It's not on the front page of today's Inquirer, but perhaps it should be. Pablo Tariman reports that, while nobody is looking, San Miguel Corporation has quietly killed the San Miguel Philharmonic Orchestra and the San Miguel Master Chorale. Why why why? They've just released a new CD of Filipino movie theme songs, and the ensembles were never in the news as causing problems or becoming a burden to one of the Philippines' richest companies. Ryan Cayabyab, the executive director, has not given any statement about this. What's known so far is that the members were summoned and told of the non-renewal of their contracts. Just like that, and five years of beautiful, painstaking music-making was dead. Mr. Tariman posits the view that San Miguel is more interested at this time to throw money at its four basketball teams. I don't know; help me on this. Basketball--we're height-challenged people (compared to Westerners, that is). Music and song--we've not been called Asia's minstrels for nothing. Our musical talent is indisputably our greatest export. So we pull the plug on our musicians and lavish millions on basketball teams? Nakngteteng naman!
Just when I thought I had seen everything there was to see in Tanghalang Pilipino's "ZsaZsa Zaturnnah," last Sunday's closing performance sprang a big surprise. Tuxqs Rutaquio, the actor who had been playing Ada without an alternate, completely lost his voice by the 3pm show. There was one more performance left, at 8pm, and the dire situation threw the company into a tizzy. Who could take on the role? They finally got Vince de Jesus, the show's composer/lyricist and musical director, to rush from his house and step into Ada's clogs. Mr. De Jesus was told around 6:30pm that he was the show's last hope. A complete pro, he gamely said yes, and was still memorizing his lines even as the house lights had dimmed--in fact, he dived into the script every time he had a moment offstage! The amazing thing was, he played the part near-flawlessly. A stammer here and there couldn't take away from his worldly-wise, sensitive portrayal of the character. And there was something magical about hearing him sing his own melodies. They came out with striking delicacy and fresh shadings, making the closing show quite a new experience. As I watched Mr. De Jesus rise to the challenge valiantly, supported by TP's by-now impressively cohesive actors' company, I thought he stood for all the theater performers and theater companies in this country who have had to struggle against mighty odds to perform their guts out for their art and their audiences' enjoyment. Grace under pressure is the hallmark of the Filipino artist, and Mr. De Jesus was a bright example that Sunday. Bravo!