Loraine Gaile Jarlega and her family: It takes a village to raise a ballerina

Loraine Gaile Jarlega and her family: It takes a village to raise a ballerina

For Loraine Gaile Jarlega, ballet is sweeter the second time around and it looks like she is determined to stay now. Photo by Jimmy Villanueva

By Jv Ramos

Twelve-year-old Loraine Gaile Jarlega may be very reserved, but one does not need her to speak to realize that this girl is obsessed with ballet. According to her parents, the young ballerina keeps practicing her turns at home. She, in fact, bought a balancer so that she may perfect these. In addition, she religiously jots down the steps she learns in class, as well as the personal feedback she receives from the teachers. Gaile apparently also cannot sit still when watching videos of ballet performances.

"Tumatayo na kaagad siya kapag ballet ang palabas," testifies Daddy Anthony. "Tumatayo para gayahin ang mga steps. At kahit wala siyang partner, tuloy pa rin." (Gaile would immediately stand up when we're watching ballet videos. She'd stand up to copy the steps. Even if she doesn’t have a partner, she'd continue dancing.) 

Asked if she has always been passionate about the dance form, the Jarlegas reveal that Gaile actually almost left ballet for good.

Anthony and Arline Jarlega say they are happy being ballet parents to Gaile, even if it means taking extra effort and making sacrifices. Photo by Jimmy Villanueva

"Before Ballet Manila (BM), ang unang exposure niya ay ang ballet program nila sa school. Pagkatapos ng first recital niya – four years old pa lang siya noon – umayaw na siya sa ballet," recalls Mommy Arline. (Before Ballet Manila, her first exposure was in her school’s ballet program. After her first recital – she was just four then – she said that she didn't want to do ballet anymore.)

Gaile seemed to be contented with her decision. Every time she and her mom would pass by the ballet room, the four-year-old didn't show any interest in coming back. Being the supportive parents that they are, Anthony and Arline thought maybe ballet just wasn't for their daughter, and was prepared to accept that.

But Gaile's grandmother thought otherwise.

"I-enroll mo siya kay Lisa Macuja," says Anthony, quoting the lola (grandmother). "Pero noong time na iyon, hindi namin alam kung may school si Ma’am Lisa." (Enroll her with Lisa Macuja, she said. But at that time, we didn't know if Ma’am Lisa had a school.)

The parents only found out that the prima ballerina had her own ballet school while driving by the Aliw Theater, BM’s performance venue. Anthony and Arline spotted that the theater was showing the Don Quixote ballet, so they went down to check it out.

But even after finding out that there was a Lisa Macuja School of Ballet Manila, they hesitated about enrolling Gaile because they found its location in Pasay to be too far from their place in Imus, Cavite.

But Gaile's enrollment in ballet was brought up again by the lola, who seemed so sure that BM was the perfect place for her only granddaughter.

Gaile dances the Fairy Doll Variation, her piece for the 2017 Asian Grand Prix in Hong Kong where she was named a finalist. Photo by Giselle P. Kasilag

"Nasa Laguna ako nang tinawagan niya [the grandmother] ako para sabihin na i-enroll si Gaile," shares the father. "Bago 'yun, ang tumawag ang asawa ko, sabi raw ni nanay na i-enroll si Gaile. Dahil silang dalawa na ang nagsabi, umuwi akong nang mag-isa. From Laguna, iniwan ko ang biking group ko para umuwi at i-enroll nga si Gaile." (I was in Laguna when my mother called, insisting that I enroll Gaile in BM. Before that, it was Arline who called, and she said the same thing. Because it was already the two of them who said it, I immediately went home, leaving my biking group, to enroll Gaile in ballet.)

When Gaile was finally enrolled in BM, she had already missed one week of the workshop, but this didn't stop her from getting hooked on ballet. In Lisa-Macuja-Elizalde’s school, she met plenty of kids close to her age who were addicted to ballet and she soon followed their footsteps.

Masaya po kasi dahil sa mga nakasama ako.” shyly comments Gaile when asked why she pursued ballet the second time around.  (I persisted due to the people around me. It was fun!)

"Sa bahay, siya lang ang only girl at pati na rin sa mga apo. Tapos, ang dami niyang ate at kuya sa may amin, so sa ballet siya talaga naka-meet ng mga kaibigan outside school," informs Anthony. (At home, she's the only girl and she also happens to be the only female grandchild. And then, in our neighborhood, all she'd have are many people who are like her older sisters and brohers. It's really in ballet that she got to meet friends her age outside regular school.) 

