DSCTA Featured Alumni
Bryan Jayson "BJ" Borja
Bryan Jayson ‘BJ’ T. Borja, BA Theatre Arts (2011) is recipient of the 2023 UP Alumni Association Distinguished Alumni Award in Community Empowerment in recognition of his leadership in creating positive change by revitalizing our local heritage.
As a UP graduate imbued with an abiding sense of responsibility to his people and nation, the skills and mindsets to improve human life, and a commitment to the freedom and welfare of all, BJ envisioned a community group that advocates civic awareness and development that is responsive not only to the community’s current pertinent issues but of the whole country as well. He dreamt and actualized this dream. It led to the formation of other cultural groups - BJ being the founder or consultant of each. The activities of these groups stimulate the increasing awareness in the importance of culture and the practices it entails.
BJ served as the President of Tourism Officers League of Laguna championing the revitalization and promotion of local heritage between and among the municipalities and cities in Laguna. At present, he is the President of the Southern Luzon Association of Museums. The organization emphasizes the value of raising national pride in the rich culture and heritage of the Filipino people, which are reflected in all forms of art as well as historical and religious objects and embody the ambitions of the country
He founded other groups to support various local heritage thrusts: Samahan ng mga Nangangalaga ng Poon, Friends of the Biñan City Museums, Inc., Likhaan Biñan Collective and Rotaract Club of Metro Biñan Babaylan, and many others, therefore creating bigger stage for cultural education. The establishment of these groups create a ripple effect - propagating civic works aligned to BJ’s vision of building strong sense of identity for the community.
In 2019, BJ was awarded as the Most Outstanding Tourism Officer of the Philippines by ATOP and Department of Tourism highlighting his contributions in tourism development through heritage conservation and promotion. Not long after, BJ’s brainchild, the “BALIK-BIÑAN PROJECT” (Tourism Development through Heritage Conservation), was among the Ten Outstanding Local Governance Programs in the Philippines recognized by the Galing Pook Foundation in 2022. The said feat is Laguna’s first ever Galing Pook Award.
The 2023 UPAA Awarding ceremonies will be held at Luciano E. Salazar Hall, Ang Bahay ng Alumni, on Saturday, 19 August 2023 at 4:00 pm.
The “theatre bug” was what prompted two-time Palanca-awardee Pat Valera to shift into the theatre arts program despite already being a third year entrepreneurial management student in the University of Asia and the Pacific. In 2006, he found himself a freshman again in the Certificate in Theatre Arts program at age 20. He graduated in 2009, but opted to continue pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the same field.
He acknowledged that his freedom to heed the call of theatre is not inseparable from his privilege. His family was supportive of his decision, and he transferred to UP with a promise to his dad:
“Within this field, I’ll try to make it and become one of the best, if not at least good.”
Upon entering UP, Pat Valera was already aware of practice areas he wanted to pursue: directing, playwriting, and dramaturgy. In his second year, he was assistant director to Dexter Santos and dramaturg for Orosmán at Zafira –a komedya of Francisco Balagtas made into a neo-ethnic dance musical. After his baptism by fire, he would then present himself as a mentee to Anton Juan, Jr and was able to co-write apply and act as a head dramaturg in his third year.
“It’s the different opportunities that were given to me, and then I seized as well, to be able to hone myself as a director, playwright, and dramaturg. All of those trainings came together: I was adapting plays, I was directing, I was assistant directing, I was designing, acting, and all fit in those five years, doing as many as 10 productions a year.”
The department provided avenues for training and mentorship, and Pat underscores the importance of not just taking these humbling and nurturing opportunities, but seeking them as well. For him, theatre was the “perfect temple” for his curiosity and fondness for people’s stories.
Pat had to take a break from his studies in 2010, at 24, to join the workforce. He pursued the creative and managerial part of advertising. He admits he was not very active in theatre then, but would occasionally direct, translate, and write. He came back in 2017, worked while completing his degree, and graduated in 2019. He says he’s always aspired to finish because he has a strong desire to learn and impart— wanting to teach meant that he needed a degree.
When asked about productions and roles he’s most proud of, Pat refused to name any. He recalled a pivotal experience of his from undergrad: he had invited Tony Mabesa to a play and added, “but sir, student production lang po siya ah.”
The subsequent scolding changed his mindset about theatre. Tony Mabesa said, “Anong student production? There are no student productions; there are only productions.”
“Here you have a mentor who is now a national artist telling you that you cannot treat a finals or a lecture or a presentation as something less than what it should be. Whether we had funds, or most of the time we had none, we would really give it our all. Lahat yun pagod at pawis at tuwa at ngiti din naman, everything.”
Pat said he learned the most from practicum and student productions.
“The work that I am remembered currently would be Mula Sa Buwan and Dekada 70, but these works wouldn’t be possible if i did not do the Komedya Festival, or participate in the Zarzuela Festival back when I was a student, or without the mentorship from my professors. Everything is important in that sense, and most importantly, the failures.”
Mula sa Buwan is known to be a commercial success, but Pat Valera stressed that while Mula sa Buwan is “what it is,” it was nurtured for almost 12 years before it became what it is today– a production mounted in a 1,500-seater theatre.
“Theatre is both practice and theory. To be able to excel in theatre, you must be good at both.”
The pandemic demanded rapid adaptation for artists. In recent years, theatre workers went on to other industries like series, film, TV, and other mediums, including online theatre. Pat did a musical series, Still, under VIU Philippines. He remarked that the transition was difficult, but doable. When theatre was possible again, Pat grabbed the opportunity.
