Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Winners List: 9TH PHILSTAGE GAWAD BUHAY AWARDS 2016: "Firebird", "Annie" and "Tribes" Lead!

May 11, 2017

Philstage is an umbrella organization of professional performing arts companies in the Philippines. Presently the members include: 9Works Theatrical, Actor’s Actors Inc. Ballet Manila, Ballet Philippines, Full House (Resort World Manila), Gantimpala Theater Foundation, PETA, Philippine Ballet Theater, Philippine Opera Company, Repertory Philippines, Red Turnip, Stages, Tanghalang Pilipino and Trumpets. Its yearly awards of excellence among its member companies are called the Gawad Buhay.

The Gawad Buhay Awards for the productions of 2016 were given out last night May 10, 2017 in ceremonies held at the CCP Little Theater, with Jon Santos hosting the show. There was a segment of the show that honored the 50th anniversary of two Philstage members -- PETA and Repertory Philippines -- bringing together on stage two institutions of Philippine theater -- Cecile Guidote-Alvarez and Baby Barredo. 

2016 is my second year to have served on the Gawad Buhay jury, an independent panel of critics, scholars, artists and theater enthusiasts who cite, nominate and vote for the winners for the awards. We have voted on the final list of nominees last January 28, 2017, which was a holiday Chinese New Year so most of us jurors were able to attend. Since the final vote was by secret balloting, some of these winners came as a surprise for me when announced last night.

Gawad Buhay Jury Deliberations 
Robinsons Magnolia Residences, Tower B Function Room
January 28, 2917



No nomination

Mixkaela Villalon and Rody Vera, “3 Stars and a Sun” (Peta) (MY REVIEW)

Rolando Tinio, “Pangarap sa Isang Gabi ng Gitnang Tag-araw” (Tanghalang Pilipino) 

Myke Salomon, “3 Stars and a Sun” (Peta)
Daniel Bartolome and Onyl Torres, “American Idiot” (9 Works Theatrical)
Gerard Salonga, “Rebel” (Ballet Manila)
Rodel Colmenar, “Annie” (Full House Theater Company)
Jed Balsamo, “Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko” (Ballet Philippines)

Malek Lopez, “Opera” (Ballet Philippines)

Redha, “Opera” (Ballet Philippines)
George Birkadze, “Firebird” from “Firebird and Other Ballets” (Ballet Philippines)
Carlo Pacis, “Weighted Whispers” from “Firebird and Other Ballets” (Ballet Philippines)
James Laforteza, Patrick John Rebullida, Carissa Adea, Paul Alexander Morales and Gia Gequinto, “Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko” (Ballet Philippines)

PJ Rebullida, “American Idiot” (9 Works Theatrical) (MY REVIEW)
Rose Borromeo, “Stepping Out” (Repertory Philippines) (MY REVIEW)
Nancy Crowe, “Annie” (Full House Theater Company)
Dexter Santos, “A Little Princess” (Repertory Philippines)
Patrick John Rebullida and Yek Barlongay, “A Christmas Carol” (9 Works Theatrical) (MY REVIEW)

Gino Gonzales, “3 Stars and a Sun” (Peta)
Mickey Hirai, “American Idiot” (9 Works Theatrical)
Mark Higgins, “Firebird and Other Ballets” (Ballet Philippines)
Gino Gonzales, “Annie” (Full House Theater Company)
Marsha Roddy, “The Tempest Reimagined” (Peta) (MY REVIEW)

John Batalla, “Constellations” (Red Turnip Theater)
John Batalla, “Almost, Maine” (Repertory Philippines) (MY REVIEW)
Ian Torqueza, “3 Stars and a Sun” (Peta)
John Batalla, “Opera” (Ballet Philippines)
Tsuguo Izumi, “The Tempest Reimagined” (Peta)

Teresa Barrozo, “Constellations” (Red Turnip Theater)
Teresa Barrozo, “3 Stars and a Sun” (PETA)
Teresa Barrozo, “Tribes” (Red Turnip Theater) (MY REVIEW)
Rards Corpus, “Annie” (Full House Theater Company)
Rards Corpus and Jaime Godinez, “A Christmas Carol” (9 Works Theatrical)

Coco Anne and Baby Imperial, “Almost, Maine” (Repertory Philippines)
Gino Gonzales, “3 Stars and a Sun” (Peta)
Mio Infante, “American Idiot” (9 Works Theatrical)
Ed Lacson Jr., “Tribes” (Red Turnip Theater)
Marsha Roddy, “The Tempest Reimagined” (Peta)

