Gee Gee at Waterina: More than a gay story

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<i>Gee Gee at Waterina</i>: More than a gay story
REODER CAMANAG as Waterina during the launch of Gee Gee at Waterina the Musical.

HOW DO old gays survive when all the glamor and glimmer of their heyday finally come to the inevitable curtain call? This is the premise of the play Gee Gee at Waterina ang Musikal.

But the play promises to deliver a story that tackles more than just the colorful lives that flamboyant gays often lead.

“It’s a story of survival. It’s a play on one’s strength of character, who just happens to be a gay. But otherwise it could be anyone’s story that everybody could relate,” said the musical’s composer Jesse Lucas during the launch on June 27.

Gee Gee at Waterina ang Musikal will have a limited run on Aug. 18, 19, 25, and 26 at Arts Above, Artist Playground in West Ave., Quezon City.

Ang Gee Gee at Waterina ay sumasalamin sa takot at insekuridad ng bawat miyembro ng LGBT, the fear of getting old, being alone and lonely, pero sa huli ay may realisasyon: it’s okay to be old, happy, and gay,” said musical director Andrew de Real. (“Gee Gee at Waterina is a reflection of the fears and insecurities of every LGBT member, the fear of getting old, being alone and lonely, but in the end, there’s one realization: it’s okay to be old, happy, and gay.”)

The musical is based on the true story of gay friends Gee Gee and Waterina.

Gee Gee — Justo C. Justo in real life — was a former Pasay City councilor in the 1980s who came in the showbiz limelight when he convinced Sarah Jane Salazar, an AIDS victim, to share her story publicly. Gee Gee was also the founder of the Home for the Golden Gays, a retirement home for old homosexuals like Walter Dempster, Jr., also known as Waterina, a real-life comfort gay during the Japanese occupation whose life was portrayed in the 2000 movie Markova: Comfort Gay starring the late Comedy King Dolphy.

Every time playwright J. Dennis C. Teodisio would ask the two how much money they had earned as compensation for the use of their story by Dolphy and what would they do with it, he said they would always change their story.

So a few years after the Dolphy movie was released, Mr. Teodisio came up with his own story, Gee Gee at Waterina, which is a what-if story that imagined what the two gays could have done with the money.

“So I came up with a story where they would tell the truth,” said Mr. Teodisio, adding, “Para sa isang matandang bakla, para saan nga ba ang pera?” [“What is money to an ageing gay?”]

Gee Gee at Waterina started out as a one-act play which was included in the first Virgin LabFest in 2005. It starred Lou Veloso as Waterina and Paolo Cabañero as Gee Gee. Twelve days after the play was shown at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the real-life Waterina died after a bicycle hit him. In 2012, the real-life Gee Gee succumbed after battling spinal column problems caused by diabetes.

Through the years, Gee Gee at Waterina became a favorite production thesis in schools, said its author. In 2016, Mr. Teodisio learned his play was being staged only after theater actor-director Roeder Camañag sent him a message on Facebook saying he was playing Waterina in the production — nobody had informed the author beforehand. As a payment for the trespass, Mr. Camañag sent a message in 2017 asking that Gee Gee at Waterina be made into a musical. Mr. Teodisio said yes and wrote the full-length version.

Mr. Teodisio said in his notes: “Wala na akong takot. Alam kong madali nang matanggap ang mga manonood na ito ay ’di lamang tungkol sa dalawang matandang bakla. Higit at ibabaw sa lahat, ito ay tungkol sa pagkakaroon ng totoong kaibigan at pagtanggap sa kalakaran ng buhay. At kung may pagkakataon, iaalay ko ang unang pagtatanghal ng Gee Gee at Waterina ang Musikal kina Walterina Markova at JJ — at sa kanilang buhay na masaya, malandi, maingay, makulay, at pagkaganda-ganda.”

(I am fearless now. I know that the audience will easily understand that it’s more than just a story of two old gays. First and foremost, it is a story of true friendship and acceptance of the facts of life. And if given a chance, I will dedicate the first performance of Gee Gee at Waterina ang Musikal to Walterina Markova and JJ — and their fun, flirtatious, loud, colorful, and beautiful lives.)

From a one-act Virgin Labfest entry to a full-length musical, the transition, obviously, included a lot of revisions.

Sa theater kasi masyadong madada (theater is too talky), this musical will offer us to a 3D presentation,” said Mr. Teodisio.

Gee Gee at Waterina ang Musikal features new original music by Mr. Lucas, choreography by Lezlie Dailisan, and stars Mr. Camañag as Waterina and Norman Peñaflorida as Gee Gee. — Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman

For details on the other Virgin Lab Fest shows, read: Virgin Labfest presents a Marawi-inspired musical alongside an EJK play and more

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