You are the writer of your own play | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Who was it that ‘walked on,’ stayed briefly and left an indelible mark in your heart?


When I was a little girl, I spent much time in rehearsal halls and backstage at the Metropolitan Theater with my mother. I could hum the overture of “La Boheme” and whistle the violin parts for “La Traviata.”


I was in the chorus with Mama in a couple of Spanish operettas. We were a dozen or more teenage girls and boys, and although I enjoyed singing and dancing onstage, I had more fun watching the wooing, and sometimes being wooed, as well.


I have been “on the boards” (as the thespians call it) a few times and heard directors shout about a grand entrance, a dramatic exit; that the first step onstage must not be tentative. “You are making your first entrance. Make your presence felt!” I can hear Sarah Joaquin’s voice. She once scolded a walk-on for just…walking on. “This is your only moment. Make it count!”


The famous lines from Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” come to mind. “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and entrances and one man in his time plays many parts.”


In the drama of your life, you are the protagonist.  There may be a moment or two for deep soliloquy, when the spotlight shines only on you. You may be the star of your own teleserye, but there is a cast of characters with minor and not so minor roles, “bida” and “kontrabida.”


How do we interact with them? We have many parts to play.


Center stage


Let us meet the cast. Family takes center stage. There are friends and lovers, faithful or otherwise; partners and spouses. They seem to make their entrances and exits at will or whim. But let us not forget, there is a director who calls the shots. The story develops; the plot thickens. The action moves smoothly or it stumbles. Pratfalls have no comedic value. They evoke tears.


You are the writer of your own play. Did you know that? Once it is underway, however, there are no rewrites. Unlike in the movies and television, there are no retakes.


When the curtain rises, it is Act I, Scene 1. The action begins. You don’t get off until it’s over. But no one knows when that curtain will come down. One can only hope that when it does and you take your final bows, you hear the applause of heaven.


Also in the playbill are walk-on characters. What is a walk-on?  By definition it is a minor role in a theatrical production usually without any speaking lines. It may be only a small part, just a “bit role”; it is important nonetheless.


On the stage of your life story, who was it that “walked on,” stayed briefly and left an indelible mark in your heart?


Two names come to mind. I call them my brief encounters of the best kind.


One was Jess Paredes Jr. Yes, Jimmy and Ducky’s father.


There was an elocution contest in school and he was picked to be our coach. That was extraordinary because we were an all-girls convent school and he was a man, and in that era, well, I don’t need to explain.


Mr. Paredes, with his husky, sexy voice, immediately captured our respect and admiration. We had written our own speeches. He read them carefully and tweaked a passage or two.  My speech was about home, but I was not happy with the way it ended.


 Irish blessing


I remember his smile as he wrote on my paper, lines from a lovely Irish blessing. Although he pretty much gave us free rein on how to express our feelings, he took me aside and said, “You must let the words take shape in your mouth and then caress them with your voice. You cannot speak about home and love in a harsh monotone. Remember always that there is strength in the tenderness of words.”


We were six contestants from the graduating class of 1949. I was the last speaker. I got the gold!


I never saw Mr. Paredes again.


I was writing for the Manila Chronicle years later, when news came about the crash of President Ramon Magsaysay’s plane. Mr. Paredes was onboard. I remember I cried.


Early last week, I was saddened by news of the passing of construction tycoon Felipe F. Cruz. He was another walk-on in my life.


I met FF onboard a PAL flight to San Francisco over 25 years ago. We struck up a conversation even before takeoff, and I told him I was not the bravest soul on a flight, and had been known to hold hands with a stranger at the first sign of turbulence.


He chuckled. As we took off, my eyes were closed tight, my hands balled on my lap in white-knuckled fists. When I opened my eyes, I saw his hand open beside mine, ready for me to grab it. I did.


Throughout the long flight, whenever it got bumpy, his hand was ready. And as we bounced all over the sky, he told me the story of his life, from his humblest beginnings, to how he met and fell in love with his wife, how they defied the odds.


Beaming with pride, he told me about his children and about his daughter, a pianist, who was then making a name in high fashion in New York.


We talked politics. It was shortly after Edsa I. He sounded a tad crestfallen. He warned, “Remember, there are no real friends in politics. No loyalties. It is all convenience and compromise. Better stay away from it. There are no saints. Even angels have fallen.”


I never saw FF Cruz again. His obituary made me sad.


Nothing has changed. After all these years, I still hold hands with total strangers.  Politics is still dirty. And yes, unfortunately, I am still seeing angels lose their wings.




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