National Artist for Theater Design Salvador “Badong” Bernal dies Oct. 26, 2011 at 66

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National Artist for Theater Design Salvador “Badong” Bernal died on Oct. 26, 2011 at the age of 66. That afternoon, I was assigned by an editor of Philippine Daily Inquirer to write a short obit for Bernal. They sent me some research materials and I called some people at the Cultural Center of the Philippines for information.

Later that evening, my editor and I found out another editor had also already assigned another writer to do the same assignment and my editor reconfigured my assignment to collect statements for Bernal. Below is the original draft of the obit/article I was assigned to write and the compilation of statements that was eventually published on the Oct. 31, 2011 issue.

There are also some statements that I found online and reposted below.

Draft as of 2011 10 26 6pm originally intended for Oct 27 issue
National Artist for Theater Design Salvador Bernal dies at 66
By Walter Ang

National Artist for Theater Design Salvador “Badong” Bernal died yesterday (Oct. 26) at the age of 66.

He was brought to a hospital Quezon City around 12noon and was declared dead on arrival. As of this writing, cause of death has not yet been determined.

The Cultural Center of the Philippines said it was coordinating with Bernal’s family to plan a possible necrological service.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of a great artist,” says CCP Vice-President and Artistic Director Chris Millado.  “Badong redefined scenic design in the Philippines and was a teacher and mentor to our current crop of designers. He was responsible for creating the beautiful sets and costumes that defined the aesthetics of the various ballet, theater and musical productions at the CCP and other venues,” Millado continues.  “He will be greatly missed as a theater artist, mentor and friend.”

Bernal was named National Artist in 2003.  The award citation notes that “sensitive to the budget limitations of local productions, he harnessed the design potential of inexpensive local materials, pioneering or maximizing the use of bamboo, raw abaca and abaca fiber, hemp twine, rattan chain links and gauze cacha. In doing this he exemplified the versatility of Filipino materials for design and proved that the poverty of a production need not imply a poverty of the imagination.”

Bernal began designing costumes and sets in 1968 while teaching literature at Ateneo De Manila University, where he also graduated with a degree in philosophy two years prior.  From then on, he had designed more than 300 productions of plays, ballets, concerts, musicals and operas.

His last work for CCP was for “Banaag at Sikat,” National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera’s rock musical last year.  He designed Tanghalang Ateneo’s “Sintang Dalisay” earlier this year and had been in the middle of collaborating with director Felix “Nonon” Padilla for an upcoming production of “King Lear.”

Born January 7, 1945, Bernal was the fifth of 10 children of Santiago Bernal, a dentist, and Ubalda Flor, a clothes designer.

He pursued a Master of Fine Arts major in Scenic Design at Northwestern University and was appointed as a lighting design instructor there.  He was also a British Council scholar and observed theater work with the Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal Opera House in England.

He returned to Manila and added Stage Design to the classes he taught at Ateneo (which he also eventually taught at University of the Philippines). Salvador Bernal began designing sets and costumes for Ballet Phils in 1973 and worked as resident designer for BP for several years. He went full-time into production design in 1974.

He was director and consultant to the CCP Production Design Center from 1987-1994 and mentored its current head, Eric Cruz. He was also mentor to production designer Gino Gonzales.

Bernal proposed the creation of the Production Design Center, a building at the CCP complex inaugurated in 1992 that houses a scene shop (construction area) for sets, sewing rooms and storage for costumes, and other offices.

He designed most of the sets and costumes of Tanghalang Pilipino, the CCP’s resident theater company, since its opening season in 1987.

He also returned to the academe and had been teaching Interdisciplinary Studies at Ateneo.  There, he designed many productions for Tanghalang Ateneo, one of the university’s theater groups, having served as the company’s Resident Production Designer since 1996.

Author, awardee
He was considered an authority in Philippine costumes and period clothing.  He designed period costumes for movies like “Oro, Plata, Mata” and “Gumising Ka, Maruja.” He authored “Patterns for the Filipino Dress, From Traje de Mestiza to the Terno” in 1992.

He also authored a collection of poetry "The firetrees burn all summer and other poems" in 2000.

He received several awards, including the CCP Centennial Honors for the Arts and the Patnubay ng Sining Award.

In 1995, to promote and professionalize the practice of theater design, he founded the Philippine Association of Theatre Designers and Technicians, and OISTAT Philippines, the country’s chapter of the International Organization for Stage Designers, Theater Architects and Technicians.

In 2007, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts published “Salvador F. Bernal: Designing the Stage,” a book written by Nicanor Tiongson detailing Bernal's work.

The article below was published in the Oct. 31, 2011 issue of Philippine Daily Inquirer
‘Bravo, Badong!’
Philippine theater pays tribute to National Artist for Theater and Design Salvador Bernal, 66
By Walter Ang

Theater artists and peers paid tribute to National Artist for Theater and Design Salvador “Badong” Bernal who died Oct. 26 at age 66.

The Philippine Theater Actors Guild said it was paying a “final standing ovation… to the master.”

“Philippine theater is now one major pillar less with the demise of Salvador Bernal,” the group said.
“In his art, Bernal brought the Filipino spirit to the stage with his design,” said TAG. “He will always be remembered for his massive scenic pieces, in which the challenge to the actor was always to equal the grandness of the space he created. No acting space was small for Bernal, because for him, that is how theater should be—grand and majestic.

“He was not only a designer; he also played the part of mentor to his juniors. He wanted to leave a legacy, but more than that, he wanted to kindle their passion. Because passion is what he had for the theater. It was always like a marriage, a fusion of the old and the new. He worked with tested materials, employed new design aesthetics, and thus was able to transcend time and differences in culture.

“Bravo Badong!”

Dramatist Tony Perez also gave his fond remembrance of the National Artist:
“In the 1990s, when the Cultural Center of the Philippines finally built a design center to service its three theaters, Badong told reporters, ‘We have finally entered the 20th century.’

“He was one of our greatest fashion designers but refused to be known as one. I have the honor of owning a ¾-balloon, witch’s cape—the last piece of clothing that he ever executed for anyone.

“He was also one of our greatest stage directors, computer-graphic artists, and film collectors—he refused to be labelled as any of those, too.

“Whenever he put his best foot forward, it was always as production designer.  Again, I have the honor of having him as production designer for most of my plays, especially my recently completed trilogy ‘Indakan ng mga Puso’ (‘Oktubre…’;  ‘Nobyembre…’; and ‘Disyembre…’)

“He was an obsessive-compulsive, but so are the most disciplined artists all over the world. Stupidity and mediocrity constantly annoyed him. Ironically, the students he frequently scolded should have felt the most flattered: He scolded them only because he felt that they were promising. Always enigmatic, he was selective with friends, but, once he had selected them, he chose only to give to them rather than receive from them.”

Theater director Ricky Abad wrote:
“Badong was more than just a designer.  He was an ethical designer. He respected the integrity of stage design:  design was for one play and not for any other. And that design cannot be sloppy or mediocre; it has to pass by high artistic standards; it has to be true to the play’s concept and to the character being played; it has to be nailed, sawn or sewn properly. Otherwise he fumes, in part because of the person’s incapacity to do things well, but more because an improperly done set or costume is a violation of the order demanded by the artistic universe—an aesthetic blasphemy, a creative sacrilege.”

“Badong is a very dear friend, a long-time collaborator and my most trusted critic,” said Denisa Reyes, former artistic director of Ballet Philippines. “He was forthright and brutally honest, an incorrigible romantic, but was most generous with his art and criticisms, sometimes to a fault. He had no tolerance for mediocrity, despised the ‘bahala na/pwede na’ attitude in the arts because he had such impeccable taste and was a perfectionist. May his legacy live on.”

Bernal was named National Artist in 2003.  The award citation notes that “sensitive to the budget limitations of local productions, he harnessed the design potential of inexpensive local materials, pioneering or maximizing the use of bamboo, raw abaca and abaca fiber, hemp twine, rattan chain links and gauze cacha. In doing this, he exemplified the versatility of Filipino materials for design and proved that the poverty of a production need not imply a poverty of the imagination.”

Also published online:

Eulogy for Badong by Nonon Padilla

Reposting from Glenn Sevilla Mas's Facebook account October 30, 2011

Badong and I began our professional relationship in 1986 after the Edsa Revolution. The CCP was re-organized under Dr. Nic Tiongson as Artistic Director and Mrs. Bing Roxas as President. At that time I headed the Visual Arts Department, inherited from Ray Abano. Nic asked me to head the Coordinating Center for Dramatic Arts with the objective of establishing a new resident Drama Company. Rolando Tinio, head of Teatro Pilipino at the time was on collision course with the Artistic Director and eventually folded up his company.

