The advantage of judging in both the elimination and final rounds of the Salaysayan Contest was that, I saw how much the contestants improved and grown into the competition.
Two days are not really enough to raise one's game, but all of the contestants (6 in the English Division and 8 in the Filipino) gave their best. In the end, it was "Kuya Lance" (Filipino) and "Teacher Michelle" (English) who brought home the cash, the medal and the prestige. Madame Sonia Rocco and Kuya Tony Yanza bagged the 2nd prize, while Kuya Claude and Ate Dyali were the 3rd prize winners.
It was difficult judging the Filipino Division, more so in the English Division. Every one was at their best! Michelle Agas, however, stood out among the rest with her tempered and restrained rendition of Lina Diaz De Rivera's Lazy Bug: A Love Fable. She had the right moves and animations to the characters' actions and dialogues. Hers was neither awkward nor misplaced. Her voice dynamics for each character was apt and pleasing. Though she has the tendency to spread her voice thinly to annoyance, her control was remarkable last night. For one, I learned she sang with the UP Concert Chorus. Her musical training and experience was her saving grace all through out the five-minute performance. Just imagine the effort and the energy that a storyteller puts forth when doing a complete program!
Storytellers use their voices a lot. Exhaustion would come in easy when air is taken from somewhere else. The diaphragm is still the best source for air; the stomach, a source for strength and stamina.
Apart from Michelle's voice dynamics and well choreographed animated moves, she used a nice little tune to emphasize the bug's identity. Don't we all have a song or mantra to live by? This is what I was talking about from my last post on the Salaysayan Contest. Others show off their talents in acting and performance but fail to present the more important thing - the story and its message. We all are bedazzled with changes in voicing and lively actions. Then again, there's more to it than merely showing off one's chops.
By singing that little ditty, "I'm an insect, not a bird!", Michelle has offered her audience a significant human experience. She must have studied the story several times to truly understand and communicate its relevance. When she personified the beating heart of an old tree, to the surprise of the young bug upon these words, "You've found my heart", she had the grand prize in the bag. That lone dialogue meant so much. The way she said it was like finally discovering one's passion; one's reason for being. When she said those words, with a twinkle in her eye and a contented smile, it was as if she was challenging her listeners; asking them if they have found their heart's desire or if their hearts have been found and claimed. She has revealed an insight to Lina Diaz De Rivera's story.
I have not read De Rivera's story, but having heard Michelle tell it halfway made me want to borrow a copy from the library to read and see it for myself. If this is not storytelling magic, tell me what is!
The long and short of it, Michelle knows herself; her strengths and weakness; her gifts and her flaws. She knew how to balance them and was disciplined enough to climb a notch higher into the finals. She played and studied her piece. She gave a new perspective to the story. She was well prepared. She wanted to win. And she did win for all the right reasons - that, in storytelling, it is the story who is the star!
Having said all these, I dream of a day when I could tandem with Teacher Michelle. Should the time come, the honor would be truly mine.