IPAG | The Theater that Made Me See the World
My mind is a glut of ancient temples & castles, incredible landscapes & powerful portraits all banked through my life-long affair with travel. Now in between 40 and death, I look back to the times of firsts—first passport, first plane ride. And to IPAG, the theater that fired my flaming wanderlust.
The Integrated Performing Arts Guild or IPAG made me see the world.
I wasn’t born to a traveling family who could spend lavish vacations in Disneyland or lakeside campings in Montana. Back then, my parents were struggling professionals who yoked between endless bills & faint dreams.
But I wanted to be in the world. So I had to make it happen.
And it did—-traveling the world for art. For more than a decade I journeyed with IPAG around the Philippines & abroad, performing in prestigious venues & art festivals.
IPAG is the resident theater company of the MSU-Iligan Institute of Technology in Iligan City. Founded in 1978 by Dr. Steven Patrick Fernandez & Ligaya Fernando-Amilbangsa, it has performed in over 100 cities worldwide & leads the country as the most-performed & most-traveled group.
With its signature dance idiom, pangalay, inspired from the dances of Sulu archipelago, IPAG creates productions that integrate dance, music, visual & literary arts. It is multi-awarded & continues to bring Filipino art traditions to the most coveted stages across the globe.
It has been 16 years now since I did my last curtain call. My knees are already wobbly & my belly is wiggly. The rousing applause of the audience is not there anymore. My spotlight is dead. My theater is empty.
But back in my slimmer & younger days, life was all about being on stage. It was fun, exciting & the ovations were addicting. We were all over the world, jetsetting like rockstars.
We brought sunshine to the sunflower-filled regions in France with bright Bukidnon skirts. We muted the clunking klompen clogs in The Netherlands with T’boli brass bells. We fired England’s cold north with Tausug martial arts. We regaled Austria’s palaces with Maranao royal dances.
We’ve made friends with many of the world’s elite dance groups. Ambassadors & monarchs even graced our performances.
I started my career in performing arts at 11. At 13, I was already going places. By the time I finished high school, I have already performed at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Luce Auditorium & in many schools around the country. But I have to admit that I almost didn’t make it to graduation because I failed miserably in Math!
At 16, I made my first international trip to represent the Philippines in the Singapore Festival of the Arts. All throughout college & shortly after that, I was all over Europe & Asia performing like there’s no tomorrow.
But “being in the world” didn’t come easy. I mopped rehearsal halls & served water to senior members. I always went home late & rarely had weekend breaks. I also gave up my scholarship at the University of the Philippines for my theater life in Iligan to continue.
The hardest part was I became foreign in my own home having missed family affairs. The only links I had with them were those colored post-its on the fridge.
But I have no regrets because the experiences of being in the theater also shaped my life off the stage. It taught me how to express myself successfully.
By traveling with IPAG, it broadened my reach & appreciation of other cultures. It made me easy to connect places, people & history.
Well, it may have been so long ago since the last time I traveled with them. But those experiences laid the foundation of my future journeys that are even farther & wider.
Theater as we know it mirrors the realities of the society. And traveling on art missions deepened my understanding of the similarities and differences of our cultural spaces. It stretched the breadth of my acceptance of various definitions of nationalities & boundaries, expectations & assumptions, politics & disguise.
After having caught in a massive corporate blaze for 14 years, I now live a life as a full-time travel writer. In every place that I visit, I always look at its art scene more than anything else because it is the real reflection of their community.
I am forever indebted to my so-called dramatic awakenings in theater & to IPAG. I may not be a star anymore doing those turns & leaps, but the lessons it gave me are my magical light. I may not be on the stage anymore but I live a life of wonderful travels, this I call my own piece of theater.