Tanghalang Pilipino began with a production of a Zarzuela, Dalagang Bukid. Badong did the sets and costumes. A reduced PPO of 30 musicians played live the first 2 weekend run, then recorded a minus one for the rest of the run.

The objective of the new company was to develop a repertory company. We began with three productions that season, and increased it to seven or eight the next season.

Badong designed a lovely art nouveau set for Dalagang Bukid complete with a Tranvia. The costumes were the classic baro’t saya of the twenties.

We had two venues at our disposal, the Small Theater, and the laboratory space, eventually named Batute after the nom de plume of poet, Jose Corazon de Jesus.

Next we did a Polish play, Pulis by Slawomir Mrozek. Badong, who was busy designing for Ballet Philippines insisted on doing the production design for Pulis, with very little budget. He didn’t mind. He wanted to design set and costumes. He came up with a hot fire engine red platform in the round. We suspended a red fishing net that eventually collapsed on the actors like trapped tigers.

In the 16 years that I stayed as artistic director of the Drama Company, I would say, more than half of our productions in the company Badong designed. And had he not suffered his first heart attack, and had kept his old energy, he would have done more. He loved the theater, pure and simple.

I guess you can say, we were an ideal team for theater, as I believe Alice and Badong were ideal for dance theater.

By ideal, I don’t mean to brag or sound snooty. Alice and I never dictated on Badong. It was always a reciprocal process, a give and take, where ideas were exchanged, or bounced around, with lots of discussions on concept, image, texture, and dramatic objectives.

When I was blank with ideas, or just didn’t know how to approach a given script, he was always ready with a question or two, to jump start our thought process. And when he was blank, I did likewise.
It was a fulfilling creative relationship because Badong had a sharp mind, a critical mind that many misunderstood as mataray sa pintas. But on the contrary, Badong would think aloud to keep the thought process going. He may have sounded opinionated in many instances, and dismissive about actors, directors, and designers, but his insights were constantly constructive.

Badong studied Philosophy at the Ateneo. He had a lifelong devotion and respect for his mentor, Fr. Roque Ferriols, a Jesuit professor he periodically visited throughout his life until recently when his health got in the way.

He was trained to think logically. And his sense of space, direction, and orientation was always firm. As tourists abroad, whether in Paris, Tokyo, or HongKong, I always relied on him to lead us back to our hotel. That was when he could still walk comfortably. When his leg gave him constant pain, he became despondent and sad that his travelling days were over.

Many will say he had genius. Badong will instantly scoff at the term. I can hear him whisper, “Say mo!”
What he readily admitted to his friends was that he had taste. And taste is not genius. It is a sense of proportion, a sense of scale, a sense for color and tone.

Badong’s was impeccable.

In his costume and set designs, what distinguished him from the rest was his attention to detail and correct period paraphernalia. It could be a simple lace handkerchief, grey stockings, or a feather on a hat. Whenever he adds the correct detail, the costume comes alive, and more importantly, the character is enhanced visually.
Badong would have been a wonderful director. I offered him numerous times to direct. In college he directed a number of stunning plays like The Bald Soprano, and a very intense Paglilitis ni Mang Serapio by Paul Dumol.

But he dismissed my offers.
He would quote or paraphrase T.S.Eliot: No I am not Prince Hamlet nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do to swell a progress, start a scene or two.”
O, ano’ng say mo?
Wa na say. Bow! Nagsalita na ang makata.

At the Ateneo, Badong was the Poetry editor of Heights. He was the college bard. Now, one can safely say he never abandoned poetry, although his published output was small and sporadic. He was to write poems intermittently, but at the turn of the millennium, he collected all his poems, early and new, into one volume, published by Bookmark. His poems were personal lyrics, honoring his mother or father, remembering a long dead friend, remembering childhood, song to a kikay friend, affectionate verses celebrating summer holidays.
He thought like a poet when he designed sets and costumes, translating image and silhouette into visual metaphors.

Dear, dear Badong, I don’t think I’m going to be honest if I simply dwell on your genius as legend, or your temper or personal eccentricities. We both have had our full measure of frustrations here at the CCP. You never got to beef up your production center and see it take wing into a full creative factory, as I never got to fully establish our ideal National Theater as a fully professional repertory company.

We were witness to the slow transformation of the CCP, from a creative center into a center for bureacrats, the erosion of creative attitude to technical and political efficiency and/or expediency.
Betoots Manalang yesterday told me that you were hopeful that I would come back and work here again, but then you remarked, Hay si Nonon, pag magsara ng tindahan, wala ng balikan.

Well, friend, I beg you pardon, I was just following your footsteps. You left the CCP earlier than me to go back to the Ateneo on the ostensible excuse that you wanted a higher pay. I know for a fact that you were dismayed that Technical theater department waged a turf war on you and your office, valuing more bureaucratic efficiency over creativity and training. And when Malacanang gave the third floor of the Production building to Cirio Santiago and the Film Development Board, you quietly packed up your bags and with little drama, you transferred to our beloved hill between the earth and sky called the Ateneo.
You could not be bothered about the pettiness of it all.

As for me, why would you want to subject your dear friend to this cave of shadows, where every six years, with every change of administration, the circus comes to town, and all the artists working here are subjected to humiliation of loyalty checks and obsequious ceremonies of kowtowing to politicians and bureaucrats. Alas, the artist is not king in this center for culture.

But to pressing ceremony we must attend.
Betoots Manalang told me a secret lately about you. Before you were to undergo your angioplasty last month, you asked her to pray with you your favorite prayer written by Bernard of Clairvaux.
So this morning I pray it happily, filled with love and absolute affection:

Remember O most gracious Virgin Mary,/ that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection,/ implored thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of Virgins, my Mother. To thee I come; and before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my words,/ But graciously hear and grant my prayer. Amen.

Adieu, mon ami.
A flight of angels sing thee to thy rest.

What do you think of Salvador "Badong" Bernal? Share your comments.

Marie Eugenie Theater of the Assumption's Acting Class taught by Ana Valdes Lim Nov 2011-March 2012

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Announcement from Marie Eugenie Theater of the Assumption

Assumption College San Lorenzo's

Marie Eugenie Theater of the Assumption

by Ana Valdes Lim
using her "Sarisari Teknik,"
a fusion of techniques from various teaching methods adapted for the Philippines
(Improv, Masks, Naturalism, Voice and Repetition).

November 2011 - March 2012
Mondays 2-8pm

Sign up now!
Fee: P7650 tuition fee for 1 semester
Recital fee: P6000 (optional)

Ana Valdes Lim

- artistic director of Marie Eugenie Theater of the Assumption since 2004.
- Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater, Juilliard School, New York (first Filipina graduate)
- founder, Philippine Playhouse Improv Group
- author, "Workshop: A Manual on Acting" and "Evolutionary Theater: A book for actors, directors, and teachers"

Contact 817-0757 loc. 1161-64, 0927-576-8644,, or

What do you think of this class? Share your comments.

Dulaang UP's "Noli" opera opens on Nov. 16, 2011

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Yay! My article on Dulaang UP's upcoming staging of an opera version of "Noli Me Tangere" was published by Philippine Daily Inquirer in its Oct. 25, 2011 issue.
Dulaang UP's "Noli" opera opens on Nov. 16, 2011
By Walter Ang

Myramae Meneses as Maria Clara
Dulaang UP will stage "Noli Me Tangere: The Opera" composed by Nat'l Artist for Music Felipe Padilla de Leon with libretto by Nat'l Artist for Visual Arts Guillermo Tolentino.

Directed by DUP Artistic Director Alexander Cortez, the production was originally envisioned to be a grand spectacle.  However, upon review, Cortez realized that the material is "a very intimate type of romantic opera."

"Tolentino provides a very romantic approach to the story based on the novel of Jose Rizal.  Highly political innuendos [in the novel] that are glossed over or not even discussed," says Cortez.

He has decided to use three pianos as accompaniment instead of a full orchestra.  Accompanists are Greg Zuniega, Noel de la Rosa and Jourdan Petalver.  Sound designer is Jethro Joaquin

"Save for three or four big scenes, the scenes are small, very much focused on the characters.  This kind of scaled-down production will show audiences that it's possible to stage opera in a simple manner. What's important is the music, not the grandness of a production."

"When people ask me, 'Why opera?' I always say, 'Why not?'" says Cortez, who's directed Ryan Cayabyab and Fides Cuyuguan Asensio's "Spoliarium" and Lucien Letaba and Bienvenido Lumbera's "Hibik at Himagsik nina Victoria Lactao," among other musicals. "I always advocate original Filipino operas and musicals."

