Saturday, August 27, 2011

See-Top Baguio

*my column in the August 28, 2011 issue of Cordillera Today

Ang buwan ng Agosto ay buwan ng wika, dahil diyan susubukin kong isulat ang sanaysay na ito sa ating kinikilalang pambansang wika – Filipino, nang hindi masyadong umaasa sa diksyunaryo o, paumanhin po, sa... GOOGLE TRANSLATE. At sa bawat tatlong tuldok na magkakasunod na makikita niyo, hindi ito paggamit ng ...ELLIPSIS... kundi katumbas ng pagtigil sandali upang isipin kung ano ang susunod na sasabihin. At ang mga salita naman sa malalaking titik ay mga salitang wala talaga akong ma-isip na katumbas sa Tagalog. At nawa’y hindi masyadong guluhin ng MICROSOFT WORD AUTO-CORRECT FEATURE ang sanaysay na ‘to.

Tagalog ang unang wikang natutunan ko, lumaki ako sa... PROJECT 6... dun sa may bahagi ng... ROAD 7... na kung tawagin ng mga galing sa ibang parte ng aming baranggay ay... SQUATTERS’ AREA. Kabilang ako sa henerasyon ng mga Pilipinong naaalibadbaran kapag nakakarinig ng mga kapwa Pilipinong nag-uusap sa wikang Ingles, puro man o ‘yung tinatawag nating TAGLISH, o pinag-halong Tagalog at Ingles. Napapangiwi din ako ‘pag nakakrinig ng “LET’S EAT na lang AT THE turo-turo,” o di kaya’y “HERE BABY, mag-EAT ka na, tapos mag-TAKE A BATH KA, OK?” Dahil sa Maynila noon, ang pananaw ng mga tao ay ‘pag nag-i-Ingles ka, siguro edukado ka, o ‘di kaya’y mayaman –sosyal, o pa-sosyal.

‘Yun ay hanggang mapadpad ako sa mundo ng teatro, kung saan kadalasan ay Ingles ang usapan ng mga tao. Kahit nasa wikang Tagalog ang dula, maririnig mo ang direktor na magsasabing “sa linyang ‘yan YOU CROSS TO DOWN STAGE RIGHT, PAUSE FOR FIVE BEATS, THEN SIT.” Bilang artista at... STAGE MANAGER... noon sa Tanghalang Pilipino ng Sentrong Pangkultura ng Pilipinas, takot akong makipagsabayan sa balitaktakan sa Ingles dahil nga baka maubusan ako ng salita. Pero pagkaraan ng ilang taon sa Teatro, at maiksing panahon sa industriya ng... ADVERTISING... (pananalastas? Pwede.), ay unti-unti rin akong natutong mangusap sa Ingles.

Hanggang makilala ko ang aking kabiyak na tubong Baguio kung saan bihasa sa wikang Ingles ang mga tao. Dahil siguro dati itong isang HILL STATION na bakasyunan ng mga Amerikanong sundalo at mga opsiyal ng gobyerno nung unang bahagi ng 20TH CENTURY. Noon, dito sa Baguio, kung hindi Ilokano, Ingles ang salita ng mga tao. Kabaligtaran ng sa Maynila – sa Baguio noon, ‘pag nag-Tagalog ka, pa-sosyal ka. Natuto akong bumili ng SOY imbis na toyo. At kung minsan, maski Ingles na yung salita, ini-Ingles pang lalo, tulad ng sigarilyong CAMEL, na kung bigkasin ng karamihang sa mga tindera ay key-mel.

Ngayon, lumaki ang mga anak ko na ang unang lengwahe ay Ingles, dahil yun ang kulturang inabutan nila sa lugar na kinalakihan nila. Kung dati’y hiyang-hiya akong mag-Ingles dahil hindi ako masyadong bihasa dito, sila nama’y nahihiyang mag-Tagalog. Ito ang kanilang binubuno ngayon – ang matutong mag-Tagalog.

At kapag natuto na sila, hindi na nga ba sila maaaring ituring na higit pa ang amoy sa malansang isda, tulad ng sinabi ni Jose Rizal ukol sa mga taong hindi marunong magmahal sa sariling wika?

