In an intense way Alfred tried to absorb as much acting and directing as he could. And there at the Royal Theater in Fort Santiago he got the opportunity to watch movie stars from old Tagalong films: the great, famous stars of the big screen then demonstrating live that they were as good as their fans thought they were. One of those stars was Lolita Rodriquez.
He asked Lolita, as they sat together on the edge of the stage, “How did you get started in the movies?”
“When I was a little, my parents used to take me to the movies. But they can’t be blamed for this.”
Alfred thought, “She’s so simple. That can’t be taught. While other actors are stiff and mechanical. She doesn’t rely on tears. So many others would writhe in agony and fall on their knees.”
Until then Alfred had never had contact with famous movie stars, and now he worked with them, and they ate and relaxed together. When Alfred was in his director’s mode, he would block each scene in his head, soothing each ego in such a way as to get the most out of them. And from that Alfred could see that he would one day become the Steven Spielberg of the Philippines.
Alfred loved Lolita. He always tried to look his best around her. He always tried to change his shirt and polish his shoes, when otherwise he wouldn’t care. Alfred normally knew how to please women and what to say and when to say nothing, but with Lolita…with her he didn’t seem to know when a compliment was one compliment too many. Costumes seemed to compliment her more than Alfred ever could; he saw that and learned from it.
Around the theater Ted had been very careful with what he said about what was going on at the University of the Philippines. At Fort Santiago they were too busy to think about politics, though many of their plays were political. Most of that, because of the language, Ted missed. That forced him to pay more attention to the acting and how he would direct. He felt his theatrical sensibility was superior but soon realized that his perception had more to do with taste than anything else.
Ted knew nothing about the acting tradition of the Philippines. He had been critical of it…since it seemed over-dramatic to him…he had to keep his opinions to himself. He wouldn’t get his chance to direct immediately. Every chance he got he would talk to Alfred, but he had to learn to avoid personal shit and not make those missteps he made early on. He had said something about his father that wasn’t all that flattering. He didn’t think of himself as being insensitive; it just came out and led them somewhere they didn’t want to go. Ted used to wonder about his theater taste as compared to the taste of his Philippine cohorts. “To shudder as he heard the ax blows” seemed too much to him (and in that case as much in the writing as the acting, and their love for sobbing). There was no foundation for his criticism. But he could see why Alfred loved Lolita, loved her more than the others. And that was after Ted realized that he had been wrong about it all.