Love for the Homeland: Remembering Andres on Bonifacio Day

andres_sugod

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.

andres_bayanko

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.

Advertisements

Conference time: Cultural Pluralism and Philippine Dance

I’m reading a paper tomorrow about how Cultural Pluralism can solve some of the problems of Philippine Dance at the 2nd Fo Guang Shan Mabuhay Temple Conference on Humanistic Buddhism and Cultural Pluralism. Phew, that was a mouthful. This will be my second ever conference that I’m reading in my own country, and wouldn’t it be nice if you could come and listen to what I’ve been working hard at the last couple of years? 

(That’s wishful thinking, I don’t actually expect anyone to come out to just hear me talk. Heh.)

I’m suddenly remembering one of my mentors telling me, “Why are you trying to solve the problems of folk dance for them?” – yes, with the implication that I am not practicing or studying folk dance, being a ballerina primarily writing about contemporary dance forms. But I like to think of myself as a scholar of Philippine dance, and the problems of folk dance are my problems as well, for how can I position ballet and contemporary dance in Philippine dance without considering everything? 

That said, I’m all theoried out. I don’t want to write another paper for the rest of the year. I do not exaggerate this, because although there are only two months left to the year, I have to present another paper at the end of November. Which I haven’t written yet. Oh, kill me. 

Back to the conference, there’s lots happening, such as workshops on tea ceremonies, vegetarian food, Chinese knots and calligraphy, theater groups discussing their processes, violin playing methods, Humanistic Buddhism and everyday life. I’d go even if I wasn’t going to read a paper. Come and join us. 🙂 

Oh, and my group TEAM Dance Studio is performing at the Awarding of Certificates on Wednesday at 5pm. You know, in case you do decide to attend the conference, be sure to catch us there. We’ll be doing a dance that’s 9 years old, yet still a goody. 

fgsconferenceposter

 

Kissing the Frog, 20 Years Later

While organizing my files, I found two term papers I wrote for classes I took 20 and 10 years ago:

Kissing the Frog: Men in Philippine Ballet, (type)written for Dance History class (DCPMA Dance, UP College of Music) under Prof. Steve Villaruz in 1993, for which he gave me a 1.5. His notes were, “Very well written, even if in informal style. Could have had a better bibliography.” It took me 15 years to really develop a passion for bibliographical accreditation.

and

Ballet and A New Philippine Society, written for Philippine Art and Society class (MA Art Studies, UP College of Arts and Letters) under Dr. Brenda Fajardo in 2003, for which she gave me an A for the paper and a 1.25 for the final class grade. Dr. Brenda is notorious for her anti-elitist positioning, but I just didn’t get that vibe when I was taking her Art and Society class, so I was surprised at people’s “So ayaw niya sa ‘yo kasi ballet ka,” comments when I mention I had studied under her. Though this paper was inspired by a conversation I had with her about the Quezon City Performing Arts program where street kids were taught ballet class, and she said, “So what happens when they go home to their shanties? What do they do with their ballet then?”

What strikes me about these discoveries is they’re both talking about ballet in Philippine society, illustrated by the role of male dancers in them. So, the male dancer is my go-to issue poster boy, so to speak. “Kissing the Frog” focused more on the phenomenon of the male dancer, and explaining their existence in the Philippines required commentary on the status of ballet in Philippine society. This is on page 2 (please excuse my poor ingenue writing of 20 years ago):

In Philippine ballet history, the men have been few. The number of the earliest Filipino male dancers worth mentioning could be counted with one hand (not true – present me). The first important male dancer was Eddie Elejar, one of the early princes. There were some princes after him, but none, not even Elejar held a candle to (yes, I dared aaaah – present me) Nonoy Froilan. He is legendary. … Nonoy Froilan is very close to retirement, and the question often raised before is now asked again: After Froilan, who next? There are so many articles written about it. Dancers and balletomanes have never stopped speculating. And yet, do people really care if there is no one to replace him? Do they know that in order to find a prince, we have to kiss a thousand frogs?

