Two sides to every story

The start of “Ang Sabi Ko Sa Iyo” (What I Said To You) from Eli Jacinto’s Mga Sayaw Mula Sa Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa (Dances from The Dance of Two Left Feet), his ballet suite of the choreography he did for the film Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa. Performed at the Pasinaya Open House Festival at the CCP in February 2012.

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The same moment, from a different angle (and slightly different cast). Performed at the Asian Translation Traditions Conference last October 2014, at the UP Theatre.

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The best work is work that never gets old.

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Selamat ulang tahun, Malaysia

Diana from the office the other day asked me if I knew how to speak Bahasa Melayu yet, since I’ve been here almost a year. I grinned and replied, “Makan… Minum… Terima kasih!” which made her laugh and tsk at me at the same time.

But I also know specifically what to makan and minum, and whether to have it there or to go. Practical stuff. I also know how to give directions to my house in Malay (kanan, kiri) and Shin Hui was giving me a lift on the same day and, asking me to navigate for her, she said I was better than her at knowing where to go in KL and PJ. Yes, I know how to get around by myself. It took a while, but I’m such a badass commuter, which Bilqis had warned me can be super challenging. That counts for something right? An accomplishment for my first year in Malaysia?

So early in the morning…

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Jason, giving me a lift on a separate occasion (bless my Malaysian friends giving me lifts here and there), asked me how long I’ve been here and told him it would be a year on Saturday. He said this surprised him, he thought I had been living here for at least three years. Yes, I can’t speak Malay yet, but I guess I do give the impression I’ve been here for quite some time. And anyway, I understand context. Some context. Both in Malay and Chinese. Dui.

When I visited Singapore, Mayo asked me how was my English, because he said his was deteriorating. I said mine was still perfect, because I had Bilqis to talk to. If anything, I was starting to develop a British accent.

I have Bilqis.

I have Bilqis. Feeding the monkeys in Kuala Selangor.

Okay, so yeah, I was kidding about Chinese, I don’t understand it at all, except for this one time Silver and Jack were arguing “Yo..” (sp?) and “Meiyou…” on a loop in the car. But I’ve learned to enjoy listening to the chatter, and don’t demand a translation because I don’t have to join the conversation to enjoy it. One of the first times I hung out with a bunch of Chinese Malaysians at once, Chan was constantly trying to translate for me, bless his heart (may you all have that one friend who is just as sweet and thoughtful). I remember telling him, “It’s okay, Chan. I like listening even if I don’t understand.” Which is also why I’m not going to learn Chinese anytime soon, though I’ve recently learned how to fake participating in a Chinese conversation. Dui. Zhen ta. Shi. I can do that all year.

In the solo he choreographed for me for Dancing in Place, Jack wanted me to speak in Tagalog to replicate his own lost in translation experience when he was “wandering in Berlin.” Maybe better if I spoke in German, but it had to come out naturally and so we settled on Tagalog. However, I found that some of my text, especially in the second segment where I’m tying my hair, saying the words felt so unnatural for me. And when I watched the video back, I was like, you sound so fake, girl!

Chattering in Tagalog in Jack Kek's Strasse, Stadt Photo by Marvin Kho

Chattering in Tagalog in Jack Kek’s Strasse, Stadt
Photo by Marvin Kho

Jack’s lost in translation experience is actually exactly my experience. His city is Berlin. My city is KL. And what his dance is about, is exactly my dance. Why does my heart feel so much for a city it has only just met? It just does. And it has multiplied greatly, one year after.

On the monorail today, a girl asked me, “Hang Tuah sini?” I said yes. If she was going the wrong way, I would have said, “Tak,” and pointed at the other platform. She smiled and said, TQ. I replied, “Sama sama.”

Yes, I’m quite proud of myself. Happy anniversary to you and me, Malaysia, in a couple of days. Thank you for having me.

Good evening, city of mine. #iloveKL

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Happy new year!

Yes, it’s February. Almost mid-February. I’ve been busy. But, yay!

Not supposed to pointe my toes in Jack Kek's Strasse, Stadt in Dancing in Place, a site specific festival at Rimbun Dahan, Malaysia. This is an excerpt from his full length show, A Wanderer in Berlin, premiering in Damansara Performing Arts Centre on March 20, 2015.