"With this musical, DUP is able to commemorate Rizal's birth sesquicentennial and commemorate in advance de Leon's birth centennial, which will be next year," he says.

Soaring arias
Kuya Manzano as Crisostomo Ibarra
"It's always really about the music," he says.  "Padilla's music is wonderful! It really soars. I believe the best arias are found in this opera. It has iconic kundimans and haunting arias."

Cortez collaborates with Camille Lopez Molina, who handles music supervision and vocal coaching for the cast composed of music veterans and up-and-coming singers.

Elainne Vibal and NAMCYA winner Myramae Meneses alternate as Maria Clara.  Antonio Ferrer and Madrid-based Kuya Manzano (nephew of Repertory Philippines' artistic director Baby Barredo) alternate as Crisostomo Ibarra. Frederick Hipol is Elias.

Cynthia Guico plays Tia Isabel.  Jonathan Velasco, conductor of Ateneo Chamber Singers, played Padre Damaso in the 1987 staging of this opera at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and reprises the same role.  Actors from Dulaang UP complete the cast.

Frederick Hipol as Elias
Set and costume designer Gino Gonzales will be using indigenous materials for the set and inabel cloth from Ilocos for the costumes.

"The inabel cloth was donated by Irene Marcos-Araneta," Cortez says.  "We want to showcase these beautiful fabrics that are handwoven on looms.  It's a crime that machine-produced cheesecloth (katsa) is more expensive than inabel! We must put more value on these fabrics."

Other collaborators include lighting designer Jon Jon Villareal, choreographer Dexter Santos, video designer Winter David and props designer John Gaerlan.

"Noli Me Tangere: The Opera" runs Nov 16-Dec 4, 2011 (Wednesday to Friday, 7pm; Saturday and Sunday, 10 am and 3pm) at Wilfrido Guerrero Theater, 2/F Palma Hall, University of the Philippines, Quezon City. Contact 0917-750-0107, 981-8500 local 2449, 926-1349 or 433-7840.

Also published online:

What do you think of this production? Share your comments.

Audie Gemora releases CD of theater songs

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Yay! My article on Audie Gemora's CD was published by Philippine Daily Inquirer in its Oct. 25, 2011 issue.
Audie Gemora releases CD of theater songs
By Walter Ang

Theater actor and director Audie Gemora has released "Playlist," a music CD where he performs his favorite Broadway tunes.

Busy with running Triumphant People's Evangelistic Theatre Society (Trumpets) and its sister company Stages Productions Specialists (currently co-staging "Peter Pan" with Repertory Philippines), Gemora is also seen on TV as one of the resident judges of TV5's "Talentadong Pinoy."

He won the 2009 Philstage Gawad Buhay! for Outstanding Male Lead Performance in a Musical for his portrayal of the titular role of Repertory Philippines' staging of "Sweeney Todd." He's currently playing Captain Von Trapp in Resorts World Manila's staging of "The Sound of Music."

He won the 2010 Philstage Gawad Buhay! for Best Direction for Repertory Philippines' "Equus," and is slated to direct Rep's 2012 production of "Next Fall," a play about a gay couple where one is devoutly religious while the other is an avowed atheist.

Gemora released a self-titled pop album in the 90s. Earlier this year, Trumpets board member Stella Sison felt that because Gemora's known for his work as an actor in musical theater, he should come out with an album of theater-related songs.

She spearheaded a focus-group discussion on what particular theater songs people might want to hear Gemora sing to come up with a playlist.

"From out of that list I picked the ones I liked. Rony Fortich, who did a fabulous job as musical director, also threw in songs he thought would be good for the compilation," he says.

Jeff Arcilla coached Gemora throughout the recording sessions that lasted several months.

The idea was that the album would contain music similar to "the kind you hear in coffee shops, easy listening, non-intrusive."  He says, "It was tough trying to hold back my full vocal power and take care not to over dramatize the interpretation of the songs. We wanted it very laid back and not taxing to listen to."

Playlist contains 14 tracks of show tunes from Broadway, the West End, and original Filipino musicals such as "Shall We Dance" (The King and I), "If Ever I Would Leave You" (Camelot), "This Is The Moment" (Jekyll and Hyde), "Awit Ni Isagani" (El Filibusterismo), among others.

Vocal group The CompanY joins Gemora in "Luck Be A Lady" (Guys and Dolls) while Repertory Philippines associate artistic director Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo sings the duet "For Good" with Gemora (Wicked).

Playlist is exclusively available in Fully Booked outlets nationwide. Contact, 818-1111 loc. 225 or 209.

Also published online:

What do you think of this CD? Share your comments.

Point counterpoint and the questions one dares to ask by Myra Beltran Oct. 11, 2011

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Statement from Myra Beltran

Point counterpoint and the questions one dares to ask
On House Bill 4260 and Senate Bill 2679
By Myra Beltran
October 11, 2011

In February 2011, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. filed Senate Bill 2679 seeking to “designate Ballet Philippines Foundation Inc. as the Philippine national ballet company.” Listed therein was the scope of its mandate and its privileges as would-be national ballet company. Hearing for this Senate bill was postponed twice and has not commenced as of this writing. In the meantime, on Aug. 16, 2011, the Committee on Basic Education and Culture of the 15th Congress of the Philippines, headed by Rep. Salvador Escudero, passed on first reading a bill authored by Rep. Antonio Lagdameo Jr., in the same spirit [1] as the Senate bill making Ballet Philippines a national ballet company, known as House Bill 4260. Unlike the bill filed by Sen. Marcos, the latter bill and its subsequent hearing were not known by the sector of the dance community who were known to oppose the bill filed by Sen. Marcos, learning of it in late September through the newspapers. Thus, the House Committee passed the bill without dissent.

Note: On Oct. 10, 2011, the Committee on Basic Education and Culture held a meeting in order to hear out those who opposed this bill since it learned that notice of the previous meeting had not reached these parties. The major part of what follows was written before this meeting. An update follows at the end.

This move, initiated by Ballet Philippines, is certainly a hard tackle. Hard, because as one writer put it, [2] it has “opened old wounds.” To the general public, it is much ado about nothing, with one writer saying that the dance world is “characteristically fractious” [3] “anyway” or that dancers would keep on their “tippy-toes” [4] “anyway” and that, perhaps, all this opposition is sour-graping, and that the track record of Ballet Philippines speaks for itself. It is hard because I, myself, used to be a member of Ballet Philippines but my first mentors, the ones from whom I first learned the art of dance and who sparked this love for dance inside me, generally belong to the side that “opposes” this move. So, actually, my personal history puts me in a “grey area.” But this is precisely why I wish to thresh out this position because this area of the “in-between” and the acknowledgement that this “grey area” does exist might elevate the level of the debate on this proposed bill.

To my mind, it might be productive to focus on the assumptions of the bill and proceed from there so that one could “classify” the arguments. I wish to place these assumptions in the light of the 21st century, amidst its current political and cultural trends, since after all, something that is ratified into law has a structural effect that can be long-lasting, and one must imagine the scenarios of the future to get a grip on the present’s decisions.

Ballet Philippines has a forty year history and track record, which has dominated since the 1970’s. With a style anchored on the “modern dance” tradition, the company toured extensively in the 1970s, inevitably carrying the label of “national” in its international tours, being as it was (and still is) the resident company of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. It was then known as the CCP Dance Company (from an earlier Alice Reyes and Modern Dance Company). Later, for the sake of clarity and recognition internationally (its initials were similar to other institutions in the Soviet Union), the name was changed to Ballet Philippines.

In those years when the company developed and acquired the major part of its repertoire, in a time and season most fondly remembered by its pioneering members as “the best of times,” I sense that the excitement experienced during those times, a time its dancers have very real nostalgia for, had been generated by a growth which at the same time had been largely possible because of the “fit” between government and artistic vision – the company’s development and “career path” fit squarely into the notion of the “modern nation-state” that was the impulse of the 1970’s under martial rule in the Philippines. It was a good “fit”or a timely “sync” – the projected image of modernity with Filipino sensibility, and the modern in dance with themes that were local, fed off each other. This “sync” was different and more forward-looking in comparison with the other countries of Southeast Asia who were generally more conservative and who derived their impulse from the traditional / folkloric. This impulse sustained the company till the late 1980’s when the Cultural Center of the Philippines “opened its doors” post EDSA and, in addition to the modern repertoire, the company had renewed vigor when full length ballet classics with an all-Filipino cast were successfully staged. The modern impulse stretched to the early to mid-1990’s, when globalization was taking hold and alarm for the “sameness” that it threatened to bring by increasingly open borders was, at the same time, countered globally by specific cultures highlighting their ethnicities.

