Behn with an H-A A +A
Friday, August 16, 2013
AS A student in college, I once had this crush on Behn Cervantes. I would spot him striding through the AS corridors and quietly follow him until he disappeared into the Faculty Center. Teehee. My roommates at IlangIlang used to needle me if I got back to the dorm with an "I Saw Behn Cervantes and Followed Him" tale.
So one day, I ended up following him right smack into an audition for “Ang Bundok,” the Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio musical set in my own mountains. By the time I turned to head away, he had spotted me and said, “You, who looks like a 12-year-old, come in and audition.” Like a zombie, I obeyed the “come in” part. At one point, I was asked to sing. So I spluttered that I couldn’t sing. Then, uh, ran. My roommates had fun with that one.
Then I became a Drama major and was in many a class with him. The first day of the first ever Behn class I was in (Art History of the Theatre, I think) was a day he introduced himself as "...Behn Cervantes, and the 'H' is for humility..." Humility, hah! This was also a day he asked all of us in the class to say something about ourselves. After my turn, he said, "And where did you study, Brent?" Hnh? I said no, thinking that we all mountain people just talk like I do, Behn with an "H."
As a Speech and Drama major, I was savvy enough to know that I was in school with theatrical greats: Tony Mabesa, Behn Cervantes, Amelia Lapeña-Bonficaio, Leticia Tizon, Freddie Guerrero. I was also determined to be in at least one play with each of them. As it turned out, I was in many plays with them all.
The most memorable play I was in with Behn directing was the now iconic "Pagsambang Bayan," by Bonifacio Ilagan. I played one of the "workers" in the ensemble, i.e., "magsasaka." In it, too, were Ces Quesada, Cris Millado, Jun Oblilgacion, to name just a few This was the play when Behn told off the Avon makeup artists for making us all look beautiful, screaming, "What is this, Binibining Pilipinas?!!!" One of the UP Repertory production people had to patiently explain to the said Avon ladies that the ensemble were supposed to be farmers, fishermen, workers. When they had understood, they would, after enlarging our eyes and putting color to our lips, smudge our faces with makeup that was supposed to look like mud.
It was also while with this ensemble that many of us were exposed to the mettle of Behn the activist. To begin with, our material was already labeled “subversive.” Did Behn back down from the danger of mounting it in the era of Martial Law? No. Neither did the UP. Neither did we, the cast and crew.
Neither did our audiences flinch. We played to full houses on home ground and the many other proscenia the show got invited to. Many a night, though, we were all of us tense for Behn’s safety. Sometimes, we were tense for our own safety. But like I said, mettle. You learn it from one who lives it out, ABCB. Aguinaldo, Bicutan, Crame, Bonifacio – the detention centers he was taken to at four different instances under Marcos’ Martial Law.
After college, I sometimes got telephone calls from Behn if he happened to be n Baguio. See, there was also that he was a proud Upsilonian, as was my father. We would agree to meet wherever for a drink. One Apache season, he found the bonfire and sat a while before rushing off to his next social gig. I heard too that he was for a time a guest artist at Baguio’s Saint Louis University. I don’t think I was in town then though.
Like many a one, I am saddened by Behn’s passing, even as I usher him on to what I am positive is a great new show up above. Looking up, we salute a great mentor, friend, and activist, Behn with an H. Though for me, that should be Behn with a P, for Patriot.
And if you can’t spell Behn with a P, gawrsh. You would oh so deserve for Behn to famously throw a shoe at you.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on August 17, 2013.