31 December, 2008

"Cold Red Wine is a Crime" or The Barefoot Baklesa's 2008 Year in Review

This being The Barefoot Baklesa's 2008 Year in Review or "Cold Red Wine is a Crime" [due to a cold glass of red wine in my hand now...]

Before I begin, allow me to invoke the divinities of the Theater.

Dionysus, ancient greek god of the theatre, wine, and revelry...
Saints Genesius and Vitus, roman catholic martyrs and patron saints of the theater...
Idianale, ancient filipino goddess arts, crafts, love, and good deeds...
As we look back at the year that has been, bless the year that is to be.
Set ablaze the spark of inspiration,
Fuel the creativity and passion of your artists that we may look forward to another year on the boards.
We carry with us this Hope, so be it.

What a year this has been...
In that expanse, For the most part, I have experienced the fulfillment one's soul receives in living the dream. But on the other hand, it was not without those moments that need much to be desired.

In one year [counting the good and the bad], I have survived opening two children's musicals on the same weekend with some unwanted consequences, I have made more trips to Divisoria than ever, I associated myself -with much regret- with some artists of questionable talent [if you could call it that], I survived performing a Shakespeare show with the worst fever and cough combined, I have taken more crap than I should from some vampires, I have met some fierce and true friends, I have been chastised for attempting to do my job well one time,I have survived the "niki de los reyes-torres carroza challenge", I have seen some people's true colors, I have been called one of the worst designers at some diss-list, I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime and I turned it down because I felt I had to stay, I have been the subject of internet slander and character assassination, I have rediscovered Love in a movie, and I have begun writing scripts again... Amidst all of this, it seems strange that I still said, "Life couldn't get any better" in one of my other social networking sites.

However, some things that have transpired, been said, and done have already left their mark. And truth be told, I am spent... And for that, I have considered to put my theater career [ whatever is left of that dead horse ] on hold indefinitely, after I fulfill certain obligations I have already signed for this 2009. It's not as if that's a big loss the way I am at present, right? For no one is indispensable in this industry, they say. Someone else, in a minute, can take anyone's place and can do better. So the quest now, is to be able to develop skills to do better.

For next year, I want to rediscover those things that I have put aside for some time now, I want to get treatment for the few things the skin doctors still have to figure out, I want to do something that actually makes a difference in more people's lives, and I want to be found...

"It's New Year's Eve,
And hopes are high.
Dance one year in,
Kiss one goodbye.
Another chance,
Another start,
So many dreams to tease the heart...
We don't need a crowded ballroom,
Everything we want is here.
If you're with me,
Next year will be,
The perfect year."
~Sunset Bouleveard

26 December, 2008

The Barefoot Baklesa's Top 10 Christmas Memories

Here we go... A day after the 25th, decompressing from the rush... I've drafted this a while ago but never got to posting it.

10. The C.O.D. Animated Christmas Displays
~ Back when I was a child, my mother would always take me to the Cubao shopping district in Quezon City where the
C.O.D. department store was. During the Holidays, the department store would create these animated Christmas themed displays [something like that "it's a small world" ride at disney] that had its own take on the Christmas Story. They would often portray Filipino Christmas traditions like the misa de gallo, children caroling door to door, the making ang lighting of parols -and all of these would somehow happen at the same time or coincide with the Christmas Story to which Christ's Nativity is the finale. I remember being in awe of these crude robotics as a child. In the late 90s, C.O.D. put up its last display; the store it seemed had seen better times. I'm glad the mall at Greenhills purchased the old displays and re-fitted them just recently for another generation of kids to enjoy.

9. The Scent of Ham
~In the days leading towards Christmas, my mother would purchase these hams from Excellente, a ham specialty shop near Quiapo Church in Manila. She would have entire ham legs shipped to Antique and i remember the smell of it. Passing by Excellente recently, i tried to see if I could get acquainted with that old scent, but the crowds of people for the holiday rush deemed it futile.

