DSCTA Featured Alumni
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.
Eileen Kae Relao
Navigating Through People-Oriented Professions: On the Centrality of Humanities and Communication Studies
in Teaching, Policy Consultancy, IT Product Development, and Social Entrepreneurship
“Relating to people is everything. If you know how to talk and to listen, you will achieve a lot.”
(Eileen Kae Relao, 31, Social Entrepreneur)
When asked about the reason she shifted to the BA Speech Communication despite being already enrolled in a related undergraduate program, Eileen cited her interest in arts and humanities aside from the theories and praxis of communication studies. Envisioning herself becoming a newscaster, lawyer, and public official, then-incoming-college-sophomore Eileen was convinced that the multidisciplinary and humanistic nature of the Speech Communication program would equip her with the skills and attitude essential in the service-centric careers she wanted to pursue.
Interestingly, Eileen found herself treading a different path from what she had planned. In her junior year at the university, she worked part-time as an online English tutor, which opened opportunities for her to establish international linkages and found her first startup, a virtual business communication training hub for multinational companies based in Japan and Germany. In 2012, she accepted a teaching position at the Department of Speech Communication and Theatre Arts where she served as a full-time instructor for three years.
In 2015, Eileen received a scholarship at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore where she earned her Master’s degree and graduated as a recipient of the Dean’s Leadership Award in 2017. As a scholar, she experienced hands-on action research where policy-based solutions are tested, developed, and implemented to address problems in the community as well as issues on a regional and global scale.
Immediately after graduating from NUS, she worked as a communications trainer, global business development head, and policy consultant for different companies based in Tokyo and Fukuoka, while also helping build what she considers as her first social enterprise: a trading company which exports Japanese agricultural and marine products to Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao, and China. She is also currently an IT product designer and her most recent project involves top-tier hotels in Japan and Singapore. Among the many hats she wears, the one closest to her heart is being the founding president of Alea Chocolates, the second social business she is grooming to be a global industry player, which exports Albay’s premium quality Trinitario cacao products to Japan and Singapore, and by 2022 to Hong Kong, United States, and Europe.
Alea Chocolates is Eileen’s way of giving back to her family and hometown in Bicol. It is also her proactive response to the problems she sees in the business models of corporate giants that exploit farmers and practice unsustainable means of production and distribution. Alea Chocolates takes pride in its practice of sustainable agriculture, direct-trading, and profit-sharing that benefit the farmers, chocolatiers, and local producers in Albay. “At present, I have 20 chocolatiers in the factory, and most of them are housewives. I did not start this company to make a lot of money, you know? I just want to generate jobs and be a fair employer because despite being far from home, I still love the Philippines and I’ve always believed in Filipinos.”
Recalling her college years as a Speech Communication major, Eileen mentioned how all the subjects and all the mentors she had in the department inspired and prepared her for people-oriented professions, for dreams that are not just hers, but shared with others.
Filipinos on the Global Stage: On the Place of Theatre Arts Education in a World of Competition
“Theatre Arts is the school of life. It teaches you the human condition and lets you meet people from all walks of life.”
Paris – the Fashion Capital of the World. Miles away from the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theatre, a young Filipina braved a different stage to earn her M.B.A. in Marketing and Communications from the Mod’Art International Fashion School, and her M.B.A in Luxury Brand Management, Marketing and Communications from INSEEC Paris. From living alone, to being fluent in French, excelling in her graduate studies, and landing a dream job in the fashion industry, her theatre arts training helped Jacinta through all of it.
She has always been a performer – the class skit star, the cheerleader, the singer. Coming from a family of UP graduates, with an older sister who also took up theatre arts, Jacinta already knew what she wanted to study in college. She entered the Certificate in Theatre Arts program of the DSCTA determined to make it as a theatre artist.
“It was really hard sometimes,” Jacinta said, while describing her experiences in the program. “But it was still all worth it.”
She remembered the countless hours spent inside the theater – doing backstage work, managing responsibilities, and learning from the best practitioners in the country. She witnessed the passion and dedication that marked great artists. Studying theatre arts made her stronger and more resilient. It developed her character in unexpected and meaningful ways – sharpening her and making her more sensitive to the human condition. These experiences gave her the boldness to pursue graduate studies abroad. She knew she already had what it took to succeed.
