I know what stands out in the title is “69”. So, you would probably ask first “Why 69th Street?” before “Why Voices from the 69th Street?” Well, right then and there, we, as in my best friends who thought of this back in 2007 to name our theater group “69th Street”, were very spot on right with this marketing strategy. It draws a second look, a “Wait, what?!” moment. Lol.
So, first, what is “69th Street”?
The “69” is derived from year 1869. It was the year St. Vincent Ferrer Seminary was founded. It is where I finished high school (1997) and Philosophy (2002); where, in 2003, I was absorbed to teach English and social science subjects to high school and college seminarians until 2013 when I left the Philippines and migrated to Canada (Toronto). Since I entered the seminary as freshmen in high school in 1993 until I left in 2013, at 33 years old, I have practically spent more than half my life, 20 good years, there. This was my Home.
Along with that, in those years I was there, living, thriving, I also met many of my best friends (Cynette Lovelyn Mirasol-Montoya, Romeo Montoya, Jr., Paul Patrick Alipao, who is a priest now, and Joy Aladdin Sonza) who shared the same passion I have for culture and arts, especially theater, who, out of boredom one day, high with caffeine probably, decided to start up a theater group. I cannot remember in detail anymore how we came up with “69th Street”, but I am sure it did pass our mind to adapt it because of what “69” means. We were just crazy. Lol. And being a marketing strategy, a good attention grabber, a good recall, were all just good after-thoughts. But regardless of how we named our group, we intended to, first, give tribute to the seminary who has become our home; second, contribute to its legacy in culture and arts by making the seminary auditorium, St. Joseph’s Hall, our mother theater; and third, by our productions, expose and inspire student-seminarians, my brothers, to the arts, to discover and develop their talents and skills, blah, blah, blah. All those noble goals.
On first scrutiny by our producers (the seminary priest-formators), we did not pass. “69th Street” was questioned, as expected, because of, well, what “69” entails. And so, to compromise, so that we can get the real stuff going, we officially called our theater group, “1869th Street Theater Group” which later on evolved to add, “…, Talent Assistance and Events Group” as we ventured into other things – for the fun of it. Well, despite the official name, to say “eighteen sixty-ninth street”, all those 6 syllables seem so tiring to enunciate, right, that “69th Street” just got accepted.
And so, for us founders, “69th Street”, like how we would define “Heaven”, lol, it has become “an experience” or “a state” of friendship, of family, of community, doing good things for each other. It has become our convergence, our safe space, our home, where we can be who and what we are. Looking back, “69th Street” celebrated our diversity. We were pretty much a colorful tribe. Lol. That is why we were able to do a lot of good things. (I mean, despite a few bad things…which were cool, too. Lol.)
So, why “Voices from the 69th Street”?
The first time I used this title was for my weekly column in a local newspaper sometime 2010 to 2012 (see below). I have used this as my tagline as well, along with, “1869th Street Theater, Talent Assistance and Events Group” in all my works, from papers, articles, lectures to scripts. And I have attempted to follow through with my column, using this title, too, like what I am about to start now here in WordPress, several times already. But I slacked off after some time. (Hopefully, not this time.) But why stick to this title?
Well, “69th Street”, as it means friendship, family, community, for me, for us who founded it in 2007, and have made good and great things together as we celebrated our diversity, it is in the long run, about our humanity. It is about how we experienced the richness of our persons, being there, sharing ourselves, learning from each other, in “presenced” or “absenced”, in both good times and bad.
And so, “69th Street” is about Humanity; it is Humanity. The voices from the 69th Street is the voice of my humanity, first of all, sharing my thoughts and feelings, my opinion and sentiments, about anything and everything about us, human beings, in this human world. And as I voice out my humanity, I, in mind, heart and spirit, through the things I write here in my blog, hope to resonate the voices of Humanity and help better human lives.