There are a thousand frogs, even in the Philippines. It’s the male dancer that we don’t have much of.

No, I don’t know what the hell I meant by that last sentence hahahaha.

“Ballet and a New Philippine Society,” meanwhile, discussed ballet’s place in society, but framed by Tom Pazik’s Romeo and Juliet, which I danced in that year with the Philippine Ballet Theatre. These are my first few paragraphs:

As Tybalt’s page exits stage right, Mercutio, Benvolio and Romeo mock him behind his back and proceed to dance, as if to say, we Montagues move better than you Capulets. The corps de ballet in the background fall into a hush as they all train their eyes on the three men. This dance ends with Mercutio performing a chain of leaps around half a circle, which is continued by Benvolio until he stops just in front of the wings; he pretends to fall on his knees to find himself at the feet of an irate Tybalt, and the dancing stops as the story continues. However, Benvolio, played by Jared Tan, has a hard time falling at the exact spot Tybalt enters. Because of this little problem, he can only do simple elances in his menage. In contrast, since he doesn’t have to end at exactly a crucial point, Mercutio, played by Nino Guevarra, plays around with the steps in his manage, inserting difficult turns in the air in between his elances. Romeo, played by Lucas Jacinto, chides him that he makes the two of them look bad. Nino merely breaks into a wide smile.

Nino, Jared and Lucas are ballet dancers in the Philippines. Lucas is 27; he is currently the most watched premier danseur in the Philippines, having taken over Nonoy Froilan’s title of Prince of Philippine Ballet (honestly, 10 years ago me had forgotten the paper that 20 years ago me had written and what I had said about Nonoy Froilan – present me). He won scholarships to study ballet in the States, and while there, was offered spots in different companies. But he missed his family and opted to go home. He had been dancing since he was 7, being part of an upper-middle class family who ran their own ballet school.

Jared is almost ten years younger. At 16, he is just barely starting to get into the technical roles and he is getting less and less “totoy” with every production he performs in. He started dancing at the age of 12, because his parents were always dragging him with them to wait for his sister at ballet class. He is also from an upper-middle class family; his father is a lawyer.

Nino is 20 and is being groomed to take on lead roles. Already, he has his own fans… Nino started ballet when he was 14, but unlike Jared and Lucas, Nino did not go to an exclusive catholic school nor took up ballet because his family was into it. His friends had left their bum lifestyle at the prodding of Tybalt’s (Stephen Canete) older brother… Instead of looking for another gang to slack off on the streets with, Nino accompanied his friends to ballet class and found himself soon scraping money together to buy ballet shoes. Today, he lives on his own, and ballet is is means of living.

And then I go on about ballet as a product of society, the social position of the artist and the role of the artist in society, and finish with society as a product of ballet, and go back to the male dancers leaving the streets and participating in this art form.

So, I’m wondering if there’s any relevance to me as a dance scholar today, trying to decide what I really want to write about for my PhD dissertation. I mean, maybe I should stop analyzing repertoire already, I think I’ve said what needs to be said about ballet as a Philippine tradition. And the Male Ballet Dancer in Philippine Society already sounds so Philippine Socio-Cultural Studies. Problem is I’m so over gender studies (the Kissing the Frog essay and then my undergrad thesis which was a feminist analysis of Denisa Reyes’ works), which I suppose I must go into when I discuss men in tights.

Recently though, I’ve been thinking of the concept of the Philippine hero replacing the ballet prince in Philippine ballets; I actually wrote a paper on Dancing the Hero and the Filipino, discussing PBT’s Andres KKK and Ballet Philippines’ La Revolucion Filipina. And soon, in love with the hero concept, and wanting to write about PBT’s Darangen ni Bantugen, and thinking of the frame of an epic, or dance as a narrative. Maybe this makes sense then, to put these together?