Enter the 21st century. With the unprecedented rise of the internet and abundance of information, where there are more porous borders and the “national” is less apparent than the multi-cultural, where ethnicities blend in the same spaces while, at the same time, occupying different “historical times,” so to speak, where an infinitely more chaotic, culturally simultaneous world is more the norm than the exception, what would be the meaning and role of a “national ballet company”? To whom does this “national ballet company” speak? In whose behalf is it speaking?

I don’t suggest that these can be answered with finality but I do suggest that for the very fact that these questions can be posed now – in comparison to an “earlier” time when these were not subjects for inquiry but were assumed to be rather incontrovertible truths – signals a greatly changed environment that also signals that the bill can be examined in terms of its assumptions about the “national” and “culture” (Philippine culture). These are the discourses which inform the bill. These discourses summoned by the bill then imply that a deeper discussion on this bill apart from the one centered on who is “more deserving” or not, can be made and that it is no easy labelling of being “for” or “against” the bill. It does not seem to be as simple as saying or implying that that those who oppose this bill would probably not oppose if they had been the beneficiary or implementor of this bill – rather, part of those who are being dismissed as simply “against” truly mean to have a sincere inquiry as to who is speaking for whom in this bill, what is being spoken in behalf of the “whom,” and whether the answer to this should be enacted into law as a republic act. [5] I suppose those are also topics which also concern the entire arts community as all precedents do have a subsequent ripple effect.

A case in point is that one of the reasons cited by Ballet Philippines in seeking the status of “national” is the precedent set by the naming of the Bayanihan Philippine Dance Company as the “national folk dance company” (R.A. 8626 by the 10th Congress) with the contention that others who oppose this current bill would do well to seek the same for themselves, “to work for it”, [6] as the Bayanihan bill itself provides. On this count, and if one were to proceed to “work for it,” the proposed bill also summons the notion and the distinction between a “national folk dance company” and a “national ballet company” as both representative of “Philippine culture”. And then after, if one indeed were to “work for it,” what kind of “national” entity would one be? The same question would be posed to one working for a “national theatre company” or “national orchestra” in the future. Thus, I believe this bill deemed to be simply concerning the dance community (when the general public are used to dancers not speaking anyway) could be productively discussed too by the general arts community for the reason of, as I mentioned, the precedent / domino effect it could set off. In terms of dance, would a “national ballet academy” or a “national contemporary dance company” or a “national choreographic institute” be desirable, or are these already “covered” by the mandate conferred on Ballet Philippines? One must look at the implications of the details and of the distortions these details might bring down the line in anticipation of those who might want (and who might have the capacity, including the political capacity) “to work for it.”

So, the discourses involve the (1) notion of the “national” (2) “culture” (3) Philippine culture (4) being representative of / “representation” of Philippine culture (5) the necessity or desirability of national representatives of Philippine culture in the 21st century and (6) the role of government in this aspect (the dynamics between the nation-state and the arts).

Wow. Who actually has time for contentious questions like these? Let’s just do the art, do the work, one could say, which is frankly, what most of those who oppose would rather be doing in this laissez faire environment in which only the fittest survive and one has to run so hard just to stay in place. And in fact, this is also probably what Ballet Philippines, as well, would rather be doing, and is the reason they are seeking this conferment in the first place. Perhaps, like everyone else and despite its 40 year history, it is struggling to exist in an environment greatly changed to which its own structure has had difficulty adjusting, given the nature of its organization and operations and the nature of its repertoire. In truth, it is seeking financial stability / security and here lies the contention, because in the same breath that it tells the “rest” to “work for it” (national status) the same could be lobbied against it of its need to have financial security – “work for it” like all the rest. In fact, in this laissez faire environment, it already has a headstart, a big advantage over all the rest in an already less than level playing field and here lies what has been labelled the “paranoia” or the “fear” of “the rest” – that everything shall be centered on one company due to the sweeping scope of the mandate (role, functions) of the would-be national ballet company, as specified in the proposed bill, and would thus be speaking in behalf of the entire dance community – the nuances of that community are lost in favour of the choice of the “one.” This then puts the focus, trains the lens on, who heads this “one,” the qualifications / criteria thereof, his / her length of tenure, or how the decision-making is made in the first place, and whether or not the organization itself exercises fiscal discipline given that it will be the recipient of endowments not due “the rest.” These details are pertinent because the bill assumes this much of its recipient – and some of those “against” qualify their opposition precisely due to the absence of those details, of responsibility and accountability.

What is glaringly clear is that DANCE needs help. This is a fact, notwithstanding the numerous regional festivals now occurring and even if, among cultural projects usually judged as having the most “impact” by its “numbers” (audience reach, number of participants, number of collaborative institutions), the dance-art reigns supreme. In fact, it is the queen, the one that is capable of bringing people together with excitement and joy, where big business joins in with the politicians to witness and judge the dancers dancing. But dancers as a lot are the most underpaid considering the amount of work they put in, with no social net to catch them past their dancing days. Recognition of the role dance plays in Philippine society is not articulated, just readily assumed like grass growing freely, yet dance is used almost exploitatively. Hardly anything trickles down to the dancer and dance-maker. Sustainability is a problem. The general disregard for dance underlies this move by Ballet Philippines. But is there a distinction between government subsidy for the arts and the conferment of “national” status? Is the latter necessary for the former to occur? Could subsidy be more attuned to the general climate in which dance occurs today, and how it wishes to go forward in the 21st century? Is this the first step or the death knell?

I wrote this for myself to clear my thoughts and because the “essentialisms” (such as the dance world being inherently “fractious” or that dancers should not speak, implying they are not capable of discourse) in the general public’s mind bothered me. If you are reading it, I have made it public already. And yet, I know that answers to all these questions I have posed, in the same manner and same intuition that all dancers have, have to be “fleshed out.” So I wish to locate my “grey area” with the hope that discussions on this can be fleshed out in more nuanced ways.

I was a member of Ballet Philippines in the late 80’s to early 90’s. Before I went abroad (late 70’s) to study and work as a ballet dancer (seven years), I was part of the “outside” focusing on ballet and performing with the Ballet Federation of the Philippines (whose members would mostly form what would later become, post EDSA, the other resident company of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Philippine Ballet Theatre) with colleagues from other schools. We were an impatient lot who could not quite understand the labels attached to being part of a certain school or company and all we wanted to do was to come together and dance together in the classics, all of us ripe for the forming of a national ballet company with our revered Mr. William Morgan as ballet master, and we wanted it then. We had the talent and the skill for such a company but history was not on our side. A majority of us ventured abroad, risking loneliness to audition, to prove ourselves in an artistic environment that privileged the tall and white dancer more – if only to keep dancing. Post EDSA, quite a number of us came home, buoyed by the hope for new beginnings – I joined Ballet Philippines (where Mr. Morgan had transferred after subsidy from Ballet Federation of the Philippines ran out), while others guested with or joined Philippine Ballet Theatre. No matter. We meant to dance together, support each others’ shows, and cheer each other on (Ballet Manila’s Lisa Macuja Elizalde was CCP artist in residence then and we all shared the same stage). This “synthesis” was also reflected in our bodies because we had reconciled both the modern and the classical in our bodies. And now, dance world-wide was on our side, as European choreographers were as well either deconstructing ballet (William Forsythe) or gaining artistic dominance with dance-theatre (Pina Bausch’s influence had increased and was cementing internationally) – performance art had gained ground and the “modern” was losing some of its “rigidity” and accommodating ballet.

Our batch was an inquisitive lot who frequently questioned our superiors to their irritation, but not really to their condemnation – for they, too, had relaxed. We were concerned with our well-being – I remember rallying my colleagues to sign a letter I wrote to compel the Cultural Center of the Philippines management to clean the company room premises and install water fountains for us in strategic places. All signed this letter. We were also asked to rally in behalf of a bill creating the National Commission for Culture and the Arts – the bill that advocated plurality and decentralization, as opposed to the one that had a central Ministry of Culture, and rally we did with the entire Ballet Philippines board – they, still coiffed, and us in our 80’s shoulder pads pinned on the yellow shirts which all of us, including the Board, wore. Recalling that, in the face of this proposed bill, I appropriate and re-phrase the words of one blogger [7] who writes about the “Occupy Wall Street movement”: be careful of how you rally young people because what is rhetoric for you, such as “change” or “hope” (or in our case, “decentralization”), becomes mantra for them.