Not supposed to pointe my toes in Jack Kek’s Strasse, Stadt in Dancing in Place, a site specific festival at Rimbun Dahan, Malaysia. This is an excerpt from his full length show, A Wanderer in Berlin, premiering in Damansara Performing Arts Centre on March 20, 2015.

Love for the Homeland: Remembering Andres on Bonifacio Day

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All photos by Joel Garcia

Pasting here excerpts from a paper I wrote and delivered for a conference in February 2013, on two ballets made for the centennial (1996) of the Philippine revolution against Spain (1896), particularly the parts about Andres Bonifacio, leader of the revolution, because today is his birthday and the official national day that celebrates his contribution to history. He was almost 33 when he died, and would be 151 years old today.

There was a surge of nationalism in the mid-80s because of the EDSA revolution against Marcos, and Bonifacio had become a symbol of heroic interest to the masses. The reaction to this by academics was to discredit Bonifacio’s contribution so as not to forget Jose Rizal’s own importance, and then the debate began who was the more important national hero. I think that’s a load of crap, that we (the nation) needed both of them and they both deserve to be remembered, their dreams for the Philippines both to be aspired for. My favourite depiction of the Rizal-Bonifacio relationship is in Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s film Jose Rizal, where Gardo Versoza as Bonifacio meets Cesar Montano as Rizal for the first time and is excitedly shaking his hand like a giddy fan.

I am only including short paragraphs here because part of me still hopes to use this paper as material for another publication, and these journals don’t like to use stuff that’s been published previously. I probably won’t use these paragraphs again, and thought you guys might appreciate what I’ve been doing the last few years. Comments may be made on Facebook or email.

Happy Bonifacio day everyone 🙂

Dancing the Hero and the Filipino – excerpts

by Joelle Jacinto, delivered on February 9, 2013

Introduction

On November 30,1998, Philippine Ballet Theatre performed Andres KKK at the Makati amphitheater overlooking the Pasig river. The open-air venue was jam packed with an audience not usually seen watching a ballet at the Cultural Center of the Philippines – a mix of classes of mostly C and D, and only a handful of B. This production was a commission by the Makati cultural office for its local citizens in celebration of Bonifacio day, in honor of Andres Bonifacio, Katipunan supremo and the title role of the ballet that was presented.

The audience was very reactive, as Filipino audiences tend to be, but even more so on this occasion: they were cheering, jeering, even screaming. From the stage, the dancers could hear giggles and trills when Andres meets Oryang, or Gregoria de Jesus, falls in love with and eventually marries her; they could hear gasps when Andres is captured by the Magdalo soldiers and even louder when Oryang is raped and Andres is finally shot. At the curtain call, the applause is as if for a pop idol; no shouts of “Bravo!”, only wild, excited, high-pitched screaming.

After the show, audience members flocked backstage to have their picture taken with the dancers, pulling aside any dancer they could find for a photo op. When the dancer playing Andres emerges, a mob forms around him, while girly screeching of “Si Bonifacio!!” (“It’s Bonifacio!”) pierces the air. It was a very happy Bonifacio day indeed.

In an ideal world, this adulation would be normal; but it is not. Of the repertoire that Philippine Ballet Theatre takes on tour, very few works command this seeming hysteria from a Philippine audience, akin to a “fans day” of a TV or movie celebrity. Of this few, Andres KKK has proven to be the most successful.

Andres KKK was choreographed by Gener Caringal in 1996, which was the centennial of the Katipunan revolution. In the same year, the other resident ballet company of the CCP produced La Revolucion Filipina, about the same revolution from the point of view of Apolinario Mabini, choreographed by Agnes Locsin. This paper analyzes these ballets, the circumstances that made these ballets possible, and the implications of the existence of these ballets in Philippine art and culture.

