1. “Tatlong Parusa sa Isang Sentensiya” was my first professional set design work. I was virtually unknown in the theater community, and director Nonon Padilla took a great risk in hiring me.
2. Esteemed theater producer Hal Prince summoned me to his office in 2001. I didn’t know that I’d been talking to him during Clambake, an annual exposition on 42nd St. to introduce recently graduated theater designers. He was quite impressed with my schoolwork, especially the opera projects.
He wanted me to collaborate with his protégé’, a young American director, on a project but I had to honor my commitment to go back to the Philippines.
3. The design work for “Spoliarium,” which won for me a bronze medal at World Stage Design 2005, was initially offered to my two mentors who turned it down. National Artist Salvador Bernal and NYU Master Teacher, Eduardo Sicangco, turned down the offer to design the opera. Eduardo gave my name to librettist, Fides Cuyugan-Asencio.
4. I have no qualms about picking up a paintbrush, a broom or even doing laundry in the workplace. I never look down on tasks that some designers would consider to be beneath their status.
5. I’ve been collaborating with Heny Sison on cake designs. It isn’t too different from designing a little stage.
6. It’s easier for me to do sets than costumes. Sets generally stay in place but doing costumes involves unwieldy human bodies and the egos that occupy them.
7. Switching between a theater sensibility and a primetime TV approach used to give me a migraine. I normally try to approach my theater work with a certain level of sophistication, which does not really work for a TV show. Since I do both kinds of work, I constantly shift gears during production meetings.
8. I deal a lot with the sacred and the profane. I’ve done several stage designs for churches, such as the annual UST Christmas Gala, and also for the bi-annual Bench underwear shows.
9. My cheapest set budget was P5,000. I was asked to design for the Sta. Ana Community Theater’s production of “Taong Grasa” (The Greaseman). I used a few buckets of paint, newspaper, plywood and the community’s free labor. We built miniature houses, painted on the walls directly with drips à la Lao Lianben. I made simple images on Photoshop and projected them over the tiny houses and splattered walls.
10. My widest set so far has been for Janet Jackson’s concert at Resorts World Singapore. The Chinese New Year event called for a set that encompassed the entire 250-ft span of the Compass Ballroom at Sentosa Island. Janet was very sweet and wanted to take the set with her on her concert tour.
11. I’m a closet landscape designer and florist. I see more of my event design work incorporating complex installations of plants and flowers.
I didn’t have formal training on this, but I have always been surrounded by plants. My mother was a landscaper and as a kid, I got to observe how things were done in the garden.
12. I’m approaching 40 with major trepidation. No offense to my octogenarian friend, Gilda Cordero Fernando, but I feel that 40 is the middle of the road!
When a client gives me alien key words such as “connectivity in the digital age,” I politely tell the client to hire a younger designer if they want an effective visual campaign for the event.
A few years back, such a proposition would have been a piece of cake to design. But now I see some kind of disconnect with such bagets ideas.