Rustica Carpio: Drama is a mirror of life
Nenet Galang-Pereña (The Philippine Star) - August 12, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - “Drama is a mirror of life. It conveys life; it communicates man’s outer and inner expressions; it is man speaking of himself, for himself, to other human beings to share his thoughts, ideas, beliefs, values, longings and aspirations. It is the human being extending arms, mind, and heart, giving meaning to life as events unfold, whether significant or immaterial.”

Thus, writes Rustica Carpio in Theater through the Ages, and this is how she spent her prime — bringing to life a pantheon of characters, from Shakespeare’s Elizabethan stage to Severino Montano’s Arena theater to the Sining Malaya that are Indie films — letting the Filipino soul “echo, re-echo, and register the search for fulfillment that can be beneficial or meaningful to the Filipino and to other people.” She has worn the masks of unforgettable characters from Lady Macbeth to Leonor Rivera to Lola, each of whom has burnished her mimetic mirror to a sparkling sheen.

Lady Macbeth, she finds as a manipulative and cunning woman whose greed for power led to her own destruction. Tita Rustie, who has always been admired for her nerves of steel, having survived both the violence of war and the vicissitudes of peace, is the first to warn against overweening ambition. In her Literature classes at Far Eastern University where she dramatized this Shakespearian shrew, she would exhort: “Remember the warning from the Greeks: Whom the gods wish to destroy, they make mad first.”

Leonor Rivera-Kipping, she believes is the epitome of Filipina maidens in our glorious past. Uncanny that Rizal’s Taimis, in fact bears a striking resemblance to Tita Rustie in her youth, as described by Rizal’s biographer, Austin Coates: “a pretty woman whose physical features included having a high forehead, soft and wavy hair, almond eyes, small and pensive mouth, and a charming singing voice.“ Leonor obeyed her parents’ wishes and married the Englishman of their choice, but in her heart carried the love and loyalty for her sweetheart of 11 years. ”Leonor (whom she played opposite the director, Severino Montaño himself for the Arena Theatre of Philippine Normal University), is a portrait in passion and piety,” emphasizes Tita Rustie.

But Lola, essayed for Brillante Mendoza’s magnum opus exhibited in the 2009 Venice and Dubai Film Festivals, has sealed Tita Rustie’s niche in the temple of strong female dramatis personae. As Lola Puring, the grandmother of the cellphone snatcher who killed the grandson of Lola Sepa (Anita Linda), Tita Rusty summoned the aura of unconditional love that women are capable of. “Here, my character had to transgress conventional morality to be able to find salvation for her grandson, and all parents and grandparents will understand this,” she explains.

From her first film role in Ishmael Bernal’s Nunal sa Tubig in 1975, and in the more recent roles in Captive, where she played a social worker; in Aparisyon, where she was cast as a troubled nun; and in Ano ang Kulay ng Nakalimutang Pangarap, where she amplified the plight of an aging yaya, Tita Rustie has valiantly etched her name in the tableau of humanity’s rise and fall.

Turning 85, Rustica the academician (Bachelor of Arts in English, magna cum laude, Manuel Luis Quezon University, 1930; Master of Arts in Speech Education, New York University, 1956; and PhD in Literature, Meritissimus, University of Santo Tomas, 1979), and actress vows: “I sang in an operetta at the age of 10, and would like to continue my rendezvous with the drama until the last curtain falls.”


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