While I’m stewing in my giddy PhD dissertation plans, my final reaction to finding these papers is, “Oh ballet boys. I just can’t quit you.” Hahaha.

Seeing Stars and Writing Again, yay

I’ve been writing about dance A LOT since I left my day job as an editor-in-chief of a telco website, but mostly academic writing, and maybe too much academic writing (and then some) that I hadn’t had time to write dance reviews for Runthru, my homegrown online dance magazine. The last review I wrote was for a show I saw last March, published in June. Tonight, I published a review of a show I watched last June. Luckily, my review of Stars of Philippine Ballet can be seen as a welcoming herald for what I call “Ballet Season,” which usually begins around this time, and in August alone, all three ballet companies are having shows. So, yay.

I like my review, and I like how I’ve been writing about dance, and even looking at dance these days. Ever since I started my big writing and editing project, I’m made to really look at the bigger picture, carefully weighing accomplishment and deserving-ness. Significance, contribution, effort. At the very least, I hope I am contributing constructively. Now that it’s my whole life (as opposed to something I put aside when I put my corporate hat on), I feel the heavier weight of its responsibility.

One of the stars of that show was Jared Tan, who had been dancing in Atlanta the last few years, and is vacationing here on the off-season. I first encountered Jared in ballet class again, after not seeing him the last few years, only last month, already a month after he appeared in Stars of Philippine Ballet on June 1. He looked older, more mature, more manly, as opposed to the gangly teenaged joker assigned to partner me on occassion back when we were still corps kids with Philippine Ballet Theatre. Onstage at the gala, he commanded a presence, more confident than ever. Jared Tan had, apparently, grown up.

In ballet class at the Meralco studio, it suddenly felt like a time warp as he bounded towards me like the gangly teenaged joker he was, hugged me and proclaimed how he didn’t realize it was me right away, in a way apologizing for not greeting me earlier. I chided him, “Star of Philippine Ballet ka na kasi.” He of course disagreed with me, and changed the subject to whether I was married yet or not, then whirled me around like an ape with a new toy. Apparently, too, some things never change.

Reunion
A batchmates mini-reunion at PBT. Standing left to right: Stephen, Lucas, Jared, Anatoly, Ron, Mac and Peter. Seated are the kagandahan: Erica, Jacqui and me.

Writing again: My review of Jed Amihan’s Alone or Two

This is the first dance review I wrote since February this year, and my first update of Runthru, my online dance magazine, since April. Last July, I was involved in an administrative role at the Wifi Body Festival, organizing the first conference for the festival, and that sort of commanded my attention more than I thought it would, on top of my usual busy-ness. I don’t feel short-changed, though, it’s all dance scholarship still, after all.

Anyway, when I watched the show, I was quite overwhelmed with this work of Jed’s, which was also performed at the CCP Little Theatre as part of the Wifi Body closing gala, but I felt had a more effective, more intimate feel when I saw it at Dance Forum studio space. During the performance, my mentor Steve, who had another appointment that evening, texted me about the paper he was to deliver the next day, and I texted him back that he was missing Jed.  For me to tell my mentor that he was missing something meant that it wasn’t something that he should’ve missed.

Here’s an excerpt:

He walks onto the dance floor without shirt and shoes, his pedestrian movements transforming into stylized dance movement as he gets into his long-sleeved white shirt.

This movement is quite drawn out, so much so that Amihan is not just putting on his shirt, he is dancing with it, wielding it around as would an able dance partner. I have been watching Airdance since 2004, and probably first saw Amihan dance with them in 2006 or 2007, and have witnessed Papang (as his co-dancers playfully call him) bloom from an enthusiastic neophyte to the distinguished romantic figure he is today. Dancing-wise, his movements are both smoother and crisper now, exuding a subtle confidence that comes with dancing constantly for several years. Choreography-wise, his compositions are fuller, richer, more fluid in an unarguably precise way, again with that same confidence that speaks profoundly of what Amihan knows about dance and dancing.

Read the rest here.