito din ang pagkakaiba ng sports sa arts. Sa sports di ba paramihan ng puntos pero sa arts, timplado mo.

What has been the reception of the Filipino audience?

JMC: Ang hirap kasi medyo Hollywood ang tingin natin dito sa Pilipinas eh. Ang hirap kalaban ng media. It’s the pop culture, I mean. Pero on another note, buhay kami, at hindi kami namamatay, for 46 years nandito pa rin ang Ballet Philippines. I guess, we’re doing something right. We just have to keep on doing kung ano ginagawa namin kasi it’s education na pinapasa sa generations, “Ah, may ballet sa Pilipinas”. Now dun sila maiinvolve. Yun nga hindi mo mafoforce ang tao to like something unless marealize nila na ito yun.

RW: Feeling ko ang dance community nageeffort naman para magreach out sa mga tao. I think alam naman ng tao ang difference sa showbiz or sa commercialized dancing sa art na ito. Pero yung pag-educate sa kanila, lalo na ng media, nalilimit sila. Narerestrict nila yung sarili nila na pumunta sa theater kasi ang effort naman talaga di ba, kumpara sa bubuksan lang nila ang TV nila.

Ballet Philippines for Murphy Report

JMC: I guess, it should start from the schools. Teaching culture. Kasi arts and culture, they go hand in hand. It starts from educating kids.

DP: Some still think that ballet is for elite or sosyal. But I think now, better na yung audience namin because of the collaborations with other artists like sculptors or visual artists. Yung supporters nila, nagiging supporters din namin.

CAF: I believe it’s improving naman kasi nakikita naman namin yung different kinds of audience kasi Ballet Philippines has a project of “Share the Magic”, so nagkakaroon ng opportunity ang less privileged kids na makanood ng performances namin. Pero ngayon talaga, I hope the government will give funds or help the ballet community. Not just the ballet community, but to help the arts here in the country, kasi we’re also tax payers. Nagbabayad kami ng tax pero wala halos projects for the arts. Hindi pa ganun ka- full support ang arts sa country. I think isang makakatulong din sa arts ay media talaga. Sana magkaroon din ng TV channel for the arts. Kasi ngayon kapag sinabi mo na dance, I think ang naiisip ay cheering and hip-hop.

EJA: Para sa masa kasi iba-iba naman ang impact ng ballet kasi hindi naman puro classical ang meron, meron ding modern ballet and contemporary. Feeling ko ang mga tao hindi pa masyado educated sa classical, yun yung less pinapanood.

How do you relay the feelings to your audience? How do you make them understand, especially feelings which are very abstract?

RW: Napaka-personal kasi ng bawat isa. Magkaiba kayo ng katawan, yung bigat ng ipapakita mong emotion. Bawat isa kasi may iba’t iba kasing experiences. Eventually, kasi sa art, yung mga experiences mo sa buhay yun yung hugot, yun yung gagamitin mo. Yun yung bala mo para maging kakaiba ka kasi pare-pareho niyo lang alam ang jump na ito pero iba-iba mo siya maipapakita. Pero actually kahit madami ka din experiences, kailangan mo din matutunan na iphysicalize yun.

JMC: In a simpler way, I guess. Ang ballet ay napakaa-physical. Ang ballet ay may technique. Ang ballet may mga demands, so I guess ang pinakachallenge ng isang ballet dancer ay maincorporate ang lahat ng requirements or technicalities sa katawan, which is iba’t-iba tayo ng katawan. It’s our job to incorporate the steps into our bodies. The more comfortable we get with the steps, the more emotions we can show. It boils down to your work at kung paano mo ipapakita yung individual differences ng tao.
 

DP: Yung character mo kasi kailangan mo siya ng pagkukuhanan. So yung interpretation mo ng characters, depende yun sa kung paano mo iniinterpret ang life mo. For example, Juliet. Na-in love siya. Siyempre kukunin mo yun depende sa definition mo kung paano ka ma-in love. So I think ang dance or interpretation ng characters, it’s very personal. That’s why different flavors every dance.

CAF: Of course you have to know your character first. It’s very hard to dance ballet, kasi unlike theater where they can speak, they can explain, in ballet, in dance, kailangan yung katawan mo. Kasi sometimes it’s very hard to balance the technique and the artistry. Kasi minsan too much technique, less artistry and for some, too much artistry, less technique. For me, like in theater arts, I create a character sketch in my imagination.

