Puppets Tell All

Life in Avenue Q portrays the real world.

I almost missed watching the Tony Award-winning musical Avenue Q staged at the Carlos P. Romulo Theatre in Makati because of heavy traffic. Although my friend and I arrived about thirty minutes after the call time, we managed to catch up. Before the play, I was so irritated because of the Manila traffic I experienced and I thought of renouncing my citizenship right then and there. But during the musical, my mindset changed and I decided that I should remain a Filipino. I was astonished on how Felix Rivera, Rachel Alejandro and other Filipino members of the cast (including Aiza Siguerra) performed. I was carried away by their acts plus their voices were superb. I cried and laughed several times during the whole production. Manila’s version of Avenue Q is one big thing to be proud of.

The play is about Princeton, who moved into Avenue Q, mainly to find his purpose in life. Other characters, namely, Kate Monster, Gary, Christmas Eve, Nicky, and Rod were also living in the same community and their lives were portrayed as well. The actors/actresses held puppets similar to those in Sesame Street and the approach was in the same manner. The difference is that instead of counting numbers, spelling words or reciting the alphabet, issues on sex, racism, homosexuality, marriage, money, decision-making, and (most of all) love, were tackled. It became much like a ‘therapy’ for me. I was able to see myself in the situations where the characters were in.

All the songs were full of meaning, direct to the point and lively (much like in Sesame Street.) The voice quality of Felix (as Princeton and Nicky) and Rachel (as Kate and Lucy) were powerful and versatile. Both of them were able to change their tone whenever needed because of their dual roles. This is the so-called ‘repeat’ performance produced by Atlantis so the production was unquestionably lovable and was comparable to that in Broadway (as Boy Abunda mentioned during his interview with the main characters last December 22 on ANC’s Private Conversations).

I learned a lot of things in life because of this musical. The play made me realize that there is a ‘fine line between love and a waste of time,’ ‘fantasies come true,’ and interestingly, a new word – ‘Schadenfreude’ – meaning, happiness in the misfortune of others (I bought a green promotional t-shirt with that German word on it). If I were given the chance, I would watch Avenue Q ten more times. Thanks to Youtube.com, I can hear the songs over and over whenever I crave for laughter, reality and love.

I know someday, I’ll find my purpose in life. Avenue Q took me one step closer.

Busy Advent

Good old reliable Wikipedia.com defines advent as a season of the Christian church, the period of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Christ (from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming”). Well, we all get tired of waiting. Since the first candle of the advent wreath has been lit, it seemed like my busy days never stopped.

After more than three months of practice, 10 o’clock prayers, vocalization and rehearsals, we won! My first and last experience as a member of the UST College of Science Glee Club has been very fruitful. Our group won 2nd Runner-up among the eight chorales who joined the UST-wide song festival. I am so amazed by our performance I can’t still believe I was part of it, not until the 10th time I watched our video through Youtube.com (Behold, I was really there!). A massive improvement can be observed in the way the organizers held the contest. It was also the first time I was given a bouquet of flowers (courtesy of my block). I love wearing the purple monochromatic Barong Tagalog costume. One side effect: I still sing “Kaisa-isa Niyan” and “Scenes from the North” while taking a shower (weird, but true).

Teen No More
Gone are my teenage years. I’m twenty. Interestingly, I turned twenty in Los Banos, Laguna during the time my thesis group mates (Sherry, Tina, Krizia and TJ) and I were presenting our thesis in UPLB for the 12th Annual Convention of the Natural Products Society of the Philippines. During the afternoon of December 6, TJ presented our thesis. A guy from UP-Diliman made a ‘comment’ about our research. This was graciously honoured by our group and TJ answered back well. (People from UP tend to be very inquisitive!) After socializing with other young scientists, the real activity began – vacacion engrande!

