Tag Archives: Fort Santiago

Randy Ford Author- running amok on those last days

      Sonja came to the lunch Alfred planned for them.   She considered bringing them a small gift, something very small that would fit in their luggage, as a token of appreciation, and but that idea got lost as she rushed about.   She wanted to see Ted off not because he had worked for her for over a year and half, not because of his contributions to the theater, not even because she had counted on him and he had always come through, but for cultural reasons she had to make sure that his departure went smoothly.   She said, “We really thought Ted would be with us for a much longer time.”   Here she succeeded in making him feel good and this without relying on anyone else.   She also knew what else to say, when she said, “like you, I’ve found what I really want to do.  Like you, I love theater; and I was hoping that that love could be translated into convincing you to stay.”   At that point Susan didn’t want to hear that, and said, “Oh, no you don’t.”

      Alfred said, “Um! Ted, I think you better listen to her.   And why not, she’s your wife.   And Ted, when do you think we’ll hear from you again?”

      Within a few seconds, Alfred had saved the day.   Neither negotiator nor a judge, he took over the conversation by bringing Ted up to speed on the progress of the play in the dungeon.   To Alfred HINDI ACO PATAY was the perfect play for down there.   He wanted to thank Ted for the Katipunan flag, which on the nights of performance he planned to fly under the Filipino flag at Fort Santiago.   Ted agreed that that could be considered seditious and said he was glad he would be out of the country.   But he felt at home, and they had to laugh.

      Ted made one last trip to Diliman and caught Nick between classes.   Nick asked him if he would like to sit down.   He no longer had a Chinese flag hanging on his wall and tried to explain why, “Once upon a time I was more radical than I am now, and then one day they came and arrested me.   And it seemed ridiculous for me to be in solitary confinement, when I could’ve been more useful on the outside.   It seemed so ridiculous that I signed a pact with myself, which means I’m smarter now.   I should go home at the end of the semester.   It’s heating up up there.   It’s getting hotter all the time; and I suspect it won’t be long before it’s adios Uncle Sam.   I guess we’re both learning.   So, you and the Mrs. are going home.”

      “Not exactly,” Ted said, and they had to laugh.

      “You know, it’s beautiful in Mindanao right now,” Don said.   “With the dense forest and that blue sky and the blue sea, it’s heaven.   Don went on to explain why he left Mindanao this time, a heaven to him, and how his heaven had turned into hell.   The Moros held Marawi, and the college there probably had as many Muslim students attending it as any other college in the Philippines.   Very colorful people and Don had always felt safe there and enjoyed the lake.

     “What happened?”

      “Give me an opportunity to explain.   I’ve got to get this out of my system. ”

      Ted asked him again what happened.

      “I am easy, generally.   And I’d been to Marawi many times and knew the town.   I had no sense of fear, but I know when my gut tells me something’s wrong.   I know it’s a warning I need to heed.   Neither the students nor I were looking for trouble; rather I thought one of them was showing off with a Kris.   He had it in his hand.   High above his head.   Yelling.   I don’t play around with someone with a knife, or running amok.   As far as I was concerned, my life was in danger, period, no ands or buts.   By the time he was stopped by a bullet, he had decapitated someone.   In fact, soon after my arrival in idyllic Marawi, I caught a glimpse of him running and yelling, somewhat like a kamikaze.   Marawi, where there are all of those intellectuals.   My stomach, which is very weak, and was upset from a bumpy bus ride anyway, couldn’t take all the gore; but since I was only temporarily there, I fled; and I won’t go back.

      The last thing they did was to check the Peace Corps office for mail.   From home they sent them a care package.   Susan swooned over the chocolate chip cookies.   The few people watching her said she wept, or did she die and go to heaven?

      They almost didn’t make their flight.

Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- dungeons, or were they denigrating a shrine

      For one who always enjoyed exploring, Don less and less liked his investigating job.   He liked it better when he taught science; he preferred village life to having to be on the go all the time.   It was strange to him that he felt that way.   Something more than the investigating part bothered him more than anything else did: normally he thrived on analyzing.   In his new job (since his extension) he couldn’t deal with people in a straightforward way, and he had to put his personal feelings aside.   And that sometimes made him feel like a snake.   When he found something that he had to report he had to report it.   To a great extent, it was all up to him.   It all depended on how he framed something and measured it.   It was all right most of the time, but it was bad when the people involved were his friends.   It was always unpleasant, and hard feelings were always unavoidable.