In the same way that La Rev was built on Mabini’s writing, Andres begins with a solo of the title character to a voiced over reading of his “Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa (Love for the Homeland),” which Bonifacio wrote for publication in the Emilio Jacinto edited Kartilya that was circulated to inspire Filipinos to join the Katipunan’s cause. The solo shows Andres as a thinking revolutionary; though inspired by his passionate love for his country, his decisions arrive with careful consideration. This could be seen in one of the three originators of the role, Lucas Jacinto, who “gave a twist to our conception of Bonifacio,” by “starting out more meditatively… and proceeded to etch the clearest fulsome dancing (Villaruz 1996).” The remaining original Andreses are Melvin Martinez and Ron Jaynario. Oryang is the second lead in the ballet, portrayed by Maritoni Rufino partnering Martinez, Melanie Motus partnering Jaynario, and Guada de Leon partnering Jacinto.

andres_swing

There was less political content in Andres KKK, unlike La Rev, which was built on Mabini’s texts. The storytelling was more straightforward, sometimes so much so that it was quite literal, like the snitching scene of the Patinos, the call to arms at the Cry of Balintawak and the tearing of the cedula. These were balanced by symbolic devices in the choreography, such as a tableau of oppressed Filipinos strategically laid out to resemble Juan Luna’s Spoliarium, which Andres views as if looking at a painting and is inflamed to push the revolution forward, alluding to how it was the works of art depicting the oppression that motivated Andres, that fueled the need to rescue his countrymen. Andres’ death, given all the speculation regarding how he really died, was also portrayed symbolically. Andres is tied to a swing, which raises over the stage where the Magdalo soldiers rape his wife. Against the popular belief that Andres fled from his captors and was shot in the back, Andres stands steadfast on that swing, summoning courage as he watches the atrocities happening below. A shot rings out, simultaneously killing Andres and saving Oryang, as if to intimate that Bonifacio’s death allowed history to run its course.

(from the conclusion)

Although criticized as being too lengthy, the harassment and rape of Oryang in Andres is used to depict how Bonifacio’s revolution failed, how Aguinaldo’s desire for an independent republic failed. The ballet ends, however with revolutionaries in white dancing to “Bayan Ko.” They hand over the Philippine flag to a still alive Gregoria de Jesus, who walks towards the audience, the flag in her arms lifted up as if in offering, as the curtain falls. The offering is a prompt to the audience, to the nation. That it is now up to us.

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Of course, we cannot measure how many people watched Andres or La Rev and came away with a better understanding of freedom and brotherhood, or with a burgeoning sense of instigating the change that they want to see in this world. But as Rizal did when he wrote Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, as Bonifacio did when he wrote Ang Pagibig sa Tinubuang Lupa, and as Mabini did when he wrote La Revolucion Filipina, we can only hope.

References cited

Abraham, P. 1991. Dance [Sayaw] IN: Guillermo, A. (ed.) Art in Philippine History [Sining sa Kasaysayang Pilipino]. Quezon City: University of the Philippines.

Jacinto, J. 2007. The Ballet Company: A Philippine Experience Through Repertoire. MA Thesis. University of the Philippines.

Jacinto, J. 2008. La Revolucion Filipina: A True Revolution in Philippine Dance. Runthru Dance Magazine, October to December 2008, p. 8.

Locsin, A. 2012. Philippine Neo-Ethnic Choreography: A Creative Process. Manila: University of Santo Tomas Publishing House.

Mabini, A. 1931. The Philippine Revolucion (La Revolucion Filipina). Trans. L.M. Guerrero, 1969. Available from: http://www.univie.ac.at/voelkerkunde/apsis/aufi/history/ mabini2.htm (Accessed 2nd January 2013).

Ness, S.A. 1997. Originality in the Postcolony: Choreographing the Neoethnic Body of Philippine Ballet. Cultural Anthropology.

Villaruz, B.E.S. 1994. Philippine Dance IN: Tiongson, N. (ed.) The CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art. Manila: Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Villaruz, B.E.S. 1996. A Fullness in Time. Manila Standard, December 15, 1996.

Sunday

After that whirlwind festival watching, inhaling, ingesting so much dance, out the door at 8am, home at midnight, I spent today (technically yesterday) in the t-shirt and jammie pants I wore to sleep last night. I only woke up early because I had to buy dog food. I cleaned the house, talked to my sister, played with Moby, wrote down some impressions of the last few days, cooked food for myself and eated said food, talked to some of my friends, cleaned the kitchen counters, did so much laundry, talked to my mother, tried and failed to plan my week, joked with my brother. In between, as often happens on days when I’m not around people, I weep a little for the loves that I have lost.

