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Red stage curtain

Expressions of Gratitude

It’s our host, Aliw’s turn to say thank you to someone who introduced her to musicals which her whole family has grown to love and enjoy, plus, we’ll hear other thank you messages from people who have been recipients of human kindness


Making Changes: Expressions of Gratitude

Aliw Pablo: Hi, Tita Bong, how are you?

Tita Bong: I’m fine, Aliw. Thanks for having me.

Aliw Pablo: Yes, you’re so welcome. We invited you today because nearly 30 years ago, you did something for us. And it was so simple. I’m sure you never even thought about it.

Tita Bong: That’s way too long ago. That’s a long time and you think at my age I’ll remember that, right?

Aliw Pablo: From INC Media Audio, this is Making Changes, a podcast about the changes we go through, and the life lessons we learn along the way, but always with God by our side. I’m your host, Aliw Garcia, Pablo.

Aliw Pablo: Today, we’re continuing our Thank You Series, which are surprised calls to people who have made a positive change in someone’s life. It’s simply a chance to say thank you.

Aliw Pablo: And this time, it’s my turn to show my gratitude. Today, I get to thank someone who was responsible for my love for Broadway musicals. Okay, but first, let’s set the record straight. I can’t sing. But you know, there is something about watching live stage musicals. It’s the stories, it’s the writing, it’s the music. It’s really storytelling at its finest. And my husband, Jason, I mean, I would, we would have never discovered our love for stage musicals together, and passed it over to our kids, if it wasn’t for this person you’re about to meet. And all this because of our aunt Eva, or who we fondly call Tita Bong. Come meet her!

Aliw Pablo: Theatre for stage musicals. Do you remember what year that was…kind of?

Tita Bong: Oh my gosh, what show was it?

Aliw Pablo: It was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I think it was 1993, 94 was definitely mid-90’s. And I was in college, I think at the time and you know, and we had never, you know, Joy, and I, you know, my sister, we’ve never really been exposed to musicals, or live stage or anything. And I remember you asked us, Hey, do you guys want to go usher and we’re like, usher? Oh, sure. And, you know, you even allowed us to bring our friends. You allowed us to invite their friends. It was all free.

Aliw Pablo: So Tita Bong was a paid staff Usher at the theaters here in San Francisco. And when they were short staffed, they were allowed to invite volunteer ushers, and all we had to do was pass out playbills and show people to their seats. And once the show started, whatever empty seats there were, it was ours.

Aliw Pablo: But you exposed us to musical theater that I don’t think we would have ever been exposed to. I mean, Filipino parents don’t necessarily encourage their kids to go watch musical theater. But it’s something that, you know, Jason and I, we both really loved it. It was our first time seeing any kind of musical theater, we pass it down to our kids. And now that the Church has lots of stage musicals. I really believe that that’s why our kids are so excited every time there’s stage productions in the church, because we had exposed them to musical theater. And it’s all because you had exposed us to musical theater. So 30 plus years later, Tita Bong I just wanted to say ‘thank you’ for that.

Tita Bong: Oh, my goodness, you’re most welcome. I haven’t done it. I mean, that was back in. I started back in 1981. ‘81 was when I first started at the theater and like you for an initial introduction like that, I was hooked also.

Aliw Pablo: Right. What was your first musical?

Tita Bong: My very first musical, which I did not usher, but I was exposed to was the… I was in London on a training program. I was brought to… we were brought to see Fiddler on the Roof in London.

Aliw Pablo: Fiddler on the Roof. That was your musical.

Tita Bong: Yes. That was my very first musical introduction to the theater. I mean, and from that day forward, I mean, just like you, I was hooked. But I started ushering at the Theater in San Francisco in 1981. I lived in a residential hall close to the theater and one day my friend said that there was an announcement about the theater next door, which is that the Golden Gate Theatre was looking for ushers. I said, usher? Okay, so usher.  When I got to the theater, jeez, I saw the theater– huge.

Aliw Pablo: Yes, it doesn’t look much from the outside, but when you go in?

Tita Bong: Yes, it was huge.

Aliw Pablo: What’s amazing for me is being able to see what they can, how in two hours, they can tell a story that transcends time, in a small stage. And yet you’re basically, you know, run back in time transformed and the storytelling and the music, right? And it’s just you’re enthralled as you’re watching it versus watching it on the screen. For you, what has it been? How have you been able to have such a love affair with stage musicals all these years? From Fiddler on the Roof. You know, starting from the late 60s.