      At last they came to Fort Santiago.   Elaine said goodbye before they left Diliman.   Ted said, “You’ve been here before, I’m sure.   If you’re nice to me, I’ll give you a tour.”   They went to the theater, where a play was running and another one was in rehearsal and pretty much set by then.   It was busy, with everyone doing something, and so hurried that no one paid attention to Don and Ted.

      Ted had to show Don the huge mortars that he and Alfred borrowed for the first production.   High up on a wall was a technician busy changing gels (they needed to be changed every two weeks).   Some actors were just arriving; and Don could see how his friend Ted was in a position, if he so chose, to exert a great deal of influence, good or bad.   Ted asked if anyone had seen Alfred, as they went down into the dungeons, a few yards away from the theater.

      They heard voices inside.   Sonja came into the front cell from the adjoining one, with a man Ted recognized as the columnist and theater benefactor, DeRoy Valencia, and Sonja introduced Ted to him.   The passageways were narrow, and narrow tunnels connected each cell.   Sonja and Mr. Valencia were taking…artistic director, mover and shaker…and they were talking about the dungeons and using them as a theater, and Ted wasn’t part of the conversation.   They moved on, leaving Ted and Don behind, so Ted only caught a small portion of their conversation.   He wanted to hear all of it.   Ted and Don sat on the edge of the raised walkway, constructed along the walls for tourist.   In the middle of each cell they had left the original floor of dirt and created a pit.   When Ted got going he gave Don a pretty good description of the show he had in mind, and didn’t leave out many details, including the flag he had made.   Two Filipino tourists and an American man in Bermuda shorts, a tourist also, came down into the cell and walked behind the two friends.   When the American man came close to them Ted thought it was ironic that he and Don had just been talking about the atrocities that had been committed in this place, and how this American seemed so detached.

     Ted wished he were detached.   But he had been a drama major, and he was very passionate.   Americans hadn’t perpetrated all of the atrocities.   He had to be fair, he supposed; but he knew he couldn’t create a drama about the Japanese.   And he was so attached, so biased, with his head filled with so much propaganda, from Nick and other sources, as he played with ideas for his drama.   He thought with unhappiness of the war and his situation with the draft.   He thought of his parents; and he thought of his old friends who could well have been fighting in Vietnam.   He thought of Don too.   With his job, Don knew he had to be detached.

      Don himself was quiet.   He had been that way the whole time they’d been in there.   He felt uneasy down there, but he hadn’t figured out why.   He’d wait and didn’t jump to a conclusion; he had learned to wait until he had all the facts about something.   But sitting in the dungeons (and particularly that place) affected him in an unexpected way.   He knew the history of the dungeons, and it seemed to him, in light of that long history, that putting on a drama down there denigrated a holy shrine.   It had already been denigrated to a degree by the walkways.   And he supposed that though he was casting himself as a critic, as an American, he was really an outsider and didn’t have any say.

      They talked.   Don didn’t share his feelings.   Ted got up and acted out some of the scenes he had in mind; and they were just as slanted against America as Don thought they would be.   He had never been so close to the creation of a drama.   Enmeshed in science the way he was, there hadn’t been the opportunity.   Immediately, as Ted became animated, Don was frightened by his friend’s intensity.   His intent seemed obvious; all of it could’ve been dismissed as propaganda.   When Ted moved he moved with great force; he slashed and punched without actual victims or props, a sword, a garrote, a water board.   Don started thinking: this was more than playacting for Ted and was coming from something very deep inside him.   And the root of this had to have come from Ted’s past, whatever it was; and clearly it came from anger.   Of course, with his background, Don couldn’t diagnose Ted.   Sitting in the dungeons, watching his friend, and thinking of the political situation he was in, and the volatility of it all, Don began to think that something had to be done to stop Ted, and that went against all of his principles.

       Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- fatigue and shock in Manila

      People spent their time going around Manila in shock…fatigued and shocked.   They constantly asked themselves, “When will our city get back to normal?   When will the students go back to studying?   When will it be safe again?”   Susan tried to get Ted to stay home.   He still rode an hour every morning to the university and taught his classes.   Counting the trip to Fort Santiago, two and a-half-hours by bus and jeepney; and heaven only knew how safe it was.   Susan thought, “If he had any brains, he wouldn’t chance it.”   She didn’t know why he would continue.   She still went to her school every day.   She went, but it wasn’t as far.   “Gosh, tell him you’ll miss him if he gets killed.”   And she didn’t know how much the Peace Corps knew.   They had to have known what everyone else knew, but did they really keep track?   Were volunteers on their own?   Then Susan read in the Manila Times about bombings somewhere, and it didn’t matter to her where the bombings occurred; anywhere would’ve been too close.   “We’re handicapped,” she said. “We can’t get all the news.   Then, too, what is he doing all that time he spends at Fort Santiago?   They close all the classes, and what does he do?   He goes to the fort.   And she felt so uneasy that she sometimes had to show up down there too.

       It was her other side that Mr. Araya saw, the cheerful, easy-going woman that they all knew.   She didn’t miss a day of school.   Obligation there was an obligation.   She said, “I don’t want anyone to say that I didn’t take my teaching seriously.   Mr. Araya will tell you.   I’m a very good teacher.”

      And everyone knew…it was something people talked about…why Ted married her, or she married him.   Someone had to go with him, to make sure he knew when to turn around and go back.   She didn’t have a problem with him following his dreams.   She would follow them too, but would stop him when it got too harry.   For her sometimes it paid to be a chicken.   She didn’t want to hear about failings and shortcomings and was trying to be content as a counterbalance to her spouse.   Unlike him she wasn’t trying to cram everything she could into a lifetime.

       For three or four months Susan intended to take Mr. Ayala to see a show at Fort Santiago.   When she brought it up to him, he got the idea that the theater in the fort would be the perfect place for his students to perform.   He promoted the dance troupe, the glee club, and the rondalla all the time, so he naturally came up with the idea.   Poor Susan.   His heart was in the right place; but his faith in Susan was not based on reality.   He made her regret that she had thought of him, and she obsessed on it so much that she thought of nothing else.   And then, suddenly, the problem was solved for her.   Mr. Ayala fabricated an excuse for Susan that got her off the hook.

      But it didn’t help her with Ted’s situation.   He still insisted on showing up at the university.   Then to spend all that time at the theater.   She knew it took a lot of  time, though she couldn’t understand how he could stay alive at that pace.   To achieve what?   Then she was told that he spent a great deal of time in the dungeons, and she felt cheated.   At least he avoided the fighting.   You wouldn’t have found him in front of the Congress building, Claro M. Recto Street, or Malacanang.   Of course there was the lure of being there that he resisted and would’ve, in a strange way, enjoyed.   He still stayed away.   So he tried to explain to Susan why he had been spending so much time in the dungeons.

      A man who didn’t stick his neck out (who was always cautious) would’ve stayed away from Nick…a self-proclaimed Moist.   Ted’s big production was also risky and called for material Nick could provide.   Ted’s drama in the dungeons.   It would take everyone, everyone’s energy and input.   But it hadn’t jelled yet.   The one thing it had to be was relevant…okay, topical.   With all the goings-on, he could’ve easily been distracted, but his project had become personal.   In actual fact, he couldn’t escape it.   He was stuck with it, and the dungeons, as if he were a prisoner.

      Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- In search of a play in Central Luzon

      In the round-roofed dungeon, which had been sanitized by DeRoy Valencia and his crew, Ted sat on a raised brick walkway that lined the walls.   He was wearing his thinking cap and had very few ideas.   So he wasn’t going anywhere for a while.   He was waiting for the next group of tourist to interrupt him, and in his mind Ted could see the prisoners, from Filipinos to American, that were held down there and tried to think of a play that would fit.

      What was it like in here?   We know very little about it; how it was; just from what has survived from the few accounts that have from time to time come down to us.   Were the accounts accurate?   How many men were in a cell at one time?   Or were in solitary confinement?   How many drowned?   We have no way of knowing, and I suppose that’s just as well.   Well, now that you’ve spent some time down here, it’s time for you to come up for air.   And come up with some ideas, or forget it.

