visas, repertoires and class ‘performances’

Got my US visa today. With the 9 other people that comprise the APO Experience performing entourage, we practically breezed through the interview at the US embassy. What a relief! Every time I find myself lining up for any visa prior to a travel, I am reminded of the wisdom of John Lennon’s song ‘Imagine’, especially the line which goes, ‘Imagine there’s no countries…’ Far out! Kung pwede lang sana!

I don’t understand why people have to get visas. (Well, to be honest I actually I do). I envy certain nationals —Aussies, Brits, Japanese, French, Americans, etc.. who can enter most countries without any visas at all. By the strength of their nations’ standing in the world are they accorded certain priveleges. We Filipinos, on the other hand must suffer the humiliation of applying for visas while being suspected, scrutinized, questioned upon entry by immigration officials everywhere. Perhaps it is because we are poor and the rich countries are afraid we may stay and steal jobs from locals. And it doesn’t help that many of our kababayans have done exactly that!! And I guess we all have to pay for the deeds some of our desperate countrymen had committed.

I read in a book somewhere that with globalization, national passports will become passe and multi-national ones will take their place. In other words, one will stop carrying Filipino or American passports but will soon be holders of Microsoft, Sony, Apple, etc. travel papers. Multinationals, after all are bigger and have more clout than some countries. Hmmm.. come to think of it, I would rather suffer with the old system than be in this more sinister one.

With the paper work all done, we can now concentrate on the tour which kicks off in Vegas this October 15. We are getting good feedback about the number of people planning to watch in the different venues. I am hoping for success in every place. But to make sure we deliver the right goodies, I would like to ask you readers, especially if you are watching, what songs you would like us to do. Your answers would really mean a lot. We have some planned already, but we would really like to hear from you to confirm whether we are off-the-mark or bulls’ eye in our choices of songs.

My class will be over by Tuesday, October 4. I always end the semester early to give my students the chance to review and concentrate on their harder subjects. After all, my class called Special Topics in Performance and Practice is an elective, and frankly, all I aim for is to excite my students, to wake them up to the fascinating topics that I bring to the classroom. It is a discussion class. I give very few reading materials but I make them write a lot of papers. I value their opinions and I grade them not according to whether they can repeat what I said, but how well they can explain their understanding of the subject matter in their own words.

This Thursday is make-up day. I am giving them an opportunity to change their lowest grade by asking for a performance. Some will do interpretative poetry reading. Some will, through visuals and a lecture, explain to the class what they are passionate about. It could be their hobbies, interest, whatever. Some will sing and /or dance. The only thing I ask is that they strive to give a performance that will take the rest of the class to a place ‘where it has never been’. After all, that’s what a pitch is all about. Thus, no performances executed without full commitment will be tolerated. Show up with heart and full dedication. If you can’t be excellent, at least strive with all you’ve got.

This works out for them and for me since we both get a reprieve from writing and reading papers. In place, they get to go ‘out of their heads’ and into the practical experience of everything we talked about. The next class after this session is final exam day! I am preparing great essay questions that will bring out the best understanding they have of the various topics..

Students come in different shapes and sizes. I see them in various stages of being closed or open. Some are a challenge since it seems they come in with closed minds and fixed opinions and fear walking the edge of what they know. Some are lazy, hilo. Very few new knowledge is allowed in. They are the ones who have a hard time believing that a net will appear when they make a leap. But there are others that are such a joy—those who listen and participate, those who write so well that I look forward to reading their papers. I put theirs under the stack so that I end the tediousness of checking papers with excitement and anticipation!

But it is for the closed ones that I feel I was meant to teach. They challenge my patience and skill and help me get better. Sometimes, I feel that their appreciation of the class will happen years later, if at all when they grow up a little and realize that not only was there more to the class than what they allowed in, but more importantly, more to them than they could appreciate.

The open ones make real the saying which goes; ‘when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.’ They are not only ready but are so hungry to learn, to absorb and process the new topics that are being introduced. They keep teachers committed to the profession by their disposition and gratitude. Bless them. Without them, there would even be fewer teachers now.

I can’t believe another semester will soon be over.