8. The Parols on display at Central Market
~I haven't been there in years, but when I first went there, I was no more than seven or eight years old. In the dry goods section of the market, which was adjacent to the street, the sellers would hang rows of parols -in all sizes, shapes, and colours- by the hundreds. [ Parol: adapted from the Tagalog word 'parola' which means lighthouse. a Parol is a star-shaped lantern, either 5 or 8 pointed, used as decoration for the christmas season in the philippines. The Parol is said to symbolize the star that led the magi to the newborn messiah. ]

7. The Ayala Avenue Christmas Displays
~ I don't know if it's just me, but don't you guys feel like the Ayala Avenue christmas decorations look so depressing? Those 'kugels' mounted on the light posts look awful...Who uses bronze slash brown with that blue? What happened to the days when Ayala Avenue used to be the grandest and brightest lit this time of year? The displays at bangkok and tokyo could run circles around this one. Oh well...

6. Roast Chicken and Rosemary Leaves
~ There's something to be said about the memory associated with the smells of food. Aside from the usual jamon, quezo de bola, and bibingka [rice cakes], the rosemary roasted chicken that we cook religiously on noche buena [except for that one year we had a pig's head...] is one of the familiar smells I would always expect at our kitchen on christmas eve.

5. The Many Trips to Divisoria
~ You haven't experienced Christmas in the Philippines until you have gone to shop at divisoria towards the Christmas rush. It's just insane... talk about the wave of people, the pushing, the noise... It's often beyond description.

4. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
~ I spent a fair amount of my childhood playing with He-Man action figures. Back then, one action figure from the standard series would cost 49.99 pesos while a new release would be no more than a hundred pesos. There was a particular christmas when my mom got me four action figures:
Man-At-Arms, Mosquitor, that one with the elephant's head that squirts water, and another one of those villains i can't recall. I think I pretty much admitted to my age with this memory.

3. Nativity Sets at C.O.D.
~ I began collecting nativity sets since i was a kid...I even made some from clay.Whatever happened to the really good nativity sets where there was more than one shepherd and not limited to seven pieces? C.O.D had the best collection of nativity sets. They used to display like 20 of them in one table averaging 16 characters a set in their many sizes. That's when my penchant for nativity sets began, i think. I have 28 of them at present.

2. The Lights at Ateneo Bel Field
~ At Christmas time, they would light up the old acacia trees that surround Bel Field with these tivoli lights wired as drop lights on the tree branches. One year, they put up blue and white parols with the tivoli lights, and I would look forward to coming out of the Rizal Study Foyer after one of our Tanghalang Ateneo shows or Xavier Hall and seeing this enchanting sight. I would spend some time just admiring it or walking under the lights just before I get home. And when there was a meteor shower, they encouraged everyone to watch it at Bel Field...people brought their guitars, sang, smoked, ate, hung-out, told stories...Oh, that was some christmas memory.

1. Mount Carmel Church in New Manila
~ When I was about six or seven years old, we used to live near the area of Mount Carmel Church, thus I grew up listening to these English Priests with their pristine accents every sunday. I remember coming out of the Christmas Morning mass, while holding on to my mother's hand as we were walking across the courtyard, a boy approached us and he was begging for some money. As a kid, my mother would place a twenty peso bill in my left pocket, and a white handkerchief and a rosary on my right every time we went to mass. And that particular Christmas, instead of a twenty, i had a couple of crisp five peso bills in my pocket, and we were walking quite a few steps with that boy in front of us -palms out- and i never knew what came over me but i suddenly took out the folds of five peso bills and gave it all to him. Later, when we got home, my mother told me that every Christmas, the Christ Child would always come and visit as a beggar child. Fast forward to the 25th of december 2006, we had this party for some kids around our neighborhood. I had 47 ticket stubs for the 47 kids we invited. But I packed 48 goodie bags instead, just to be safe. After the snacks and games, i had them fall in line to take a goodie bag and pick a raffle number to coincide with the prizes. And then a cute but rather untidy child shows up at the line, he didn't have a stub, but i did have the 48th goodie bag and he was able to take home a prize as well. And when it was all over, my mother asked me if i remember seeing that child come in or out of the gate. I had no idea... and then i remembered that boy at mount carmel church once again. So, if you do encounter such a child, it wouldn't hurt to be a little charitable.

That's pretty much it. Tis the 2nd day of Christmas...no true love sending anything yet. Hahahaha!

20 December, 2008

On My Father's Death [two hours before his funeral]

Last Thursday, my father, Raymundo Dayrit Torres, was found dead due to massive heart failure in his sleep.