It's not the socials, however, that keeps Gaile coming back to studio. Ever since her first recital in BM, her parents had already spotted that their daughter had a knack for ballet. And her talent was again confirmed by the girl's taekwondo coach.

"Pinagsabay niya ang ballet sa taekwondo," shares the father, who clearly knows by heart every step of his daughter's ballet journey. "Of course, nakatulong ang flexibility ng ballet. Pero kapag sumisipa, lagi raw naka-point ‘yung toes. Inadvise kami ng coach na ipag-ballet na lang kung ito talaga ang gusto ng bata."  (She took ballet and taekwondo at the same time. The flexibility she acquired from ballet helped, of course. But whenever she'd kick, her toes were always pointed. The coach advised us to allow Gaile to just do ballet if this was what she really wanted.) 

BM co-artistic director Osias Barroso says “Gaile danced to perfection” at the recent AGP Regionals where she won first place in the Pre-Competitive 3 Division. Photo courtesy of Loraine Gaile Jarlega

Speaking of toe points, what makes Gaile very remarkable is that she began wearing pointe shoes as early as eight years old. It was BM teacher Sofia Sangco-Peralta who first saw that Gaile was ready for it. Clearly beyond her years, Gaile had to stick with her demi-pointes though when she competed for the first time at the Asian Grand Prix in Hong Kong because none of her competitors had advanced to pointe shoes.

"Madali lang po ang mag-pointes or sumayaw sa studio. Pero kapag may kaba na, medyo mahirap po," observes the young ballerina. (It's easy to wear pointes and to dance inside the studio. But when you're nervous, everything is more challenging.)

During her first AGP experience, as Anthony would recall, Gaile pleaded that they accompany her to Hong Kong. There, the Jarlega couple ended up assisting the other dancers – Gaile’s classmates and friends who have become like their children too.

"Ako ang naging make-up artist at siya [Anthony] ang naging taga-karga ng mga bag," fondly reminisces the mother. "Yes, nakanood naman kami. Napanood namin silang lahat." (I became the make-up artist while he assisted in carrying the bags. Yes, we were able to watch Gaile. Along with the other competitors from BM.)

Usually, BM parents are too nervous to watch their children compete and the Jarlegas aren't exempted from that. Anthony puts forward, "Para kaming nasa roller coaster! Siya [Arline] nga ay nakakapit sa rosary, at pareho kaming nilalamig... At hindi pa rin nawala ang kaba sa second AGP niya!" (Watching our daughter compete is like riding a roller coaster. Arline was actually holding tightly to a rosary and we were both very cold... This didn't change when Gaile competed in the AGP again.)

"Pero more or less, nabawasan. Alam na kasi natin ang mangyayari (More or less, our nervousness has lessened. That's also due to the fact that we're more familiar about the competition)," says Arline. The mother expresses that despite the many nights of preparation, the stress they go through and the anxiety attacks that hit the parents, what the international competition offers to young dancers is still is a worthwhile experience.

Gaile (fourth from left) performed as part of the corps in Ballet Manila’s Swan Lake last October. Photo by Giselle P. Kasilag

"Sila-sila rin ang nagtutulungan. Nakakatuwa!" summarizes the father. (You'd see them, the competitors, help one another prepare. It's heartwarming!) 

Recently, the Jarlegas went through the same rollercoaster of emotions when Gaile participated in the Asian Grand Prix Regional Ballet Competition. For the first time, AGP was holding regional events in ten key cities including Manila, prior to the finals in Hong Kong in August. Because it was being held on home ground, the Jarlega clan was able to come in full force to support Gaile and watch her compete at Star Theater.

The competition result was the best they could have hoped for. Gaile – dancing the Fleur de Farine Variation from Sleeping Beauty – won first place in her age group, the Pre-Competitive 3 Division that qualifies her for the AGP finals in August.

Despite preparing well for the competition through daily ballet classes and rehearsals with her mentors, Gaile confesses to feeling the jitters before she had to dance. “I was a bit nervous because I was worried I might not dance well on stage. Baka po kasi may part sa dance ko na hindi ko magawa nang maayos dahil ang bilis po ng music,” recalls Gaile. (There might be a part in my dance that I couldn’t do well because the music is so fast.)

While waiting for her turn, Gaile says she prayed and told herself, “You can do this!” Then when it was finally her turn, she relates, “I just concentrated on my dance and remembered what everyone’s been telling me – to just enjoy dancing on stage.”

