Manila Bulletin



It actually began with a random fortune reading session. I was seated on a long table with a couple of actors and production staff. The man seated adjacent to me randomly lifted a small pile of black hairpins on the table and dropped them lightly.

He looked at them, and then looked at me. “Do you have plans of going abroad?” he said. I replied, “Yes!” To this, he answered, “You’re not fulfilling what you’re meant to be fulfilling.” I was like, “What?!” In my head, I always fulfill what I am meant to be fulfilling. I know that much about myself. But he reiterated it. I explained that indeed I had dreams of studying abroad, but not now. I had a five-year plan, and I was only into my second year. The “abroad” thing was scheduled on the fifth year. Still, I got no assurance from him. After more prodding and weirder fortune telling through a bunch of black hairpins thrown randomly on a table, I finally asked, “What brought this about?” He said, “You’re ready. For a journey.”

I quickly dismissed this scenario because I thought it was foolish. How could anyone have insight into a person’s present state by reading a configurat­ion of a pile of black hairpins thrown randomly? It was something not meant to be taken seriously.

Unfortunat­ely, this event continued to haunt my conscience weeks after it occurred. After about a month, I decided to speak to a reliable counselor—someone who had taken me in during a very rough time—and I told her about what she thought about me leaving the theater company I’d been with for four years (at that time) and applying for graduate school. The reply I got was, “What are you waiting for?”

I was not waiting for anything anymore. Less than a month before I spoke with her, I won “Outstandin­g Female Lead Performanc­e in a Play” during the Gawad Buhay PHILSTAGE Awards for the Performing Arts. After that, I was no longer getting parts that showcased my range and was afraid I had reached a plateau. My counselor pointed out to me that maybe this low period in my work was meant to give me time to work on my graduate school applicatio­n.

I remember feeling sick to the stomach every time I drag myself to even visit the websites of my target schools. I knew that this step would be so crucial to the dreams I have nurtured since high school. Knowing that the time came for me to actually do something about them made me sick to the stomach. Dreaming is fun. Execution is deadly, inconvenie­nt, and downright frightenin­g, especially when it costs a lot of money. I knew there was no way around getting into any of the top drama schools without a live audition. The problem was, I have never traveled internatio­nally (beyond Asia) before, nor do I have a US Visa. Neverthele­ss, I decided to go about this journey one step at a time, not telling anybody except my parents and a couple of people I asked for help with my applicatio­n. If the path paves the way for me then I will trudge on. But if the path proves extremely difficult, I would take it as a sign that this would not be meant for me.

A few days after I submitted my pre-screening video last November, my mother spoke to me in my room. She explained to me that our family was not rich, and that this would not be a good time to shell out funds for someone to go all the way to New York City. I might have to defer the applicatio­n to another time. After the conversati­on, it was as if my heart had stopped.

The following morning, I received an email from Juilliard Drama Admissions. It said, “Dear Ma. Regina, The Drama Division faculty have reviewed your pre-screening materials and would like to invite you to an in-person audition for The Juilliard School's Actor Training Program. Please note, this is not an offer of admission, nor is it a guarantee of advancemen­t in the callback process.”I quickly called my mother and broke down in tears. I did not expect to receive the pre-screening results this quickly. I remember thinking, “Oh God, maybe I do have some sort of talent after all.” I told my mother to not worry about money, I will use my childhood savings to fly to New York. Deep within, I felt that the universe has spoken. This was a sign for me to trudge on.

How do you know meant for you or not?

When I entered the room where the Juilliard Drama Division faculty gathered all 200 applicants scheduled to audition on Jan. 24, 2015, I began to cry silently. Richard Feldman, associate director of the Drama Division, facilitate­d the orientatio­n for the applicants scheduled to audition that day. In his speech, he pointed out, “You are not here to impress us. We are here to find you. We do not know what talent means, but what we do know is there is hard work.” The more Richard spoke, the more I continued to cry. I was probably the lone applicant seated near the end of the room, silently bawling while everyone else got oriented.

I received a callback from Juilliard drama on the evening of Feb. 14 this year. I learned of my admission to the MFA program two days before my 26th birthday last March. All this time, I did not tell anyone, with the exception of my parents. There was still a financial hurdle to overcome, and I wanted to protect my journey from judgment.

My initial plan was to keep silent about the entire story: get the student visa, go to school, wait a couple of months, and then make an official announceme­nt. I wanted to come out accomplish­ed, completed, and fulfilled. Unfortunat­ely, after nearly two months of painstakin­gly seeking funding from family members, institutio­ns, and possible benefactor­s I have not even managed to raise a quarter of the amount of funding I needed to meet the school’s deadlines.

I was angry. What kind of a universe exists that would allow someone to get this far and then not be able to go because of money? I decided that whatever happens, I will finish what I have begun even if it meant having to come out in public— even if it meant coming out unfinished.

An alumnus of Juilliard Drama advised us during final round callbacks that we were not there to impress the faculty, but to reveal ourselves. It was probably my self-revelation that got me in, and it might also be self-revelation that will actually get me to go. I was afraid of coming out unfinished, because I was afraid to fail under the public eye. Now that I have come out, there is no point living in fear. The universe already paved the way, and my turn has come to finish it off.

There is one quote that best explains what is happening to me right now. It’s from Nana Kofi Acquah: “The world is obsessed with destinatio­ns: Where are you? Where are you going? But meaning is found in journeys, the in betweens, the stops, the intersecti­ons, and everything that happens on the way.”

This has been the craziest in-between that came my way.

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