Sheila Francisco is currently playing the ultra conservative mom Marie Dindon in 9 Works Theatrical’s “La Cage Aux Folles,” which is running at RCBC Plaza’s Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium until March 28.
While younger audience members have been watching her in plays recently, they may not know that her entry into the theater profession was through musicals.
She was recruited by Freddie Santos to perform for Trumpets’ “Joseph the Dreamer” in 1991. A decade’s worth of musicals in Manila and Singapore later, she was chosen by Trevor Nunn (director of the original productions of “Cats” and “Sunset Boulevard,” among other musicals) to play Bloody Mary in the Royal National Theatre’s revival of “South Pacific” in London.
Love of singing
“I have to credit my father, Ramon Francisco, for my love of music,” says Francisco. “He loved music and would require us kids to listen with him when he’d play his music after meals.
“I love musicals and I will continue to do them, but doing a play is more challenging because all you have are the words. No quiet or big notes to help intensify a point—just words.”
As an actor, she says that her job “is to find the right delivery, the right balance to make those words come alive and serve the story that is being told. It is a skill that one continually learns and I love it.”
Last year, Francisco was seen as Nat in Red Turnip’s “Rabbit Hole,” a mother who comforts her daughter who’d lost a son. But Nat herself is still coping with the death of her own son who committed suicide years back. “She is a study of contradictions. I loved playing her.”
She also performed two roles for Repertory Philippines’ “August: Osage County.” She was tasked to play Matti Fae and to alternate for the role of the main protagonist, Violet.
“It is the most challenging and most fulfilling play I have ever done,” says Francisco. “I memorized practically half of a three-hour play!”
On certain days, she would sometimes do one role for the matinee and the other role for the evening show. “I’d barely had an hour to change makeup and prepare. To shift characters in such a short time was extremely difficult for me but by God’s grace, I was able to do it.”
Cooking and eating
When she’s not busy rehearsing or performing, she manages Franciscan Home Cooked Meals Restaurant in Makati City.
She’d been managing a recording studio, Sound Design, in Mile Long Building for the past 15 years. “But a spot was suddenly available. My sister, Poe Blay, who herself is a fabulous cook, asked if I was interested to try out opening a small cafe and that was that.”
It was also her father who influenced this aspect of her life.
“He loved eating good food! He would drive as far as Angono, Rizal, to eat fried dalag for lunch and then drive to Binondo to buy the shrimp kikiam of Carvajal Street so we could have it for dinner.”
“Dad had an incredible palate. He would come home, say, from eating at Casino Español and ask me to replicate the paella or the callos. He’d run down the ingredients from his memory of how the dish tasted and then give me instructions how to cook it.”
Features and favorites
Now on its fifth year, the restaurant has become a favorite spot of her theater colleagues for meetings and reunions.
“We offer home-cooked flavors. The top favorites of the customers on a daily basis are the mechado flakes, arroz a la cubana, binagoongan, bangus tocho and Alaminos longganisa.”
“Audie Gemora’s favorite is the adobo flakes, Pinky Marquez likes the bangus belly paksiw, Leo Rialp loves my chicken curry. Tita Baby Barredo loves our Winner Kangkong, which is cooked in coconut milk.”
Pasta favorites include pesto with smoked salmon bits, bolognese, Spanish sardines, and puttanesca.
The restaurant usually has a special or two for the week. “I’m the one who usually cooks these dishes. They are inspired by my dad’s fave dishes. We have callos, fabada, stuffed calamari, lechon kawali, paksiw, humba. We have a fish curry dish where I make the sauce blend from scratch.” Franciscan Home Cooked Meals Restaurant is at Mile Long Bldg., Amorsolo St., Makati City. Contact 5124670 or 0917-3864789. Like on Facebook (franciscanhomecookedflavors).