Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Dramatic Reading, Part 2

I started to imagine myself doing the actual dramatic reading. In the TDRs (technical dress rehearsals), there will only be family members of the cast, and I expect them to be supportive. In the actual performance, the audience will be composed of only about 30 people – mostly sponsors who are generous with their time, money and readiness to acclaim the efforts of a non-professional group such as ours. This is probably the most gentle and reassuring way, as Lala said it, “to get your feet wet.”

On the way home, Lala congratulated me, and said that I did fine. She pointed out the fact that Tita Naty did not correct me even once. (That was a great confidence-booster because I had heard my children and their classmates speak of how much fun theater could be but how strict Tita Naty was). I told her that the last time I read that way was when my children were young and I read to them, dramatizing the characters from fairy tales, or stories from Dr. Seuss to keep them entertained.

I’ve had good practice then.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Dramatic Reading

A few days ago, Naty Crame-Rogers (whom we all call Tita Naty), 83-year old 2006 National Artist for Drama, sms’ed me an invitation to join her group in a dramatic reading of “the Cradle Song.” She would ask our mutual friend, Lala Castillo, to bring me the script. I was to play Sr. Maria Jesus. The first meeting of the group will be on Friday, November 24.

Lala sent the script on Thursday, which I didn’t get to receive until Friday morning. So it was only then that I discovered that Sr. Maria Jesus was supposed to be an 18-year novice at a convent. “How on earth can I be a convincing 18-year old?” I asked myself. I am 60 and maybe I look 50, but sometimes my voice quakes and quivers like I am 70. But I had not seen Lala in a long time, and it would be nice to chat with her on the way to Tita Naty’s house. Later, I can always make excuses why I could not join.

Through Manila’s traffic, the ride took about an hour – a good amount of time for a chat with Lala. I told her how I felt about playing an 18-year old, gave her the whole slew of excuses that I had prepared. She said not to worry, there is always a double cast, and reassured me that I could quit if I wanted to.

At Tita Naty’s house, I met her motley group of volunteers that does dramatic readings, plays and musicals in her sala (living room) or garden theater. Of course, I already knew Tita Naty. I first saw her perform in the much-heralded Filipino play, Nick Joaquin’s “Portrait of An Artist as Filipino,” when I was a student at the University of the Philippines. She was until recently, the indefatigable drama coach at St. Scholastica’s College where my three daughters attended grade school and where Lala was the grade school principal. Lala retired from St. Scho but was immediately invited to be directress of the Philippine National High School for the Arts. Other participants included Mrs. Mabanta, her 76-year old neighbor who was introduced as the wife of a former government official, Cathy, a tall woman in her mid 30’s who works at a call center, and the only man in the group – Danny Escasa, who I learned works with computers and had met my daughter Sacha in one of meetings of the Philippine Linux Users Group.

After some small talk, Tita Naty started talking about “Cradle Song.” She told the story, and gave some tidbits about previous presentations, including the fact that it had been made into a movie. After learning that the role assigned to me was that of Sr. Maria Jesus, an 18-year-old novice in a convent, I was just about ready to back out. “I’m 60, and my character is 18,” I protested but Tita Naty said she doesn’t really assign actors according to the age or personality of the characters to be portrayed. “But I can’t memorize scripts anymore,” I protested again, to which Tita Naty said, “you don’t need to memorize the script – this is dramatic reading, so you’re allowed to read, well glance at, the script.” “But it’s December already next week, and I won’t have time to rehearse with you,” I reasoned to wriggle my way out of this commitment. “Oh, that’s ok. Everybody is busy in December, so we’ll start rehearsals in January.” “But I may be too busy at work to come for rehearsals or the actual performances,” I tried again, and she said “Oh, but this is relaxing and just what you need to have after work.” Running out of excuses, I surrendered to her persuasive ways and picked up the folder that contained the script, in a way glad to have been “pushed” into trying something I have wanted to do for a long time.

The folders that held the scripts were fastened at the bottom instead of at the top, I suppose to make it easier to “drop” the finished page and move on to the next.

There were more characters than actors so Tita Naty, Lala and Danny doubled up, with Danny actually reading a part for a female character. When the script came to my part, I read, almost cautiously, half expecting Tita Naty to correct how I read. But she didn’t! I know that Tita Naty’s ears are trained to hear if lines are read properly – right pronunciation, enunciation, tone, inflection, emotion – whatever it was that we were supposed to do with our voices to make the characters come alive, so it was with relief that she didn’t correct me, or point to any error in the way I read. At some point when the conversation among the characters was supposed to be excited and animated, she must have noticed that all our voices were going the same way and pitch, and she gave us a short informative lecture on the three pitches – high, medium and low. She advised us to listen to each other, and to change the pitch from the one used by the previous reader. “If she’s high, go medium or low.” Like a choral director, she harmonized our voices while keeping intact the identities of the characters.