And so it is with me – in what I believe in, in how I have ventured to become, and how I have conducted myself as, an independent dance artist working in the medium of contemporary dance. I thought decentralization would work even if it takes time. I am also not convinced that a gesture such as this proposed bill that, in effect, centralizes, would eventually uphold or strengthen decentralization and I remain unconvinced that what this gesture will bring is a only a temporary, transitory state.[8] I know that all these signal a clash of shifting paradigms that echoes what is happening world-wide, and that this debate finds itself in one of those “cracks” or “fissures” where this country has not been able to bring to a closure its troubled dark past while struggling to exist in a rapidly changing environment. All I know is the history of the bodies of my generation have to be considered in this debate and I lament this move, this proposed bill, in the very least because it has brought back the rhetoric of the past and practically erased my generation’s efforts in the process. I thought that my generation, having contributed to “the company,” now could speak of “dance,” of the entire spectrum of dance, because in fact, we are all near mid-life, and have already ventured out on our own paths to nurture dance in our own ways.

As my own history shows, dancers are as fluid as dance is and dancers are shaped by the confluence of many things. I hope that any subsidy or enabling environment could take into account this fluidity. At this juncture, I grieve for a certain idealism, naïve though it may be, because in the face of all this, one realizes that really, despite bouts of spring, what lies beneath is actually a “Game of Thrones” where as one character in the TV series said, “When one plays, one plays to win.” In that case, it would perhaps be the only option, if one were not so disposed to play in this game, to be in the margins, underground, to risk it all and be “outside the wall,” if only to preserve that glint in the eye which those who truly love what they are doing, and have real fun doing it, still possess.

Update following Oct. 10, 2011 meeting of the Committee on Basic Education and Culture: Amendments to the proposed bill are to be introduced and presented within two weeks after the meeting. Similar to what is written above, Ballet Philippines cites the Bayanihan bill allowing other dance companies to gain national status, and takes up the suggestion by CCP President Raul Sunico that wording of the bill be changed from “the national dance company” to “a national dance company” to give space to other companies to be conferred national status as well, with Ballet Philippines current artistic director Paul Alexander Morales enjoining Philippine Ballet Theatre and Ballet Manila to apply for the same and present their credentials. Rep. Escudero states that the request for funds [9] shall be increased for this to be a common fund since “all are deserving of the honor” and “all will be accommodated” and that he wished “unity.” There was no clear forthright answer if this action implied that the country could be conceived to have three national ballet companies (from a question posed by Ballet Manila’s Lisa Macuja Elizalde) or if the bill would foresee the naming of other companies in the future (from a query posed by Philippine Ballet Theatre’s Chacha Camacho.) Ballet Philippines founder Alice Reyes was present to thank the committee for the recognition and support it was giving which she believed could “open doors” for the other companies as well.

[1] The House Bill filed by Rep. Lagdameo is not available online yet. The Oct. 10, 2011 Congressional hearing by the Committee of Basic Education and Culture suggests that it is indeed, “in the same spirit” as the Senate Bill filed by Sen. Marcos, as the presentation of Ballet Philippines President Margie Moran Floirendo showed and by the statement of Rep. Escudero, the Chair as to the amount of the yearly monetary endowment.

[2] Elka Requinta, “Ballet bill divides dance communities, opens old wounds” Philippine Daily Inquirer, Lifestyle June 13, 2011

[3] Marge Enriquez, “Will Ballet Philippines become the national dance company?” Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 27, 2011,, accessed: Oct, 3, 2011

[4] Facebook comment, author unknown to writer

[5] In recent dance literature and international conferences, the recurring issue has been the conflicting role and sometimes negative impact of the policies of the nation-state involving dance. In at least two international conferences (World Dance Alliance Asia Pacific Conference 2005 and “The Mak Yong Spiritual Dance Heritage: Seminar and Performances 2011), the writer has attended, the various points have been discussed. This topic has not been discussed fully in the Philippine context yet. With this proposed bill, the finer points of difference between an enactment into law from, for instance, a Congressional initiative which support can be coursed through an existing government agency, or a presidential decree, might be productively discussed.

[6] Ballet Philippines current artistic director Paul Alexander Morales, in a conversation with the writer

[7] Juan Ruiz, “Why my generation should care about Occupy Wall Street,”, accessed: Oct. 5, 2011

[8] Ballet Philippines believes it is an important step, a breakthrough which can lead to more government support for the arts, and of awarding excellence in the field. See update at end of the article about the Oct. 10, 2011 Congressional hearing.

[9] Rep. Escudero stated that PAGCOR had already approved the amount of 10M pesos (the amount of endowment stated in the bill due the national ballet company yearly) but the Committee could / would request for a larger amount that would serve as a “common fund.”

(Beltran dispatched the statement above to bloggers and publications for dissemination to the public. As requested by Beltran, she is acknowledging the first blog to publish her statement: on Oct. 17, 2011 at

What do you think of the issues brought up in this statement? Share your comments.

FREE ADMISSION "Unlimited Text" re-run Oct. 24, 2011

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19 actors + 5 scenes + 1 roof
Curated by Ana Abad Santos

Oct. 24, 2011 Monday 9pm

Quantum Cafe Pilipinas, ground floor of Feron Bldg.,
9590 Kamagong St. (cor. Bagtikan St.)
San Antonio Village, Makati City
(near the fire station)

"A fun-raising project"
Hat will be passed after the show
for the benefit of Philippine Theater Actors Guild.

Celebrate the actor and the text,
the wealth and diversity of talent in Philippine theater
and the power of adaptation.
All in the spirit of fun.

From Anton Chekhov's UNCLE VANYA
Scene: Helena, Sonya and Astrov

On a decaying farm, Uncle Vanya and his niece Sonya suffer a thankless job to sustain an estate in decline. Now, Professor Serebryakov and his wife Helena have returned to visit, bringing with them chaos and disruption. Constant visits from the charismatic Astrov are not helpful. From this tumultuous mess grows three consuming love affairs, each of which is destined to wither in disappointment before it has reached bloom.

Adapted and Directed by: George de Jesus III
Cast: Gwyn Guanzon, Jojit Lorenzo, Red Concepcion, Gabriel Santos

From Aaron Sorkin's THE SOCIAL NETWORK

Aaron Sorkin's THE SOCIAL NETWORK chronicles the rise of Harvard computer-tech MarkZuckerberg as he creates the now globally famous website Facebook. In the opening scene, Mark argues with his soon-to-be-ex girlfriend Erica about his need to be accepted to one of Harvard's exclusive final clubs. After insulting her several times, Erica dumps Mark and walks out of the bar. Just like that he's 0 for 2; he doesn't have a girlfriend and he's not a final clubs member. These are the two main driving forces of Mark's character. His pursuit of creating the site, at all costs, is a way to win the approval of a woman he scorned. Facebook is Mark's own exclusive club and he is the President.

Directed by: JoMari Jose
Cast: Topper Fabregas, Jenny Jamora

John Patrick Shanley's DOUBT: A PARABLE

In a Bronx Catholic school in 1964, a popular priest's ambiguous relationship with a troubled 12-year-old black student is questioned by the school's principal.

Directed by: Jake Macapagal
Cast: Paolo O'Hara, Roselyn Perez


MAY KATWIRAN ANG KATWIRAN, by National Artist for Theater Rolando S. Tinio, looks at the relationship between the Senyor (landowner) and his Kasama (peasant). The play was written in 1972 and described by the playwright as "Dulang may Labingwalong Tagpo at Labindalawang Awit" (Play with Eighteen Scenes and Twelve Songs) . In the prologue, the playwright, in true Brechtian fashion, guides the audience in viewing the play, thus "Huwag amen nang amen sa iaasal ng mga tauhan sa aming dula. Huwag sabihing 'Ganyan ang buhay!' Sa halip, laging itanong-- 'Dapat bang ganyan?' Pakialaman kung makatwiran ang kanilang pangangatwiran. Maging mapanuri sa kanilang karanasan."

Directed by: Joel Saracho
Cast: Peter Serrano, Neil Tolentino

Yasmina Reza's ART

ART was originally written in French by Yasmina Reza and adapted in English by ChristopherHampton. It is a play about three men who have remained friends through the years and how they find their friendship on shaky ground after one of them buys a painting, a white canvas with white lines. The painting triggers arguments about many issues that have not been discussed before, and little by little these men start to reevaluate themselves, their relationships and their trust in one another.

This version was adapted and modernized. Aside from that, the characters' genders were changed into females. It is a contemporary take on friendship, ego, taste, tolerance, conflict and art.

Adapted and Directed by: Bea Garcia
Cast: Delphine Buencamino, Reg de Vera, Clyde Enriquez

What do you think of this production? Share your comments.