       Ted thought, “It’s maddening.   I’ve been trying too hard.   I’m not the right person.   My connection to this place is not strong enough.   I just happen to be here.   I’ve been fooling myself.   When my tour is over or they throw me out of the Peace Corps, I’ll go back home.   I’ll surely get drafted, or if I’m too old for the draft I’ll find a job.   But it wouldn’t be same country.   I wouldn’t want to stay in my hometown.   There’s very little that I can contribute here.”

       He fretted like this for a number of days, and then he thought, “I can’t give up.   I have to come up with something.   Not just something.   And all this time I’ve been trying to think of a play.   Maybe I need to pull something together that’s original.”

      When he next saw his colleague he said, “Nick, you once said that you wanted to show me where you grew up.”

      “For a weekend?”

     “No, for as long as it takes.”

      Nick looked puzzled.   A few days later he said, “Were you serious about wanting to go to Central Luzon?”     He smiled and said, “You know about Clark Airforce Base.   You know people of Central Luzon are not too happy these days with the base.   And I don’t know if you want to get in the middle of that.”   Nick left it at that. He had to run to a class.   When they next met, and they were alone in Ted’s office, he said, “I actually didn’t grow up in Angeles City.”

      Ted asked, “Then why did you say you did?”

      “I needed to be the man.   I had a point to make.   But what I told you about US service men committing crimes on Philippine soil and then the injustice of them not being tried in Philippine courts is unfortunately true.”

      The next week at the university Nick gave Ted some reading material and expected him to read it.

      I’m glad you’ve invited me to see where you grew up, though I don’t want to get involved in politics.   I know serious work has to be done, but I have to divorce myself from that.   I may agree, or I may disagree with you.   About other things.   Nick, they talk about the bourgeois-democratic and socialist stages in the material you gave me.   To me that’s gobbledegook!   By and large Americans who come here have no idea what you’re talking about when you call them imperialist, and I’m sure most Filipinos don’t consider themselves oppressed.   You pay too much attention to propaganda.   You think you know what’s best for the world, but I doubt that you know half as much as you think you do.

      Ted thought, “That should get him going, but I would still like for him to show me where he grew up.”

      But unexpectedly, his words, as misguided as they were, didn’t trouble Nick as much as he found them amusing.   He saw them for what they were, an attempt to throw him off balance, counterbalancing his attempt to convert Ted.   Counterbalancing that, not so hard as it turned out, he wondered how deeply involved in the Communist movement Nick really was.   Ted might get lucky; there might be a drama lurking near if he dog-ate-dogged Nick long enough; but it would lead him into Central Luzon where the “freedom road” was just a path then.

      Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- Deus ex machina in the Philippines

      For many weeks Ted’s troupe went in and out of Tondo, drawing people out of their apartments and encouraging them to pick themselves up.   They often went to the same tenement.   His participation in Nick’s recruitment seemed inconsequential to Ted and it would take a while for that to change.   When Nick railed against American bases, Ted felt sorry for Elaine.   He wanted to console her, but didn’t think it was his place.   Now that the skits were successful, and they hadn’t gotten in trouble with the authorities, he began to feel better about Nick using them.   He thought that as long as he didn’t actually recruit anyone he’d be safe, and said, “Nick, I never thought I would say this but Elaine and you have a good thing going.”

      But he still had his doubts.   Because he could see a storm building.   The demonstrations…with angry words and Ben as a leader and with students carrying Molotov bombs and pillbox bombs just in case…attracted the attention of the police.   The campus that not so long ago had seemed so tranquil now felt like an armed camp.   Any American, male or female, cognizant of the situation or not, should’ve been forewarned by commentary found in the nation’s free press.

      The newspapers were full it.   Ted went, as he did every morning, to the university by jeepny and bus.   It gave him an opportunity to read the Manila Times.   He always read De Roy Valencia’s column.   He knew the names Adrian Aquino and Jose Maria Sison from seeing them in the paper and half expected to see Nick’s name a long side theirs.   He mentioned what he feared to Nick and asked, “Wouldn’t it be better, if you toned it down a bit?”   It was a sensible remark, not at all out of bounds for a friend, and Nick didn’t at all take it well.   He assured Ted that they wouldn’t resort to violence.   They agreed non-violence was the best way to go.   After this the bomb making stopped and the bombs that were made were kept out of sight.   This example of prudence wasn’t new for them.   It showed their intentions and that their intentions were peaceful.

