Faces of DLSU: Lives of passion

Disney movies remind us time and time again about the importance of chasing our dreams and pursuing our passion. Some of us have already figured things out, while others are still in the process of discovery. Either way, we all aspire to spend the rest of our lives doing something that makes us truly happy. The Menagerie chats with Brad Fenomeno, the Artistic Director, Vocal Coach, and Arranger of De La Salle Innersoul, and Raffy Tejada, the Artistic Director of Harlequin Theatre Guild, to get a peek of what it’s like to live out one’s passion. 

How it all started        

Raffy Tejada was the storyteller in the family—he always enjoyed sharing the stories that he sometimes made up in his head with his siblings. He recalls a memory during his elementary years, when his class went on a field trip to the planetarium in Luneta. Tejada was so amazed by the constellations, the stars, and the stories of the different planets of the solar system that it gave him an idea. “Pag-uwi ko ng bahay, ‘yung kwarto namin diniliman ko tapos ginawa kong planetarium…Tapos dun na nagso-storytelling ako, may flashlight tapos tinuturo ko ‘yung sun, tinuturo ko ‘yung moon. Tapos ‘yung mga kapitbahay ko pinapapasok ko dun. May bayad sila bente-singko,” he shares.

Later on, in his college years, he found himself becoming a part of a cultural movement with Teatro Sining, a theater group that does Dulang Iglap, or flash performances, in public places or events, with the aim of raising awareness on certain issues. He says that sometimes, they would perform in front of picket lines, or in front of churches. “Hindi naman siya ‘yung, ‘Kaaway niyo ba yung gobyerno?’ Hindi, kasi tinutulungan nga namin yung gobyerno na sabihin, ‘Ito yung dapat nating gawin sa tao.’ Hindi kami lumalaban. Ang sinasabi lang namin, ‘Kami ang alternative media. Kami ‘yung hindi mo napapanood sa sine, na pinag-uusapan.’”

On the other hand, Brad Fenomeno was the self-taught musician. While learning how to play the piano, he got bored with how slow everything was going and stopped formal lessons altogether, instead teaching himself how to play the more challenging pieces. Although he admits that he isn’t very good at reading notes, he is able to play by ear. “In music, what you really need is practice. Naging music addict na lang siguro ako; that’s how I learned to play instruments on my own, because I want to simulate other sounds. Wala akong formal training in arrangements, and until now pag hinarapan mo ako ng piyesa di ko matutugtog yun eh, pero I can play based on hearing.”

After college, Fenomeno’s first job was as an artist and repertoire officer. He later left the recording industry to become a volunteer formator for DLSU COSCA, and even started the revival of LOVE and FTK, which all led up to the birth of Innersoul.

“1997 was my third or fourth year with COSCA, and we started a group. The original plan for Innersoul was for it to be an all-boys alumni Kunderana… My commitment was to prepare the boys for the launch of the group, and Innersoul was born on October 3, 1997. Since I [was] with Innersoul and LOVE, naging tradition ng Innersoul to perform during FTK ever since ’97. Pag di kami naiimbita sa FTK nagpapaimbita ako. I decided to leave COSCA in ’98 but continued with Innersoul, and we staged our first concert that same year and became an official accredited group under CAO.”

Lives of Passion []

A series of fortunate events

For Tejada and Fenomeno, it was more than just one decisive moment. It was a series of events that led them towards a life of music and performing arts. Before they knew it, they were already well into their respective careers.

“For me, it [wasn’t] a conscious effort to turn it into a career. When you call it a career, that means your art is professionalized; my art turned into a career since I am being paid,” Fenomeno admits. Although he has a degree in philosophy, his heart has always been with the arts. “[Even] in high school and in college, I was already gearing my future towards performing arts and visual arts,” he says. Starting out as a performer, Fenomeno eventually realized that he was happier working behind the scenes. “I pursued a behind-the-scenes career because I wanted to express the art and the culture in me and in others. The people who work behind the scenes are the ones who don’t get rich, but they are the real artists.”

Tejada says that he never really had formal training when it comes to performing; in fact, he finished with a degree in aeronautical engineering. According to him, he developed his craft through the various workshops that he attended on acting and performing, as well as through the directing program offered by Tony Mabesa in the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Apart from that, his only teacher was experience. “Feeling ko mas natuto ako dun sa actualization,” he admits. He also shares that it was Director Ishmael Bernal, who was the artistic director of Teatro Sining at the time, who acted as his mentor and influenced him.  Tejada recalls, “Naisasama pa ako ni direk sa mga shooting ng pelikula, tapos nag-oobserve ako sa kanya.” 


“Walang yumayaman sa art”

On the common notion that a career in art is not for those who aspire to be financially successful, Tejada comments, “Hindi ka naman talaga yayaman, pero ang ikayayaman yung karanasan at tsaka yung mga taong makakasalamuha mo… Hindi siya materyal, pero sa loob, ang daming kayamanan—sa puso, sa isip, sa karanasan.” He goes on to say that it all boils down to one’s character. “Ikaw na artist, huwag ka magpaka-dukha. ‘Di magsipag ka, ibenta mo yung art mo,” he says.

Fenomeno agrees. “They’re not high-paying jobs but they’re just enough to compensate, kasi if you love what you do, secondary talaga yung pera.” 

Art may not bring about monetary wealth, but it has definitely brought them to places all over the world. Fenomeno is a member of a music ministry that travels the country, Asia, and Europe. Tejada has also travelled all over Europe when he directed a production that toured the continent, and has conducted workshops in Japan and Korea.   

Do more of what makes you happy

Both of them have no regrets with the path they have taken, and on the contrary, they find joy and fulfilment in what they do.    

To kindred spirits, Fenomeno advises, “Keep the fire burning. Whatever it takes, kung talagang passion mo yan, tutuloy-tuloy yan. If it’s a passion, it will not die, and if you keep on doing whatever will make you happy, and whatever will make other people happy because of you, then gawin mo lang.” Tejada adds, “Gawin mo lang yung gusto mo, yung passion mo. Huwag mo siya muna hanapan ng materyal. Tapos maging masaya ka lang sa ano, sa ginagawa mo. Create ka lang ng create. Tapos i-enjoy mo yung company ng mga taong makaka-collaborate mo.”

Fenomeno and Tejada are only a few of the people who did not hesitate to go after what they wanted to get out of life. As the saying goes, “Do what you love, and love what you do.”

Josienne Cordova

By Josienne Cordova

Celestine Sevilla

By Celestine Sevilla

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