Pero teka, paano nga naman natin mas maisasapuso ang wikang Filipino e mula sa paglabas mo ng GATE, hanggang sa pagsakay sa JEEP, ang lahat ay tila nangungusap sa’yo sa wikang Ingles – “FARE: 8.50 REGULAR, 7.50 FOR STUDENTS AND SENIOR CITIZENS,” “NO I.D. NO DISCOUNT,” GOD KNOWS JUDAS NOT PAY.” Sa lansangan naman, “NO PARKING,” “LOADING/UNLOADING ONLY,” “APARTMENT FOR RENT/TRANSIENTS,” at sa PARKING LOT ng SM CITY BAGUIO: “GOVERNMENT VEHICLE, FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY.” Saan tayo mamamasyal, sa BURNHAM PARK, ATHLETIC BOWL o sa BOTANICAL GARDENS?
Ilan nga ba sa atin ngayon ang tunay na marunong, o kahit na komportable man lang na mag-Filipino?

NATIONAL LANGUAGE o Pambansang Wika natin ang Filipino, e bakit hindi natin ginagamit? Alam ng kahit sinong tagpag-turo ng mga wika na ang pinaka-mainam na paraan upang maging bihasa sa isang lengwahe, at itaguyod at pagyamanin ito, ay ang paggamit nito – hindi lang isang buwan sa isang taon.

Handa nga ba tayong pumunta sa Daang Session o Abenida o Kahabaan ng Magsaysay, o kumuha ng cedula sa Bulwagang Panlunsod, tumakbong mabagal paikot sa Mangkok na Pampalakasan?

Oo nga pala, SEE-TOP BAGUIO? ‘Yan ang tawag ng ating mga HONORABLES sa Siyudad ng Baguio.

Friday, August 19, 2011

This I can do

*my column in the August 21, 2011 issue of Cordillera Today

I received a message from an online acquaintance on Facebook.com last week – some guy was looking for a documentary filmmaker for a project. I sent that guy a message online and I got a reply. Later that evening, I received a call from one Illiac Diaz.

Diaz was, not sure if he still is, an actor turned... and this I got from “Googling’ him – social entrepreneur, environmental hero, designer, inventor, etc., etc. I knew him first as that guy who designed those odd- looking dome-shaped tsunami-proof houses made out of recycled materials. I thought then, well, that’s cool. He’s being talked about lately for his latest brilliant brainstorm – using plastic bottles to make “solar light bulbs” that can brighten up a room with light equivalent to that emitted by a conventional 55-watt light bulb.

So last week, I was on the phone with him to talk about that particular latest project. But what made a bigger impression on me was the idea behind the idea. We have been reading a lot about how we can all do our share in protecting the environment and live an eco-friendly, sustainable lifestyle. We have been told that we can convert gasoline-fuelled cars to LPG, to lessen harmful emissions in the air. Or, for the more financially-able, there are hybrid cars now that can switch from gasoline to electric power with the push of a button. We know about those fluorescent light bulbs that while four to five times more pricy than regular incandescent bulbs, consume much less electricity and last longer. How many of you out there are using solar panels to heat water? Or closer to home, have you bought yourself one of those trendy, eco-friendly shopping bags from the shopping giant up the hill to lessen the use of plastic bags?

But see, most of us don’t even have cars to convert to be more eco-friendly to begin with. Maybe in the long run we can save some money from using fluorescent light bulbs, but right now, today, we can only afford that P30.00 incandescent bulb, and not that P200.00 eco-friendly one. Most solar panels I looked up can cost you around P140.00 per watt. That means having solar panels that would run a 300-watt refrigerator would cost you... you do the math. The point is, most eco-friendly efforts out there are just unrealistic for most of us. There are things we mere mortals can do. Sure, reducing, reusing, recycling non-environment-friendly materials is doable for most of us. Segregating our garbage, assuming that the city we live in has a proper waste management system, can go a long way in protecting the environment. But what can the majority of Filipinos do to help protect the environment?

That’s where Illiac Diaz is coming from – he brings the concept of sustainability closer to the masses. And his ideas and efforts can realistically have a positive impact on the environment simply because most of us can actually do it, and not just a few privileged households in exclusive subdivisions. 

I was asked recently by a corporate giant to put together a website to trumpet their so-called environmental efforts. The project was simple – they will give me literature about and images of their sustainability efforts and I will publish them on the world wide web. It has been months since and the website is not up yet because I have yet to receive materials relevant enough to be considered real efforts. Sure they have a sewage treatment plant – as if letting toxic liquid waste seep into the ground is acceptable, and having such a plant is a great effort on their part. Sure they use energy-efficient light bulbs, bit is it really to help save Mother Earth or to pay less money for electricity? Sure they turn off some lights during the annual Earth Hour, during which they hold a concert to pat themselves on the back for the effort, knowing fully-well that the ensuing concert consumes a lot of electricity to power those stage lights and sound system.