I found myself flowing through some 15 pages of script, and Tita Naty was right. Except for the first part when I was nervous, the rest of the practice session was quite relaxing. And fulfilling. I committed to attend the rehearsals in January.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Dreams Do Come True

Paolo Coelho in his book, "The Alchemist" promised that "when you truly want something, the universe will conspire to give it to you." I have only recently read this book, but it seems John (my husband) and I have been living according to this precept for most of our lives.

In 1975, we needed a four-wheeled vehicle for use in our photography business. Since we couldn't afford to buy a car, we traded in our motorcyle for an owner-type jeep that was old and decrepit. One time, John was driving and the stick shift came off from the socket! It was a frightening experience but we somehow laughed it off.

A couple of months later, we started doing editorial and coverage photography for General Motors. John wanted to have a car - not a car to buy since we didn't have money to buy one - but he wanted to convince GM to give him a car to use. I didn't know then about the power of dreams and asked John "Nahihibang ka na ba (Have you gone crazy?), why would GM give you a car? Will you do all your photography for free use of a car?" Being the partner in charge of the business, I didn't want such an arrangement. John reassured me that we would get paid and still get a free car to use. The volume and value of work that we were doing for GM then was quite low and so I found it hard to imagine that GM would agree to this proposal. I was still full of disbelief, and John pleaded "Just believe. Trust me, they will give us a car." John dictated the proposal to me and I typed it on our letterhead.

Guess what, GM agreed! They even took care of maintenance, all we had to do was spend for gasoline. If anything was wrong with the car, John could take it back and come home with another car! Our neighbors thought we were rich.

That was our first big dream, and we have been chasing and realizing dreams ever since. Thank you John for teaching me, before Paolo Coelho did, that dreams do come true. Thank you, universe.

Friday, November 17, 2006


Kathy insisted on trying a new restaurant, so we went to Capricciosa in Greenbelt 3. They just opened, and it was half an hour before lunchtime, so there were not many people there yet.

We chose a booth and I had to slide in. John sat next to me and Kathy was across us. The waiter came and introduced himself as Jeffrey, while handing us brand new menu cards. Since it was an Italian restaurant, we naturally ordered pasta and pizza, and bruschetta to start the meal.

“Would you like soup?” Jeffrey asked. Although we had not thought of having soup, he obviously was trained to “push” their products in a smart and pleasant way. “You might want to try our Italian beef and vegetable soup? It’s very good.” In the split second that he saw that we were a bit undecided, and might be persuaded, he gave it a final push by saying “It’s my favorite.” John, who is just as quick on the draw, replied, “If we ordered that, then you would have to sit down and join us.”

That cracked us up and we, including our waiter Jeffrey, all had a good laugh. He looked like he was totally unprepared for that kind of a reply from a customer, and all he could do was join us in hearty laughter.

P.S. Verdict: the staff was friendly, the prices were a bit high, and the food was okay but not fantastic. Scratch from list of restaurants to patronize.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Dearest Sacha,

Today, you wrote about a roommate who does not seem to like you, and you wrote, “I sometimes wish I could have something like the close roommate relationships my mom had when she was in college.”

I’d like to tell you that not everyone I roomed in with became a friend. I remember being miserable with three roommates who were already roommates and friends by the time I joined them. I suppose they were not too happy with me because they all came from the same province and spoke the same dialect and I didn’t. I also kept borrowing a portable typewriter from one of them – no wonder she was pissed off with me - because my family could not afford to buy me one. Obviously the solutions were to buy my own typewriter, (my mother borrowed money to get me an Underwood portable typewriter) and to change rooms. Well, I could have tried to learn to speak their dialect, but I didn’t.

(From this experience, I learned to try to draw people into my circle, but will not persist, if they insist on staying out).

But I did form friendships with many whom I met at the dorm, some roommates and some dorm mates, and I am thrilled to think that 40 years later, we are still friends.

Living with other people is quite a challenge – and you can imagine why it is a challenge of a lifetime to marry someone and share the same bedroom for years and years. ; )

I suppose sharing a room or apartment follows the rules of physics about friction. You can’t have friction if surfaces don’t touch or rub together. So the more your lives intersect, the more chances for friction. When you live together, surface contacts can’t be helped. Trying to avoid each other can make life difficult for either or both of you.

Following this analogy, friendship, respect for, and acceptance of each other are like oils that prevent sparks (negative ones) from being thrown off by the friction of living together. In day-to-day living, respect may mean cleaning up your own space and common areas and not intruding into someone else’s space. Don’t give up the opportunity to form friendships with people you live with without trying to use those lubricants.