      Meanwhile Ted’s involvement with the theater in Fort Santiago increased.   Sonya even asked him if he wanted to direct a play.

      Sonja said, “Ted, do you know of a play that we must do?   People all over Manila are anxiously waiting to see what we’ll do next and how we’ll do it.   Any ideas Ted?   You can use our stage here or Paco Cemetery or even the underground dungeons.   The underground dungeons would be exciting.   That’s where prisoners were held.   The Spanish would execute prisoners down there by drowning them in water from the Pasig.   You can use them since they’ve been cleaned up.   So you go look for a play.   You’re the man to do something in English, while we have to concentrate on producing plays in Tagalong.   Our focus has to be on Tagalong, of course.   That’s what we’ll build our reputation on.   See what you can come up with.   The usual full-length play.”

      “Why not let Alfred do it?”

      “Alfred Bueno.”

      “That’s who you have.   This isn’t my show.”

       “Alfred has his television shows.   You know that.”

      Ted said, “I’ll think about it.   In the underground dungeons?   I don’t have the time.”

      A letter came from Ted’s dad.   Dear Ted, Another greeting card from Uncle Sam came today.   I’m not sure what they want from me.   I’ve pointed them in your direction before.   I don’t understand why they can’t get things straight.”   Ted thought, “The bastards.   Perhaps I should get some legal advice.   Perhaps go talk to the Peace Corps.   I’m glad I didn’t sign up right out of high school.   Those guys who did are already home or dead.”

      Hanging out now in the underground dungeons, Ted spent more time at Fort Santiago than ever before and saw less of Nick and Elaine.   All of them were still friends but the difference now was that Ted had been given a big project.   He still hadn’t chosen a play, but for inspiration he spent time in the dungeons.   Those Filipino people in the movies, on stage, and with Alfred, on television…as well as, the ghosts of Fort Santiago, the martyred, the imprisoned, and the tortured, all those parties with whom Ted day after day came in contact now took up most of his life.   It didn’t leave much room for anyone or anything else.

      Alfred came up to him and said, “I wonder if you could get Susan to play the Virgin Mary for me.”   Ted knew that he wasn’t kidding; it would be Susan’s acting debut on national television, and Susan wasn’t even interested in acting.

      Alfred said, “Susan will be perfect for the part (because of her white skin).   She’s beautiful.   I won’t let her say “no.”   But let’s do this the Filipino way.   You ask her for me.   She won’t turn you down.   I know she won’t. The plot calls for a statue of the Virgin to come alive at the end, and that’s better than death at the end.   Each day we open the papers and read about something bad.   Here you have a hopeful, happy ending.   Deus ex machina.  That should make the news.   I’ll owe you both big time for this.”

      Another letter came to Ted from his father.   Letters from his father were generally short, but not this one.   It seemed apparent to Ted that his father had labored here.   For that reason the length of it worried Ted.

      His handwriting was extremely neat and precise.   Ted thought, “If only I were this neat, or had the time he has to write a decent letter.   He wondered what had his dad all fired up.

      Dear Ted, I hope you find time enough to relax.   No doubt that you’re surprised that I’m writing you so soon after I last wrote.   I have some bad news.   I don’t know why news always has to be bad.   You know that there’s nothing good coming out of the war over there.   Well, your friend Larry was sent over there.   He was a married man with a pregnant wife.   Well, to make a long story short, his wife asked for an annulment, but don’t ask me why because it’s none of my business, and all I know boils down to gossip.   You know that I always felt that the only hope for Larry lay in him changing his ways, but I must say I’m surprised that his wife would go as far as insisting on an annulment.   I’m sure they were married because she’s a good Christian gal.   He was a muck-about, if there ever was one.   You know Larry.   And when he got angry, he would talk about blowing someone’s head off.   As you know, he was always fighting and was in and out of trouble for as long as we knew him.   Now none of that makes any difference, and that’s what I’m writing to tell you about.   Ted thought, “He must’ve been shot or something robbing a Seven/Eleven.”   And of course you would say he was a good friend.   I wouldn’t dispute that.   They are going to bury his body as soon as it gets here.   It will be up in the military section of the cemetery.   They’re going to bury him as a hero, an honor I’m sure he deserved, and I would never deny him that.   Your mother and I are quite glad that it isn’t you that they’re burying, but it will surprise you that she blames Larry’s ex for it.   I don’t think that I agree with her.   It seems to me that she must’ve had good reasons for the annulment, but I do think turning him in to his draft board was kind of dirty.   Well, I thought you needed to know.   Ted thought, “It’s something I could’ve lived without knowing.   I could’ve been in the same boat.   There were times when Larry and I were like twins.”

Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author-a morality play and the Philippine-American War

      In the morality play, the first play staged at Fort Santiago, with movie stars and all, a man’s love for material possessions leads him into sacrificing everything…principals and even people.   The man is unable to harvest rice from his fields; the fields are under the control of Americans who are trying to starve the “insurrectos.”   The young granddaughter of the man, who the man loves, is sent as a sacrifice to the Americans and intercedes on behalf of the starving populace.   The American officer in control of the rice fields rapes her.   The play ends with the release of the fields and the girl, with the girl hanging herself, and the arrest of the grandfather for high treason.

      (Note: this is a brief description of the play “Straw Patriot,” translated into Tagalong by Wilfredo P. Sanchez and was the first play produced in the Royal Theater in Fort Santiago.   This much of the story is true, while most of the rest is fiction.)

      Alfred said, “It’s not Tennessee Williams, but it’s in Tagalong, which makes me happy.”

      Ted agreed.   Most of it worked.   But here and there the production overshadowed the play, and Ted had something to do with that.   So close to Sonja the director, and wanting to impress the audience, he helped her throw in as many theatrical devices as possible.

      The top of the back wall (the actual wall of the fort) was used, peopling it with peasants and townspeople.   It was quite a production.   Sonja pulled out all stops.   There were slide projections, incidental music, sung commentary, a real horse, and a cannon that really fired.   In no time Alfred and Ted had to round up props from all over Manila and the surrounding province.

      Alfred, after instructing the driver of a borrowed truck, said to Ted as they rode along, “The play, if you haven’t figured it out yet, is set during the Philippine-American war.   You Americans call it the Spanish-American war or ignore it completely.   It’s because you think you did us a favor.   Obviously, we don’t feel that way.   My father always  said his father fought the Americans and died for our democracy.   What do you think?”

      “I don’t know as much about it as I should.”   Ted couldn’t remember hearing anything about an American war with Philippines until the Peace Corps.

 Alfred said, “Perhaps, instead of a war, you dismissed it as an insurrection.”

      Ted understood Alfred’s argument and would never question him about it.   He continued his thinking, as they headed south along the bay toward Las Pinas.   Alfred didn’t say much more, as he might’ve earlier, and the opportunity passed.   Mortars and pestles out of heavy logs, wagon wheels and a cannon were on their list.   Ted didn’t like to beg, but it looked as if they would have to.   He would let Alfred do the begging.

      An hour went by before they completely left the city and turned off the main road.   From there they took a provincial route down a dirt road through rice fields.   Eventually they came to a small cluster of nipa huts.   Alfred had the driver stop the truck and got out.   His polo shirt covered up his sins at the table, and one couldn’t see whether he was wearing a belt or not.   He looked as if he owned the place, as he looked around.   He looked for anyone, someone to speak to.   He walked around back of the hut, which had been very quiet, and reemerged shortly with an old woman.   She looked very hard in Ted’s direction, as she and Alfred conversed in Tagalong.   Somehow he convinced her to loan the theater the mortars and the pestles.   They gave her nothing in writing.   Her mortars and pestles gone, and nothing in writing, and who knows when she would ever see her property again, if ever.   A year later the mortars and the pestles were still at the theater, pushed back into a corner.   Everyone just got too busy to return them.   Ted felt that busy.   But he wasn’t in charge; it wasn’t his theater; it wasn’t his country.

      Now he could talk intelligently about the Philippine/American war, the conflict, and how it continued.   And continued.

 Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author-sensibility and Philippine acting

      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.

Randy Ford

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