Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sad farewells in Manila and sushi in Hokkaido

Good morning from another airport lounge after the very successful 10-show run of TRAVELIFE Drum Tao Nights. I'm on my way to Tokyo this morning, and from Narita Airport it's straight to Hokkaido for a much-needed break. Maybe no work this time, if that's at all possible in my life.

I thought it'd be a good idea to get some R&R in a hot springs resort in one of the most beautiful areas of this northernmost region of Japan for a few days, after the intensive last two weeks or so of work in Manila, working on our August-September anniversary issue (out on August 15) and on the amazing TRAVELIFE Drum Tao shows.

The night the Drum Tao arrived


The last show of TRAVELIFE Drum Tao yesterday was completely packed. There was not a single available ticket in the house and so many people were still lining up to buy tickets or scrambling for scalpers at the last minute. Someone even offered me major money for my own ticket -- wow, wouldn't that have come in handy for shopping in Japan -- but of course I wasn't selling mine. I wanted to watch this very last show.

Photo taken by Joey de Leon

Upon arriving at the venue, I stood in the foyer for a while to survey the crowds. This was not even gala night but what a great crowd we had for the last show. There were a couple of senators and big businessmen with their families, celebrities, culture vultures, and even a former Supreme Court chief justice or two.

There were so many families arriving, bringing three or even four generations -- from the grandparents to the great-grandchildren. Some people came in wheelchairs, others came with caregivers, and many people actually came alone. But that's how universal the appeal of TRAVELIFE Drum Tao was, that people of all ages and from all walks of life and inclinations were present for the very last show.


I watched the show four times, asking different people to come along with me each time; and I have to say that it was slightly different for each of those four shows. Nevertheless, I was completely mesmerized every time.

After the show, Len de la Torre, director of our partner Establish Events, asked me: "You watched so many shows. Which did you like best?"

Tough question. They were all good. But instinctively, I replied: "I still like the Gala Night the best."

Yes. That was the very first show, and it was a glittering first night, when we all laid eyes on the Drum Tao for the first time in Manila.

This was the night we'd formally launched TRAVELIFE Drum Tao Nights as well with a speech from the Ambassador of Japan -- who had something like five events that night, but he'd made it to TRAVELIFE Drum Tao Night, and he and his wife had watched the entire show -- and myself; and I'd watched the show surrounded by all my friends. Or at least all my friends who were in Manila at that time.


I put most of my friends on the left side of the theater, and my La Sallite friend M and I had sat in the ambassadorial row together with all the ambassadors I've come to know very well over the years.

Almost everyone was there save for a couple of ambassadors who were away from the Philippines that particular week. And my seatmates cracked jokes and exchanged comments throughout the show, making it so lighthearted and enjoyable.

When we weren't being mesmerized by what we saw, we were laughing and exchanging banter.


But yesterday, at the end of the 10th show, the Travelife team present all felt slightly sad to be seeing the Tao drummers give their final show. We'd been living and breathing Tao drum for so many weeks now, and finally it was over.

Photo by Joey de Leon

As the curtain went down on the stage and the performers stood there saying goodbye, even I found myself waving to say farewell to the wonderfully energetic group from southern Japan who had captured Manila by storm. Literally by storm.

Goodbye for now. The next time you'll hear from me, I'll be in the land of sushi. Hopefully eating a very good one.


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