On lizards and goodbyes

I feel the same way about lizards and goodbyes. I dislike them, one just as much as the other, in whatever shape or form. I’m sorry, I know it is Easter Sunday, when things are supposed to be happy and light, so please forgive me for talking about things I dislike. This will end on a happy note, I just need to get it off my chest.

Then I can and will move on.

Almost five years ago, on a whim, I boldly said yes to a hosting job, one that also entailed a little dancing every now and then. The show was to be called Shall We Dance, and it was to run for a season. Thirteen Sundays of my life, I remember thinking back then. How scary can it be? I knew I could pretend to be all composed and graceful but honestly, being in front of the camera was something I did not exactly take to like fish to water. I had to get used to it, learn it, find that energy level that TV requires, and still be me. My natural speaking voice is soft and talking on a mic was enough to make me tremble, but then I had to worry about dancing as well so hosting became a smaller challenge to hurdle. Dancing was the bigger dragon to, not slay, but befriend. Although it was something I’ve always loved to do for hours on end — in a small class, in the bedroom and the bathroom, in front of my husband and daughter — I was not too keen on doing it for an audience. The thought terrified me. It made my stomach turn. Turned my knees into jelly.

So during the lunch meeting, I looked quickly inside myself and gave it a careful thought. Should I? Why not? It would only be 13 Sundays of my life, and each dance would be around three minutes max. What was I so scared of? Besides, when would I do it, when turned 85?

So I did it, come what may. I did the whole nine yards — the dancing, the glittery costumes, the occasional lifting and throwing in the air that takes your breath away and teaches you to pray even harder than you already are, and the hosting. One Sunday at a time. And as I journeyed, my world became bigger, I met lots of wonderful people, fostered a deeper respect for artists and their craft, became happier than I had ever been on TV. At some point, quite early on in the game, it felt very much like the string of the kite was happily (and willingly) severed and I just pretty much went where the wind blew — even to places and steps I said I would never do in my lifetime.

The 13 Sundays became another 26, and then 39 and then 52, until years passed, and we were all still happily at it.

There, in that small, sparkling studio tucked in Novaliches we just had fun and cheered each other on. We laughed a lot. Even when the working day was hard and the dance steps harder, when life was not always kind, the studio and all the happiness it never seemed to run out of was a safe haven, where we could just exhale and be mindful of the many blessings we still enjoyed. I could be all weepy about the occasional drama life throws my way but within the confines of that space, I could also be as cheerful as ice cream. Like a happy home and the comfort of family, it was all good, even during the bad days.

How wonderful is that?

There was no pressure to be the best, the finest, the greatest. Each time, we were just inspired to put out our best, our finest, our greatest, whatever it was, whatever came to be, for ourselves, out of respect for all the others we worked with, for an audience we knew we had captured, the same audience that grew through the years and allowed us, through their support, to stay on air for as long as we have, doing what we love to do. No, it has not felt like work at all.

Last Sunday, Shall We Dance bade farewell — sort of. We are moving up to an earlier timeslot, 12 noon, and the family has grown bigger. You will now be watching the show while enjoying your lunch. Aside from the dancing, there will be many other happy things happening. We will be laughing a lot more, having even more fun than we already have been having. The new show promises to be greater than we’ve ever dreamed to be. We are marching on to new things, stretching ourselves in ways we never thought we could. It is a good thing, I know. But part of me will always miss that studio in Novaliches. I dislike goodbyes, the same way I dislike lizards, but it was something I had to do. Like a rite of passage and birth pains, this goodbye will herald the beginning of something beautiful and good.

I always laugh when my nine-year-old daughter puts her hands on her hips and declares with conviction “Mom, I never want to grow up. I want to be eight or nine forever!” This very moment while I am writing this, like that very moment on the Shall We Dance podium when I said, on behalf of the show, thank you and farewell, I understand completely what she meant, where she was coming from. The show was one of those things that fall under my I-never-want-this-to-end list. But in the same way that children must grow into adults so, too, must the show continue to evolve, to become bigger, and in the process better. I must remember that lest I get too sad.

The new show, called Party on 5 (or PO5) will be just that — a party where fun and entertainment reign supreme. We will push the envelope and, yes, we promise not to forget to have fun in the process.

Thank you for five wonderful years of happiness that was Shall We Dance. I also embrace a wonderful, new beginning. May it be happier and bigger.


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