We went back to our hotel (Anest Tower) around 5pm and changed into our swimming attire. After packing, we went straight to Splash Mountain Hot Springs Resort and checked out the amenities. We left the place to grab dinner at Pizza Hut and went back to the resort where we plunged into four pools with water coming from the mountain hot springs. It was a relaxing experience. It was my first time to dive into hot springs and I enjoyed the smoky mist while swimming. We came back to our hotel room before midnight. When December 7 came (around 12 MN), my friends sang a birthday song for me, gave me a weird-looking cake, and poured some mudslide, but all of us were sleepy so after about five minutes of smiles, everyone was knocked-out and went to bed.

The next day, we took more pictures of Laguna, stuffed ourselves with more food, and hurriedly drove our way back to Manila.

Christmas cheers me up. Whenever we put up our Christmas tree and I see trimmings of red and green wherever I go, it means that my birthday is fast approaching… and more importantly, the birth of Jesus is near. The mood carries me away. The December breeze relaxes my tired muscles, the Christmas songs make me sing along, and the colourful campus lights make me smile. No matter how crowded the mall gets, how traffic the roads be, and how hectic my schedule turns out, I am still happy during the holiday season. There is still that excitement whenever I receive a gift (knowing that I’ll have another mug, candle or organizer). December is also a party-filled month. It is also during this season that I ran out of money because I have to buy gifts. Even if telephone companies crash, and we all have hard times in sending SMS messages or calling our loved ones, we still do it. It is a yearly tradition that runs forever.
Behind the festivities, I think people must always be reminded of Christ’s birth. If it wasn’t for Jesus who lived among us, there will be no Christmas. Throughout the holiday season, one song keeps on playing inside my head. It is entitled ‘Munting Sanggol’ by Ryan Cayabyab. Its lines capture the real meaning of ‘Pasko,’ and since I heard the UST Singers’ interpretation, it has been etched in my eardrum. Here it is:

Munting sanggol kalung-kalong ng iyong ina
Munting sanggol may ningning ang iyong mga mata
Batid mo bang kay raming naghihintay sa’yo
Nananabik, nag-aabang sa pagsilang mo

Mga pastol sa sabsaban ay nagpupugay
Tatlong hari mula silangan ay nag-aalay
Dala’y ginto, kamanyang at mira
Para sa’yo Hesus hari ng sanlibutan

At nagsisiawit ang mga anghel sa langit
Luwalhati sa Diyos sa kaitaasan
At sa lupa’y kapayapaan
Gloria in excelsis deo

Kakaibang Enrolment

Hindi ko alam kung bakit kahit na halos 400 years old na ang UST ay hindi pa din nito ma-perfect ang sistema sa enrolment. Inabot ng 20 araw bago ko na-enrol ang isang three-unit subject. At ito din ang kauna-unahang pagkakataon na ma-experience ko ang pagiging isang ‘irregluar overloaded graduating student.’ Hindi ko inakalang malalampasan ko ang pila, gulo, at perwisyo ng pag-eenrol na mas mahirap pa sa pag-aapply ng VISA.

Eto ang simula – October 25 – maaga akong lumuwas para sa ‘Advising.’ Sa mga hindi taga-UST, o sa mga taga-UST pero hindi nakakaranas magka-singko, ang ‘Advsing’ ay ang araw kung saan magsasama-sama ang lahat ng bagsak, pipila sa faculty room, at ipapapirma ang isang papel bago ka tuluyang makapag-enrol. Pag nalampasan mo ang pilang ‘yon, ayun! Next step ka na. Pero ako wala pa sa stage na’to. 10AM dumeretso na ako sa 3rd floor ng Main Building. Dali dali akong kumuha ng ‘Advising Form’ sa mala-aquarium na Dean’s Office at nilagay ko na lahat ng subjects ko (kasama na ang mga uulitin ko). Nakapila na nga ako e, tapos nadaanan ko ang isang bulletin board ng schedule ng buong kolehiyo. Tumambad sa mata ko ang schedule ng special class ko (yung uulitin kong subject). OMG! Tinamaan ang 3 subjects, MWF pa! Huminga ako ng malalim, pinikit ko ang mga mata ko at umasa akong namamalik-mata lang ako… Pero hindi! Pagmulat ko yun talaga. OK, easy lang. Sa totoo lang, hindi ko kasi alam kung papano mag-ayos ng schedule lalo pa at block naman ako taun-taon. Mabuti na lang at nag-lunch break. Ayos! May oras mag-isip at gumising sa katotohanan.

