Naty Crame Rodgers experimenting with the classics

LIVE FEED - Bibsy M. Carballo - The Philippine Star

We went to see our friend and neighbor Naty Crame Rodgers immediately after we returned home from Potipot where we had spent the weekend. We had missed her being awarded the Natatanging Gawad Buhay, a Lifetime Achievement Award given by Philstage, because of the weekend trip as well as a bout with fever and coughing. We were glad to find Naty home and well, her appetite better than ours and her memory sharp as that of a teenager. Which is much more than we can say of ourselves.  

Naty looked healthy except for the fact that she has to use a wheelchair after a fall she had which sent her to the hospital where she had to stay for  more than a year. She was seated at her table in the small room that served as her bedroom, living quarters, as well as rehearsal hall of the plays she was presenting. We noticed plastered on the wall of the room a schedule of activities for the month with rehearsals included. We asked about it and Naty said it was for a new play titled Panhik Ligaw, a Filipino adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s The Marriage Proposal. Chekhov’s one act farce was written and performed in the 1890s. It told of how a man out to propose marriage to a woman gets into numerous arguments over the most trivial things. The farce is read as a satire on the upper-class and courtship. We inquired when and where they would be presenting it and Naty said they have already shown it and will continue showing it.

We wondered how all these came about and Naty said a man named Felizardo Habito came to her house one day with the script he had translated, asking if she would be interested in producing it. In a matter of weeks, Naty had gathered a cast, scheduled rehearsals and had a first showing. The Pinoy version we read came across as a riot that we couldn’t stop laughing. We were certain the audience had loved it. We were frankly amazed at how things seemed to fall into the lap of Naty. She got a new script, a cast and a location in a matter of days. She must be truly blessed, we thought to ourselves. She told us she hopes to tour her productions.

We then moved to other matters like the award she got along with Esteban Basilio Villaruz. But somewhere along the way, we started talking about ghosts and our experiences with ghosts. We recalled admitting that we believed in ghosts and in those little creatures that inhabit the universe. That got Naty talking of the time they were shooting Portrait of the Artist as Filipino, a Nick Joaquin classic directed by Lamberto V. Avellana with his wife Daisy in the role of Candida and Naty as Paula. The venue for the taping in 1965 was the old Yaptinchay Yatco mansion in Biñan, Laguna, where there was much talk of ghost appearances.

Naty remembered one incident involving a man who appeared at the location, went to director Bert, pointed to the Lolo in a portrait on the wall saying he had an appointment with him and disappeared. Clearly that was a ghost from the past. The amazing thing is Fr. James Reuter had joined them for the shoot, continued Naty, and blessed the interiors and all parts of the house in order to have protection against the elementals. “I, myself, didn’t see any ghosts, but I felt their presence,” said Naty.

There is also that experience of Conrad Parham who was playing Tony Javier, the male lead of the time. The ghost must have liked him a lot and followed him home. The staff who slept in the antesala swore to have seen the lady in the painting there walking around the area. Nick Agudo, also in the cast, was taking a bath and the soap kept slipping away from his fingers. When Naty was taping her last scene and Bert called for a pack-up, he couldn’t find his belt. “I talked to the portrait of a woman on the wall and asked that the belt be returned,” recalled Naty. And she gave in and returned the belt.

(Send your comments to [email protected] or text us at 0917-8991835.)

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