Too bad our group could not afford to go on a week-long caravan with Illiac Diaz to promote his plastic bottle light bulb idea to do a video documentary on it. I had to take a rain check, a reality check really, since there was no budget for the documentation and our group just couldn’t afford to do it pro bono at the moment,  to skip work for a week at the moment, for skipping work for a week for us means skipping eating for a week. It’s one of those realities that, no matter how much we believe in the idea, how much we love the environment and how much we want to participate in protecting it, we could not ignore right now.

So I thought I would at least write about it, so you’d know about it. That I can do. Now, what else...     

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Virgo rising

I can only speak of his story from the time he joined to tell the story of Timoune in the play, Once on this Island in 2006. I did not know him or of him before that. He was coming in with a clean slate and with nothing else but sheer talent and passion for his craft - any theatre director’s delight.

One of the two roles he played in that musical was Agwe, the God of Water, who early in the play takes center stage with a song that sets Timoune on a journey. A veteran of choirs and singing competitions, he was a theatre novice at the time, yet he performed the role with such aplomb, such conviction that one might think that he has been on stage all his life. He is a joy to be with during rehearsals, engaging the staff and fellow performers in playful banter and would occasionally fill up the room with his booming, baritone laughter. But once onstage, he totally shuts out everything else and devotes his whole being to telling the story. Always eager to take in anything that would make him a better artist, he listens to directions attentively and accepts criticisms graciously.

While he is aware that God has gifted him with a wonderful singing voice, he knows that there is always room for improvement, and he works hard to further develop that gift. And he generously and readily shares that gift with anyone who wants it. He would always be seen giving advice to his fellow performers, imparting all that he has learned in years of vocal training, both formal and informal.

He never settles for mediocrity, and for him, and this is one of the reasons I love working with him, there’s no such thing as a minor production, or a small gig. He treats every single performance as a performance of a lifetime. Whether it’s at the ballroom of the Baguio Country Club, or a cafeteria along Session Road, or on a makeshift stage out in the open in some park. And he expects nothing less from the people he works with – he would encourage, push, and motivate everyone around him to always strive for excellence, whether it’s a major production where he’s getting paid a decent professional fee or a pro bono performance, where the only compensation he will get is the audience’s applause.

Since joining Open Space five years ago, he has been seen as Pilate in the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar,” Judah in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” and as one of the storytellers in “Kafagway: Sa Saliw ng mga Gangsa.” Earlier this year, we did a series of performances at the Art Park of Camp John Hay, which showcased his versatility as a vocalist: one night he would be heard singing classical arias, pop hits in another, and Broadway favourites the next. And it almost never fails - someone would come up to him after each performance, ask about him, where else he performs, if he has a recording. One Russian tourist, in town for a few weeks, perhaps missed visiting much of what Baguio had to offer for after hearing him sing one night, she made it a point to be there every single time this artist went on stage. A senator was driving by the Art Park one afternoon while he was onstage singing, and the senator stopped, got out of her car, and just stood there, with eyes closed listening to his wonderful voice. Weeks later, the senator requested a command performance, an encore just for her and her friends.

One might come to the conclusion, with all of the above, that he may currently be a big name in the industry. That perhaps fans crowd around him wherever he goes. But no. Not yet anyway. In one singing competition here in Baguio, the judges didn’t even think his voice merited a spot in the finals, when perhaps the real reason was that this guy was just too good to be true for them, too good to be in a competition set in the middle of a tiangge in the park. Or maybe it’s because while there right in front of them was world-class talent, a voice that reaches deep inside of you and stirs up emotions you didn’t even know you were capable of feeling, what they were looking for was just another pretty face.

Yet unheralded he may be, but not for long, for Virgo is rising. Lloyd Virgo, baritone, that is. With his recent performance in the qualifiers for Pilipinas Got Talent, where he left the judges in awe with an inspired rendition of “Nessun Dorma,” Lloyd Virgo may finally get the recognition he deserves and reach a much wider audience hungry for real, pure talent.

Lloyd Virgo is rising, and it’s a very good sign, for this Baguio-based talent deserves it. And we are very lucky to have him in our midst.