Before she left, Jacinta also tried her hand in the film industry and in local politics. Unfulfilled in these ventures, she set out for graduate studies in France. After earning her M.B.A, she went to become the Corporate Communications and Community Manager at Estée Lauder Companies EMEA, where she worked with more than 25 international brands across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, and the U.S.A. She specialized in crisis management, corporate social responsibility, data analysis, events management, and content creation. She was also able to work in advertising and digital marketing for Bell & Ross, a luxury watch company.
After some time, she decided to use her expertise to help students get into the luxury industry. This led her to Instituto Marangoni Paris where she currently works as Communications Manager, creating opportunities for budding artists to pursue internships in leading fashion brands such as Dior, Chanel, and YSL. A definite highlight was organizing a talk with renowned creative director Olivier Rousteing. Students were thrilled to interact with the fashion icon and grateful for such a valuable opportunity.
“The best part of the job is making a difference in the lives of the students,” said Jacinta. “Especially in the fashion industry. It’s really competitive. It’s hard to keep going sometimes.”
Instituto Marangoni has since assigned Jacinta to manage affairs in the Philippines. She admitted that this is a rare privilege, and she is making the most out of it. While her previous post allowed her to help students from other nations, now she is given time to champion the Filipino and thrust Filipino artists into the global stage. Success may have taken her halfway around world, but now she is home, and more motivated than ever to push the Filipino artist into the limelight.
When asked for advice for the Department’s theatre students, Jacinta had two words: be kind. “That’s what people will remember about you,” she added. “Everyone you will ever work with will remember if you were kind to them.” She then encouraged students to be bold, but to remain humble and always prepared. “Be resourceful and creative,” she said. “Say yes to every opportunity and just go for it.”
Atty. Jose Amelito "Joe" Sutton Belarmino II
DSCTA alumnus, Atty. Jose “Joe” Sutton Belarmino II, was recently recognized as one of the recipients of the prestigious Chevening Scholarship. Atty. Belarmino will be studying MSc in Cyber Security and Digital Forensics at the University of Westminster in London, United Kingdom.
He graduated BA Speech Communication, magna cum laude, in 2010, and earned his Juris Doctor at the San Beda University Manila - College of Law in 2015 where he also served as President of the Law Student Government. He initially worked as a public defender at the Public Attorney’s Office and Chief of Staff of then Commissioner and now Congresswoman Stella Luz Quimbo. He is now one of the few lawyers engaged in the practice of data privacy law in the country. Prior to his Chevening scholarship, he previously served as Head Executive Assistant, Division Head of the Enforcement Division, Official Spokesperson, and OIC Executive Director of the National Privacy Commission.
Atty. Belarmino hopes to be able to help the country create a cybersecurity and privacy ecosystem for the Philippines that addresses the legal, technical, and operational aspects of privacy and cybersecurity.
DSCTA alumnus, Mr. Clint Ramos, gets globally recognized for his recent film project, Respect, a biographical musical drama film based on the life of American singer Aretha Franklin. Mr. Ramos designed exuberant and aspirational costumes for the film which premiered in Los Angeles on August 8, 2021, and was released in United States movie houses on August 13, 2021.
Mr. Clint Ramos graduated BA (Theatre Arts) in the University of the Philippines Diliman. He earned his Master of Fine Arts for Stage and Film at the New York University Tisch School of the Arts as a full scholar of the Gary Kalkin Memorial Scholarship. He is a designer, educator, activist, and creative producer. He has designed sets and/or costumes for over two hundred theater, opera, dance, and film productions. He received the TONY Award for Best Costume Design of a Play for Eclipsed, making him the first person of color to win that category. He is also the recipient of two OBIE Awards, including one for Sustained Excellence in Design, three Lucille Lortel Awards, a Drama Desk Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award, two American Theatre Wing Henry Hewes Awards, TDF Irene Sharraf Young Master Award, Helen Hayes Award, Craig Award, and other Noel Award, among other honors. He was twice awarded the Ani ng Dangal Presidential Medal for dramatic arts by the President of the Philippines.
Ramos is an assistant professor of design, and head of design and production at Fordham University. Prior to this, he was professor of scenic design at SUNY Purchase and has been a visiting professor / artist at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, University of California Santa Cruz, and Georgetown University. He serves in the American Theatre Wing’s Advisory Committee. He advocates equal rights for immigrants, and promotes equitable landscape in theatre and film for Black, indigenous, and people of color.