Friday, October 17, 2008

Two Filipino Artists

That's the great Kidlat Tahimik (born Eric de Guia but he doesn't respond to his Western name anymore) in the pic. That's not me beside him. Truth to tell, I have no idea who that guy is. I just filched the pic from the multiply site of a student who was with me at Baguio City a couple of weeks back for a conference.

I did have some pictures taken with Kidlat, taken by other people using their own cameras. I have no idea how I am going to have access to those pics. I am the kind of person who never remembers to lug a camera around in my travels and even when I do, I always forget to take pictures anyway. For example, I was in Berlin in the nineties and only have a couple of pics to show as proof that I was ever there. And the pics that I do have don't even show any of the famous landmarks that firmly establish the locale. Anyway, I digress as usual.

I had the rare privilege of interacting with Kidlat Tahimik at the conference. I was chair of the Program of the conference and we had him as one of the two keynote performers at the opening ceremonies. It was my idea to get artists for the opening ceremonies instead of featuring yet another CEO or management guru that would have bored us stiff with management concepts that were best read direct from bestseller books anyway. It was a tough call. I had to fight tooth and nail to have my idea accepted by everyone else in the conference committee. But in the end, I won. And we had Kidlat and... Joanna Ampil.

Call me conceited, but it was an inspired idea. Two great Filipino artists representing the two ends of a spectrum. One educated at a famous business school in the West (MBA at Wharton) but who eschewed his Western education to come back to the country to rediscover his roots. The other, born in the Philippines but eventually found fame as celebrated stage actress at West End in London. The idea was to get each to showcase the two ways in which Filipino artists can compete and be known in the global stage. Kidlat as someone who competes out there with a distinct identity as Filipino, Joanna as a Filipino talent who has found renown for measuring up to distinctly Western standards. (I also had some pictures taken with Joanna, but, well, you know where they are...).

Both actually did wonderfully well. Kidlat opened by introducing himself, what he does, and then introduced a 20-minute cut of a film he has been trying to finish in the last 25 years or so. And then he came back wearing his graduation toga, which he took off while performing a profound theatre piece about his decision to go back to his roots. He pranced around in his g-string. This naturally produced a variety of reactions.

Joanna opened with a really powerful rendition of I'll Give My Life For You from Miss Saigon. She then traced her life story and talked about how she got into Miss Saigon, and then eventually on to play the lead of several musicals - Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar, Fantaine in Les Miz, among others. Then she sang I Dont Know How To Love Him from JC Superstar and I Dreamed A Dream from Les Miz. She then talked about her struggles, how she works hard to improve her craft, and her identity as a Filipino. She sang Gaano Ko Ikaw Kamahal. She closed with Somewhere from West Side Story.

Like I said, both delivered astounding performances. Both proved how great the Filipino artist really is.

Both Kidlat and Joanna were also fun and easy to work with. Both left me starstruck during the few times that I interacted with them to discuss their talking points and during rehearsals. I had more interactions with Kidlat because he stayed throughout the conference and was genuinely touched that, in his own words, "a crazy artist was even considered as keynote speaker at a national conference."

And this is the point that I am trying to drive at in this rambling piece.

Joanna, of course, turned in a really splendid, breathtaking performance that merited a standing ovation in the end. People were able to relate with her and her art.

People were appreciative of Kidlat Tahimik's performance, but the truth is, not everyone understood it. And not everyone actually could relate it to it even at the emotional level.

It does seem that our appreciation for the arts has really been heavily influenced and biased towards the western form.

La lang. Just thinking aloud and rambling on...

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