Tita Bong: Yes, that was. I love music. I mean, I love music, I am happy to sing. I play the guitar. Well, I played the guitar. So I really like music. And it’s just amazing how those characters come alive on stage. It’s just the things that they do on stage and backstage. It’s just amazing.

Aliw Pablo: For as long as I know Tita Bong, she’s always worked at the theater. But this was the first time I heard about all the famous people she’s met who’ve come to see the shows.

Aliw Pablo: So I’m sure you’ve seen all sorts of different things. You know, having worked in the theaters for 40 years or so. Have there been any interesting instances you’ve had with different people, maybe even famous people?

Tita Bong: Yes, yes. There was one I was… I was ushering in the orchestra in the middle of a row. I saw Robin Williams.

Aliw Pablo: Wow.

Tita Bong: And I saw Oh, Robin Williams! And Robin, just instantly said, ssssh, you know, motion to me to be quiet. Oh, and one person that really left a good impact on us, the ushers, specifically, was Lena Horne. Lena Horme made it a point to give us each an autographed picture of all the ushers. We asked why, why of all the people and we learned that she was an usher when she was, before she was a big star.

Aliw Pablo: Big actress, yes. That’s so sweet.

Tita Bong: So she had this special place in our hearts for ushers.

Aliw Pablo: And also, I kind of want to just pivot to how you know, when I started watching musical theater, you know, there wasn’t anything like that, really, at the time in the church. I remember the very first any kind of stage musical type that we got to see here was a 30th anniversary, which was in 1998.

Tita Bong: Right. I remember that.

Aliw Pablo: So that was a big deal. That was a big deal, right in 1998 for the Church to be able to rent this huge I think it was the San Jose Convention Center. That was the first time that we rented a venue that big for us to put our own show, ‘98. And now, my kids, they’re always in stage productions of the Church’s. What can you say about just how music has evolved in the Church, but specifically, stage productions in general in the Church from the time when you were growing up in the Church to when I was growing up to how it is now you know in 2022 or in the 2020s?

Tita Bong: Yes, I mean, in fact, I was so impressed. I think the first time I saw it I was watching the productions of the Church. Now I said, wow, we’ve really evolved because I think during our time, we even had to rework only presenting Filipino folk dance. Yes, so I think eventually when I saw that it was starting to have all these new songs. Some of them were even written by the kids, the brethren now. I was impressed. I was so impressed.

Aliw Pablo: At this point in our conversation, we’re able to reflect on how far musical production has come in the Church Of Christ. And I’m so glad that my kids are able to be part of all these amazing creative projects..

(song lyrics)”…please send us a Minister to teach us. Who can lead us in our name…”

Aliw Pablo: I know, in the Philippines, they’ve done, you know, productions like that already in the arena with the orchestra playing as a full on musical on any of their stages much bigger in the arena, right? Then, for example, in the theaters here, and here, you know, it’s now they think about it, the very first musical we had here in the States was 30 years in the West, which was in 1998 and I did the video directing for it. And I have to say, had you not exposed us to musicals in 1993, if I hadn’t seen those musicals beforehand, it would have been really scary. And then fast forward to the 50 years in the West, which we had here, just, you know, four years ago now.

…give me patience to wait for you to act, the right to fight for the faith…

Aliw Pablo: It has really helped a tremendous deal in being prepared for, you know, video directing those types of productions.

Tita Bong: Yes. And I think it’s the exposure, the exposure to such productions that produces also the interest in the youth to create their own musicals, you know, and I’ve also seen how the Church’s orchestra?

Aliw Pablo: Yes. Yes.

Tita Bong: That is so impressive. We have so many talented musicians in the church, when I saw that…

Aliw Pablo: Oratorio

Tita Bong: Yes, I saw that. Oh, wow.

Aliw Pablo: And we had that in the Philippines in the arena. But the one in New York, we just had one a few years ago in New York.

[oratorio bit]

Aliw Pablo: You know, it’s really amazing, right? How far music transcends all generations and, you know, thank God that we’re doing the same thing and exposing our youth to those types of productions.

Aliw Pablo: But just, I just wanted to say thank you, Tita Bong for walking down memory lane with me today. And I, you know, I know I’ve said thanks before, but I wanted to publicly thank you for being here.

Tita Bong: My pleasure.

Aliw Pablo: The impact, and really the change in us being exposed to musical theater in a way that we would have never been exposed to had it not been for you back in the nineties.

