Tourists coming up to Baguio not only to watch a parade of plastic flowers and marching bands playing "What does the fox say?," or buy La Presa strawberries, or drink lattes and frappes in an over-sized mall precariously sitting on top of a fragile hill, but to catch the opening night of the latest original play by a local playwright to be performed by local actors in one of the several performance spaces that should have sprouted all over Baguio between now and 20 years ago.
Ticket prices to a play in Baguio today average P100.00. Well, I'm no economist but should I be happy that in October-November, 1996, when I staged "Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll" at the then BCF (now UC) Theater, our tickets went for P40.00?
I came, I saw, I stayed and searched for kindred souls to go on journeys with, share struggles with, and triumphs too, people who shared the same passion and love for the craft... artists I could collaborate with.
"Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll," directed and featuring myself and Ferdinand Balanag, production managed by Rl Abella, stage managed by Ado Cabjuan and sister Ningning, lighting designed by Perry Mamaril, who else was with us then?, ran for a few performances in BCF (now UC) then went on to have a re-run at the Bulwagang Juan Luna of UP Baguio. That first one screamed, the dream's not totally outrageous after all, it can be realized!
The next thing we knew, we were performing a play with a cast of 12 to an audience of 7, in a theater that powers-that-be in Baguio attempted to turn into a casino (the community opposed it, won, yet the slot machines and card tables are still set up inside, they say). Bubble burst.
But what can I do, theater blood runs in my veins, and aside from loving this art form too much, and despite the box-office flop that is "A Prelude to Kiss," I have also fallen in love with Baguio by then and I was free falling. Spread yourself as wide as possible to provide the strongest resistance possible and fall as gently and smoothly as possible.
I collaborated with some people, but turned out I hired more. Theater is a wonderful art form, but an unforgiving industry. One day you're treating the cast to a hefty dinner or a well-stocked open bar at a cast party, and the next you're handing over a watch to a cast member as payment because there's no more money to cover his "professional fee."
I couldn't resist, like seeing a plant with a bud at the end of a stem, you water it, cultivate the soil around it, commune with it, motivate it, urge, push... hoping that one day you'll be there when it blooms, in full splendor, color...
A singer sings like she's never sung before, the actor becomes someone he never knew he could become, telling stories that are worth telling, what a joy. The audience responds to that unique experience only theater can bring about... oh God.
It's hard when you pour your heart and soul into something that others just do to pass the time. But yeah, it's not right too to expect others to see things the way you do. Some read books to let their imagination take flight, some do because the movie was a blockbuster. That's just the way it is.
And theater just can't put food on the table, that's a fact too. But when you do hire people, they expect to get paid. Doesn't matter what your reasons are for bringing people in, or what they brought with them once there. While you envision an art work that could provoke one, two, three persons, or everyone in the audience to action, to thinking, to looking deep inside themselves or at the world around them in a way they've never done before, break on through that fourth wall and touch their hearts with a line, a soliloquy, a gesture, a sigh, a tear drop, some are just there because... I don't know, for reasons other than causing a supernova?
I'm tired. Time to get on the rest of this adventure with a clean slate. There are so many other ways to reach that audience, touch that heart, without unwittingly forcing others to be on a journey they had no plans of taking, get in a boat they don't want to row... what am I saying? I don't know.
Would've loved a better curtain call. But I guess this one ain't that bad at all too.
It's been great.