Dulaang Kalay's inaugural production: "Series Finale: Saan Hahantong Ang Tagpong Ito?!" Dec. 5 to 18, 2011

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Announcement from Dulaang Kalay

Dulaang Kalay
its inaugural production
"Series Finale: Saan Hahantong Ang Tagpong Ito?!"

Book by Katte Sabate and William Elvin Manzano
Original Music and Lyrics by William Elvin Manzano
Directed by William Elvin Manzano

Dec. 5 to 18, 2011
Vision 21 Theater, Crossroads 77 Event Venue
77 Mother Ignacia Street, Quezon City

A satirical look at Filipinos' obsession with telenovelas and their stars, the play centers around the last episode of a soap opera, with all its melodrama and cliches, aired in the midst of national scandals and big news stories.

Katte Sabate was the dramaturg and headwriter of "Rizal X." William Elvin Manzano created the music and lyrics of "Rizal X" and "Cyrano: Isang Sarsuwela."

Janine Santos and Erika Estacio (Helena San Diego)
Roxanne Aldiosa and Dreps Tatad (Venus San Juan)
Earle Figuracion and Acey Aguilar (Apollo)
Harry David (Michael)
and the Dulaang Kalay Ensemble

Jean Tanchuco and Nissi Gatan (Production Designers)
Niqi Granados (Costume Designer)
Meliton Roxas (Lighting Designer)
Gabe Ongkiko and Timothy Ng (Video Design)
Delphine Buencamino (Choreography)

The group
Dulaang Kalay is a theater organization founded by King Agamemon Harry T. David together and is composed of a young breed of theater actors and enthusiasts.

To sponsor or to purchase tickets, contact 0906-458-1711 or 0906-572-1157.

What do you think of this production? Share your comments.

Word of Mouth Theater Philippines' inaugural installment of its "Play with Your Food" series Oct. 18 and Nov. 8, 2011

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I heard about Steve Martin's play "Picasso at the Lapin Agile" years ago, but have never read it nor seen it. I was fortunate enough to have seen a Picasso retrospective at the Metropolitan Musuem. And then I was fortunate enough to have visited Paris earlier this year (for the first time in my entire life) and I got a chance to stand outside the actual Lapin Agile in Montmarte. And now, look, a theater company in Manila is going to do a staged reading of it! With French food, too. I wonder if they will be serving lapin.

Announcement from Word of Mouth Theater Philippines

Word of Mouth Theater Philippines
the inaugural installment of

A Staged Reading of Steve Martin's
"Picasso at the Lapin Agile"

Oct. 18 (Tues) and Nov. 8 (Tues), 2011
Quantum Cafe Pilipinas, ground floor of Feron Bldg.,
9590 Kamagong St. (cor. Bagtikan St.)
San Antonio Village, Makati City
(near the fire station)

Open house at 7PM
Showtime at 8PM

P450 only
- a French dinner menu
- art exhibit by Anthony Piggott
- live music by guitarist Rigil Kent Borromeo and chanteuse Jean Judith Zeta Javier
- open mic jamming with Jennifer Blair-Bianco and Martin Rey Aviles

Featuring (in alphabetical order):
Apollo Abraham • David Bianco • Jennifer Blair-Bianco • Jeremy Domingo
Kenneth Keng • Lesley Leveriza • Leo Rialp • Rob Rownd • Jamie Wilson

Directed by Jeremy Domingo
Visual Design by Rob Rownd

Theaterbator took this photo of the
Lapin Agile in Montmarte, Paris in 2011
The Lapin Agile, a bar in Montmarte, Paris in October 1904, is the setting for an imaginary meeting between 25-year-old Albert Einstein and 23-year-old Pablo Picasso. It is a year before Einstein publishes the groundbreaking The Special Theory of Relativity, and three years before Picasso paints his defining Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. The two young men on the verge of greatness, along with a host of eccentric characters, converge and collide in Steve Martin’s light-hearted comedy about imagination and the creative process.

The group
WORD OF MOUTH Theater Philippines is a non-stock, non-profit arts organization founded that brings performers, designers and creative practitioners of various disciplines together, to infuse Philippine theater with renewed relevance, creative collaboration, vitality and exuberance.

Play With Your Food
WOM’S PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD is an ongoing Gallery/Bar Theater series.  World Cuisine menus are specially designed for each PYWF event, as select visual artists, musicians, vocalists and actors from various media are gathered at a single occasion create a unique theatrical experience.

Reserve at 0915-357-7420

What do you think of this staged reading? Share your comments.

Deadline of submission to 8th Virgin Labfest 2012 is March 31, 2012

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Announcement from Virgin Labfest

The 8th Virgin Labfest (2012) now open for script submissions

Poster of 7th Virgin Labfest 2011

The 8th Virgin Labfest (2012)

now open for script submissions

For 2012, submissions are requested for the following written works:
1. One-act plays, (maximum running time: 40 minutes)
2. Full-length plays, (minimum running time: 1 hour 20 minutes; maximum running time: 2 hours)
3. All submitted works must NOT have previously been
     - published in book form;
     - staged commercially for more than two performances
       (staged readings, one-time workshop productions are allowed);
     - awarded any literary or drama recognition in competitions and the like
4. Works may be in Filipino or English.

The festival is open to various themes and genres. While we continue to uphold this principle, this year, however, the Virgin Labfest hopes to include works that fall into these categories:
          1. Regional Language plays: plays written in Hiligaynon, Cebuano and/or Ilocano.
          2. Plays for children (special venue)

Submission Deadline is on MARCH 31, 2012

Poster of 6th Virgin Labfest 2010 
Send your submissions either:
1) In .doc or .pdf format only to and

2) Deliver at least two hard copies of the manuscript to
     Performing Arts Department
     Cultural Center of the Philippines
     Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City

Submissions should indicate name and contact address of the playwright.

Contact and

What do you think of the Virgin Labfest? Share your comments.

Naty Crame Rogers' Philippine Drama Company Sala Theater stages "Portrait of an Artist as Filipino" dinner theater on Oct 22 and 28

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Yay! My article on a dinner-theater staging of "Portrait of an Artist as Filipino" was published by Philippine Daily Inquirer for its Oct. 17, 2011 issue.
Naty Crame Rogers stages "Portrait" dinner theater on Oct 22 and 28
By Walter Ang

(From left) Lala Castillo as Paula,
Naty Crame-Rogers as Candida,
and Lamberto "Bats" Avellana
(son of Lamberto and Daisy Hontiveros-Avellana)
as Tony Javier, during rehearsals.
Natividad "Naty" Crame-Rogers' Philippine Drama Company Sala Theater will perform Nat'l Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin's "Portrait of an Artist as Filipino."

Rogers directs and plays the role of Candida.  Lala Castillo plays Paula.  The play shows how the Marasigan spinster sisters who live inside Intramuros deal with the changes happening in Old Manila prior to the start of World War II, "stubbornly clinging to the genteel though impractical world of Hispanized culture."

The play will be presented as dinner-theater in Ilustrado restaurant in Intramuros.  Audiences can watch the performance while dining on the restaurant's Spanish-Filipino themed-menu: Paella Ilustrado accompanied by Callos Madrilena, Roasted Chicken ala Naranja, and Bonoan Bangus Relleno, among others.

Ilustrado, celebrating its 22nd anniversary, has served as the venue for several of PDCST's productions, recently hosting the group's performance of "Leonor: The love of Jose Rizal," an adaptation of Severino Montano's "The Love of Leonor Rivera," in commemoration of Rizal's birth sesquicentennial this year.

Theater for all
Now 88 years old, Rogers has been creating and teaching theater since training as a college student under theater artist Wilfrido Guerrero.  Her PDCST celebrated its 25th anniversary last year.  It tours productions and also holds performances in Amingtahanan Sala Theater, Roger's own residence in Pasig City, where the living room is transformed into a performance space.

In line with Rogers' thrust on getting as many people interested in theater as possible, and partly to celebrate the La Naval de Manila (held every second Sunday of October), the production's technical dress rehearsal in Ilustrado restaurant on Oct. 21 will be open to audiences.  Audiences can order food while watching the rehearsals.

La Naval lecture
The rehearsal will include a short lecture on the Virgin of La Naval at 3pm.  An event witnessed by characters in the play, the La Naval de Manila procession honors the Virgin of La Naval of Sto. Domingo Church--which used to be located inside Intramuros.

The procession was portrayed in National Artist for Theater and Film Lamberto Avellana's screen adaptation of "Portrait," where Rogers played Paula opposite National Artist for Theater Daisy Hontiveros-Avellana's Candida. Both also essayed the same roles in the stage version that premiered prior to the film, also directed by Lamberto with a script adapted by Daisy for the Avellana couple's Barangay Theater Guild.  This production will use the same script adapted by Daisy Avellana.

