Paola San Diego embraces life in the beautiful limelight
By Deneb Batucan
SHE comes out of her car a bit disheveled with eyes that seem to beg for five more minutes of sleep. But tired as she looks, her smile still sends a spark in her eyes – a signal to people that this is no ordinary young woman. She holds within her pure talent that has been skillfully cultivated through years of hard work and practice. From the way she walks and carries herself, you could depict that graceful spring in each step.
The performing arts has been Paola San Diego’s passion ever since she was a little girl. Growing up in a family of artists – singers, dancers, painters, etc. – she has been exposed to the limelight since she was three years old.
Paola started dancing at her uncle’s school, Sandiego Dance Arts Studio, until she became a dance teacher herself. Greatly influenced by her family, she tried out different kinds of dances because of them. In the music aspect, she was influenced by her mom, who used to be in a band, her dad, who had a wide range of musical collections, and her Uncle Martin, who was part of a well-renowned orchestra here in Cebu.
With musically inclined parents, it was inevitable that Paola also ventured into singing and playing instruments. Before Paola got into an actual band, she would make Karaoke nights with friends or family her Araneta Colosseum.
“I’ve always wanted to be in a band but my mom wouldn’t allow me. She said I had to finish college first and then I can be in a band or start one. I was called ‘The Ultimate Jammer’ up until three years after graduation, I finally had the courage to get up and do my own act. I had a lot of help from my musician friends who rescued me and helped me turn my dreams into reality. But I still take Karaoke very seriously to this day!” Paola shared.
Aside from being busy with gigs, Paola has also immersed herself in the local theater scene. She is part of the upcoming restaging of the Bisaya Jukebox musical, Gugmang Giatay. Paola brings life to the character of Rihanna, a talkative and tale-telling house help who is experiencing the pains of being in the friendzone.
“Rihanna is the kikay type of yaya. Very chismosa, very transparent about her emotions especially if she sees a cute guy,” Paola said.
Being onstage, as for Paola, is nerve-wracking. “I’ve been doing shows onstage for years now, but it’s different with theater. In theater, it’s very important that you get the message across to your audience. You don’t get a crowd that accepts information identically. For example, some may think what you’re doing is funny but others may perceive it as offensive. It’s very challenging. Sometimes I’d feel anxious if I did it right. But after three shows, I’m confident that we were able to deliver our message to the audience,” she said.
Paola dreamed of being in a musical since she was little. She remembers a trip to Bato, south of Cebu, and the only CD they had on the player was the soundtrack of Wicked the Musical. “Imagine three boring hours on the road, so I had a good deal of time listening carefully to the story through the lyrics. I was so moved and touched that I didn’t realize that I was actually watching the musical in my head. That’s when I knew I wanted to be in a musical,” she said.
As a performer since she was a child, Paola has learned so much throughout the years. “Be punctual and present during rehearsals. Whether you are part of the main cast or ensemble or if you’ve done the musical a million times or it’s your first time, it doesn’t matter. Every rehearsal is a learning opportunity. You miss one day, then you miss a chance for you to improve and be better,” she said.
For Paola, her love for theater and music will never change. It is and will always be her calling. “Never say you’re too old for your dreams. I was in my mid-20s when I pursued music and I feel so much better knowing that I’m finally doing what I’ve always wanted to do,” she said. “Don’t feel too overwhelmed when offers knock right at your door. Learn how to choose your opportunities. Learn how to value them. Respect yourself as much as you respect other artists. Be smart in taking leaps of faith. And, most importantly, don’t hesitate to ask anyone, especially your mentors, for help and advice.”
Photos: Alfred Gregory E. Bartolome
Make-up Artist: Carlo Damolo
Hair Stylist: Jerwin Bastatas
Locale: One Oasis Cebu