It's been a particularly exhausting year, not that the previous ones have been much easier - the life of an artist is never easy. Most artists anyway. For the last two and a half decades, theater ate me up spending most months filled with late night rehearsals and early morning setups. But not last year. See, 2012 stood out above the rest for it has been a year of awakening for me and my family, and there are people to thank for that.
One Michael Bengwayan, whom I have never met nor even heard of before, brought to my attention the one thing that elbowed theater out for a good part of the year for the first time since I can remember. From him, I learned of SM City Baguio's plan to remove 182 trees on one side of a hill for a parking facility. This sparked an emotional response so strong it kept on burning a full year since and would set the stage for a life on the streets in a battle against men and women in business suits. There was no need to go into the details of the issue: the biggest commercial mall in Baguio owned by the richest family in the country wants to become even bigger at the expense of the environment and the welfare of a whole community. So on January 20, 2012, we shouted at the rally led by Bengwayan, "it's not what you'll build, it's what you'll kill!"
Thank you, Michael Bengwayan, for creating that spark.
The weeks that followed saw the whole family, and here by family I mean both immediate and extended for with members of the art group I founded, Open Space, have become an inseparable part of my life, setting up platforms, lights and sound equipment in various open spaces in Baguio to sing out the sentiments of a city. We would be seen carrying speakers and light stands and laying down cables at the Pine Trees of the World Park, at the Igorot Garden and Malcolm Square, all of us - men, women, children.
We were there the night we heard the felling of the first 49 trees, the painful sound of branches and tree trunks cracking. We cried together, held each other's hands, and strengthened each other's resolve not to let our guard down for we knew that what's at stake here isn't only the life of 182 of God creations, but the future of this beautiful city.
Thank you, co-actors, co-musicians, co-directors, co-writers, co-storytellers, kindred souls in Open Space, for sharing the passion to tell stories that must be told and to be more than just spectators in the brutal rape of this city.
My already extended family was extended much further, our circle of friends got much bigger. We sat with them at cafes, cramped apartments, park benches to exchange ideas about how to stop the monster that is corporate greed from forever defacing the beautiful face of our beloved city. There were the lawyers Christopher Donaal and Cheryl Yangot along with their equally dedicated colleagues; the indefatigable energies of the likes of Gideon Omero, Glo Abaeo, Marie Balangue, Andrea Cosalan and Sonn Fernandez and others more; the promises that the likes of one Calypso, this long-haired Richard, the gentle Anjoy, the fiery Ivy, and the passionate Jarlaw, among others; the guiding wisdom of and encouraging examples set by the likes of Rico and Sumitra Gutierrez, Guia Limpin, Mike Arvisu, Vangie Ram, Willy Alangui, Abbie Angonos, Ellen Lao, Nelson Alabanza, together with all the others who have come to be collectively known as Save 182.
Thank you, my family in Save 182, for making me a part of a noble struggle to defend all that is good about Baguio from the evils of corporate greed and a rotten political system.
And finally yet most importantly, I thank my wife whom I am very fortunate and very happy to live this life with, my children who I know now will be way better persons than I ever have been or ever wish to be, along with the rest whose same blood flows in my and my children's veins - all of whom define me as a human being.
As I venture to live my 40th year, I am grateful for all the new things I learned last year, the new connections made, the new way ways I now see the world around me, and I sincerely hope to make all you have given to and done for me worth your while.
So to all of you... salamat. At minsan pa, salamat.