For the longest time, people have been asking me where my father is or why he isn't really featured in this show where I play me. And for the longest time, I have been telling people that he is already dead. I have been quoted saying, "Well, officially, he's dead." or "Kung ako nga, pinabayaan kong namatay si Ray nang di ko kinakausap."

It's quite complicated to expound on really...

Not long ago, i blogged about it in one of those pass-it-on blogs [that require you to be honest], that I have told people that he has been dead although he was still alive [and even then, it was already in the past tense -as if anticipating it eitherway]. I think it started after the first time he had a stroke... And, as much as I love Ñora Pina, his mother [my paternal grandmother], let me just say that whatever affinity I had towards the other Torreses have long since disintegrated the day I told them that the only way I could forgive them is that if they go down on their knees and ask for it... And even if they did that, it would still require some thought.

I'm writing about this to finally put that part of my life behind me. For one, I haven't spoken with Ray at all since the death of Don Isidro [his father] in 1997; and now that he's passed on, I think I have prepared myself for this moment by having convinced myself that he has been dead for the longest time. Some way for one to ask the universe for something, huh?

In all fairness to him, I'd rather that he did not suffer any further in this life. I'm not that heartless after all, or at least I try to convince myself...

In a few hours, he'll be six feet under... And i keep on hearing that quote that says "Life gives us many opportunities to start over" but I don't think Ray made any effort at all to start over. Paolo once told me, that if you fall down at 7 then get up at 8 [wisdom from someone younger than me...hahaha! ]. You see, in my late teen years, all I saw was this brilliant man who refused to get up at level 8 and just gave up. I won't be that...

So Ray, wherever you are now, I hope you're happy... Don't worry about me, i have endured thus far. I do ask you to forgive me for not trying though, I think I get that from you.

16 December, 2008

Dingdong Dantes: 3rd Sexiest Man?

I used to go to school with this guy, not so long ago... If you've studied at that jesuit university along katipunan, you know how that sea of blue and white treat actors who take the teeny-bopper and the local primetime tv route. Antoinette Taus once walked those hallowed halls with people going, "Gosh, how baduy..." amongst other things. And I've heard about the urban legends of Kris Aquino using the back stairs of Gonzaga and Berchmans to be fetched by her car to avoid the "tantiyawan" that some blue eagles are capable of. Now, back to Dingdong, I just don't find him as sexy as the others do. When he started posing in his undies, I wasn't sure what to make of it. I know that he has a great body, but there are guys I would rather much prefer clothed... That's me being such a prude...

So, now that he's the 3rd Sexiest Man according to E! Television, what does that mean, really?

I'm a bit sleepy, i had better get some rest..i'm driftin in and out of consciousnes...

15 December, 2008

[Part 2 of 2] Into the Unexplained: VISAYAN WHITE MAGIC

Into the Unknown: Visayan White Magic [part 2 of 2]

As the news of lola inday's death settled upon us, and my abuela just got back from the doctor, her nanny rushes back from the local healer with a look of fear in her eyes...

According to her, when she got to the "surano" [local healer/witch doctor], the "surano" caught her by surprise. After taking the piece of clothing from the nanny, the healer then began scrying and recalling what happened to my grandmother that day while getting the ginger ready. She began mentioning details about the house, the renovations, the time of the accident, and what my abuela did. Now, the "surano" was not privy to this information, and the nanny never mentioned anything about these to her.

My abuela's nanny was shaking when she got back. She held in her hand a holy water bottle, and the piece of clothing with the ginger. She said, "May imaw ako." [Someone or something is with me]
-apparently the healer could not make it, but already gave her instructions what to do and sent an energy or entity to accompany her.

She asked to halt all activity in the house. And we did...
She took a bowl of water and asked for a candle, and the dried palm fronds blessed during palm sunday called "palaspas".

She went to where the old well used to be [which is now the new kitchen's island] and placed the bowl of water in the middle. She poured some holy water into it [ with hands shaking ], tore a few pieces of the "palaspas" and added them. After that, she took the candle, let the wax drip on the water four times and let it rest. She then proceeded to swirl the bowl counter clockwise.