With BM principal dancer Katherine Barkman, whom Gaile says she is a fan of. Photo courtesy of Loraine Gaile Jarlega

She remembers the burst of applause that greeted her when she finished which confirmed to her that she had done well. But she didn’t expect to land in first place and was surprised when her number was eventually called.

“I’m so happy po and proud that I’m part of Ballet Manila. I’m so happy and my family is also happy for me,” enthuses the young ballerina.

Interviewed afterwards, Ballet Manila’s co-artistic directors only had praises for Gaile. “She nailed her performance,” describes Lisa Macuja-Elizalde. From Osias Barroso, who is known as BM’s most exacting mentor: “Gaile danced to perfection!”

As part of her prize, Gaile will receive 100 percent scholarship from The Lisa Macuja School of Ballet Manila which her parents are thankful for.

"Actually, enjoy rin kaming mga parents dito sa BM," expresses Arline. "Gusto ko talaga ang sumasama sa kanila kasi nga masaya dito." (Actually, we, the parents, also enjoy it here in BM. I actually prefer to always be here after work since I have fun here with other parents.)

Anthony echoes his spouse's sentiments, "Oo, masaya kami bilang ballet parents. Kapag nandito kami, wala kaming iniisip na problema." (Yes, we're very happy to be ballet parents. When we're here, we forget about our problems.) 

"Kapag gusto kasi talaga ng anak mo, nakakalimutan mo na ang lahat ng problema," adds Arline. "Ang layo ng bahay namin, pero hindi ko na napapansin iyon. At pati na rin ang late na pag-uwi kagaya ng ginagawa nila dati." (If you see your child really happy with what they're doing, you tend to forget all the other issues. Such as the long distance between our house and the studio, as well as her coming home late all the time.)  

Anthony recalls that when Gaile was younger, they'd have dinner and do homework in a gasoline station along the expressway after her ballet training. "Pag-uwi niya, naka-toothbrush na siya at naka-pajama para ang gagawin na lang niya ay matulog… Worth it ang mga sacrifices na iyon. I mean, bakit ka pa nag-anak kung hindi mo susuportahan?" (When she comes home, she has already brushed her teeth and is wearing her pajamas. That way, all she has to do is sleep... All those sacrifices are worth it. When you have kids, you just have to support their dreams.)

Gaile celebrates with her family after winning in the AGP regionals. Among them is her grandmother Mila Jarlega (to Gaile’s left), the one who convinced her parents to enroll her in Lisa Macuja’s ballet school. Photo courtesy of Loraine Gaile Jarlega

Asked if the exhaustion ever caught up with Gaile, Anthony laughingly replies with an anecdote: "May one time na nag-comment ako na mukha na siyang napapagod. Sumagot siya na ako raw ang mukhang pagod." (There was a time when I commented that she looked tired. My daughter just answered that I'm the one who looks tired.)

Arline follows her husband's brief story with, "Hilig niya talaga ang ballet. Sobrang takot iyan na ma-late sa ballet. Well, ayaw niyang ma-late!" (She really loves ballet. She, in fact, is always afraid to be late for class. Well, she doesn't like being late!)

Now that Gaile is about to enter her teenage years, her parents are aware their daughter's passion would demand more from them, but they, including Gaile's older brothers, are more than ready to face what is to come.

"Kailangan mong mag-adjust at masanay para sa kanilang mga hilig," advises Arline. (You have to adjust and get used to certain things for your child's passion.)

"Kailangan hati-hati kayo sa pagsundo at sa iba pang kailangan ng bata," elaborates the father. "Tama nga ang sabi nila, it takes a village to raise a ballerina." (You have to take turns in bringing her to and picking her up from ballet. You need to delegate the tasks. It really does take a village to raise a ballerina.)

Despite that demanding reality, Anthony and Arline stress that they have no regrets about the sacrifices they've made and vow to continue to do what they can to further their daughter's dreams. 

"Ngayon, nagpapa-video na siya sa akin pag nagsasayaw (These days, she'd always request me to video her while dancing)," shares Anthony with a tone of admiration. Though more than seven years have passed, he still is surprised by his daughter's maturity towards the activity she loves, and this just motivates him and the entire family to work harder. 

Soon turning 13, Gaile is addicted to ballet, even standing up and copying steps when she’s watching ballet videos with her parents. Photo by Jimmy Villanueva

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