Pinay's 17 minutes of fame at London Olympics


Posted at Jul 31 2012 09:33 AM | Updated as of Aug 01 2012 10:44 AM

MANILA, Philippines – The glory of the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games in London has yet to sink in for many, especially to those who acted as one of the thousands of performers.

London-based Filipina Patricia Mesina Olabre is among those who are still reeling from the aftermath of the unforgettable opening ceremonies experience.

The full-time housewife shared with her once in a lifetime experience as a performer in the industrial revolution segment and as a marshal during the event.

She said her Olympic experience is not yet over as her group was also selected to perform in the closing ceremonies.

Below is a short piece written by Olabre:

Play the drums so your mum can see you on TV.

This was the mantra of Group 51. We are (I say in present tense because we are still going to be in the closing ceremony!) the only group to have two roles in the opening ceremony.

I was notified in January that I was successful in my application to be a ceremonies volunteer performer; and that I was going to be a drummer in the Industrial Revolution and a marshal during the athletes parade.

Our rehearsals started end of May and were held in three different locations, mainly in a production studio in East London, a field in the middle of nowhere as I call it and of course, the stadium. In the beginning they went very quickly because we were having so much fun learning how to drum to various beats.

The nearer we came to opening night the rehearsals became longer; it involved a lot of standing around waiting for positioning. The weather was not being cooperative either. One night I had to stand in the pouring rain, wearing my wellies and jumper with a rain poncho on top yet I was still freezing in the cold. I then decided to go home after the break for fear that I would get sick and miss a rehearsal. The coordinators warned us that if we missed two sessions, we were out!

For the drumming sessions we were given different buckets. I had a simple black plastic one. All we needed to learn were Rumble, shout Hoy, Bosh, Groove and the other mantra, I’m in need of a drink. These were supposed to help us get back to our rhythm lest we forget and lose our tempo. Once we have mastered our drumbeats we then had to learn how to move and groove to the music. All 1000 drummers at the same time!

Luckily for me, I live in East London so going to the venues was not a big problem. In fact it took me only 15 minutes to get to Stratford (where the stadium is.) Some of the cast volunteers came all the way from Scotland and Isle of Wight just to attend rehearsals. Compared to them my trip home was a breeze. LOCOG also gave us a free travel card to use when coming to rehearsals.

But having a one-year old baby does not make it easier to get to rehearsals on time. Thank God for the one-hour registration, otherwise, I would be late every time. This would not have been possible without my husband’s support; he was the one who barely made it through the door before I dashed off to practice my non-existent drumming skills. When it became harder for us to coordinate our schedules my mom had to come and help us take care of the baby. Their reward was a free ticket to the dress rehearsal!

On another note I was still teaching my yoga classes. Strangely enough June and July were the busiest for me and I clocked in 30 hours per month in addition to the 70 hours of rehearsals. God knows how I managed to do all that! Alas, in the rundown to the opening ceremony I had to get a cover teacher for my classes. It was tough being self-employed but I kept my eyes on the prize. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Forget the fact that we might not eat for the next two days, just kidding.

During the Industrial Revolution segment we had our 17 minutes of fame. I was drumming on the hill with the fake tree and the view from there was spectacular. You could see the rest of the 2,500 volunteers from that vantage point.

In our second role as marshals, we entertained and encouraged the athletes to join us in our dance grooves. We also held them back during the lighting of the Olympic cauldron. I was one of the lucky few to have a front row seat on the night; I really felt the heat of the flame on my face. The athletes were pressing on us to get a snapshot of the flame, never mind that we had to keep our chains at all cost.

All in all, it was an amazing and unforgettable experience. We had a magical night, London. I am looking forward to the closing ceremony. The rehearsals will commence again in a few days. Time to catch up on that beauty sleep.