Arts Fest: A night out in Malate, in four acts

Arts Fest: A night out in four acts
By Walter Ang
April 13, 2000
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Setting: Batavia Cafe
Synopsis: We arrived a little early for Friday night's events in Malate so we placed ourselves in this Javanese inspired cafe. There was an arts fest sponsored by Absolut Vodka and the eve's affairs included a one-act play, poetry reading sessions, and performance artists milling the streets. The after-sunset hours were full of promise. Best of all, all of it was for free.

Budget-conscious individuals (read: cheapskates) that we were, we ate dinner at home and treated ourselves to dessert and coffee. The cafe was still empty, giving us some quiet time to shake off the day's tension and enoy the pandan sansrival.

The walls were lined with fantastic looking Thai theater masks of all sorts and shapes. They reminded us of that scene in the movie "King and I" where dancers performed a show for the King's guests. With the background music playing gongs and other ethnic instruments, we half expected some dancers to burst up the winding stairs and perform an excerpt for us. (None did; too bad.)

Setting: Verve Room
Synopsis: With caffeine in our veins to keep us awake, we proceeded to where the action was. We arrived to watch the one-act play where two actors played several different characters. It was interesting to witness how this bar could be transformed into a performance area for a theater piece.

For a stage, one end of the room was filled with white drapes and a sofa, but even with that provision, the actors were still popping up all over the place. They started in the middle of the room and, as each scene turned over to the next, went on to appear at the bar, moving on to the stage and so on. With glasses clinking and cell phones going off, the actors would weave across the room and incorporate comments from the audience into their performance.

This episode ended with a narrow escape. We'd taken a few steps away from our table as we got up to leave when the spotlight suddenly shines on the woman who had just sat across us. We'd no idea that she was the actress from the play. Talk about close calls and timed exits!

Setting: Kemistry Bar
Synopsis: Breathing a sigh of relief at barely missing the spotlight, we scrambled over to what used to be The Lobby to catch the poetry reading session. The walls were lined with large paintings--an exhibit that was part of the arts fest. We could hear strains of dance music from Politixx next door, beating through the thin walls. With an atmosphere lighter and airconditioners cooler than where we'd just come from, the poetry reading gave us some time to settle down and pay closer attention to what was being spoken.

Amidst swirls of cigarette smoke and hushed conversation, several poets got up onstage to share their thoughts and bare their souls to the audience. From topics that ranged from love to motherhood to conversation with strangers, one of the poems that we enjoyed was entitled "Spaces".

It had lovely lines such as, "There is a space/Before laughter becomes a sigh/An infinite excitement/Within the space of a soul- kiss." The piece was by Natalia Diaz, editor-in-chief of Milk magazine. She was one of the featured poets, a group that included Triccia David, Chuck Syjuco, and Annabelle Bosch among others.

Setting: In the space going home.
Synopsis: Just like Cinderella's ball, the poetry session ended at the stroke of midnight. We tried to look for a carriage to bring us home but there weren't any in the vicinity. We settled for a more contemporary vehicle instead. The night ended with us missing out on the performance artists, our wallets semi empty (there wasn't a lot in it to begin with) but our brains quite full. We rode on home, passing through the space "between Friday night and Saturday dawn."