I went back to teaching in 2017 when a friend, Owen Jaen, recommended me as his replacement for Liceo de Cagayan University Senior High School’s Arts & Design theater class. Just like when I first stepped inside that small classroom in Villa Trinitas, Bugo back in 1998, I did not know what to expect. All I knew was that I was grateful to have been given the chance to share my learnings and experiences with a new batch of students.
Since I met my students once a week only, I didn’t get the chance to immediately establish a connection with them. I started on December 1st, so it was already way past the getting-to-know-you stage. I tried my best to inculcate in them the beautiful things that theater has taught me. I tried my best to encourage them to pursue their passions and express their artistry.
We had several fun activities including in-room workshops. Before the school year ended, my grade 11 students staged their own interpretation of the movie “Seklusyon” and I was quite proud of what they accomplished in such a short span of time. That was when I knew I wanted to stay and give more students the opportunity to find their artistic calling.
Last school year, 2018-2019, the Liceo SHS Paseo del Rio management came up with the idea of staging a grand production showcasing the talents of the school’s Arts & Design students. Initially, we were supposed to stage an existing story/play but the students later on decided to come up with their own musical play. In less than a month’s time, Nicolas Salcedo of the grade 12 Arts & Design class created the story of Lando and Marina and “Binhi” was born.
The play, which featured original songs penned by Nico and arranged by grade 12 Arts & Design music major Krenz Sabanal, was staged at Rodelsa Hall in February 2019. It was a beautiful success that made me realize, more than anything else, how talented my students are. Despite the short period of time (for rehearsals and other pre-production preparations), everything went well.
This year, my grades 11 & 12 Arts & Design students will be staging their grand production in January 2020 and I know it will be a resounding success. My theater majors, all 20 of them, are an extremely talented, creative, and efficient batch. They know how to get things done in the best way possible.
Our preparations started early this year. Our writer, Clarissa Gamba (theater major), began working on the story last summer. Around July, we had a story session with some of her classmates so we can finalize the story.
This year’s production is entitled “Manilla” and it focuses on a girl who refuses to give in to the pressures of her family to abandon her dreams of becoming a musician. Manilla is also a story about two friends – Pacifico and Manilla – who are both talented and artistically gifted but choose to follow different paths. It is the story of two families, of a small community, and of friends who are determined to overcome obstacles and fulfill their goals.
The songs for this year’s grand musical production are written by the grade 12 Arts & Design theater majors. So except for a modern rendition of a classic Filipino folk song, Manilla will showcase original songs and music created by my students.
Seeing what my students can do has inspired me to do everything that I can to help them stage the show successfully. My only role in the production – as their theater teacher – is as creative consultant and head of the marketing & promotions theme. They consult with me on practically everything but I always leave the final decision to them. They know what they are doing – and they know what they are capable of creating.
I’m sharing this story because I want to inspire others to pursue their goals, whether they’re arts-related or not. I am sharing this because I want people to know that our students – your sons and daughters – have what it takes to become successful in their chosen fields someday; you just have to trust them and give them the opportunity to develop and shine.
Hopefully, Kagay-anons (Liceans and non-Liceans) will support our creative endeavor and watch our grand production this January. One of our goals, aside from showcasing the talents of Liceo U’s Arts & Design students, is to bring theater closer to the people. We chose to tell the story of Manilla because we know a lot of people, especially students, can relate with it. This, we believe, is one way of encouraging people to embrace the joy that theater can offer them.
Kudos to my Arts & Design students! Let’s bring it on and give Kagay-anons a grand production worth remembering this January! Adelante! J
(Manilla is written by Clarissa Gamba. Director is Mart Vhon Ledesma; asst. director is Joseph Khent Rivera. Stage management is by Kent Irvin. Manilla will be played alternately by Christy Aboniawan, Normann Bel Sarmiento, and Junalyn Arrabis. Pacifico will be played alternately by Joseph Khent Rivera, Marc Harvey Alvarez, and Dawid Rosh Mahilum. The production is sponsored by the Liceo de Cagayan University Alumni Association.)