‘A heady stream of remembrance’ | Inquirer Lifestyle

‘A heady stream of remembrance’

TO MS Chit Roces-Santos,

 

Firstly, an apology and introduction. I apologize for this possible intrusion into your life. I hope that you don’t mind my having obtained your e-mail address from your friend and fellow writer, Nening Pedrosa Manahan, who also happens to be my aunt (by affinity), having been married to Antonio P. Manahan, who was, in turn, the younger brother of my late father, Tito.

 

Secondly, the reasons that compelled me to get your e-mail address are a few. One, I don’t usually react to newspaper articles and commentaries by giving the authors thereof my comment on their work.

 

(As a prefatory statement, let me say that I started to enjoy reading the Philippine Daily Inquirer ever since it introduced the Lifestyle S section (the stylized “S” being claimed as to describe both the subject matter contained in the section, and, the readership it is intended for: “Sexy. Stimulating. Sage. Survivor.”; but which, from the writers and subject matter of the articles appearing therein, I also considered as, possibly, to include “Senior”—no offense meant or intended).

Being comfortably settled as a senior citizen (maturing baby boomer of sorts) myself, I eagerly wait for Sundays to come, because of that special section. I have kept practically all of the originals.

 

Two, of all the columns that have been in the said section, yours is my favorite. One reason therefore is the nostalgia that oftentimes emanates from your stories—nostalgia that I can personally relate to. Examples of this were your stories of the extended Roces family, something I have always been interested in.

 

Ideal Theater

 

For one, I know some of the members of the clan, past and present. Your Tito Anding, for instance. Mark, I used to see more often in our younger days. And when you wrote about his father, Tito Marquitos (or is it Marcitos?), it brought me back to the old days of the Ideal Theater. My parents being good friends of your uncle, he would always graciously give our family passes to the movie house. What a good-looking family they were!

 

Lastly, there’s Josie Roces (who I’ve always assumed—I may be wrong, though—from her name and her beauty, to be a member of the Roces clan), whom I appeared with on stage in a few musicals and plays—notably, “Les Miserábles,” “The Taming of the Shrew”—before she and her husband emigrated to Canada.

 

Your latest article was another wellspring from which, again, flowed the heady, melancholy stream of remembrance. (The title of your column, “Not quite there,” by the way, is coincidentally so apropos to the matters you dealt with in this article—in particular, Florence Foster Jenkins.)

 

It struck a cord (not discordant as it would have been if emitted from Ms Jenkins) in me.

 

(Again, a preface. Starting in the 1950s, through the ’60s, and thereafter, my late mother, Elvira (who, aside from fashion and socializing, had a distinct interest in music and theatre, mostly musicals), took several trips to the United States. From those trips she would always bring home with her phonograph records, ranging from popular (Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne, etc.), to jazz (Peggy Lee, Carmen McRae, Ella Fitzgerald, etc.) to theater (“Show Boat,” “Oklahoma,” “West Side Story,” “Cyrano de Bergerac,” Julius Caesar,” etc.), to opera (“La Boheme” being her favorite).

 

Phenomenon

 

After one trip sometime in the mid-’60s, she came home bearing, among other phonograph records, an LP of one Florence Foster Jenkins. That was my initial encounter with the phenomenon.

 

This was not the first time that my mother brought home vinyl of that genre (comedy/humor); she previously, introduced our family to records of Spike Jones, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, Shelley Berman. Together with the Jenkins record came three others, two by a 70-ish woman named “Mrs. Miller” who sang popular songs in the same out-of-tune manner as Florence Jenkins (she even whistled melodies out of tune), and a long-haired, hook-nosed fellow named Tiny Tim, who hit the airwaves with the popular and alliteratively-titled “Tiptoe Through The Tulips.”

 

Three. Some 42 years later (April 13-29, 2007 to be precise), I found myself essaying the role of St. Clair Byfeld opposite Ms Joy Virata (who I had the pleasure and privilege of having partnered with in many plays and musicals, like “Les Miserábles,” “Cabaret,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”), who played the character—you guessed it—none other than the “socialite soprano,” the “first lady of the sliding scale,” Florence Foster Jenkins, in Repertory Philippines’ production of Peter Quilter’s comedy (straight play), “Glorious!” This was presented at the Onstage Theater in Greenbelt 1.

 

So, they’re coming out with a movie about the deluded diva, I see—strangely, I feel somehow flattered (without any personal allusions intended) that Hugh Grant will be playing the role of St. Clair Byfeld. And, Meryl Streep as Florence Foster Jenkins?! Well, as you stated in your article, “I can’t wait to see the movie!”

 

Thank you for your wonderful articles, and may your muse be always with you!

 

 

Constantino “Bonggoy” Manahan Jr.

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