"Portrait of an Artist as Filipino" runs Oct. 22 (Sat) and 28 (Fri), 2011. Ticket includes cocktails at 6:00 pm, show at 7:00 pm, dinner at 9:00 pm. Ilustrado Restaurant is at 744 General Luna St., Intramuros, Manila. Contact 527-3674, 527-2345, 0922-823-4981, 0922-823-4983 or Visit

Also published online:

What do you think of this production? Share your comments.

Sentrong Pangsining at Kultura Alaala kay Maria Carpena's 2nd Maria Carpena Kundiman Song Festival Oct 21, 2011

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Announcement from Sentrong Pangsining at Kultura Alaala kay Maria Carpena

Sentrong Pangsining at Kultura Alaala kay Maria Carpena
together with
United Artists for Cultural Conservation and Development, Philippines
2nd Maria Carpena Kundiman Song Festival (2011)

October 21, 2011 (Friday) 1:00pm onwards
Pavilion Mall, Biñan City, Laguna province

This festival aims to immerse the present generation to practise, value and develop the traditional Filipino music. Educational institutions from Biñan, Sta. Rosa, San Pedro and other neighboring towns will be participating.

125th birth anniversary
The event also commemorates the 125th birth anniversary of Maria Evangelista Carpena, the first Filipino Recording Artist and the "Nightingale of Zarzuela," hailed as the first superstar of Philippine Entertainment. Her career that spanned for 13 years was devoted to the stage. She was the star of Severino Reyes' Walang Sugat (1902), one of the longest running sarsuwelas, and many stage productions in the early 1900s.

In 1908, she recorded the very first recording done by a Filipino under Victor Recording Company - making Carpena the 1st Filipino Recording Artist.

First Maria Carpena Memorial Awards
Part of the Kundiman Song Festival is the awarding of the first Maria Carpena Memorial Awards for the Arts to distinguish outstanding contributions of our artists in the field of music and theatre arts. This year's recipients are Philippine Theatre's gems Tony Mabesa and  Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio. 

Mabesa is a professor emeritus in the UP Dept. of Speech Communication and Theatre Arts. He is an outstanding stage director and actor, among others. He founded Dulaang U.P. in 1976 - a pioneer of academic theatres in the country. Mabesa mentored generations of seasoned performers and artists in the theatre, film and television. 

Bonifacio is the "Mother of Philippine Puppetry" and a professor emeritus in the UP Dept. of English and Comparative Literature. She is a set designer and playwright, among others. She was a pioneer in the spread of puppetry in the Philippines, and founder of the world renowned children's theatre group Teatrong Mulat ng Pilipinas.

The group
Sentrong Pangsining at Kultura Alaala kay Maria Carpena is a non-profit cultural organization established to keep alive the memory of Carpena (1886-1915), a native of Biñan and Sta. Rosa.

The group aims to perpetuate the traditional Filipino arts and culture; train and assist potential artists in the pursuit of development and excellence; instill in the hearts and minds of the youth the historic value of Filipino arts and culture; and give due recognition in the form of annual awards to deserving artists.

Contact Rosauro Sta. Maria (Executive Director) at 09178472476, BJ Borja (Artistic Director) at 09192160440, or e-mail

What do you think of this festival? Share your comments.

2011 is the year of the Twelfth Nights

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Earlier this year, I noticed that there would be lot of Shakespeare productions during Rizal's birth sesquicentennial.

Then I noticed how 2011 became the year of the Titus Andronici (and discussed the possibility of theater artists' brainwaves latching on to wanting to stage the same show and/or how some shows might having their own staging energies, emerging when they want to be staged).

How funny, then, for 2011 to also become the year of the Twelfth Nights!

Well, okay, November 2011 to be specific: Asian American Leviathan Lab is staging a Wong kar-wai inspired production in Manhattan while Assumption College San Lorenzo's Marie Eugenie Theater of the Assumption is also staging its own production in Makati.

All this talk about "Twelfth Nights" makes me remember Tanghalang Ateneo's Asian-inspired staging in 2000 (you can read about it here).  I also really liked the clever 2006 American movie adaptation "She's the Man," starring Amanda Bynes.

Anyhoo, Phlippine Educational Theater Association is reportedly also planning on staging a Tagalog translation of "Twelfth Night" for its 2012-2013 season.  Perhaps it's not quite over its exclusive Shakepeare-centric line-up for its 2011-2012 season, kekeke.

What do you think of these productions? Share your comments.

Philippine Educational Theater Association's "Rated: PG" Oct. 15-16, 2011

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Announcement from Philippine Educational Theater Association

For Children’s Month in October 2011
Philippine Educational Theater Association

“Rated: PG”
A play about Positive Discipline

October 15, 2011  (10am and 3pm) and
October 16, 2011  (3pm)

PETA-Theater Center
5 Eymard Drive, New Manila, Quezon City

Physical and emotional punishment of children affect their development and personalities. The play challenges the old ways in rearing our children and urges us to adopt positive discipline in our homes, schools and communities. The play is very timely in the light of many cases of violent punishment of children reported in media in the recent months.

The play is a project of the Advocate Right To Safety (ARTS) Zone of the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA). Rated: PG tackles issues and concerns on building relationships between parents/adults and children. It has been well-received in various schools and communities in Metro Manila since its launch in 2010.

Contact 725-62-44 or 0927-554-2693.

For details on Advocate Right to Safety Zone for Children,
Marichu Belarmino-Carino
Program Director
Advocate Right to Safety Zone for Children
Philippine Educational Theater Association
Landline: 725-6244; telefax 410-0821; cell +63920-953-1539; e-mail:

What do you think of this production? Share your comments.

Auditions for Tanghalang Ateneo's "Fireflies" Oct 13-14, 2011

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I wrote about Tanghalang Ateneo's 2011-2012 season line-up a few months ago and now they're already auditioning for their season finale. It seems they've changed the production. It was supposed to be a Tagalog adaptation of the "Oresteia" but now it's "Fireflies."

Announcement from Tanghalang Ateneo

Tanghalang Ateneo will be holding
OPEN AUDITIONS for its 2011-2012 season finale
by Suzue Toshiro

Oct 13-14, 2011
4:30-6:30 pm
Fine Arts Theater, 3/F Gonzaga Building, Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City

Contact 0927-852-3961 or 0917-930-9247.

What do you think of this audition? Share your comments.

Resorts World Manila's "Sound of Music" Oct 15-Dec 30, 2011

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Yay! My article on the staging of "Sound of Music" by Resorts World Manila was published by Philippine Daily Inquirer in its Oct. 15, 2011 issue.
"Sound of Music" at Resorts World Manila starts Oct 15
By Walter Ang

Theater leading ladies Cris Villonco and Joanna Ampil will alternate as Maria Rainer in Resorts World Manila's staging of the musical "Sound of Music."

Both will bring to life the role of the earnest and determined postulant nun assigned as a governess to the untamed seven children of stern Navy Captain and widower Georg von Trapp.  Laughter and love blossoms when Maria wins the children (and their father) over with music.

Both have played other "Marias" prior to this production.

Villonco has played lead roles for Repertory Philippines, Dulaang UP and, recently, for Tanghalang Pilipino's "Noli Me Tangere" as Maria Clara.

Ampil has performed internationally, starting her career as Kim in the West End staging of "Miss Saigon" and recently as Maria in Stages Production Specialists' "West Side Story."

Leading men
Audie Gemora, Ed Feist and Jon Joven alternate as the Captain.

Gemora was last seen onstage playing the titular role in Repertory Philippines' "Sweeny Todd."

A former VJ for music channel Myx and theater actor (Bankard's "Diary of Anne Frank" and Actors' Actors' "Mother Tongue"), Feist returns to Manila after having been based in Australia the past few years as lead vocal for Soul Motel band.

Joven has played Thuy in the German staging of Miss Saigon and has credits on Broadway and off-Broadway.  Locally, he's played lead roles for TP such as Orly in "Himala the musical," and Crisostomo Ibarra in "Noli Me Tangere."

Memoir to musical
With music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, audiences may be more familiar with the 1965 film version starring Julie Andrews ("Princess Diaries") and Christopher Plummer (Pixar's "Up," "Inglourious Basterds"), though the musical premiered on Broadway six years prior.  The musical is based on Maria Augusta von Trapp's memoir "The Story of the Trapp Family Singers."

Since the film's release, songs that were added for the movie, such as "I Have Confidence" and "Something Good," are usually included in revivals.  Previous Manila stagings have been done by Company of Players (1997) and Repertory Philippines (2006).

