Remembering Bibot Amador

Article excerpt

No doubt, the passage of Zeneida Bibot Amador in the afternoon of Sunday, Nov. 28, will have repercussions in the theater world.

Bibot who succumbed to cancer which started in her lungs (which surprised no one since she loved her cigarettes) made no bones about where she was coming from ... Philippine theater, of course, or to be specific the Repertory Philippines of which she was the founder, artistic director and president.

We encountered Bibot in the late 1960s. She was then teaching drama at St. Josephs College in Quezon City and her class was mounting Bernard Shaws play "Pygmalion." Because boys then were not allowed onstage together with girls, Bibot had to portray Prof. Higgins. Eliza Doolittle was played by her student Sonia Malasarte who many years later became Mrs. Raul Roco.

I recall doing a review of the play with remarkable awe at how well Bibot (whom I knew nothing of then) pulled it off so well portraying the snobbish British professor.

According to her biodata, Bibot took a postgraduate course in dramna at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York after graduating, majoring in English literature, from the University of Sto. Tomas. She later taught literature and literary criticism at the University of South Dakota.

In 1967, she returned to the Philippines to establish the Repertory Philippines. She loved to tell the story of their first production, with gales of laughter, and how there were only five people in the audience. But with her cofounders Baby Barredo, Celia Diaz Laurel, Joy Virata, Bibot was determined to pursue their dream, to develop the Philippine theatre industry.

The rest is theatre history. It was the Repertory Philippines that made theatre viable and profitable, paying their actors and production staff. The local audience grew and learned to appreciate local theatre.

Down the years, Bibot became the mentor of hundreds of established and aspiring actors, including international actors like Lea Salonga whose career began at age 8 as the little orphan Annie in the "Annie" musical production of the Repertory, and Monique Wilson whose New Voice Company espouses innovative theatre.

The roster of actors who passed through her hands, molded and yelled (literally) into great acting with what Bart Guingona described as "creative insultry" is formidable, some of whom have established their own theatre companies. …