And Sita, of course.
Having been locked out of good seats before, I learned my lesson well and made a point of purchasing gala night tickets months in advance to the classic Rama Hari, currently being re-staged on a limited run by Ballet Philippines at the CCP.
I'd never seen the original with Kuh Ledesma and the two powerhouse Valdezes, Basil and Leo. But because I love Asian Civ and have an especially soft spot for "Magbalik Ka Na, Mahal," this was a must-see.
I was supposed to watch with Mara, one of my TV Girls and most-frequent Arts & Culture consort. But because history - like reincarnation - repeats itself, I wasn't too surprised when she had to cancel the night before the show. I contacted Brandon, who - déja vu - couldn't make it either due to scheduling conflicts, thanks to my super-duper short notice. And Ayen, not one to buck the trend, also proved unavailable.
And so it was that I quickly went through a roster of possible dates including citybuoy, who never texted me back. Maybe he changed his number, I dunno.
But each and every person I chose, for various reasons, was not destined for the Rama rendezvous.
There were seven possible candidates total, in an epic tale of frantic texting and anticipating - and receiving - regrets. In the end, the only one who confirmed availability on such short notice was the seventh candidate: Miguel.
My friend, whipping boy, and moocher-of-record.
Coincidentally, Rama is supposed to be the seventh avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu.
So there's that.
"Are you in Manila? Answer quickly."
Why, anything wrong?'
"I have an extra ticket to Rama Hari
tonight, 8 pm, CCP. Do you want
to watch and if so, can you
make it to Manila in time?"
"Yes. It's a holiday. Walang traffic.
It should just take me an hour."
can I get away with a suit?"
"It's Rama Hari, not the Queen's Jubilee.
A suit is fine."
"Ok, suit it is."
"Basta we have to leave
the house by 7 or so, ok?"
"Ok, I'm leaving for Manila now."
"WHERE ARE YOU?! They're letting people in na."
"I hope you're in Manila already."
"I'm in Alabang, SLEX."
"Cutting it a little close, hm?
We have to be at CCP by 7:30,
which means we have
to leave here 7-ish."
to leave here 7-ish."
"Yes, I'm aware of the call time, dear."
"Tell me you're home
and getting dressed."
"The maid ruined my suit.
I'm looking for another."
"How could you ruin a suit?"
"I dunno, she ironed it and it burned."
"What's that fucking suit made of?
"Screw the suit, I'm rummaging
for a replacement that'll fit me."
"We have to leave 7-ish, Miguel.
There is traffic galore."
"I know, Ruddie. Mom's looking to see
if any of Dad's suits will fit me."
"Just put on a long-sleeved shirt
and trousers and get here asap.
I'll just lend you a sports coat.
Now hurry up."
"Miko, kapag inabutan tayo ng
7:30 dito, we are screwed."
"Why don't I meet you there na lang?
It's CCP Main Theater, di ba?
The maid is still dusting the suit."
"For what? Fingerprints?"
"Meet me at CCP lobby. But still don't be late
bec I have your ticket. I can't leave it with
anyone there and they won't let
you in once the show starts."
"Dad's driving me, on the way na."
"Fine but don't make me
wait in the lobby till 8."
"No I won't"
"Be sure coz once the line
starts I'm going in."
starts I'm going in."
"Already here at Vito Cruz."
"K I'm at the Main Lobby
near the stairs."
"Ok dad's driving me up
the main entrance."
"Aight just in time."
"WHERE ARE YOU?! They're letting people in na."
"They said we were going to have aisle seats!" complained a perfumed matron loudly as she hovered near my elbow.
"What's this? Why don't we have aisle seats?" chimed in one of her amigas, clearly flustered at this outrage.
"But CCP said we were going to be in aisle seats! Can you talk to someone and find out what happened?" sniffed yet a third as her eyes darted sideways at us, who were already seated in the aforementioned aisle seats, as per our ticket assignments.
I leaned back in my seat and smirked at the unfolding scenario.
"Come, come," admonished a mature gentleman as he motioned for the women - apparently his companions - to be seated. "Mamaya na yan, the show's about to start," he barked, a rooster scarcely concealing his impatience and irritation at his hens.
The trio huffed and puffed but reluctantly, disdainfully took their seats further down orchestra left.
I turned to Miko.
"I wish they had the temerity to ask if we would be kind enough to swap seats with them," I whispered. "Just so I could have had the satisfaction of saying 'No.'"
My mind flashed back to Ayen's irritation at a similar occurrence at the start of Lisa Macuja's Carmen last month. It was a free seating affair, but several seats had "Reserved" signs nylon-strapped on them, for VIPs and other special guests of the house. Despite this, a fussy gaggle of matrons ever-so-nonchalantly removed said signs and either randomly placed them elsewhere or worse, hid them under the seats.
Ayen and I watched this boorish display with the disapproval reserved for creationists, holocaust deniers, and opponents of the RH bill. Ayen is the sweetest, gentlest, kindest thing, and in all the years we've worked together I had never seen her lose her temper. She was a soft-spoken epitome of gentility and poise. But the panic and helplessness of the ushers as they tried unsuccessfully to plead with the haughty mesdames to vacate their seats for the real VIPs provided an unwelcome prelude to the main feature that was not entertaining in any way.