It gets easier, but it never goes away.  So, it’s awesome that nobody’s around to see me in the clothes I slept in the night before, blurring my glasses with my tears as I clean my kitchen. I tend to look at the bright side these days.

The Quick Change Between The Kingdom of Two Seas

On Tour With Philippine Ballet Theatre’s Darangen ni Bantugen

by Joelle Jacinto

My sister, Jacqui, in the office-cum-dressing room in Victorias' municipal hall, waiting for our final entrance. This is after my Fairies costume fiasco. Note the mess. :D

My sister, Jacqui, in the office-cum-dressing room in Victorias’ municipal hall, waiting for our final entrance. This is after my Fairies costume fiasco. Note the mess. 😀

We are in an office in the city hall of Victorias, doing the quick change from Water, or the girl’s section of the Elementals that attack Prinsipe Bantugen while traveling to find the princess in his dreams, to Fairies, who help him on his journey, especially since he’s by then really beaten up and near death. I successfully zip up my blue costume by myself as I make my way to the chair right outside in the corridor, where I keep my props, headdresses and face towel. As I push the Fairies’ silver ribbon onto my head, I feel the zipper coming undone, a terrifying creeping down my back.

I try not to scream.

My sister, Jacqui, with a crowd of half-naked boys (either in their Earth or Air unitards peeled down to their waists, or in their warrior shorts, the breastplates flopping loose on their chests) plus company manager Joel Matias gather behind me, in an attempt to fix the zipper. The other fairies are about to enter and look at me worriedly because I’m supposed to enter with them. The entourage behind me tries to zip me up again, but the clasp has dislodged.

“Ate Joelle!” Tracey calls from outside, because we’re about to go on soon. Very soon.

I curse; I don’t remember what I say exactly, but Jacqui kind of swats me, reproachfully.

One of the boys produces safety pins (it may be interesting to point out here that the big sewing kit for the tour is never carried by a girl from Cebu to Roxas) and they help each other hold my back together as the pin me up. Photo finish! As soon as they’re done, it’s time for my entrance. I whirr outside, all giddy and breathless, and have the best Fairies dance of my life.

Fairies dance from the first staging at the CCP, with Abigail Tan as the Diwata

Fairies dance from the first staging at the CCP, with Abigail Tan as the Diwata

“Fairies” is my favorite part to dance in Philippine Ballet Theatre’s Darangen ni Bantugen. If you see the ballet, you’ll know what I mean. We are the “spirit protectors” of Bantugen, played by Jared Tan. The fairies are led by a queen fairy whom the programme notes call Diwata, played by Jared’s sister, Faye Abigail Tan. She’s in a pretty purple dress with sheaths of cloth for a skirt; the rest of us wear similar dresses but in blue and green. The ends of this skirt actually catch themselves onto tights, cutting them up so badly, so the company girls decided, at the premiere last year, to forego wearing of tights for this entire ballet.

The sleeves are again swathes of cloth draping over our arms; they usually get in the way of dancing, and some costumes are so worn out that the sleeves slide off some girls’ shoulders. It may sound like this costume is more trouble than it’s worth, but I absolutely love it. I think it is the prettiest costume I’ve ever seen, and I wish I had a picture of myself wearing it. As it happens, the quick change from Water to Fairies is super quick, zipper mishaps notwithstanding, and there’s no time for pictures. After Act I, we automatically change back into our Maidens costumes and I’m always so preoccupied by how I’m going to repair that stupid zipper.

Me as the Bird, on the China tour of Darangen ni Bantugen. I learned this role the day before opening night.

Me as the Bird, on the China tour of Darangen ni Bantugen. I learned this role the day before opening night.