She looked for that piece of wax that stayed in place, and that meant the direction pointing east, which it did. While the other wax pieces settled to the other cardinal directions.

She scooped up the wax piece that pointed east with a piece of the "palaspas" and threw it to the eastern end of the house, and did the same to the 3 remaining points of the compass that the wax drippings pointed to.

And suddenly, as if something had left my abuela's nanny, and she was her usual self again.

Look, I'm a child of the 20th century, and I understand the concept of a placebo. But I also did a stint with the occult and the spirit world not so long ago. And i do believe that there are things you just don't mess with. I do have childhood memories of having spilled some liquid or accidentally breaking a softdrink bottle at the old kitchen in the morning, and by the afternoon, would be suffering from a fever inexplicably. According to my mother, we have "other residents" in the house. The back part of the house was apparently split between two factions: the left, occupied by the friendly ones and the right, the mischievous ones. My abuela would always credit my late afternoon fevers to these unseen creatures. And after having the water well sealed up and digging at the back of the property for new foundations, they made their mischief upon my abuela when no one was looking. Perhaps to tell us that we have encroached upon their unseen world without permission. And some ritual was required to appease them.

After that, there was this uplifting energy in the house, and we proceeded with our day. And come lunchtime, as we were enjoying our meal, a group of devotees of Saint Vincent Ferrer going door to door doing a ritual called a "Pa-Lapak" literally meaning "to be stepped on"; came to our door singing and bearing with them a small broken down statue of Saint Vincent Ferrer. The "Pa-Lapak" is a ritual that dates back to pre-Hispanic times using the "tawo-tawo" or the idol. The foot of the "tawo-tawo" is placed over the head of an individual and is moved around the body in constant contact. A few conquistadores later, the idol is replaced by a catholic icon. The entire household was required to undergo this.

But what I would consider a freakish coincidence here is that the night before, after we had prayers, a relative of ours asked me if I could help out in acquiring a processional image of Saint Vincent Ferrer for their community chapel. A favor that I have agreed to instantly.

If that's not a sign from up there, then i don't know what else to make of it. And it's not the first time I've been led places before by some rather unusual circumstances and signs.

By 6:00 in the evening, i had to get ready for the "Pa-àso" or "Tuob". It was supposed to seal the house from further ill [Too bad I can't secure my home from the evil that is Erna, a second cousin's wife. Hahahahaha!] and to stop wandering souls from asking people to join them in the other world.

When the coals were burning at the right temperature, they were placed on this makeshift thuriber. A mix of "camangyan" [local brown resin incense], "alanghiran" leaves [no scientific name i can recall], wax drippings from a "Perdon" [a blessed candle from a shrine of our Lady of Candelaria], sliced ginger, and a piece of paper signed by the owner of the home which was folded and sealed with the names of the saints were placed to burn over the coals; and soon white smoke was dancing from the mouth of the thuriber.

By the primary entrance, an invocation is required for the protection of the home, the invocation is not standard. The one I was taught begins with calling forth the archangels and the heavenly hosts from their realms, the saints, the blessed mother, and the saviour himself. However, there are incantations I know, that are more pig-latin than anything else. And as a policy, if I don't understand it, i won't chant it out. I wouldn't know what I would be calling to my aid [then again, we must also fear the living]. When all of that was over, i had to sit down and think for a while. Pretty much how this posting began.

A lot of people would say, "Wala namang mawawala kung maniwala ka di ba?"
[ What have you got to lose?] -and that's very Pinoy. But there are those that would accuse you of being too superstitious and would like to drag you into the 21st century. And you can't blame them for not believing, it's just the way they are.

I think that I was born and educated at the crossroads of logic and superstion. And it's not that bad a place, come to think of it. I have this openness about the world with a thirst that is unquenchable. Some other people's delusions are much worse, i tell you.

And the unknown remains unknown, and i think it would prefer it that way.

"Things fix themselves..."
-Sondheim's The Frogs

14 December, 2008

the end of my MULAN journey

i'm a little sentimental today...
the 14th of December marks the end of my MULAN journey. This play was produced by Repertory Philippines Children's Theatre and ran from August 9th to December 14th,2008 at Onstage in Greenbelt One.

