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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Thursday, November 23, 2023

entry arrow11:47 PM | Doing 'Dyamante'

It's Thanksgiving, an American holiday, but I'll take this chance to be thankful for today. Today, we finally pulled off doing the Opening Salvo for the 75th Charter Anniversary and Diamond Jubilee Year of Dumaguete City. A few months ago, someone who was part of the diamond jubilee team gave us several options to do an opening salvo: a cultural program of songs and dances, or a political program of speeches, or a dramatic program of historical reenactment, or a military program with a pass and view and a Philippine Airforce flyby. As the designated scriptwriter for the program we were soon going to call Dyamante, I replied: "Why choose? Why not all? This is after all, the 75th anniversary. This will never happen again."

So began our adventure, with the date set on November 19, a Sunday. It was going to be a grand program never before attempted in Dumaguete, using for a stage all the iconic sites around the heritage area of Dumaguete: the Presidencia, the Campanario, the M.L. Quezon Park, Calle Burgos, and the Pantawan at the Rizal Boulevard. Yes, we were going to utilize all areas for the program! The logistics was immense, but why quiver from the challenge? In my vision while writing the script, I saw Wowie Remata Villanueva starting the program by singing Katong Villariza's iconic "Dumaguete [Do You Hear Me Calling?]" at the Campanario, singing to the adapted score composed by Levi Alaban, while dancers trained by Angelo Sayson would start dancing at the Presidencia Grounds, for all the elements to meet at the kiosk of M.L. Quezon Park, the traditional stage of the Dumaguete community, where the audience will be seated. There, a full reenactment of Dumaguete's story — the legends of how it got its name and the history of how it gained its charter in 1948 — will be done. At the end, the performers will usher all the guests to a grand parade led by the Silliman Band dressed in American colonial regalia. The parade will go around the park in the style of a Flores de Mayo, with the VIPs aboard all six present-day Dumaguete tartanillas, then through Calle Burgos, then ending at the Rizal Boulevard, where a red carpet would meet them and become their pathway towards the stage area at the Pantawan. At the Pantawan, we would have a pass and review and a flyby with the Philippine Air Force, where the formal opening ceremony would take place. That was the plan! And we were ready to pull it all off.

Until news of a coming superstorm forced us to reconsider everything: What do we do? Do we go ahead on the 19th, and just donate eggs to the Carmelite sisters, and hope for the best? [PAG-ASA said no.] Do we see December as an option? [Definitely no.] Do we postpone until the 24th, and incorporate the show during the Civic Military Parade? [Doable but it will make a long program even longer!] Compromises had to be embraced. Before last weekend came on in the wake of a storm that did not really touch us, all the stakeholders came to a decision: do everything on the 23rd instead, and retool the show so that it will all be staged at the Pantawan. There was some disappointment in my part, of course, since I believed in the initial grand, and once-in-a-lifetime, vision: but I also know compromises must be honored. It's just the way life goes. And I do believe an artistic vision can often become even better when saddled with challenges.

And so we finally staged Diyamante today, with changes made all throughout [e.g., a music video stand in for Wowie, because she had travel plans and could not be present; a new sound system, because initial plans of sharing a sound system plan with the also-postponed Ben & Ben concert was no longer feasible; a last minute cancellation of the flyby because the air force was needed in storm-affected areas, etc.]. But I am still very happy with the result, because I felt every ounce of talent and sincerity from everyone involved. And I love that we all pushed on despite all the compromises and the whiplash of many changes — but with a vision of using all of these challenges now as a chance to learn, because we are now aiming for a fuller realization of the original vision for the culmination program next year.

And because it's Thanksgiving, I would like to express my gratefulness to everyone involved: to our director Fionabelle Marie Cabe for giving my script a shape; to our choreographer Angelo Sayson for the robust dances that filled out the story; to Levi Alaban for a musical score that organically gave life to the narrative; to Tyrone Tejam, who did not hesitate when asked to be our narrator, even if he was so geographically removed in the United States [his recording was impeccable, and when I was writing the script, it was really his voice I heard]; to Louise Remata Villanueva, for being our songbird, game to do everything for the sake of perfecting good music; to Mathilda Limbaga Erojo and Orkestra Sin Arco for providing the music for the rigodon; to Joseph Albert Basa and the Silliman Marching Band for providing the cadence to the pass and review; to Elizabeth Susan Vista-Suarez for being our voice of reason, and for that rousing finale with the Campus Choristers; to Juni Jay Tinambacan, who took on the daunting task of managing our sound requirements; to Mayumi Maghuyop for taking the vast challenge of costuming everyone with no time at her disposal; to Jansen Tan for dressing our stage; to Aj Maloy who took the challenge of making a music video in three days; to Janna Sylvester Lavestre for assisting everyone, and for generally being our muse; to everyone at the Dumaguete City Tourism Office for the support; to Jack Repollo for being our captain of production; and finally to Katherine Aguilar whose heart is huge, and who tirelessly facilitated all our ideas and requests with no sign of fatigue, and always with a positive push. And to Mayor Ipe Remollo who granted us a stage for all our crazy ideas in the name of love for our beautiful city.

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