Actually, all the costumes in Darangen ni Bantugen are gorgeous; which is just right as they were designed by National Artist Salvador Bernal. The Maidens costumes are sleek and sexy dressy pants attached to a corset. When Princesses Datimbang and Magimar are thrown to the floor at different sections in the ballet, people don’t just gasp because of the injustice and violence, but also because you just don’t throw down gorgeous women in gorgeous gowns to the floor. The red Bird costume is majestically awesome, from the large headdress with the beak to the shimmery bejeweled chest to the bright, shiny tights to the monstrous wings. I had the pleasure of putting that costume on and loved every part of dancing it, even the shiny tights (they were stirrup but I scrunched them to under my knee because stirrups are just too 1980s for me) and the monstrous wings that made every Bird cast before me cry in frustration. I also loved the headdress, never minding that it was such a hassle to carry between the two Chinese cities we danced in.

Waiting for the tour bus in China L-R Jacqui, me, Jared (who plays Bantugen) and Stephen (who plays the evil King Miskoyaw)

Waiting for the tour bus in China L-R Jacqui, me, Jared (who plays Bantugen) and Stephen (who plays the evil King Miskoyaw). 

It isn’t just the costumes, though. It’s the entire ballet, the entire experience. Here was a part of our culture that used to belong to just one cultural community in Mindanao. It’s a chant that takes nine days to complete, and none of us in the company would even know it if we were to hear it. Thanks to the UNESCO, it’s now declared as part of our intangible heritage, and thanks to the Heritage Festival, Philippine Ballet Theatre was able to interpret this Maranao epic as a ballet – a medium that will be easier to understand by not just people in the Philippines but in other countries as well. We were told, in Kaifung City in China, that Darangen ni Bantugen was the best ballet they had ever seen and how beautiful our country must be. I doubt they were just talking about the costumes.

When we Maidens exit in the middle of Act 2, just before the dance of the Souls in the Skyworld, we stay copiously beside the stage as much as possible, even if we’re “in the way.” We don’t really care, you see, we want to watch – the dance of the Souls, the rescue of Bantugen by the Bird, Magali and Mabaning, and the courtship dance between the Angel of Death and Mabaning dressed as a woman, played so brilliantly by Anatoly Panassiukov and Peter San Juan respectively. We never get tired of watching this ballet, even if we perform city after city, every other night. The choreography, by Gener Caringal and Ron Jaynario, steps up to the demands of a full length ballet, and is worthy of the Maranao epic, even according to native Maranaos themselves. The dancers, meanwhile, including myself, are just having a superb time performing, that costumes falling apart is really a minor item.

Tracey aka Princess Datimbang takes time out from stage blocking to take pics with the Victorias locals. We were all wearing shades for blocking as it was on an outdoor stage on the afternoon of the performance.

Tracey aka Princess Datimbang takes time out from stage blocking to take pics with the Victorias locals. We were all wearing shades for blocking as it was on an outdoor stage on the afternoon of the performance.

When kids visit the dressing rooms after the shows, I always ask them, “Aren’t you glad that they got Bantugen’s soul back?” They all respond enthusiastically, but one child replied, “Oh yes, it means we are all safe again.” It seems then that the love the Maranaos had for Bantugen all this time has transcended borders, giving the rest of the Philippines a new hero. More importantly, he is our own hero, one we already have had for centuries.

I personally hope that they keep this ballet alive, and take it to more places in and around the country, inspiring more and more people with its majestic beauty and noble heroism. If they ask me to dance, I would not hesitate to do it over and over again. But I’ll be ready with extra zippers, though.

Me and Jacqui, after the last show in China, photo by Bianca's mom, Tita Bambi

Me and Jacqui, after the last show in China, photo by Bianca’s mom, Tita Bambi. Please ignore the watermark, my camera reset and I didn’t know how to set it to the correct date haha.

 

I wrote this at Tracey’s behest for the souvenir programme of the restaging of Darangen ni Bantugen at the CCP in 2009. I wasn’t able to dance in the show (as Mac says, “Pang-tour ka lang, Ate.”) but was glad Tracey asked me for this essay. We shortened it for brevity for the programme, this is the original draft.

Came across this while writing my paper, The Universal Embodiment of a Hero: Translating the Darangen as a Ballet, which I am delivering this afternoon at the 6th Asian Translation Traditions Conference at the University of the Philippines. I referred to it, too. Just felt like sharing. 🙂