Pat acknowledged that learning acting, directing, or playwriting online is massively different from what it asks from you in the face to face engagement. Not only the physical is deterred but also the energy, the nonverbal communication, and the theatricality that all comes together.
“But you cannot take away the fact that what you have been doing in the past two years is putting a lot of learning and theories and understanding and curiosity to your mind, so while there is no physical manifestation, it doesn’t mean that you have not been enriching yourself. You are still learning, but if the goal is to do live theatre then you will need to double time when it’s available. You have to be doubly curious and doubly engaged to fill up the aspects of the practical.”
On the question of what direction theatre is going in the future, Pat is more concerned about something else.
“Even before thinking where it needs to go, I am in the place wherein I want to know how to rebuild it.”
He asks questions: What are the things that we have to learn from? What are the things that we have to let go from our past? How can we be more mindful especially given all our experiences, trauma from the pandemic, from the recent elections? How do we navigate a better space for theatre, for its artists, for the audience, for everyone? And most importantly, how do we make it financially viable for everyone involved?
“More than thinking 10 years from now, 15 years from now, it’s more of: what can we as a community do? How can we invite people back to the theatre? What play should we be doing to incite interest again from the audiences? How can we as a community convene to make it more sustainable, to make it a better space for everyone to work, and to imagine their futures within this community, and make it thrive?”
Pat lamented that the industry is confronted with struggles in its revival, while also having to navigate political and societal problems. “What type of theatre do we want to happen? What type of theatre do we do now under this regime?”
There is a lot of carried grief from the pandemic, and many have lost much, including loved ones and opportunities. He said that the absence of space to decompress and unpack is hard on everyone. That is what we’re facing.
“You have to be kinder and more understanding of people. You have to develop new processes. That’s part of the learning, that’s part of the journey that we all have to consider. Let’s find other paths so that we also take care of ourselves as we present ourselves to the world. At the core of theatre is life, is being human. If you do not take care of the person, then what for?”
Mula sa Buwan is back for a two-weekend run this December 2022. Get tickets at https://premier.ticketworld.com.ph/shows/show.aspx?sh=MULASBU22
Dannah Joyce N. Piol
DSCTA alumna Dannah Joyce N. Piol was recently awarded the Erasmus+ Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree (EMJMD) scholarship by the European Union. She will be pursuing Choreomundus - International Master in Dance Knowledge, Practice and Heritage at the Université Clermont Auvergne (UCA) in France, Norges Teknisk-Naturvitenskapelige Universitet (NTNU) in Norway, Szegedi Tudomanyegyetem (SZTE) in Hungary, and University of Roehampton in the United Kingdom.
Dannah graduated BA Speech Communication, cum laude, in 2018. She was a member of the UP Speech Communication Association (UP SPECA) and the UP Streetdance Club (UP SDC), and was recognized as an honorary member of the UP Dancesport Society. She was part of the group that won the championship for the Crissa Campus Dance Synergy (College Division) in 2015, and the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Ballroom Formation Competition (Standard Dance Category) in 2016.
Through the Choreomundus program, Dannah hopes to further explore the cross-cultural aspects of dance, and to learn how to deal with issues concerning dance as an intangible cultural heritage in different professional contexts
Dolly de Leon
Dolly De Leon has received critical acclaim for her exceptional performance in the Cannes Film Festival 2022 Best Picture (Palme d'Or) winner, Triangle of Sadness. In the Ruben Östlund film, she portrayed the role of a toilet cleaner to a deserted island leader.
A graduate of BA Theatre Arts, De Leon credits her acting training to her former DSCTA professors, mentors, and coaches –Chris Vertido, Ella Luansing, the late Tony Mabesa for acting, Ogie Juliano for voice and movement. She also acknowledges Prof. Jose Estrella’s mentorship and guidance in her effective portrayal of various characters for theatre, film, and television.
Dolly De Leon has performed notable roles in Dulaang UP and UP Playwrights Theatre productions: she played Anna in Old Times, Maria Clara in Noli, Paulita Gomez in Fili, Portia in The Merchant of Venice for The Portia Society, George de Jesus in Oryang: Las Viajeras, Stephania in The Tempest, Olga (Marilyn) in Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters (Tatlong Maria adapted by Rody Vera) for Tanghalang Pilipino. She also portrayed roles in The Vagina Monologues, As You Like It, Three Sisters (Virgin Labfest), Medea, Spring Awakening, The Duchess of Malfi, Distrito De Molo, The Country Wife, Bilanggo ng Pag-ibig, Tanghalang Ateneo’s Middle Finger, and in Ang Naghihingalo- a Virgin Labfest production selected as one of three one-act plays to be revisited in this year’s VLF. She acted in Have Thy Will, a collection of William Shakespeare’s sonnets during The Shakespeare in Asia, Manila Conference hosted by the Department of English and Comparative Literature. A performer-scholar, De Leon has also trained in Noh under Noh Master Naohiko Umewaka and has performed in his productions The Italian Restaurant and The Coffee Shop Within the Play.
Aside from theater, Dolly De Leon also ventures onto other performance platforms. She has done bit roles and bigger roles in television advertisements, radio, film, sitcoms, and soap operas both locally and internationally. Among her notable television performances are Erik Matti’s 7 Days of Hell episode for HBO Series Folklore and On the Job, Lav Diaz’ Historiya ni Ha, Antoinette Jadaone’s The Kangks Show and Raymund Gutierrez’s Verdict, where she won the FAMAS Awards 2020 for best supporting actress.