TomCat AJ Bautista’s Hong Kong Story

9 Dec

2011 is definitely a great year for Polecats Manila. We haven’t really gotten over all the awesome stuff happening around us! Winning the Open Category Championship as well as Best Tricks of the Acro Polates Singapore Pole Competition, plus a grand 2nd Anniversary performance with the Manila Symphony Orchestra, to name a few.

A few days after Polarity, A Polecat team of two flew over to Hong Kong to compete in the PPS Aerial Performance Tournament 2011. AJ Bautista and Momma Cat Christina Dy came home with more reasons to celebrate. We are very blessed indeed. Here’s AJ’s story. 🙂

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It’s seems like I’ve never been out of the country before and I fidget as I pack and unpack my things. Three days with a backpack and a shoulder bag just doesn’t seem like it’s enough…how about my Sephora eye shadow and blush kit, my teddy named hoo (a Starbucks bear swallowed by a blue owl) my pairs of lime green underwear, the clock ticks to 3 a.m. and I haven’t even brushed my teeth yet. I rush out to pick up CD as we take long drive down to Clark International Airport. The faint light as we drove to the northern Luzon expressway was shrouded by a curtain of rain and a sheet of wind that would’ve swept our car of the graveled down pavement. In an attempt to keep me awake CD asks me of how it felt that we were heading to Hongkong. My reply was a shrill and nervous AAAAHHHHHH!!!! That certainly kept my nerves pumpin’ for the drive ahead.

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Hongkong seemed more vivid than it had ever been the moment I stepped onto its shores. The train ride from the airport to downtown Hongkong seemed as scenic as those Chinese martial arts films I used to watch of Jackie Chan as a child. I felt I could karate chop my way of the hustle and bustle of people in the train station. There seemed to be a commotion in the city because CD exclaimed she’s never seen this much people running about the train passes. It was a Sunday morning and we simply forgot that people had no school or work to fuss over.

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First stop on our agenda was an Intermediate Spinny Workshop held at Pole Paradise the host studio of the Aerial Tournament. I was extremely excited to take this workshop because I’ve always had an affinity for spinning like a tornado around the pole. The sheer thrill of learning how to let your buddy thrust itself into a fury of circles held in several positions while you control the tempo of your spin simply made me giddy with delight. Our master teacher for the workshop is a woman of steel named Alena Downs. Alena is the owner and lead instructor of PoleJunkies and is known as one of Canada’s Top Feature Performers. She certainly showed us what she’s got as she writhed about the pole extending each limb in such subtle seamless movement that her spins never seemed broken during the class. She taught us how to use our body weight to properly control the speed of our spin and helped us develop a better sense of our body so as to keep our spins running smoothly. I certainly engraved her words in my memory as spinning pole tricks are a staple in many international competitions.

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As the class sped on and came to an end familiar faces started to trickle into the studio. It was on that same day that the contestants would be meeting each other for the first time for a welcome dinner and our rendezvous point before we headed on to the restaurant was at the Pole Paradise Studio right after my spinny class. Symone Dolai the head directress and owner of Pole Paradise Studio later on introduced herself and gathered everyone as we walked out of the studio and headed around two blocks on to a quaint Vietnamese restaurant that served us Chinese that night (with due request from Symone to the chef since we were in Hongkong Chinese was the way to go). Everyone took their seats and one by one we introduced ourselves.

We certainly were an array of talents and individuals. We had people all the way from Russia, Italy, the U.S.A, and Japan. It was great to hear that a lot of these people were going into their respective aerial divisions and competing for the first time and that we were all sharing these moments together. We had people who studied silks for 3 months and those who studied pole for a few years. It was definitely a great vibe as others began to douse themselves through the evening with a “grande” San Miguel beer. Cd and I slowly slipped out as we wanted to get some early shut-eye for the big day.

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Early the following morning Cd and I nervously packed our competition gear and rolled out to the Sheung Wan Civic Centre Theatre. My scheduled rehearsal for the competition was at 2 p.m. Cd and I had arrived an hour early to properly feel the space and settle ourselves. I was a knot of nerves as I started to dress myself in my stringed purple top (which seemed like a knot of mess itself) and biker black pants. There was a monitor mounted backstage so we could see who was practicing before us but I chose to pay no notice to it and kept my focus on over-splitting and keeping warm. As my time came to rehearse I wrapped myself into fetus position on center stage and began working through my performance. I started off with floor work then headed on to the pole for my first trick. As my hand grasped the pole to work my first spin I slid down and tried the trick again to no avail. Frazzled by my inability to keep myself tacked on the pole I decided to start again and have the pole wiped down. Noticing my distraught face U.S. representative Heidi Cocker and her husband so kindly told me to breathe it out, compose myself, and handed me some grip aid to assist with my pole tricks. Finally finishing my rehearsal I walked on backstage, plugged in my ipod, and worked on my make-up and hair for the final performance. As I sat in my little corner keeping to myself I thought,” I was doomed”. I prayed to high heavens that I win at least best costume or best diva. I would’ve been the happiest person in the world with either.

As competition time drew closer and the minutes seemed to fade the hustle and uneasiness of everyone in the room began to rustle. There were women in splits on the floor, men having their faces painted, blowers going on and off as hair rose higher closer to the ceiling. It was a zoo as to what typical backstage preparations are but the vibe was never jarring as everyone cheered on each other as they disappeared and teleported themselves on the monitor hanging above. I’ve never felt as much warmth from strangers as I have had in this competition and the sheer energy made you forget that you were there to compete but simply represent. My time was up… and with one heave towards the heaven I was out onstage.

It’s like an incessant scream jarring against the dome in your head. The feeling as if you were looking down from the top of a tower ready to jump. It’s your heart pounding against the walls within a caged chest and you can’t seem to control your nerves. For a moment… everything seems silent and I’m blinded by the glare of the lights. I set myself on the stage and the music begins. The few moments after, I forget when I dance. I have a sort of amnesia in every performance that I do and this one is to no exception. Before I know it, everything is over and I catch myself running off heaving deep breaths as I try to control myself. I clasp my hands and just thank God that it’s all over.

In every competition I enter it is engraved on my mind that no matter what happens if you give your best and you show true sincerity you’ll have a good show. You keep focus and you never be swayed by whomever as long as you believe. It’s easier said than done. Most of the time when you’re out there in the thick of it all you lose yourself. I looked upon the rest of the competitors thinking I’m not as long as her, I’m not as strong as he is… That’s when you have others to believe in you for you. Strangers backstage, Cd at the audience area, the Polecats, and friends in the Philippines kept cheering me on no matter what performance I gave. I may not have been the best showman/showgirl nor did I win best costume but I certainly got something I didn’t expect…

2nd PLACE BABY!

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