Please also remember that many Westerners like to define and claim their own personal spaces (physically, I think it’s an arm’s reach in front, beside and behind). They tend to be more private people who prefer to set boundaries around their personal air, visual, auditory and even emotional spaces. They like these spaces respected even when forming lines (whereas Asians don’t really mind if there are no airspaces between queuing bodies) or sitting on park benches (often occupied by one person or at most two, sitting at either end, even though there is room for three). However, there are differences among them as well, some being warmer than others in the way they relate with other people. Just understand the differences and respect them. Hopefully, it’s just a cultural barrier that personal friendships can transcend.

Now, if your roommate’s attitude turns out to be more of a personal dislike for you, don’t worry about it. Sometimes, we just have to accept that certain people do not get along, and are not meant for each other. There are more than 4 billion people on earth. I wonder how many a person meets and interacts with in a lifetime? Definitely, you cannot possibly be in good terms with everyone, and there will be people who would prefer your company while there are others who will intentionally move away from you.

If extending your hand in friendship and showing respect still fail, then the best way to avoid friction is to avoid each other (tough to do when you are roommates, but it can be done). If the relationship becomes explosive, then maybe she can ask to be transferred to another room or suite.

It will be her loss not to have known or counted you as a friend.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Our "Home-home"

“If we would go home to our “home-home” no matter how late, I will come to work no matter how early,” was my offer to my husband to persuade him to take us home to our new house as often as possible, hopefully everyday.

Just a few months ago, we bought a 15-year old house in the suburbs after living in a combined home and photo studio on a busy and noisy main street of Makati for the past 26 years (plus another 4 years at another Makati address that was also both studio and residence). Although I have always been longing for it, I have only belatedly experienced the joy of living away from work. We did not really transfer residences, but instead maintain two homes -one in Makati where we work, and the other in Alabang, which I call our “home-home”).

There are many advantages to living where we work. Having the house above the studio means that all we need is a 2-second commute between one and the other. Living there also meant that we were accessible to our children (when they were young and still living at home) even at our busiest times, and we didn’t have to worry about children we left at home, if we had lived elsewhere. Our children also grew up exposed to the work that we did, and often took interest in them.

It is also a convenient location. I can grab a cab just by stepping out of our house/office. We are very near the country’s primary business district. The supermarket, wet market, church, banks and our favorite bakeshop are all within walking distance, or an accessible, easily available (by tricycle, taxi, jeep, bus) short ride away.

But, there are also distinct disadvantages. It is difficult to decide when to stop working, especially since our work numbers are 24/7, not 9 to 5. It is also very easy to bring office problems into the home, and vice versa. As for attending to the family, we would be physically present and accessible even while at work, but often caught in the middle, torn between demanding children and equally demanding clients competing for our attention.

Our studio/house can a busy place – and on especially hectic days, it can be as noisy as grand central station. One can get auditory overload just hearing the buses and tricycles on the street, and the telephone ringing or paging at any odd hour. Music can be loud – to put talents in the mood, or to keep photographers from falling asleep when they need to work overtime.

The house in the studio is still here, and I suppose we will continue to maintain it. We somehow still find the studio the most convenient place to start from when we have early morning shoots, or to come home to when shoots last well into the night. Living away from work is bliss, but I must agree, working away from home is inconvenient.

But we are getting used to driving after work to our home-home and we like it there. It is in a quiet neighborhood. We have a little garden. We can relax in this house – the atmosphere is really tranquil. Sometimes, we even find time to write -John in his photography online forum, and me, doing blogs, such as this.

Even the commutes do not bother us – spending time on the road on the way home from work allows us to unwind, while being caught in slow-moving traffic is, to our sweet surprise, an extended and unexpected “bonding time.” (Except on some nights when traffic on South Superhighway or even the Skyway is bumper-to-bumper and hardly moves – like last night. We were on our way to our “home-home” and U-turned because traffic was horrendous!)

Even friends like our new home - that is, when they can make the long trip to visit us. When they do come, they no longer need to wonder if they’re interrupting us at work. Long and relaxed conversations with family and friends are now possible.

Gradually, we are spending more time in our new home. When we first acquired the house, we only spent weekends there, and sometimes not even. We have progressed to spending about 3 or 4 nights a week at home. My short-term goal is to spend all the nights of one straight week here, or one full month. We will probably celebrate when we are able to come home everyday for a full year! I don’t mind the coming and going, the commute to and from the city and our home - leaving the home to work, and leaving work to come home. It is a small price to pay to enjoy our “home-home.”