As I was leaving the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) the other night, still in a state of euphoria and hoarse from screaming “bravo” at curtain call, someone asked me, “Will you do a review?”
Would I? I don’t think so.
How presumptuous that would be! You do not review legends. You pay tribute!
The show: “The Legends and The Classics Encore.”
The stars: Cecile Licad, Lisa Macuja and Lea Salonga.
What is a legend? “It is a larger-than-life story that gets passed down from one generation to the next.”
Without doubt there were three on that stage.
Define classics. “Belonging to the highest rank or class; serving as established model or standard. Having lasting significance or worth, enduring.”
Absolutely! No question!
Encore? It is French for again, once more, for one more time. It speaks of an audience demanding an additional performance. In Spain they chant “Otra, otra!” In Hawaii they shout “Hana Hou!”
And at the filled-to-capacity CCP that night, every single note of music, every breathtaking leap, each pirouette was worth repeating, over and over again.
In the words of director Roxanne Lapus, speaking about the three iconic names on the marquee: “You and I can’t have enough of them.”
Produced by prima ballerina Lisa Macuja, “The Legends and The Classics” had its first run 18 months ago as part of her Swan Song series. I have always loved ballet, but had never before seen Macuja perform. Awesome is an overused word. But she was that. Her corps de ballet was pure joy to watch.
Cecile Licad, as always, took my breath away. The New Yorker once called her “the pianists’ pianist.”
I remember a concert in Honolulu. Former first lady Imelda Marcos, who I am told discovered her as a little girl, decided that Cecile’s straight long tresses needed restyling. A Kahala hairdresser braided her shiny black hair to hang over one shoulder. She looked stunning.
But when Cecile appeared onstage that night, her hair was casual, loose and free, tucked behind her ears. “It was just not me,” she explained.
In New York, I saw her again at a dinner at the Dag Hammarskjold Towers. There was no grand Steinway in the small apartment. No one dared ask her to play. She did anyway. Gamely she sat on the squeaky stool of our little upright Baldwin and gifted us with an inspired impromptu recital. Dinner was late that night, but no one cared.
I met Lea Salonga as the little orphan in “Annie” singing “Tomorrow.” She was that cute little girl with the gigantic talent who had a super- strict mom.
Fast-forward to New York. She was Kim, the heartbroken bargirl in “Miss Saigon,” and won that year’s Tony award.
Later I watched her take bow after bow as Kim, Eponine, Fantine. And every single time, I wept. Lea was a huge star on Broadway. The world was in love with her. And she was our very own.
At the CCP that night, she was amazing—every note, as usual, pitch-perfect. I thought about her mother Ligaya, and wondered how her heart must burst with pride over her children, Lea onstage, and Maestro Gerard in the orchestra pit. Does she weep, too?
What a rare privilege it was to be there that night in the presence of these three immense legends. Forget top billing. Each one was “THE brightest star.”
By the way:
What’s the latest on the horror story of the Filipino woman who was allegedly “abused” and “bullied” at the US port of entry in Seattle? I hear she was properly documented and had a valid 10-year visa, but was deported and sent back to the Philippines. What happened?
Was she the victim of officers on a power trip? Disgraceful! Have they seen the error of their ways? Has anyone apologized?
On the same day her story broke, other tales of woe hit the social networks.
My niece, who had accompanied her mother on a pilgrimage of hope in Lourdes, was sent by Spanish immigration on a wild goose chase in the Barcelona airport for some kind of a tax refund. Her siblings were inside the aircraft at the gate. Rude airport reps said she was too late to board and showed no mercy when she broke down in tears. Que horror!
I understand about security concerns. But where is all that arrogance coming from? Are they hiring only ill-mannered individuals to man these posts?
Is everyone who enters or leaves a country considered a menace?
I know that in spite of contraptions to inspect your bags (and your body as you stand barefoot and spread-eagled against a wall, ugh!), security has still been breached. Or how could a nine-year-old have sneaked into a Delta flight bound for Las Vegas?
I am touched that travelers’ safety is of such great concern. But there are limits. Caution should not translate into discourtesy.
Nasty things continue to be said about our own Naia. Yes, we must do something to compete with the best of them. But is it really all about being state-of-the-art? How about checking the state of the heart?
All I can say is that we have something special that other ports don’t even know about. I call it the “lambing” factor. But you don’t know what that means, unless, of course, you are Pinoy.