Latest Stories

‘The calmly beautiful Miss Bulaong’–aka CB Garrucho

‘Theater can help shape the consciousness of a people and make us proud of who and what we are,’ says the veteran actress and Peta president


As Lady Macbeth in Peta’s production of “Macbeth,” directed by German director Fritz Bennewitz

Aunt Carmen Guerrero Nakpil, the essayist, once called the actress Cecilia Bulaong “the calmly beautiful Miss Bulaong.”

That was a long time ago, and for some reason the phrase has stuck in my mind. Later Bulaong got married, became a mother and reinvented herself as CB Garrucho—which has since become her professional name.

The former Miss Bulaong was born in Malolos, Bulacan, in 19-forgotten. She attended high school and college at the Assumption College, where she discovered the theater.

“I was extremely shy as a child and wasn’t brave enough to recite in front of the class,” she recalled. “Then at Assumption High School we took up one Shakespeare play per year starting with ‘Julius Ceasar,’ progressing to ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Macbeth.’ With great fear I had to stand and perform the soliloquies in front of the class year after year.”

Best orator

With Mario O’Hara in “Belong Puti,” directed by Nonon Padilla

She discovered a “trick” that worked for her: She would try to understand what the character was saying in Shakespeare’s “strange language” and to memorize it months in advance. To her great surprise, at the end of high school, she was given the Best Orator award.

Thus began her interest in, and passion for, the theater.

As M.L. Maniquis wrote in the CCP (Cultural Center of the Philippines) Encyclopedia for the Arts: “Bent on joining Peta (Philippine Educational Theater Association), she auditioned against her parents’ wishes and won a part in Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ as Mercy Lewis, and later in Ionesco’s ‘The Chairs.’”

That was when I first saw Garrucho. “The Chairs” was one of those experimental Ionesco plays which perplexed everybody. There were only two actors in the play, if memory serves right. The acting was intense. At the end, the players made their exit abruptly, and did not return for the curtain call.

As the mystified audience filed out of the small enclosure at the Raha Sulayman Theater in Intramuros, Manila, lo and behold, they saw the two actors calmly seated on the steps. And Garrucho was saying, “Yes, the play is over, that’s how the play ends, you draw your own conclusions, etc.”

As Potri Tuwan or Sita in “Radiya Mangandiri,” a Filipino version of the “Ramayana” directed by Gardy Labad

The venerable Peta was only a few years old then, like the equally iconic Repertory Philippines.


“What was life-changing for me was watching my first play in Filipino, ‘Bayaning Huwad,’ directed by Cecile Guidote, starring Vic Silayan, Lolita Rodriguez, Lily Mendoza and a cast of hundreds,” Garrucho recounted. “It was a beautiful experience forever etched in my mind, and it drew me like a magnet to Peta. Even in those days I discovered the power of theater and how it can be a life-changing force.”

Her favorite roles are as the wife in “Bubungang Lata,” with Mario O’Hara and directed by Lino Brocka; the imperious Lady Macbeth in “Macbeth,” directed by the German director Fritz Bennewitz (“a wonderful actor trainer”); Potri Tuwan or the role of Sita in “Radiya Mangandiri,” directed by Gardy Labad; and Anella in “Belong Puti,” acting again with Mario O’Hara and directed by Nonon Padilla.

“Radiya Mangandiri,” according to Garrucho’s estimation, “was a landmark play, Peta’s version of the ‘Ramayana.’ It plunged the cast into research on Philippine culture.”

“Working with directors in Peta plays was a joyful experience because actors co-created the play together with the directors,” she observed. “There was a give and take, we weren’t simply blocked and directed.”

Hidden potential

The veteran thespian concluded that “theater—unlike painting which can be done by a solo artist—is an art form that needs a whole team of people to execute. As a theater artist I learned how to work with others, respecting others’ talents while excelling in one’s own craft.”

That was a carrot, now here’s the stick: “There are times in theater when individual egos can get in the way of an otherwise smooth, excellent production.”

When she first joined Peta, Garrucho’s ambition was to be a great actress on the Philippine stage, like Lolita Rodriguez. But somewhere along the way, a Joycean epiphany manifested itself and she became aware that theater can have many other achievements in this country.

Thus, “theater can bring out the hidden potential not just in children but in adults. Theater can be used to turn classroom learning from boring to exhilarating. Theater can teach people to be creative and resourceful in the face of lack of resources. Theater can help shape the consciousness of a people and make us proud of who and what we are.”

And so, as she put it, her immersion in theater has taught her to work for a goal larger than herself. Brava.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Carmen Guerrero-Nakpil , CB Garrucho , Cecilia Bulaong , Peta , Peta president , Philippine Educational Theater Association , stage play , Theater

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  2. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  3. This is not just a farm
  4. She has become the sex slave of her best friend
  5. Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  6. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  7. Moist, extra-tender blueberry muffins
  8. Most criticized books list includes Hunger Games, Perks
  9. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  10. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  1. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  4. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  5. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  6. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  7. Boots Anson-Roa to wed in Eddie Baddeo
  8. Prince William fuels speculation of second royal baby
  9. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  10. This is not just a farm
  1. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  2. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  3. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  4. Manila in shock over model Helena Belmonte’s death
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer
  10. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?


  • Divers begin pulling bodies from sunken ferry in Korea
  • Aquino: ‘Doubting Thomases’ now contributing to PH recovery
  • Fire engulfs apartments in Sampaloc
  • Messy warehouse belongs to Unicef, WFP, says Soliman
  • Suspected Abu Sayyaf rebels release hostage
  • Sports

  • Warriors beat Clippers in playoff opener
  • Pacquiao top Mayweather contender
  • Rain or Shine, Ginebra clash for No. 6 spot
  • Ateneo eyes quarterfinal spot vs Benilde
  • Style contrast marks OneFC ‘Rise of Heroes’
  • Lifestyle

  • Noli Yamsuan, Cardinal Sin’s ‘official’ photographer: ‘I could smell the aftershave lotion of the Pope’
  • Simplifying and lightening life
  • Where to go for Easter night-out
  • Joe de Venecia visits the Queen Mother of Cambodia
  • Fashionistas flock to designer’s wedding
  • Entertainment

  • Show-biz celebrities’ other choices of summer getaway
  • Why ‘Noah’ can’t dock his ark at Philippine theaters
  • Acclaimed artist goes wild while on holiday
  • Believing in this mermaid
  • Missing Xian
  • Business

  • Top-selling insurance agent opens her dream café
  • Connecting and transacting with one another
  • Building wealth for health
  • Why Mandaue Foam buys, rather than rents, space
  • A workplace of new possibilities
  • Technology

  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Opinion

  • Epiphany
  • Unpaid creditor vs distressed debtor
  • Moving on
  • From culinary desert to paradise
  • Response to China: ‘Usjaphil’
  • Global Nation

  • Asia seeks Obama’s assurance in territorial spats
  • Cesar Chavez movie sparks memories of Fil-Am labor leaders
  • Filipinos in US poised for success
  • Visas for priests and other faith leaders
  • DOH to continue tracking co-passengers of OFW infected with MERS virus