And then I come upon a box labeled "Theater Things". Backstage passes from the events I went through from 1998 to 2006, Playshop faculty IDs, the program from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, my improv books, scene books, and even the jumper I use for Pamilya Maleta.
Getting into theater was an accident. Though I've always been pala-showbiz as a child, theater was never introduced to me as an option. It was only in high school, in the classic norm of "make me sama" (sorry po, Poveda ako nung high school, eh), I auditioned along with my friend for the school drama club. I was accepted, she wasn't. We're still friends.
I did a few plays in high school, including an ambitious take on the one-act "Black Roses", and a collaboration with Xavier on "Carousel" which turned out to be a 3-month long soiree rather than a production. My parents and I had our first real tiff concerning my future when I was to choose between pre-med at the Ateneo and Theater Arts in UP. The former won and I had to be content with theater taking a backseat to my future medical career. In college, I tried out and was accepted into Blue Repertory, then a start-up theater org, but had to quit just before "Godspell". With the demands of pre-med on my shoulders, I had to push aside theater and shut it out. At least for a while.
After a job in Human Resources and traipsing around the country as an NGO-worker, I landed a position with Stages, Trumpets' sister events company. For years I sat behind a desk, watching other performers on stage, taking theater and voice classes on the sly, and when I couldn't take it anymore, I sat down with Audie and Stella and said I was quitting my job.
Audie: Are you sure you want to do this?
Audie: (sigh) Kaya hindi ako nagsasalita eh, kasi I knew you would leave once I said something. You're pretty good. You have my blessing and encouragement. Go. Perform.
I assisted for Chari and was eventually given my own Playshop classes, spent late nights doing improv and scene study with Ana, voice classes with Lionel, was cast for Narnia, did the whole corporate-racket thing, performed improv with Philippine Playhouse in the weirdest of venues, all the while living hand-to-mouth. My personal conviction as a Christian artist made for a somewhat limited choice in terms of roles and plays and I eventually gave in and took a job for Gymboree Philippines. But that is a completely different story.
But the glory of those days lay in a small play that moved mountains. It was Pamilya Maleta that I am most proud of to this day. We went from Stageworx to Sta. Lucia East, from Antipolo to Pangasinan, from churches to malls, to town squares and everywhere where there was a space to fill.
My most memorable Pamilya Maleta was in Bilibid Prison. We performed for the inmates that were in maximum security, life-termers and death-row prisoners waiting for their day. The instructions were clear: forget breaking the 4th wall, don't make eye contact, keep to your group and don't be too conspicuous. It's hard not to be conspicuous when we were the 3 single females in a male prison with a population of 6,000. I was playing Rosanna that day, and due to the nature of her character (read: maarteng haliparot) they were most nervous for me and the reactions I might illicit from our audience.
But the show goes on. For an hour we performed, with hardly any glances at our audience till our final bow. When we did look out, we were astonished to see the inmates and prison guards reduced to heartfelt sobbing. We were humbled.
Though teaching Gymboree is still a performance in itself, I miss the stage. The theater performer in me lies dormant and I don't really know when and if she's going to wake up again. She never was truly fully awake in the first place. In the end, my parents were right - theater wasn't my stage. I had the skills, I had the talent, I had the passion for performing, but it was meant for something else.
And that again, is a different story.