The 19 Seasons of Frank Rivera

This 29 February, arts and culture maverick Frank Rivera celebrates his real natal day for the 19th time, having been born during a leap year. On a regular cycle, his red-letter day shindig always happens on the 26th of the love and arts month, he is now a seasoned septuagerian.

Actor, activist, author, collector, composer, designer, librettist, literary figure, playwright, screenplay writer, poet, visual artist and so much more — a multi-hyphenate indeed.

In Facebook, he recently imparted about a full circle moment that will transpire with  this yearly natal day  observance.  He wrote: “Some 27 years ago, the City of Manila awarded me the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan (Para sa Teatro. Now, it is in this very City, specifically in its Manila Clock Tower Museum, is the venue for ‘Tertulia at Sining ni Frank Rivera,’ where my  artistic legacies of poem, songs and theater plays come center stage.”

Directed by CJ Andaluz and spearheaded by The Philippine Leaf Awards, expect as well Rivera’s  loved ones, colleagues and friends, to give the celebrator a toast, roast, reminiscences and a tribute like no other.

Teatro Metropolitano

My encounter with the Master happened during the early 90s, at the Metropolitan Theater where I worked as PR assistant. The artistic director then Veda Banez, desired to have an actor’s company since the Met Chorus and Met Dance Theater Company were already established.

Teatro Metropolitano was the chosen name for the Met Actors Company since since this was the original moniker on the marker located outside the building that declared the Met as a national and historic landmark.

Rivera, Danny Mandia and the late Len Ag Santos-Siasoco, served as its facilitators.

As a Met employee, one of the perks was free access to artistic classes and lessons. Having my fill of formal modern jazz and basic ballet training from the MDT, participating in the Rivera-Mandia-Siasoco helmed workshop was a no-brainer.

It was a mentally, physically, emotionally stirring and stimulating workshop that made me appreciate the commitment, discipline and the passion of our teachers and gave me a better understanding of the value and importance of the theater arts.

Being “maarte” (fussy) was not an alien thing to me. However, no inkling that I had the chops and knack to wriggle my way and passed the many workshop activities and challenges. What my Frank and the rest of my teachers saw in me, it always made me wonder. It was rewarding of course to hear them applaud, and give good critique to what I did after an acting exercise.

Rivera as a teacher, was as sharp and true to the first name he carried, minced no words, never sugar coating as he pointed out the why you earned praised and failed miserably in the exercise. For Rivera, acting was a constant quest to learn, and that to be effective in your role, memorizing lines and cues are not enough, it is imperative that an actor gives his character attitude, mood, emotions, truth, sincerity and above all, vulnerability.


The acid test for the newly formed Teatro Metropolitano was Oyayi, a play with music written by Frank Rivera and directed by Danny Mandia.

Booked for matinee and evening shows that totaled to six, at 200 seater that was the Dalubdulaan, for some believe it or not, or Twilight Zone reason, cast to perform the role of Eleonor Roosevelt Batungbacal.

Rivera was fully convinced I could pull off the spinster elementary school teacher character with an anthem at that entitled “Pusong Tigang.” It was the biggest gamble that Rivera pushed and approved by director Mandia.

Still remember how my heart pounded and screamed during the first Oyayi show with a full house audience. But by some miracle from the Muses, when curtain call happened and it was my time to bow on center stage, the reaction from the audiences dumbfounded me. In all the clocked performances, the most the enthusiastic of applauses was music to my ears, and to all my cast mates, and this reaction happened all the time during the limited run.

My whole journey of it, landed in one of Rivera’s books that carried the play’s title. Published by the UST Press, please care to read the documented proof of my one-time, big time legitimate stage experience.

The Philippine Leaf Awards

Nowadays, Frank Rivera watches plays, concerts and graces festivals as he passionately pursues his role as the Force and Head of the Philippine Leaf Awards.

His plays are still being produced and watched. His poems, birthday tributes for friends, recollections of those who are gone too soon and dearly departed and reviews are available on Facebook.

The best he does as of the moment, his advocacy of harnessing and making Filipino arts and culture a source of power and force to nation building and heralding and supporting, world class Filipino artists.

Happy birthday, Frank Rivera. Great health and more natal days to come and celebrate.