Metro Manila Musings
I’ve been in Manila for a “vacation” for nearly a week now and it has already made an impact on my internal makeup. I’ve spent most of this first week getting stuff together (i.e. New headshot photoshoot for fourth year at Juilliard, a trip to the salon, studying a script for a play I’m doing in fourth year, going to the bank, having a dress altered, scanning copies of newspaper articles with my names in them). Most, if not all, of these errands involved commuting.
Commuting was my M.O. in the five years of my “professional” life in Manila – from the time I graduated from college up to my last year in Manila before I came to New York City for graduate training. “Commuting in Metro Manila” to me means a number of things: tricycle, FX, LRT, MRT, jeepney or "jeep," bus, the occasional “taxi,” and the rare "pedicab." Those five years on the road has made an impact on how I saw the world and how I saw myself in the world as much as my work as a practicing theater artist. They have undoubtedly prepared me for New York City, where I got around 99% of the time through walking, the subway, and the occasional bus. I rarely hail a cab or an Uber in New York.
Fast forward to July 13, 2018 (Friday, Manila time), I set myself to do three things that afternoon: 1) Go to the bank to have my dollars exchanged into pesos 2) pick-up the dress I had altered and 3) go to either UP or Katipunan to find a decent but inexpensive photocopying service for all my newspaper clippings for my portfolio.
It didn’t matter to me that it was Friday the 13th – I’ve been through many a Friday the 13th before and managed just fine. I did see that it was dark and cloudy outside, so I brought an umbrella, a plastic to protect the folder containing my newspaper clippings and called it a day. When I got to the bank, the manager said that today was pay-day – that there were likely to be a lot more people in the bank today than usual. It didn’t matter to me, I was able to get my dollars exchanged with minimal waiting time (I had visited a new branch) so I considered myself lucky. I was also able to pick up my dress with no problem. Two errands, check!
I took an FX to Philcoa (if you’re not from Manila, these terms will probably sound alien to you), crossed the pedestrian footbridge and searched for jeeps going to the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman. UP COOP – the compound where I used to have stuff photocopied and printed has been destroyed by a fire. A friend recommended Vinzon’s Hall in UP for me, instead. No luck. I showed my newspaper clippings to a staff member and basically said he couldn’t do what I asked him to do since the newspapers where too big to be resized/reduced into short bond size. He referred me to the scanning service next door, no luck either. The woman said their scanner was too small to scan full-page newspaper articles.
By this time, rain began to pour aggressively. I had another option in Katipunan which had a very good review at Yelp called YZA Coloured Printing at Prince David Condominium. It took me a while to get a jeep but eventually did. The paper bag I used to carry my dress and folder already gave away due to water damage. I tossed that once I got to YZA. YZA had large print and scanning machines so I was able to get all my newspaper clippings scanned (terrific service). Whew! All three errands done!
It was past 6pm now. All I needed to do was to get home. Rain was pouring intensely. I had an umbrella, but walking the Katipunan stretch to try to hail a cab drenched my pants and my shoes. I was really cold by now. I decided to make a stop at Cello's to check out their donuts (haha). I texted my parents to ask if I can hitch a ride with them. They were both in Makati, my dad was waiting for the traffic to subside himself. "Rains plus pay day is formula for clogged streets," my dad said. I didn’t want to use the “Grab app” because I didn’t want to pay Php200 to get home (Uber was phased-out in the Philippines due to legal issues). I had a budget for my Philippine trip and I wanted to use that money to have lunch with a friend. When I decided to get out on the street again, the taxi drivers who I hailed refused to give me a ride home because my house was not “on the way” to where they wanted to go (typical Filipino taxi bullshit). As I stood there, drenched in the rain, I was looking for something or someone to blame. Was it 1) My parents for giving birth to me in this country 2) Myself for getting myself in this situation yet again or 3) God, for allowing this to happen to me? After a while, none of those three options seemed to help me cope with the situation. After 30 minutes of walking, hailing and by now, shivering, I resigned myself to take the long way home: 3 jeepneys (with different routes), a bus, and walking. It was still raining hard by now.
In the three jeepneys I rode home, similar faces greeted me: exhaustion, resignation, and contained anger. These people must have been travelling longer than I have. It was the same in the bus to “SM Fairview” – which was standing room and where we were all squished together like sardines. I wondered, what would it be like if the average, middle-income Filipino could get to work and go home with a less than 30-minute commute every day? What would we do with our time? We would have more time to our families, or even to ourselves. We would have more time to LIVE.
I got home safely, albeit drenched, near 9pm. After almost 3 hours of trying to get home from an area not so far from where I lived. As I type this the day after, I was nursing a slight fever and a cold from being “basang basa sa ulan,” hopefully recharging as to not let my inner light dim out after less than a week in Manila.
Here's a fan-made parody of one of my favorite Filipino songs.
Note that even though the video comedically captures what I've been through and how I felt, I did have an umbrella that day.
