Tuesday, September 24, 2013

When her hair was this short

Last year's publicity stills for the sold-out "The Legends and the Classics" are still in my files. I am trotting them out because there's scarcely a half month left before the same concert goes up again with a different program Oct. 12-13 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Main Theater.
The ballerina, the pianist and the singer
I remember that press conference for TLTC (shortcut for the concert's name) at The Mandarin Hotel in Makati. I like to be early so when I went into the revolving door and exited to the lobby, what I thought was a girling, in jeans, shirt, with a small backpack and hair cropped to just below her ears, called my name. It was Cecile Licad--she was on her way out to briefly have a smoke. She saw my mild shock--it was her hairdo that got me.

Later, before the organizers brought her to "the holding room" with the other soloists (Lisa Macuja Elizalde and Lea Salonga), I managed to ask what's with the hair? Is it a statement? In her husky voice Cecile answered that she'd gotten a little tired of the length and decided to cut it short. Nothing to it, that's what her shrug meant.

At the press con proper, she talked the least. Even in exclusive interviews with the other two greats of the performing arts, she also said the least. There was a full-length Q and A with the trio in a major broadsheet, and all I read of Cecile was her "Hahaha!" and a line or two. I think she's that way because she reserves the rest of her energy for her performances, whether she's playing as a chamber musician or as a soloist. 

After the ovations of the March 2012 TLTC, the audience spilled onto the CCP lobby, many lining up to have programs autographed by Lea who was seated on a chair by the grand stairway with a table before her. My daughter and niece were in the queue. I was standing beside them when I spotted Cecile, again in jeans and tee, makeup rubbed off her face, slipping quietly away. I called her and asked her to sign our program and a CD of hers. When people heard her name, the queue broke up and in seconds, a small enough mass of admirers was also calling out her name and asking for her signature--one had it on her right arm, like a tattoo. She said she wasn't washing that arm for the coming days.

My daughter, amazed at Cecile's casual get-up, said, "Nanay, she looked as though she was going to leave CCP in a jeep to go home!" Her aunt later told her, "She's a New Yorker so she's a commuter, she's used to getting around in a train." Of course in the Philippines, somebody lends her a car. 

But I recall that in the '80s, after I had interviewed her for Who magazine, the photographer (one of the Tapan brothers, I forget which one) brought Cecile to his studio at Harrison Plaza for the studio shots--she made the magazine's cover. After they wrapped up, he just gave her instructions on how to get back to her hotel (the Philippine Plaza). Apparently, from his account, she just crossed the street and walked all the way to the Plaza unescorted.
Cecile Licad
The People's Pianist is coming home again--that's the best news I've heard in a day full of news about floods and pocket wars. For now music is all I have.
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