Forty Carats

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forty.jpgI remember the very first play I went to.  I was ten years old, and it was Annie, staged by Manila’s pre-eminent English language theater group, Repertory Philippines, and it starred an eight year old Lea Salonga, pride of the Philippines and future Tony winner (for Miss Saigon).  I remember being awestruck through it, as well as inspired and uplifted.  I remember keeping the show program for years, a habit that I continue to have to this day, just to keep on reminding me of the magical experience of that evening.  My mom brought me and my brother Judd to see it, because she loved musicals and live performance. I fell in love with the theater that night, and it has been a full-time love affair ever since.  My mom also loved looking at paintings and sculptures, and one of my most vivid memories is the two of us silently walking, inspired and immersed, among the Philippines’ national artist Juan Luna‘s works in the National Museum in Manila, and staring open-mouthed at the splendor of his most famous work, the Spolarium.  Every year that my mom came to visit me in Chicago from Manila, we would have the MCA or the Art Institute AND a musical on the agenda (one year, we gushed all over Chita Rivera, when she was doing The Visit at the Goodman, and we told her we also both saw her in Kiss of the Spider Woman in New York oh so many moons ago).  Passion for the arts isn’t acquired overnight, it’s nurtured, cultivated, deepened over the years of continuous exposure to theater, or film, or art, or music, opera, literature.  It’s built upon a sense of intellectual curiosity, an open-mindedness to new experiences and to soak them in like a sponge, an ability to reflect and construct and deconstruct honed continuously and regularly.  I owe a lot of who I am today to my mom who was tireless in shaping her son’s life with new, interesting, different experiences; who encouraged interest, curiosity, and endless questions.  My mom passed away more than two years ago at 66 years old.  She never saw this blog come into being, but I think she’ll be pleased and tickled pink with it - she was always convinced that I could write exceptionally well, and was so proud all those years ago when I contributed feature articles to the Philippine Daily Inquirer as a lark, and when I wrote plays in high school and college that actually got staged and won awards.  Today, the day I turn forty, is a day for reflection and gratitude.  Thanks Mama!

4 Responses to “Forty Carats”

  1. Daniel Says:

    Happy Birthday, Francis. Remember, 40 is the new 30. =)

    I remember your mom during the few times I hitched with you from the office to Ortigas. Fine lady, indeed.

    All the best to you, and may you have 40 more fruitful years to come.

  2. Sydney Says:

    What a beautiful tribute to your mom. She would be even more proud of you today than she was before. I’m sorry I never had a chance to meet her. Happy birthday!

  3. Reney Says:

    Francis, Happy Birthday! This piece on your mom, on your birthday, is really very sweet. It’s nice to hear about the early theatre experiences and stories you shared with her. Have a great birthday!

  4. francis Says:

    Hi Dan, Sydney, and Reney, thanks for your greetings and feedback. It’s a pretty honest, deep-down-from-the-core blog entry, appropriate for this most personal of days!

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