It was almost a year ago in November when i began meetings with theater veteran Joy Virata to be considered as a production designer for the musical. I really loved the Disney movie and I wanted to put my own spin into the design for live performance. After seven months in the design process,4 maquettes [scale models], sketch after sketch, meeting after meeting,deciding whether i should use peonies or cherry blossoms, trips to divisoria for costume materials shopping,trips to the warehouse during set construction, and hundreds of yards of fabrics later, here I am blogging about the end.

It was a journey that I took with the resolve that it would somehow put my name on the map as a production designer [not that I have not done anything before, but I was banking on a bit of a career boost every now and then]... i really don't know how that is going...you have critics and you have yourself to contend with...and you are meaner to yourself.

time to start another journey

for more photos of Repertory Philippines' MULAN, check out www.thenikitorres.multiply.com

13 December, 2008

Into the Unexplained: Visayan White Magic [part 1 of 2]

I'm blogging about this on my phone, i can't seem to find any other way to relax or decompress...

To those of you, unfamiliar with the term "Visayan", this refers to a region in the Philippine archipelago called the Visayas Islands. Some people say that the Visayans have integrated their animistic pagan beliefs with their christian ones, which evolved for the past 400 years and made for a unique blend of folk christianity matched with lore and superstition. I'm of Visayan ancestry, and am currently here on vacation.

And I just finished a rather taxing ritual called the "pa-àso" or "pa-usok", which is like the incense burning rituals of the catholic church, with a quasi-christian-animistic twist. Talk about blessed candle wax, ginger, alanghiran, camangyan [a kind of incense], and saliva on burning coals, calling out the names of the archangels and the saints.

You ask me why?

Last Saturday, my 91 year old grandmother had an accident; she slipped while watching the work on the renovations to our new kitchen. The series of events that led to the accident were not that uncommon, by my standards. In fact, 3 of us were attending to her and were watching her in turns as she slept the afternoon away. When we thought she was secure, I endorsed her to my aunt who was a mere 5 metres away because I would go out for a bit to buy cake for my abuela [grandmother]. My aunt then decided to take out some trash out back while my cousin Irene also went in to check on her, still sleeping...

In less than two minutes of settling the trash out back, my aunt heard my abuela calling for her by the old kitchen table. "Kay...kay [ read as 'kai' , a visayan word used to refer to the female person in the immediate area], Dali bala, bistahi nabukulan ko!" roughly translated,
"Please come quickly, i hit my head and it's swollen."

Apparently, at that brief moment when she was left alone, my abuela got up from her bed, and went to where the new kitchen was, where the renovations were being made. It was near her room downstairs, adjacent to the old comedor. She was watching the workmen install tiles; and when she turned around, she slipped and hit the back of her head. But she was able to get up on her own, and sit by the table to call for my aunt. [ For a woman of 91, with a weak body, my abuela's spirit and will has allowed to her move at 'the speed of light' sometimes. One time, we were upstairs at the ancestral house busy with her 90th birthday preparations, we were shocked to find her behind us -able to brave the steep steps of the old stairs- saying, "I've never been up here for quite some time now."]

By the time i got back from the bakery about 5 or so minutes later, panic had ensued over the entire household. There was an ice bag over my abuela's head, my uncle in his wheelchair was pacing -make that rolling- back and forth, the other tennants at the commercial space were already gathered at the comedor and making emergency calls to my cousin at the hospital.

We took her to the hospital and had a full body x-ray and found nothing. The doctor then discharged her on the merit that her other physical symptoms do not manifest any head injury related damage. But to be sure, we crossed the mountainous range to Ilo-Ilo and had her undergo a CAT SCAN at Saint Paul's Hospital. And by some miracle, the CAT SCAN results show no neurological damage whatsoever, and the doctors cleared her.

However, three days after being discharged, my abuela's blood pressure would always shoot up whenever the sun would set. Last night, we had to sleep by her side to make sure she was okay. But there was still some cause for some alarm.

I remember having to quell the dog from outside her bedroom window from howling a few times last night. And my cousin Benja saw this insect, that by superstitious standards, was an omen of sorts.

To be safe, we covered our bases, we sent her to her doctor while we also had her nanny visit a local healer to have her clothes undergo a 'pa-luy-a'.

