Ignacio Gimenez who?
It’s been seven years since I first heard that name—a donor for a theater to be constructed on the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) grounds. Former CCP vice president and artistic director Chris Millado kept on harping on the edifice before and during the coronavirus pandemic, and continued to push for it in virtual and on-site meetings with media practitioners.
What brought the name to mind was Max’s Restaurant on Scout Tuazon Street in Quezon City. On its walls (and on the walls of its branches) are pasted vintage photos of the origins of the chicken house, along with the name of Maximo Gimenez, one of its founders.
Maximo and Ignacio are different persons.
The businessman Ignacio is also a success story. An equally noteworthy fact about him is that he was interested in the arts, especially during his undergraduate days at the University of the Philippines (UP).
Ignacio Gimenez was a performer in many of the English-language plays at UP at the time, including “Wanted: A Chaperone,” which was written, staged and directed by the future National Artist for Theater Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero.
As a matter of fact, he was a scholar of the pioneer in theatrical performing arts.
But Gimenez didn’t end up in theater acting after UP because he went into business. Still, the acting bug constantly drew him to stage plays, movies and art shows.
Indeed, he is a voracious arts patron, always in touch with a lot of artists from various fields and disciplines, two of them Emily Abrera and Millado.
It was in the last year of President Benigno Aquino III’s administration when Abrera, then chair of the CCP’s Board of Trustees, and Millado, together with Tess Rances, one of the CCP’s arts managers, spoke with Gimenez about his possible support. The discussion centered on the construction of a black box theater, a new theater structure concept and an additional venue for the performing arts.
“We would meet up with him over coffee and turon (thinly sliced bananas in lumpia wrapper),” Abrera recalled, chuckling over the allusion to the CCP’s austerity policy during her term.
Reaching out to the spirit of genuine generosity dwelling in Gimenez the philanthropist, the CCP officials succeeded in persuading him to fund the black theater project.
Gimenez was as glad. “I admire Emily, Chris and Tess for their friendliness and commitment to the arts,” he said.
Flexible performance space
The CCP Black Box Theater is a flexible performance space which, when stripped of the basics, is but one room painted black; the stage is at eye level of the first row of the audience. It stands as a symbol of trust and symbiosis.
Last Sept. 8, the latest addition to the CCP sprawl of performing arts venues was inaugurated, eponymously called Tanghalang Ignacio B. Gimenez.
The theater actor-turned-businessman has come full circle.
Among the stage productions listed are the “CCP Concert Series” and “CCP Triple Threat Series,” Tanghalang Pilipino’s “Anak Datu,” “Carousel” and “Ternocon.”
In his recognition speech, Gimenez said he would never die from starring in films as an actor. “[The CCP Black Box Theater] … is my way of giving back,” he said.