Drama Queen

By: Cris Evert B. Lato-Ruffolo April 27,2019 - 07:17 AM

Whenever an academic year ends, parents often breathe a sigh of relief as this would mean a break from school expenses.

My household knows this too well with three children who have joined the school force. They were enrolled in a private school, picked up from the house and dropped off at school (and vice versa) with bags packed with books, school supplies and snacks which I could only wished for when I was their age.

Our twins “moved up” on April 13 and my husband and I were the typical weepy parents, who were extremely proud of our son and daughter for having endured Kindergarten 2.

We also laughed at ourselves for getting overly dramatic about this entire Kindergarten “graduation.” The twins are five years old; we are not even halfway in the arena of paying school fees. But we cried alright especially when they gave us flowers as they sang Taylor Hicks’ Do I Make You Proud.

After the ceremony, I was so elated that I bought plenty of food to celebrate the occasion, when we already had a pizza party the night before. There goes the money I intended to use for my hair and nail care.

But parents know this all too well; that because we love our children, we tend to forego some of the things we like.

In my childhood, I never had pizza parties. But we had too many champorado (chocolate-flavored porridge) and lugaw (porridge) mornings and afternoons paired with buwad (dried fish) and lumpia (spring rolls).

Summer, with its intense heat and dry spell, meant staying at home or going to my grandparents’ house for vacation.

While viewing photos of the recent Holy Week observation, I could not help but feel nostalgic about the simpler days. Those days when our Holy Week schedule was just spent between our house and the chapel. Going to the beach was never part of the itinerary. “Holy Week is a time for mourning and penance, not celebration,” my late Lola Patring said.

I was an active member of the informal youth organization that we formed as regular churchgoers of the Señor Santo Niño Chapel in Barangay Libas, Merida, Leyte.

Holy Week meant organizing Good Friday and Black Saturday activities. We were a bunch of creative minds with limited resources to use for our plays and tableaus. But we were so good at improvising. We used curtains as costumes and we went to the mountains to get ferns and other plants that we used to decorate our stage.

We held vigils from Holy Thursday to Black Saturday before the most festive “Sugat” or Easter Sunday celebration happens. It was not just tradition; it was the life of the village, a highly anticipated one.

Our youth group thought of having plays and creative presentations on Good Friday to serve as reflection points for the faithful. The chapel was jam-packed with people year after year. The scriptwriter/director also acted in the play. Our “props men” were children. We did not have wardrobe expert; we just decided what to wear on our own as long as we are “in character. “

I often get the role of the kontrabida (villain) or the prodigal daughter. Once, in the story where I played the role of a daughter who lost her way and engaged in prostitution and several vices, I was given the challenge to smoke a cigarette.

It was a big deal for me. I have always been a good, Christian girl and to smoke inside a chapel with Catholic faithful as my audience was a major rebellious act I could think of in the guise of having to do it for the sake of the play.

I did not practice. But I had been observing how people smoked. How they pucker their lips and puff smoke later on. It was magic. I believed I could do it.

On a Good Friday, I was nervous but determined to do it. I would do it in the bar scene, when my character will be entertaining a customer.

As I sat on a plastic chair ready to place that deadly stick in between my lips, my eyes wandered to the front row audience. I wanted to convince them that I am the best person to play this role because I am brave and confident.

My mind screamed, “You are ready for this. This is it.”

Slowly, slowly, that cigarette approached my mouth. I was so close. I can do this.

And then…  I stopped.

Seated on the front row bench was my mother with a disapproving look. Her eyes glared at me, her lips were pursed to subdue angry words, her fists clenched.

Everything happened lightning fast. Within milliseconds, I dropped the cigarette stick and looked down. There was silence in the air. I might have convinced the audience that it was part of the act. No, it was not. At that moment, I was just scared of my mother.

Sensing my hesitation, my “customer” in the scene, picked up the cigarette, lit it up and puffed a smoke. My bravery and courage vanished in thin air along with the smoke.

Mother and I never talked about that moment.

But I never touched a cigarette since then.

On a Friday afternoon at present time, I found myself standing in a corner of a solid post in a mall in Cebu City as I watched my daughter participate in a theatre play organized by Little Boy Productions and the wonderful people of Cebu Literary Festival.

One of the teachers, Gelo Lantaco, is an actor with the Philippine Educational Theatre Association (PETA). I was excited about having my children participate in this workshop. My daughter had this scared look on her face that often turns her expression into a scowl. She appeared confused too and was scanning the surroundings for a familiar face.

Then, from the corner of her eye, she found me. Her eyes were saying, “Nanay, get me out here.”

I shook my head and waited for the piercing cry.

But there was no cry.

Instead, she looked at me again.

I looked back at her, smiled and mouthed the words, “You can do it.”

She nodded and smiled back.

We went home engaged in a discussion about the next theatre workshop that she will join with her brothers.

Perhaps, when her time comes she will star in a Holy Week play, too.

I promise not to take a front row seat.

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