A "Pa-luy-a" is a ritual that a sick person undergoes. It varies from healer to healer. A piece of ginger, known locally as 'luya' or 'luy-a' is taken to a healer with the last piece of clothing the sick person wore. The healer then whispers an 'oraccion' or an incantation to the piece of ginger and cuts it in half, he then chews one of the halves, and wraps the other one with the piece of clothing and sends it back to be worn. With other healers, mastication is optional and the ginger remains whole.

Midway through both of these, we were informed that our Lola Inday passed away... We loved her dearly, and she would visit my abuela twice a week and would keep her company. She was admitted to the hospital the same day as my abuela, but stayed there when we were discharged. Displeased as I am with some of her offspring, my heart goes to her wherever she is...

And that was only the morning
[to be continued next blog: more rituals with fire, water, and palaspas, a 'palapak' with san vicente ferrer, and the other uses of salt ]

12 December, 2008

Set and Costume Designs by Niki de los ReyesTorres: Theater Down South's RAPUNZEL

my profoundest thanks to jammi for taking such wonderful photos of two of our performances...

and to the TDS family for helping me build and assemble the sets and properties for this production, to you, my heartfelt gratitude multiplies ten times over.

Set and Costume Designs by Niki de los Reyes-Torres, PATDAT for
Theater Down South's RAPUNZEL
Direction: Michael Williams
Choreography: Deanna Aquino
Lighting Design: Martin Esteva

10 December, 2008

Costume Design by Niki de los Reyes-Torres: Jewel Mische as Milcu Enchantress

Costume Design by Niki de los Reyes-Torres
Photography by Mark Nicdao
Maquillage by Xeng Zulueta

photo released courtesy of Mr. Victor Cusi of Milcu

[if you're going to take this image from this site, give due credit as listed above; thanks]

more at www.thenikitorres.multiply.com

Production Design by Niki de los Reyes-Torres for Owee Salva, Phantom of the Opera Concept Shoot

Christine of Phantom of the Opera

Circa Nov 2007.

Model: the ageless Marivic Juan
Makeup: Bambi dela Cruz
Production Design: Niki de los Reyes-Torres
Assistance/Moral Support: Paulo Navarra

more at


Costume Designs by Niki de los Reyes-Torres: Repertory Philippines' MULAN

Costume Designs by Niki de los Reyes-Torres, PATDAT
for Repertory Philippines' MULAN

photo credits: Mr. Jojit Lorenzo, actor/photographer
check out his site at www.jojitlorenzo.multiply.com

I learned something about you last night...

CONSUELO... Is anyone familiar with this concept? I think it's very Pinoy. And I did not realize how much it had governed my day yesterday...

To those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept, CONSUELO [which I consider an essential component of the Filipino Values system] is often associated with the words "consideration",
"consolation", "comfort", and also "charity"...

In the kinaray-a context, the word that comes to mind is "pasuna-id" which translates to 'an act of consideration'

The question put forth, for example, If you were witness to an inappropriate behaviour of one individual against someone you know, what would you consider as an act of "pa-consuelo" for the latter even if it's not your quarrel?

Maybe I put stock in people's actions during their unguarded best... For why shouldn't I?

I was raised to be calculated with my actions. So, this is me being calculated -because you asked me to.

Observe my every move from now on...

05 December, 2008

hey, this is for you [you know who you are...]

dear friend,
in my heart of hearts [cold and frozen as it is for some], i feel your pain... as we have learned the hard way, when people really see nothing meaningful in their lives, they tend to send "ill-will" by the way of those whose lives they can never have or those they can never hold a hair to. the ammunition they use, is the lowest of the low -and says much about who and what they are.

if you're feeling torn on the platform, there's always the next train... I guess we'll have to wait for that to come around the railroad bend.

no one should get left behind... and if they do that, then too bad for them. i reckon they don't deserve your love or, to the least, that tear you're trying to stop at the corner of your eye.

and when the darkness seems unending, it doesn't hurt to pay the electric bills!!!!


basta, you know what I mean...
sending you my love...


04 December, 2008

Sinverguenza!!! I almost forgot... HAppy Birthday, Mario Maurer!!!

i'd like to thank the divine force up there for giving us Mario Maurer on the 4th of december 1988... yes, i have it bad...i know...whaaahhhh!!!!