Miguel Castro: He acts, he sings, he cuts paper

He acts, he sings, he cuts paper
By Walter Ang
May 24, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

For someone who was told for more than a decade that he couldn't sing, Miguel Castro has spent the last five years proving this notion wrong and has even set his sights on opera singing in the future.

After Castro decided to leave his bucolic childhood in Lipa behind to pursue higher studies in Manila, he soon had to choose between college and his growing interest for the performing arts.

The stage wooed him over from the classroom and he hasn't looked back since. Cutting his teeth with Gantimpala Theater Foundation, Castro started out developing his acting chops under the tutelage of theater pillars Tomy Abuel, Mia Gutierrez, and Ronnie Lazaro.

After doing straight plays for more than 15 years, Castro broke out as a singer in a big way, as the lead for the musical "St. Louis Loves Dem Filipinos" by Dulaang UP in 2005. "I've always loved singing since I started acting in 1989. But every time I auditioned for musicals, I would be told to stick to acting," he says with a laugh.

The validation being recognized for his talent and positive reviews spurred him to release a CD, cheekily titled (perhaps to prove detractors wrong) "Miguel Castro Sings." He eventually joined Armida Siguion Reyna's Aawitan Kita Productions, doing monthly live concerts.

In 2008, a friend texted him about an audition for someone who could sing "Bituing Marikit." "I went not knowing it was for the Philippine Opera Company," he says. "When I saw the name of the company, I wanted to back out. But the girl at the counter urged me to go ahead since I was already there."

Only two people passed that audition. He was accepted two days later and has been performing and touring with the company's subgroup "Harana" ever since.

"It's composed of eight classical singers doing Filipino Classics," he says. "I'm not an opera singer, but since I joined them, I've learned a lot just by being with them and observing them. I've been getting further voice training under Pablo and Camille Molina and Myrna Lopez. For now I'm in classical singing but opera is my new goal."

After a successful international show in the Netherlands last year, Harana will venture on its first Visayan Tour this month as part of the National Heritage Festival celebration. The show consists of six suites: the Igorot, Maria Clara, Rural, Folk, Muslim and the Contemporary, in a showcase of song, dance and drama.

Paper cutting
In between local and international tours with Harana, this second of ten siblings helps run his family's paper products business, distributing journals, stationeries, and craft products, some of which he designs himself.

His creativity with paper led him to discover paper cutting. "It's my latest adventure. I started cutting long before I even knew there was such an art form. All I know is that it's originally a traditional Chinese art form," he says. "These are expressions of my ever wandering thoughts and ever restless hands."

Although he'd exhibited masks he'd designed in the early 2000s, the year he joined Harana was also the year he debuted as a paper cutter in a group show in Arts Center, Mega Mall. "The theme was 'Society According to Brian Gorrell.' I made three images of `socialites' in Manila," he says.

His first one-man show was at Nine Gallery. Since then, he's been exhibited in Germany, New Caledonia and Sydney. Two of his works have even been bought by the Cultural Council of Noumea for permanent exhibition.

He was recently invited to exhibit in Tap Gallery, Sydney again for its Mardi Gras exhibit. "It was titled `Senses, Sensitivities, Sensualities,'" he says. "It celebrated gender, politics, and social awareness." He submitted a work titled "... and on the 8th day Society created Poverty" that eventually became part of the 2010 Amnesty International Art Exhibit in Sydney.

Castro uses a scalpel instead of scissors and creates works usually using single-piece, hand-cut paper sheets. The intricacy of his past works has been shown in cut-outs of human torsos that highlight the body's muscle striations and hair strands; and in cut-outs of landscapes with trees that feature furcating and curling tendrils and branches.

His past works have an undercurrent of forlornness about them. With enigmatic and evocative titles like "Vanity" and "Mo(u)rning," the cut-outs have a preoccupation with eyes: sometimes with longing or dejected gazes, sometimes disembodied, sometimes completely missing.

He imbues an earnest energy and thought process into his artwork. "Every exhibit I've ever done never had any specific theme. I sometimes deal with current issues but I usually just want to showcase paper cutting itself," he says. "What I offer is my skill in executing thought-provoking images."

Harana performs in SM City Cebu (May 18), Bohol Cultural Center (May 21), SM City Ilo-ilo (May 23), CAP Auditorium Antique (May 25), Capiz Gym (May 27), Puerta Princessa (May 29); call 892-8786. For details on Castro's exhibit of paper cuts at Avellana Gallery, opening on June 12, call 833-8357.

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