Sa taranta ko e umuwi muna ako sa dorm para kumain, magcharge ng cellphone, at sumaklolo kay Lord. Kung birthday ko lang sana nung araw na yun nag-wish na sana may isang anghel na bumaba sa langit para tulungan ako. At ayun, dumating ang tagapagligtas ng daigdig ko sa araw na ‘yon. Limang minuto bago magbukas muli ang mga opisina sa USTe e nagkita kami ng kaklase kong kamukha kong sawi. Tinanong nya sakin kung ano na ang nagawa ko. Sabi ko “kumuha ng ‘Advising Form… at… uhm….yun pa lang”

“Nge! Fourth year ka na, dapat kumuha ka muna ng overload form, ayusin ang schedule mo, magpa-advise, at ipapirma ang request to overload sa Asst. Dean,” ang sabi niya sakin. “Fine!” sabi ko naman. Mukhang madali. Ala-una na at dumeretso ako sa Information Office para kumuha ng Request for Overload. Pagkabigay sakin ng working student yung form sa window, aba, sabay hingi ng bayad. Sus! At ang tatlong pirasong papel nagkakahalaga pala ng bente singko! (Basta parang ganun, di ko na binilang ang sukli ko e) Hindi naman ako cheap, pero naisip ko lang na kahit 10 beses kong ipa-photocopy yung form e hindi naman aabot ng 25 yun a!

Ayan, madami pang oras. Finill-up-an ko ang form. Daming blanks. Nung matapos ko na, balik ako sa bulletin board ng schedule buong College of Science. Dumugo ang utak ko kaka-arrange ng schedule. Inabot ng almost 1 hour! Isipin mo nalang, 4-7pm sa block class ko ang tinamaan ng lintik na special class; tatlong subjects yun. San ko sisingit yun? Gulu-gulo na! Hindi ko na ikukwento kung paanong nagkahimala at naayos ko na ang schedule ko. Mag ti-three-o’clock prayer na nang maubos ang pila at ako na isa sa mga panghuling magpa-advice.

Ako: Good afternoon ma’m. Magpapa-sign po.

Ma’m: Naku hijo, wala pang Cell and Molecular Bio (yung isa sa mga uulitin kong subjects)

Ako: E ma’m paano ko po mapapapirma sa Asst Dean ang request ko e di pa kumpleto?

Ma’m: Balikan mo bukas.

Ako: (deep inside lang – Paalis ako papuntang Bora ‘no? Haller!)

Pero ang totoong sinabi ko:

Ok po.

Hindi ko binalikan. Ano ‘yun, ipagpapalit ko ba ang pirma ng Asst. Dean sa trip to Bora? Never! Ayun, at habang nagtatampisaw ako sa white sand mula Oct. 26-28, iniisip ko kung magiging available na ang subject na yun sa Oct. 29.

Luwas ulit ako sa UST. Habang lahat ay nag-uuwian na sa probinsya, ang mga irreg ng Science ay nakapila sa Asst. Dean para sa Request for Overload. Kahit na wala pa yung 1 subject, naisip kona ipapirma na para ma-enrol ko na ang ibang subjects. Dumating ako 11AM, kumuha ako ng number dun sa dispenser sa Dean’s Office na kamukha ng makikita sa mga bangko. Paghila ko – number 182! Oo, one hundred and eighty two! Tinanong ko sa super sungit na tagabantay ng pinto ng Dean’s Office kung anong number na ba ang nagpapa-advice, at sabi, 35 pa lang. Sabi ko sa sarili ko – “Putek! E kahit hanggang alas-ocho ng gabi ang opisina e ‘di matatapos ang pila a!” Nagdesisyon akong umuwi nalang at bumalik kinabukasan. Pero ang bilin ko sa mga kasama kong nakapila e magtirik ng mga kandila, i-usod sa pintuan ang rebulto ni Albert the Great at mag-vigil nalang sila para kinabukasan e may magse-save na ng pwesto ko sa pila. Walang tumawa sa joke ko.