My own simmering anger at the switcheroo was fueled not only by the blatant disregard for rules displayed by people who you think should know better. That was bad enough, but their shenanigans resulted in Sen. Miriam Santiago's reserved seat to be moved two seats away from ours, instead of three rows down and, more importantly, away.
"Parang mga walang pinag-aralan," Ayen hissed, visibly annoyed.
It was then that our nostrils were assailed by the unmistakable scent - not of Diorella - but mothballs.
Ayen and I spun our heads around looking for the offending party so swiftly you'd think we were channeling Linda Blair in The Exorcist. Nevertheless, I couldn't help but guffaw as the odor started blanketing the rows like, well, a moldy pashmina.
Which is probably what it was.
"Ano ba yun!" Ayen exclaimed, trying to stifle a smirk. "Amoy-baul!"
"Okay lang yan," I whispered. "Amoy-lupa na naman yung nagsusuot."
She then finally broke down laughing as she demurely covered her face with a quick krrrrriiiik! of her abaniko.
The PA system came on, with the usual pre-recorded, pre-show messages.
"May we request everyone to turn off their mobile phones, as these may interfere with the signal..."
"...of this aircraft," I segued.
"In case of emergency, please do not panic," the voiceover went on.
"Life jackets are located under your seats or in your armrests," I continued.
Miguel started giggling like a schoolgirl.
"In the unlikely event of a water landing or liquefaction, please do not exit until the CCP has some to a complete stop, or has started sinking into Manila Bay. Do not inflate your egos while still inside the CCP."
Miguel lost it and started shaking in his seat like he was having an epileptic seizure.
"Your life jackets are equipped with a mouth tube. Blow into the tube to massage your ego, or release tube for humility. At night, switch on the lamp in order to see your impending doom. Thank you for choosing the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Mabuhay!"
"There will be a 15-minute intermission," went the voice on the PA system after Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana glissaded their way into the woods and destiny.
"Do you need to pee?" I asked Miguel.
He made an agonized face. "I'm hungry," he moaned.
"You can't go for two hours without stuffing your face?" I scolded him. I stood in the aisle, making way for the three matrons who had been cluck-clucking about the indignity of non-aisle seats. They had gotten up and were waddling out of the row they had been cruelly forced to occupy.
"I'm going to take a leak," I announced. "You stay here and guard our seats."
When I returned, Miguel was grinning like an idiot.
He motioned for me to lean closer.
"The matrons behind us are so stupid," he giggled.
"Because," he went on. "I overheard them complaining why Christian Bautista and Karylle weren't dancing."
Images of Christian Bautista performing arabesques with ZsaZsa Padilla's kid suddenly gave me a migraine.
In a rare fit of understanding, I looked at Miguel, sighed, and said "Well, I'm willing to give those matrons a pass. One, because they weren't after our seats. And two, not everyone is familiar with this particular kind of pop musical/ballet staging."
"But why don't they know that the singers are the vocal avatars of the dancers?"
"Miko, I have no idea," I answered. "But I for one am grateful I don't have to see Christian Bautista in a codpiece doing jetés."
The lights started to dim as the orchestra played the overture.
Miguel kept turning his head and looking around.
"What?!" I spat.
He grinned. "I think our matrons got to sit in their aisle seats after all."
Indeed, the Tres Marias had not returned to our row. Perhaps they had banished themselves into the forest, as well, I thought hopefully.
"Miko," I hissed through clenched teeth. "I don't care if they sit in the orchestra pit, as long as they sit far away from us."
Presently, I became vaguely aware of a glimmer of light out of the corner of my eye. I thought for a moment that it was the residual flash of the golden deer that led Rama away.
Then I realized the horrifying, annoying truth.
That white aura wasn't emanating from any Hindu enlightenment; it was Miguel's fucking cell phone.
FUCK!" I snarled.
"It's your messages," he whispered helpfully. "They're only coming in now."
I always think people who text, or, Krishna forbid, answer calls on their cell phones during movies and theater performances deserve to be beaten to death on the spot. It is our dharma, our service to humanity, our duty to all that is right and decent in the universe.
And at that moment, I had half a mind to send Miguel into his next incarnation right there.
For major good karma.
Even without the weight of its historical significance and its artistic pedigree (the trinity of composer Ryan Cayabyab, BP's legendary Alice Reyes, and National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera, all present and on stage receiving a standing ovation that night), Rama Hari was sublime.
And certain sequences were magical, if not divine.
It was a wondrous union of music and motion, a mystical celebration of song and dance.
And like any good adapted work, it made me want to revisit and experience the beauty and scope of the original epic source: the Ramayana.
Watch it if you can.
But in case you can't, here's an animated version that encapsulates the epic tale. It's nowhere near the balletic stage version, but it fleshes out the story well enough :
Rama Hari will run at the CCP from November 30 to December 9, 2012. For inquiries, call Ballet Philippines at 551-1003 and 551-0221 or Ticketworld at 891-9999.
This is a recording.