Most people do not realize that Nombres, one of Manila ’s premiere lighting designers, started his career as a director, giving life to plays written by Goldoni and Alberto Florentino.
This Bachelor of Arts, Major in Literature graduate in fact did all the “dirty jobs” in theater--from stage management to production management and and technical direction--prior to finding his niche in lighting design.
He credits Tony Espejo, Gantimpala Theater Artistic Director and his close friend for more than four decades, as his mentor.
“I was intrigued by the colors, and the possibilities that it offers,” says Nombres. “It was Tony, during the early stages of Gantimpala, who saw my potential. He assigned me as his lighting designer for the productions he was directing. Soon enough, I was hooked, the magic of lights intrigued, amused and enthralled me, making me forgot my other preoccupations.”
“Many are unaware of this; Tony Espejo was not only the first Filipino but also the first Asian scholar in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. When he came back, after a year or two, he started Gantimpala. And I was fortunate to be part of his original group, together with Rey Albano and Ed Murillo.”
“Mrs. Imelda Marcos created the CCP with the vision that it would be like an opera house. It was really a serious venue for high art. What Tony and the plays of Gantimpala did was to bring the masses into CCP. The CCP had a play-writing contest and it was Espejo’s company who gambled and staged untested Filipino materials. If I remember it right, during our first production, it was Boni Ilagan’s 'Katipunan: Mga Anak ng Bayan.' Our working budget for 2 weekends, six shows, cast and production cost was only P2,000. We did not expect that it would be the start of something big, that Katipunan would become a hit and the company would grow and become of the most respected theater companies in the land.”
“The arts scene was booming during the late 70’s,” he adds. “This was the time when it was important to be seen at the CCP. The Metropop Music Festival happened. There was no cable TV; the malls were not that popular, so going the theater to watch a play, dance concert, an opera or ballet was what the people did. I remember, when 'Swan Lake; was first presented at the CCP, the queue was from the artist center up to Harrison Plaza , ganun kami ka-bongga nun.”
The value of lighting design
So, what does a lighting designer bring to a show? “A good lighting designer contributes a design that serves as a guide to the audience. The lighting design must never overpower a production. If that happens, it is no longer a design but a showcase. Hindi siya dapat ang lumulutang. Pwede niyang tagni-tagniin ang isang pangit na palabas at pagandahin.”
Also, “A good lighting design can enlighten scenes that are deemed too dark. It can make vertically challenged people appear taller. It is a wonderful medium to use into progression, or prepare people for a climax; it can scare, set the mood for romance or drama.”
Nombres' lights design has been employed in countless concerts, plays, ballets, television specials, awards nights, beauty pageants, corporate events, national and international spectacles. This time, he has his hands full directing the Aliw Awards.
On the Aliw Awards and its voting process
“The Aliw Awards is the oldest and most prestigious award giving body that recognizes the talents of artists from the live entertainment circuit,” says Nombres. “Because of my training, I was tasked to direct the TV presentation and the live awards night. As its director, it excites me to know that it continues to enliven the entertainment industry and that many still aspire to receive one.”
“Yours truly is not a voting member,” he clarifies. “And so is Frank Rivera; we have been alluded to as supposedly being very influential in outcome of winners. Let us make this crystal-clear, all the Aliw Awards members are not voting members except for the president. The Board of Judges are invited by foundation and they are the ones who deliberate and choose the winners. There is this mistaken impression that members also serve as judges. Let me to stress this, Aliw members are not judges, there are sets of judges that come from the different sectors of society. Their names and photos are in the souvenir program.”
The most critical of the ALIW’s choices are members of the theater circle. Nombres welcomes these comments with an open mind.
“It makes us realize that we should always be on our toes, and that much is expected from us,” he says. “Hindi masama ang loob namin doon. We all have our different tastes. We all have different opinions on what is best and what is worst. On a personal capacity, what irks me is that when you impose your taste to others and that your taste is supposedly more superior than all of us and that should be followed.. We welcome those who question the choices of Aliw. After all we are in a democracy. We cannot please everybody.”
“We are looking forward to another exciting night. All the nominees in each category are some of the finest performers in the industry today. The Entertainment of the Year category is very competitive. Ang ganda ng laban! The awards night will be very simple. This is labor of love working, since we have a very menial budget. And despite this reality, we go on because we believe in the Aliw's vision to honor the world class talents of Filipinos.”