Notes to self for the remainder of the trip:
• Beware of pay-day
• Check the weather!
• Health first!
On a lighter note:
Long-time collaborator Kamole Orense and I are upgrading www.reginadevera.com this year and I can't wait to share the new photos with you all! Here's an (unedited) sneak peak:
Photo by Kamole Orense
I am so happy to announce that I've finally moved into a new apartment last June 30, 2018. I have been itching to move into a new and bigger space since the beginning of the year.
At the beginning of 2018, I've felt as if there was a part of me that was itching to grow and expand out of an old phase but there was no time or space for that expansion because 1) I am caught up with the training at Juilliard; 2) The lease in my old apartment won't be expiring until June 30. So between the period of January until May 2018 I was beginning to feel a sense of being stagnant in my creative, spiritual and personal life. It was as if I was in limbo, but I wasn't sure yet which direction to go and what I wanted. Eventually, I did find out what I wanted and I made a list of what I should do in order to create the circumstances and conditions for those things to have space in my life. I love making lists. What's even better is that when I look at that journal entry now, I am so happy that I have checked off a lot of the crucial ones. I feel as if I am on track. Even though the path wasn't smooth, things were still falling into place. I feel very blessed and grateful.
When I finally surrendered the keys of the old apartment to the super, I felt a great sense of relief. Coming into the new place, I felt a new sense of safety. I will be living with women who are clean and responsible. In one of my conversations with one of my mentors, we touched upon how one cannot grow in a vacuum. One needs to grow and expand with people. I agree to a great extent that if the people you are around with are holding you down for some reason, that could be an added weight that is unnecessary. The environment is also crucial for the well-being of a person. I feel that this is a good space for me to live in for my 4th year at Juilliard.
Oh and by the way, I am in Manila now for a short while getting stuff together and visiting family. I'm not sure I can drop by to say hi, but if you do see me do say hi :)
Hey hey hey! I haven't posted in weeks. Been in a lot of major transitional life stuff. For one thing, I'm moving into a new apartment by the end of the month.
My sister graduated from Cornell (MBA) last May 2018. My parents, my brother and my godmother all came to New York from the Philippines. It was a good time! I was nervous about it but eventually found the experience good for me.
When you have the opportunity to integrate your new life and your old life together, do it. I've only been in New York City for 2 and a half years (my three-year NYC anniversary will be this coming August!). When I chose to visit home for the first time after my first year at Juilliard to attend my brother's college graduation, I was very afraid of the possibility of regression. There is something about being around people who knew me at a specific period in my life that makes me feel like I am that person again when I am around them. I found that I didn't like who I was before and that I needed to have compassion for that part of myself in order to come to terms with certain things.
The positive thing about my sister's graduation last month was that it was the other way around. My family came to New York City this time. We were able to see my sister's campus in Ithaca, and I was able to show them the Juilliard campus in New York City.
I do feel like I am younger than what I really am when I am with family but regression did not pose itself as big of a threat this time as it did before. I truly believe I did some solid internal work for the past two years that cannot be undone easily.
I have two new jobs this summer! One of which is an internship in the office of one of our dialect teachers, Mr. Jerome Butler, at West 35th street. The other job is under the Office of Career Services at the Juilliard School.
I'm really psyched that I get to work at a venue outside of Juilliard this summer. It was perfect for me because I wanted to take a huge break from acting and yet still do something that has practical applications to my career. I get to work with a teacher who can help me refine a General American dialect for future TV/film work and in exchange I work as an intern in his office. I have done a recording, edited some audio files (me? Editing audio files? Yes!), and have done a couple of research for one of his clients and ongoing projects. I feel really grateful considering that 2 years ago I was so scared to leave the Juilliard community and found it hard to conceive that there might be another place or environment in New York City where I can be functional in. And here I am about to move into my second apartment and working as an intern somewhere in Midtown Manhattan!
I like my new job in school as well because I am in charge of inputing inquiries from clients who want to hire Juilliard musicians for events (i.e. weddings, corporate events, etc.). It's very interesting to me to see what places couples choose to marry in. I'm doing mostly that and answering phone calls, scanning files and inputing jobs in the school's career portal.
It's important to me to learn to do things that have no obvious links to acting. It's important to me to have "basic human skills." More specifically, to have experiences that human beings outside the world of performing have, even a taste of it.
Drama Desk Awards 2018!
I'm in the Drama Desk Awards Opening Video with Michael Urie and a couple of Juilliard colleagues! Check it out!
4th Year Casting
The casting for the fourth year season has finally been sent to us! I'll post an announcement regarding show dates soon in case you'll be in New York City this year.
