Sunday, December 02, 2007

That's What We Call "Bayanihan Spirit"

Bayanihan (pronounced as IPA:[bajanihan]) is a Filipino term taken from the word bayan, referring to a nation, town or community. The whole term bayanihan refers to a spirit of communal unity or effort to achieve a particular objective.

The origin of the term bayanihan can be traced from a common tradition in
Philippine towns where community members volunteer to help a family move to a new place. The process involves literally carrying the house to its new location. This is done by putting bamboo poles forming a strong frame to lift the stilts from the ground and carrying the whole house with the men positioned at the ends of each pole.*


The "bayanihan" is not a proverbial myth.


Regardless of the thousands of performances we've done in the 2 years and 4 months that our show has been running, and in spite of the sophistication of the fully-automated mechanism our show runs on, it is still not an exemption from technical challenges that live performances are subjected to, every now and then.

Today was no different. Forty minutes to our first show, we were advised that the tech run (which they do every morning to make sure all technical components of the show work fine) went smoothly and that the shows would go normally. Normal --- meaning all cues (light, sound, automation, pyro, hydraulics, etc.) would be called as originally planned. At 12noon though, the time when the first show was scheduled to start, we were surprised to see in the backstage monitors that the house hadn't opened yet and that "places" hadn't been called. Apparently, there were some technical issues that came up at the last minute, and the option that had the bigger probability was a show suspension.

It wasn't that ominous, really. We've been through worse cases before. Lots of them. But it was the first time this challenge came up and it was too unexpected. And no one seemed to know how to remedy it. Even though it wasn't that major, still, it posed enough difficulty to ruin the morning of some of our colleagues.

According to reports, there were 800 guests lined up outside the theater waiting for the gates to open. 800 guests, expecting to see a performance at 12noon. The million-dollar question at the moment was: "Should we disappoint people by telling them there wasn't gonna be a 12noon show, but they can come back later; or should we make do of the given and give them a show despite the limitations?" Any performing artist who is passionate about his craft, I think, will say "The show must go on." And it did.

The house opened 15 minutes past the scheduled showtime. Half of the cast on standby sat in the audience to give us moral support. Those who remained in the backstage volunteered (ok, not all of those who remained, but there were a handful and that was enough) to hold flashlights to illuminate the pitch-black cross-overs. Thirty minutes and some confusion later, our first show of the day was over, and somehow, me managed to pull through. We made it through the show without any injury or accidents, and with lots of fun. The audience -- the real reason why we do what we do -- left the theater smiling and satisfied with the show they saw.

It doesn't take a genius to know that booboos and technical glitches are part and parcel of any live show. Any live performance, no matter how big or small, has its own share of these. And any live performance, no matter how big or small, will not survive if it doens't have people who are willing to take action and be part of the solution. If it's true that every cast, staff, and crew member of any production plays an integral part to move it forward, then each one of them can also play a part in solving the problem. Or making it less difficult to bear. IF they choose to.

After that 12noon show, we were all called to the rehearsal hall to be congratulated by one of our bosses for a job well done. And to be thanked for being professional enough to adapt accordingly. They also announced that the succeding shows for the day would be back to normal.

The story ended there. After that meeting, the 12noon show became history and was written down as just another show report. Well, maybe for some.

For others, it will be something they will look back to in the days to come. Or maybe months. Or maybe long after our show stops to run. It will be remembered as either one of those days that one lost his temper and bickered nonstop about the technical failure that was nobody's doing; or a day when he took action and played a part in the bayanihan, whether as one of those who cheered his comrades on, or one of those who wrapped himself in the black curtain, lighting the corridor for his fellow performers.