Kinabukasan, Oct. 30, asa nanaman ako na makakapagpa-advice ako. Hindi pa rin pala. Papano ba naman, tinotoo yata ng mga tao ang biro ko about sa “Vigil” thing, ayun! 9am pa lang e number 49 na ako! Leche talaga. Bakit ba kelangan pang magpa-advice? Dinatnan ako ng sipag pumila hanggang mag-lunch break pero uminit din ang ulo ko sa gutom. Sa inis ko (actually dalawa kami), nag-dare kami na wag na pumila at ipagduldulan nalang kay Ma’m Beth (ang dakilang secretary) na ilakad ang papel namin. Bahala na.

Undas na! Balik nanaman ako sa skul kahit karamihan ng tao ay nasa mga sementeryo na. Una kong pinuntahan ay ang secretary na pinag-iwanan ko ng form. Siyempre todo pray ako na sana napirmahan na ang form ko. At last! Nasagot ang prayer ko at ready to enrol na ako dahil approved na ang overload form ko. Derecho ako sa Seminary Gym na puno ng mga enrolees kahit na Undas na (mukha na nga din akong bangkay sa sobrang ngarag). Aba at ang Cell and Molecular Bio (CMB) ay hindi pa din pala available! Ano ito? Hindi na ba ako ga-graduate? Inenroll ko na muna ang iba kong subject at bumalik sa department para tanungin ang CMB.

Ako: Ma’m yung CMB po available na?

Ma’m: Naku hindi pa.

Ako: E ma’m, pasukan na po sa Lunes e

Ma’m: Oo nga, pero walang prof na magtuturo, wala na ding available na room.

Ako: E ma’m ano pa pong option?

Ma’m: Gagawan ko ng paraan.

Aba at first day of school na ng second sem. Ang CMB? Wala pa din. Para kaming mga asong gala sa UST na naghahanap ng mag-aalaga sa amin. Pwede na nga ulit akong tumakbong Batch Rep dahil ang dami kong nakakatext na sawimpalad. Pagkatapos ng isang linggo, aba wala pa rin! Nakapgpasa na nga ako ng application para mag Medicine sa UST hindi pa pala ako ga-graduate? Akalain mo yon? Ayun pati NMAT form ko naproseso pa rin, pero ang isang subject na kailangan ko, hindi ko pa rin mai-enrol. Kailangan pa daw naming gumawa ng “Letter of Eagerness to Enroll.” Ang sabi ko “Leche, sinu ba naman ang hindi gusting gumraduate?” (Pero deep inside lang yun syempre). Edi yun, follow the leader kami at gawa ng letter ek-ek.

Sa wakas, dumating din ang takdang oras. Ang pagkakataong hinihintay ng 18 estudyanteng nasa pareho kong kalagayan… Ang sandaling makakapagbayad na para makuha ang CMB! Umaga ng November 19 ay pumunta agad ako sa Dean’s Office at kinuha ko na ang petition form namin na na-aprubahan na (siguro na-touch si Dean sa letter namin na “Eagerness to Enrol). Mahabang proseso pa pala ulit – papirma sa Registrar, papirma sa Accounting, encoding sa Computer Center – bago tuluyang maka-enrol. In short, inabutan nanaman ako ng Lunch break! (Sana nga robot nalang ang lahat ng empleyado para di nalang kumakain diba?) Ala-una ng araw na yon nang makuha ko ang aking revised load. Ayun! Enroled nako sa wakas – pagkatapos ng 20 working days na paghihintay.

Naisip ko tuloy kung ganito ba kagulo ang sistema sa UST noong panahon ni Rizal at hindi niya ito naexperience kaya hindi niya ito na kwento. Pwes, eto, kinwento ko na!

Maraming salamat kay:
James Matias, na tinulungan ako sa paggawa ng schedule ko.

Kay Joy Gavadan, ang nag-forward sa akin ng “BIR story” ni Jol Ong na nagbigay sa akin ng ideya kung papaano ko isusulat ang karanasan kong ito sa Kolehiyo ng Agham sa UST.