Tita Bong: I’m glad I made an impact on you. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it, too.

Aliw Pablo: I want to entitle this episode as Thank You for the Music.  But thank you.

Tita Bong: Thank you.

Aliw Pablo: We’ll see you soon. We’ll see you soon.

Aliw Pablo: Special thanks to my aunt Eva, or Tita Bong as we call her. And I’m glad that 30 years later, I’ve been able to not just say thanks, but to really reflect on the huge impact that her one gesture from decades ago has had on my life. And we’ve all had those moments, you know, where someone does something kind for us that we never forget. But sometimes we don’t always get to see that person again to say thank you. So here are a few stories from our team here at INC Media Studios, and the people they’d like to thank for changing their lives.

Michelle: I want to say thanks to Miss Nancy Ecker. She was one of my English teachers in high school. And she was a fantastic teacher who made books come alive for me, as nerdy as that sounds. But I remember when I was in grade 11, she would recommend these books for me to read. During winter breaks and spring breaks. She would lend me these books from the book room. And they were just books that helped me as a teenager. You know, I was going through a lot of like, teenager stuff at that time, very angsty. And those books kind of helped me deal and understand what I was going through. And she was also really encouraging when it came to my writing. She was very supportive and really encouraged me to pursue literature and writing post high school right after high school. And I took a few detours. But, you know, I eventually ended up here and INC Media, telling stories, connecting people with stories and writing about what matters most to me. So thank you, Miss Acker. Thank you for your encouragement. Thank you for being such an amazing teacher and leaving that mark with me. Up to this point, thank you.

Renezen: I want to say thank you to a wonderful stranger named Adriana from Petaluma, California. I wanted to thank her for the kindness she showed me on October 13, 2001. I was at the San Francisco International Airport when I got the news that my dad had passed away from a sudden heart attack. I was stunned and in shock, did I yell out,did I cry. I’m not really sure. To be honest, the details are a blur to me. But what I do remember is Adriana walking over to talk to me, she must have heard or seen my distress. And instead of turning away she came over and introduced herself. She asked me questions about what happened, where I was from and told me she was from Petaluma. She stayed with me until it was time for me to board my flight home. That was the last time I saw her. I think about that moment from time to time, and of the kindness and warmth she showed me at that moment. I hope one day I can thank her in person, but this will have to do for now. Thank you Adriana.

JJ: I would like to thank my high school teacher, Mr. Green, he was actually my teacher for computer science and computer engineering. And back in those classes, he would actually enroll the students in the class in competitions for computer programming, robotics. The way he would help us and teach us approaching these competitions was how to tackle problems differently. He was very encouraging for us to find the solution now in our own ways. He really sparked in us the ability to search for ourselves instead of providing answers for us. And it really helped me in my way of looking for solutions to problems and problem solving.

Christine: I’d like to thank Emma Solberg and her family. I met Emma Solberg in junior high. And her family would take Emma’s classmates, including myself, to different trips up and down the East Coast, for art galleries, for museums, and also to Shakespeare festivals. And that opened up to me the world of you know, literature and the arts. And that’s what I think pushed me to become a film studies major, and make the arts part of my career.

Brother Joe: I wanted to say thank you to Miss Taffy Patton, an elementary school teacher whom I had long ago. She helped to spark in me a love of learning that continues to this day. She helped to nurture my creativity. And I can honestly say that her genuine concern and personal approach to teaching, would help to inspire me to also take that path that led me to becoming first children’s worship service teacher as a teenager, and now minister of the gospel. She was more than just a teacher. She was a great mentor, and a great friend. And her enthusiasm for guiding her students towards not just understanding the material, but in achieving excellence is one which all teachers, whatever subject they happen to teach, can learn from. I know that I certainly have. And so thank you so much Miss Patton, for everything that you’ve done. For your great influence in my life, and in the lives of many students who have been truly blessed and fortunate to have encountered you in their studies.

Aliw Pablo: Thank you to everyone who has shared their stories of change and gratitude. Now is there someone that has made a huge impact in your life that you’d like to thank? We’d love to hear from you. Send us a direct message on our Instagram account at Making Changes Podcasts. And we’d love to try and connect you with an old friend, classmate, mentor or anyone who you want to thank. So if you found value in what you heard today, be sure to subscribe to this podcast so you’ll always be up to date with the latest episodes. While you’re at it, feel free to leave us a review wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening, and may your change uplift you.