EJA: Ballet movements have its own logic. When telling a story hindi naman sila nilagay basta-basta dun. It has a purpose sa story mismo. And you put that movement into that story. Kung paano mo siya gawin, kunwari magpo-point ka dun, hindi ka naman magpo-point lang dun, halimbawa, magpo-point ka dahil may hinahanap ka.

DP: Number one dapat clear sa yo kung ano yung feelings. You have to know exactly how it feels because you don’t show it by showing it. You show it by feeling it. Especially sa big theaters. Hindi na nila makikita yung face mo so you have to show through movement parang you don’t show me sad face. You show me what sadness is and it’s easier to express if you have co-actors with you. For example, jealousy. So know how it feels then express through the body.

How do you improve your artistry?

DP: I explore. I go out and experience the real life. The more you experience, the more input you have. The more you have, the more you can share.

What or who are your inspirations?

JMC: Personally inspired ako sa legacy na iniwan ng past generations ng Ballet Philippines sa amin. So I need to continue what they have done before and I need to give it to the next generation.

RW: True. Hindi naman sa wala kaming iniidolo pero pinakita kasi nila na possible pala ito. So since nandyan kayo ngayon, kailangan niyo i-maintain or higitan pa ginawa namin. Feeling ko lahat sila diyan ay nakakainspire.

DP: Sometimes, I daydream and see the bigger picture. Sometimes, I watch videos and research my idol. People around you can also inspire you. And friendly competition is nice because it gives you a little push.

Ballet dancer that you look up to?

DP: Marianela Nunez, she’s from The Royal Ballet. Sobrang generous niyang mag-dance.

CAF: Sa international, si Mikhail Baryshnikov. He’s one of a kind; the artistry and the technique. Of course, yung mga inabutan ko na seniors pati yung mga teachers ko, Sir Luther Perez, Sir Tony.

What have been the challenges?

DP: Biggest challenge is the demand that ballet is asking from you. The amount of time, effort. hard work patience, sacrifices, pain, and tears na kailangan mo ibigay at i-go through. It’s not simple. It’s not just going to the studio and doing pliés and all.

Kindly describe the amount of discipline needed to become a great ballet dancer.

JMC: Ako, personally, I treat myself like an athlete. Do what athletes do. You have to take care of your body, eat well and focus on the tasks at hand. Athletes’ discipline eh, ganun ka kamotivated. And of course you have to follow the path na gusto sa inyo ng company or teachers. I think, listening sa mga nakakatanda, ang pangit kung nakakatanda eh, nakakaalam.

DP: Here, we work 2pm to 10pm on a normal day, if we’re on season. Ballet for me is equal to discipline. Ballet is a lifestyle. From the food you eat, to being humble enough to go to the studio every day and accept all your flaws and be more than willing to change it to be better. marker

CREDITS

Interview and Text – Dane Raymundo

Videography – Cris Legaspi and M Espeña

Editing – M Espeña

xxIamEdiTNotexx

ISSUE 02

Art


SEE FULL ISSUE

aRT. We all know it is everywhere, but the enigma invariably attached to it, often makes us run out of words to define it. Art is an amalgamation of different things, from creativity and imagination to relating it to other facets of life; which leads us wondering about the simplicity and complexity of life and how we both perceive and express it. Rather than solely define, we SHOW you what art is all about. On our second issue, let us take you to the world of visual and performing arts. We get to know more about Ballet Philippines, the amount of discipline their ballet dancers have, and how they have been providing quality productions from homegrown ballet dancers in over four decades, all along tailor-fitting it to the Filipino audience. Ever wondered who takes care of “sick” art works? We interviewed a renowned art doctor, June Dalisay, and she lets us in on the rigorous process of art conservation and restoration. Filipinos, they say, are very talented. Indeed, we say. We talked to Mark Andy Garcia, one of the most talented painters today, with 14 solo art exhibits and a CCP Thirteen Artists Award, what more can we say? We also feature Silverlens, an art gallery that has been showcasing the talents of young artists for 12 years; contributing in the development of the Philippine art scene. Let us introduce you to Nuel Rivera, a playwright who at his young age of 19, is starting to make a name for himself; offering a fresh outlook on the theater scene.

For our travel aficionados, let us give you pointers on how to plan your solo travel to Cambodia while being mesmerized at the artistic scenes and timeless culture the country has to offer.

ART.

Let us SEE and FEEL it with you. marker

BY DANE RAYMUNDO