Big theater
This production will be staged at RWM's 1,500-seater Newport Performing Arts Theater.

Set design is by Mio Infante with video design by television commercial director Paul Soriano.  Video backdrops will be shown via the theater's 30meter by 8meter LED (light emitting diode) screen, touted as the largest in Southeast Asia.  10feet x 14feet LED walls will also be placed at each end of the stage. The screens allows for showing of 3D sceneries.

Cast and collaborators
Theater veteran Pinky Amador and jazz singer Lynn Sherman alternate as the captain's fiancée Baroness Elsa Schraeder.  Miguel Faustman and Robbie Guevara alternate as von Trapp family friend Max Detweiler.

Pinky Marquez and Sheila Francisco alternate as Mother Abbess. TV and film comedienne Debraliz Valasote plays the von Trapp's housekeeper Frau Schmidt.

Liesl, the eldest of the von Trapp siblings is played by Tanya Manalang and Rachel Coates.  Rolf, Liesl's love interest, is played by former TV child star and current ABS-CBN talent Bryan Homecillo and 2009 Philstage Gawad Buhay! awardee for Best Featured Actor in a Musical ("Sweeny Todd") Marvin Ong.

The production is directed by dinner theater and concert director Roxanne Lapus. Lyn Fabella is vocal director.  Rodel Colmenar conducts the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra.  Choreographer is Terri Aldeguer of the dance duo Aldeguer Sisters.  Lighting design is by John Batalla. Costume design is by fashion designer Francis Libiran.

Since the theater's inauguration last year, it has hosted concerts of local and foreign artists (Lani Misalucha, Lea Salonga and David Pomeranz, Zsa Zsa Padilla and Basil Valdez, to name a few), beauty pageants, corporate events, and a Vegas-type musical spectacle show "Kaos."  Concerts will still be staged at the theater on days when "Sound of Music" is not running.

Newport Performing Arts Theater is located in Resorts World Manila, which combines hotels, restaurants, gaming facilities, entertainment spots and a luxury mall in one destination across Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, beside Villamor Golf Course.

RWM members using their Visa Platinum and Gold credit cards to purchase tickets can avail of up to 25% discount, applied to a maximum of four tickets per card per show, when transacted at RWM Box Office and Ticketworld outlets. RWM members can also use points earned in their membership cards towards purchase of tickets. Membership to RWM is free.

"The Sound of Music" runs Oct 15 to Dec 11, 2011. 8:00PM Wed to Sat with 3:00PM shows on Sat and Sun at Newport Performing Arts Theater, Resorts World Manila, Pasay City. Contact Resorts World Manila Box Office (836-6333) or Ticketworld (891-9999). 

UPDATE: Show is extended until Dec. 30, 2011

Also published online:

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UP Dance Company's "Past forward" Oct. 17, 2011

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Announcement from UP Dance Company

UP College of Music and UP Dance Comapany

Ala-Ala Bagong Anyo

Oct. 17, 2011 7:00PM
Abelardo Hall, College of Music, UP Diliman

Featuring: UP Dance Majors
                Josiah Samaniego, Jesper Colleen Mercado, Kim Feliz, PIANISTS
                Jourdann Petalver, CONDUCTOR
                Dmitri Shostakovich Orchestra

Chorepgraphy by: Sarah Maria Samaniego, Chaya Joyce Baris and Michel Fokine

Music by: Frederic Chopin, Alexander John Villanueva and Dmitri Shostakovich

What do you think of this production? Share your comments.

24th Aliw Awards now open for nominations October 2011

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The Aliw Awards Foundation has no website, but it does have a Wikipedia entry.

Its 21st installment (2008) was panned for its strange nomination eligibility period by Gibbs Cadiz (read about it here).

Further Googling reveals that there seems to have never been any announcements for acceptance of nominations.  The announcement below to accept nominations for its 24th installment (2011) might be the first time it has done so.

The announcement below is a mix of information I Googled.  Their media release that has been picked-up by different publications does not indicate a deadline for submission of nominations nor any contact numbers, but they did indicate a mailing address and an email address.

(Using the venue of this year's awarding ceremonies as a clue, I have a feeling that I think I know which production and which roles will win the theater-related awards this year, kekeke. Let's see if I will be correct.)

The 24th Aliw Awards (2011) is now open for nominations
The 24th Aliw Awards (2011) is now open for submission of nominations. The Aliw Awards "honors the best in Philippine live entertainment."

Screening will be done in October 2011. The awarding ceremonies will be held at the Newport Performing Arts Theater, Resorts World Manila on Nov. 8, 2011.

Theater/performing arts-related categories include:
Best Actor (Musical and Non-musical)
Best Actress (Musical and Non-musical)
Best Classical Performer (Male and female)
Best Stage Director (Musical and Non-musical)
Best Production (Musical and Non-musical)
Best Dance Company (Classical/folk and contemporary/modern)

To qualify, performances must have been staged from September 2010 to Oct. 15, 2011.

Aliw Awards members are not voting members except for the president.
The Board of Judges is invited by the Aliw Awards Foundation and it deliberates and chooses the winners.

Material of performances (such as CDs and DVDs of performances)
and write-ups for nominations may be sent to:
The Screening Committee Chair
2011 Aliw Awards.
39 Kirishima St., BF THAI, BF International,
Las Piñas City, Metro Manila 1740

Details of the nominations can also be sent to

What do you think of this award-giving body? Share your comments.

Jay Españo in Theater Works' "The King and I" until Oct. 16, 2011

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I wrote about Jay Españo landing the lead role in a production of "King and I" in Chicago earlier this year (you can read about it here).

He apparently has landed the same role again for a different production in Phoenix.

He sent Theaterbator blog by Walter Ang an interview done with the director of the production he's currently in. This time, he's working with Theater Works, a theater company in Arizona, USA.

Announcement from Theater Works

Arizona’s Theater Works  casts Filipino actor Jay Españo for lead in "The King and I"

The Rodgers and Hammerstein classic story of an English governess going to Siam (now Thailand) in the 1860’s to teach the stern king’s royal children  in the hopes of modernizing his country continues to dazzle  people of all ages.   Multi Arizoni Award (Arizona’s equivalent of Tony Awards)-winning director Athena Hunting took time to answer a few interesting questions about her current theater endeavor.

(From left) Kristi McEwan (Anna Leonowens),
Athena Hunting (director), and Jay Españo (King Mongkut).
Why did you cast Jay Españo and Kristi McEwan in the title roles?
I cast Jay and Kristi because in them I saw authenticity, heart, and humor – the ‘ahh’ factor -- all of which I needed to fulfill my vision for the relationship between Anna Leonowens and King Mongkut.  From the beginning, Jay demonstrated such an understanding of the role, to which no one at auditions even came close.  There were many Anna’s to choose from, but Kristi has this Bridget Jones-like quality that is so endearing, I couldn’t resist.

You've seen the movie (with Yul Brynner) and you've seen productions of  "The King And I," how does this production compare?  What's different?  What's new?
Actually, I've not seen a staged version of this show, but I did play Tuptim years ago in a production of it in Washington , D.C.   Having watched the film many years ago, I sort of came into this project like Jay – no expectations!  We fused the screenplay with the stage script for our production, making cuts here and there to keep the show fresh.  It seems our version might be the first one of its kind!  The use of shadow puppets in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (in addition to our fantastic dancers, musicians, and singers) is a beautiful way of enhancing the re-enactment of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s beloved story.

Jay admitted  that he has never seen the movie version with Yul Brynner in the iconic role that catapulted him to stardom.  Is this a good thing or a bad thing? How did it affect your vision for the production?
Unlike Yul Brynner, Jay has a lot of hair!  Seriously, my vision before rehearsals begin for any show I direct, is quite broad, so that the actors can bring their own interpretations.  But the one thing we all have in common is the text – and as long as we are respectful of the text, I don’t think we can make a mistake.  Case in point: although Jay had never watched Yul Brynner in the role, a local reviewer wrote, “Jay Españo’s King is heavily influenced by Yul Brynner’s definitive original interpretation (which) works perfectly…”  It’s really all about the text!  And of course, great minds think alike!

The relationship of Anna and the King has a lot of very understated romantic moments. They bicker, they fight and they fall in love. Tell us about finding that chemistry in terms of motivating  your lead stars.

Sometimes finding the arc of a character, a relationship, a scene, and a play happens because the director is very specific, and sometimes it happens more organically, with everyone bringing their own perspectives to the table.  All I can say is, the trust I put in my leads paid off in spades!

"The King and I" at The Peoria Center for  Performing Arts, Phoenix, Arizona runs until October 16, 2011.  Contact +1-623-815-7930 or

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