*a repost of my article in the May 1, 2011 issue of Cordillera Today.
We’re moving house again, and while we, my wife and I, don’t really look forward to the packing and unpacking, I am quite excited to have that feeling of a fresh start, a new leaf, chapter, a clean slate that moving into a new house brings.
I bought used boxes and packing tape from a grocery store one morning few days ago to get the packing going. But I was scheduled to be out the rest of the day, so the first packing session was to be done by my wife. I came home that night to find that nothing was packed yet, but a lot of stuff was brought out that covered almost the whole living room floor. Apparently, she started to work on the wrong batch of knick-knacks: photographs and memories of our life as theater artists for the past 16 years. So she spent the whole day looking through them instead of packing them up – and I spent the next couple of hours going through them again with her.
An envelope full of newspaper clippings, photographs, souvenir programs of productions past. I pick up a clipping, “X-Men” in bold letters on one Sunday edition of Sunstar Baguio in 1996, a feature article written by Vince Cabreza about a month after I decided to move here for good from Manila. I was producing and directing a performance-art piece called “Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll” with Baguio actor Ferdie Balanag, my very first theater production in Baguio. We were in our early to mid-twenties then, and that may have been how we came across, generation x-ers out bite the bullet: theater and the fact that there’s no money in it. Well, at least for the artists, mostly. Marketing agents have been known to rake it in selling tickets. The cover photo featured me and my girlfriend then, my wife and the mother of three of my children now, RL, in our 90’s signature tattered denim pants and jackets standing at some back alley off Session Road, looking the photographer straight in the eye.
I didn’t really give up much in Manila for Baguio, I was just glad to leave the dirty, dog-eat-dog urban rat race for the laid back, quiet life up here. Though there’s much more money to be made down there, I didn’t really care then. I was in Baguio the previous year for a couple of weeks shooting a movie and I told myself that one day I was going to move here for good. So there, a year later, here I was – rehearsing plays in the afternoons, shuttling between Rumours, where one goes to socialize and discuss art and fashion, and the now gone Perk Café at the top of Session Road, where one used to go to get drunk, let loose, and discuss the latest episode of the sitcom, “Friends,” or listen to the at times angsty, gritty, in other words beautifully fitting soundtrack to our lives then courtesy of Vin Dancel, Jenny Carino, Badjao, the late Gian Leung (may his soul rest in peace, along with Tihani’s) Hannah Romawac, among other budding musicians then.
Ferdie and I spent afternoons and evenings in some abandoned campus we’ve claimed as our rehearsal space to put together the production. Post-earthquake Baguio was transforming right before my eyes at the time: the first flyover was being built, the first Panagbenga was being staged, Baguio the way I, and everybody else, knew it was being distorted to satisfy certain people’s belief that development and growth can only be achieved at the expense of the environment and everything that is beautiful about Baguio.
In the blink of an eye, merely three or four stage plays later, Baguio beautiful was gone – the courteous cab drivers in their 70’s Toyota station wagons now replaced with speeding and smoke-belching AUVs driven by maniacs; every place within the city being a mere five-miute drive away became a thing of the past the day it took me an hour by jeep to get from Trancoville to the Cathedral; the magnificent skyline now replaced with imposing concrete structures; and rustic Camp John Hay was being sold to a developer out to turn it into a “world-class” resort – the advent of Baguio as a bustling, overcrowded, polluted, highly urbanized city was upon us.