A YEAR IN REVIEW: THIRD YEAR AT JUILLIARD DRAMA
I understand I haven't posted anything in six weeks, I've been pre-occupied with life stuff and Romeo & Juliet. I wrote a blog for Juilliard Admissions entitled, "A Year in Review." I'm going to put that one up here:
This was a very good year for me in terms of artistic and personal growth. I feel very lucky to have had many opportunities this year to showcase my range as an actress being given at least three roles to play in each of all the three productions we had this year (Top Girls, Queens Boulevard and Romeo & Juliet). On the personal level, there were a lot of quieter, internal victories and shifts that happened in the second semester that will hopefully continue to grow in the fourth year of my training.
I don’t like playing favorites because I loved them all this year. I do like to mention some key roles that brought a lot of "gifts" that will forever be with me.
1. Lady Nijo in Caryl Churchill’s “Top Girls.”
I was terrified of playing a Japanese courtesan from the 13th century given that it is so easy to fall into the trap of playing a stereotype. I truly wanted to honor her and do her justice. I read her published journal and interviewed three real Japanese women to talk about 13th century Japan (Kamakura period), studied courtesan movements and practices and recorded Japanese accents in English. My work was well received by my community and it taught me that being given something that might be scary at first can prove to have a hidden gift in it afterwards.
2) Aly in Chuck Mee’s “Queens Boulevard”
I wasn’t originally cast to play Aly - an Asian American guy with a four and a half page monologue on how white men have taken away Asian women from Asian men and why Asian men seem to be at the bottom of the dating pool. I had to cover for a colleague. When the role became vacant, my director had asked me if I was interested and willing to take over the part even though I was already assigned two roles for that show. After talking (and crying) to a mentor about how this part was triggering a lot of my own insecurities as a woman of color in America, I decided that taking this on would allow me to investigate my own fears in front of my community. The lesson I learned from playing Lady Nijo about leaning into my fears proved to do well for me in this instance again. It felt as if both Lady Nijo and Aly were roles that came and found me. Being given the opportunity to share that monologue in the form of a stand-up act in front of the community for a few nights at the Harold & Mimi Steinberg Drama Studio was healing and gave my comic skills a lot of practice.
3. Lady Capulet in William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”
Playing mothers was not initially appealing to me. However, upon seeing female colleagues from other groups play powerful mothers and stepmothers in All My Sons, The Cherry Orchard and Uncle Vanya, I realized that it is a gift to have the opportunity to delve into the complexity and depth of being a mother in extraordinary circumstances. The energy work that my Alexander coach guided me through for this role was revelatory in how I can find ways to connect to experiences that I might not have access to in my life offstage.
There are a number of other non-Asian roles that I’ve played this year that have also expanded and revealed my range (playing the 11-year old Brit in Top Girls was a joy). That is part of what made this year so great - that I was able to take on roles that allowed me to embrace cultures and experiences that deeply resonated with mine as well as cultures and experiences that were distant from mine. I only hope that my fourth year will continue the process of my personal and artistic expansion.
We've Finished Blocking!
Can you imagine? We've finished blocking Romeo and Juliet and we have more than a month to go before opening! This has never happened to me before! We've got so much time! I'm off-book already. I've filed my taxes. I've got time to breathe now. It's going to be great.
QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS
I don't think my family is going to be psyched that I've been working for the past three holy weeks that I've been in the United States. It's not as big of a deal in here as it is in the Philippines. I didn't even realize that it was holy week until my roommate told me he's gonna be gone for the weekend to spend Easter with his family. Religion is something that has largely been unquestioned for most of my journey in the Philippines. When I moved to New York City, there were no longer family members who could make me go to church on Sundays or practice any rituals from the Roman Catholic faith. As I proceed, I keep asking myself "why." Why should I go to church? Why should I fast? Why should I go to confession? Other than it's bad and I'll go to hell, or I'll lose points during Judgement Day, or because my family and my teachers have told me so? I have to find more compelling reasons than any of the above until I decide for myself what to do with my "religion."
After I completed the first seasons of Ugly Delicious, Queer Eye and The Imposters (this was over spring break), I started watching this Netflix series called "Love."
I was drawn to the series because it features Mickey, a woman in her early thirties with a drug, alcohol, sex/love addiction who was trying to get better. She's had a string of unhealthy relationships with men who weren't good for her until she meets Gus. Gus is a guy who doesn't fit into the mold of guys that Mickey has always dated, but Mickey opens up to him because she's at the point in her life where she realizes she deserves someone who is good to her. And I'm kind of in the same boat. Hey look, I don't have an "addiction." But I had a romantic history that compelled me to take a hiatus from any romantic engagements until I sorted out a couple of knots internally.
It's something that I've been thinking about because I'm almost done with my third year of training and I feel solid internally and emotionally after being single for almost four years now and have been in therapy for two and a half years, have learned to live on my own and take care of myself (in a foreign country!) and made healthy new friendships in a community where I feel loved and where I feel like I belong. So I think I'm in a pretty good place to start welcoming new energy in my life.
Mickey: They say that you go back to painful situations because they’re comfortable and familiar.
I am a Graduate Drama student at The Juilliard School from Quezon City, Philippines.