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For Ana Valdes Lim, theater is a form of healing

Published on Rappler, March 26, 2019

Ana Valdes-Lim is a name that's familiar to many, if not all, theater students. As artistic director of the Marie Eugenie Theater of Assumption (METTA), she has been in charge of the school’s productions for 15 years.

But before she became a teacher, she was Ana the theater actress – the first Filipino to graduate from the prestigious Juilliard School's drama division.

On a Friday afternoon, we followed Valdes-Lim as she prepared to direct a modern version of William Shakespeare’s As You Like It in Assumption San Lorenzo, Makati.

Julliard is home

Valdes-Lim spent elementary years in Manila before moving to Europe, where she finished her high school. “When I auditioned for Juilliard, I was in Texas. Before that, I was in Europe because my father was an ambassador assigned to Rome. I was in Rome and did my high school there,” she said.

In a recent interview with Richard Whitaker, Valdes-Lim described Juilliard as home.

“Before Juilliard, I did not do a lot of theater. I just did one or two plays from high and college and I was already living abroad. Pagdating ko doon (When I got there), they had these exercises…improvisation, ganyan. Actually, it wasn’t hard for me, parang my body and my personality just took to it very well. So parang feeling ko para akong isda – finally nakahanap ng tubig. (I felt like I was a fish and I had finally found water)," she told Rappler.

"I felt [like] I’m finally at home. You know, when you felt you found where you’re supposed to be, everything flows. I felt like many people who are artists who finally made it through the process of elimination, and found the talent.”

After graduating in Juilliard, Valdes-Lim auditioned and appeared in productions such as Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream. She was in the US when she met her husband Ricky. He proposed marriage, but there was one catch – they would have to settle in the Philippines.

“When I was abroad, he asked me to marry him with the statement ‘but it’s going to be… life in the Philippines.’ So I was kind of surprised. And then he was telling me if we all left the Philippines, what would happen to our country. I really feel we should come back. If we had the means, we should stay here. So I would really like to live here,” she said of her husband's decision.

From acting to teaching

Valdes-Lim continued to act on stage and had roles in film and television, including stints in Prince of Darkness and As the World Turns, as she and her family settled in Manila. But as she continued to pursue acting, she was beginning to feel that she needed to do something else.

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