Cris Villonco, “Constellations” (Red Turnip Theater) (MY REVIEW)
Natalie Everett, “Almost, Maine” (Repertory Philippines)
Caisa Borromeo, “Almost, Maine” (Repertory Philippines)
Blanche Buhia, “The Wong Kids in the Secret of the Space Chupacabra Go!” (Tanghalang Pilipino)
Liesl Batucan, “Pangarap sa Isang Gabi ng Gitnang Tag-araw” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

JC Santos, “Constellations” (Red Turnip Theater)
Reb Atadero, “Almost, Maine” (Repertory Philippines)
Jamie Wilson, “Almost, Maine” (Repertory Philippines)
Kalil Almonte, “Tribes” (Red Turnip Theater)
Aldo Vencilao, “The Wong Kids in the Secret of the Space Chupacabra Go!” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Pinky Amador, “The Game’s Afoot” (Repertory Philippines) (MY REVIEW)
Angela Padilla, “Tribes” (Red Turnip Theater)
Dolly de Leon, “Tribes” (Red Turnip Theater)
Thea Yrastorza, “Tribes” (Red Turnip Theater)
Antonette Go, “Pangarap sa Isang Gabi ng Gitnang Tag-araw” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Teroy Guzman, “Tribes” (Red Turnip Theater)
Jonathan Tadioan, “Pangarap sa Isang Gabi ng Gitnang Tag-araw” (Tanghalang Pilipino)
Marco Viana, “Pangarap sa Isang Gabi ng Gitnang Tag-araw” (Tanghalang Pilipino)
Bodjie Pascua, “The Tempest Reimagined” (Peta)
Norbs Portales, “The Tempest Reimagined” (Peta)

Angela Padilla, “Stepping Out” (Repertory Philippines)
Krystal Brimner, “Annie” (Full House Theater Company) (MY REVIEW)
Isabeli Elizalde, “Annie” (Full House Theater Company)

Nicco Manalo, “3 Stars and a Sun” (Peta)
Nel Gomez, “American Idiot” (9 Works Theatrical)
Jef Flores, “Tick, Tick…Boom” (9 Works Theatrical) (MY REVIEW)
Miguel Faustmann, “A Christmas Carol” (9 Works Theatrical)

Carla Guevara-Laforteza, “3 Stars and a Sun” (Peta)
Joy Virata, “Stepping Out” (Repertory Philippines)
Ela Lisondra, “American Idiot” (9 Works Theatrical)
Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, “Annie” (Full House Theater Company)
Tanya Manalang, “Tick, Tick…Boom” (9 Works Theatrical)

Nar Cabico, “3 Stars and a Sun” (Peta)
Bodjie Pascua, “3 Stars and a Sun” (Peta)
Ariel Reonal, “Tick, Tick…Boom” (9 Works Theatrical)
Jef Flores, “Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko” (Ballet Philippines)
Sandino Martin, “Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko” (Ballet Philippines)

Rita Winder, “Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko” (Ballet Philippines) (MY REVIEW)

JM Cordero, “Simoun” (Ballet Philippines)
JM Cordero, “Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko” (Ballet Philippines)
Garry Corpuz, “Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko” (Ballet Philippines)

Denise Parungao, “Opera” (Ballet Philippines)
Gia Gequinto, “Simoun” (Ballet Philippines)
Denise Parungao, “Simoun” (Ballet Philippines)
Rita Winder, “Simoun” (Ballet Philippines)
Edna Vida, “Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko” (Ballet Philippines)

Erl Sorilla, “Simoun” (Ballet Philippines)
Nonoy Froilan, “Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko” (Ballet Philippines)

Rita Winder, “Firebird” from “Firebird and Other Ballets” (Ballet Philippines)
Irene Kim Abrojena, “The Great Classics” (Philippine Ballet Theatre)
Regina Magbitang, “The Great Classics” (Philippine Ballet Theatre)
Dawna Mangahas, “Cinderella” (Ballet Manila)
Abigail Oliveiro “The Swan, The Fairy, and the Princess” (Ballet Manila)

Garry Corpuz, “Firebird” from “Firebird and Other Ballets” (Ballet Philippines)
Jimmy Lumba, “The Great Classics” (Philippine Ballet Theater)
Rudy de Dios, “Cinderella” (Ballet Manila)

Monica Gana, “Firebird” from “Firebird and Other Ballets” (Ballet Philippines)
Denise Parungao, “Firebird” from “Firebird and Other Ballets” (Ballet Philippines)
Tiffany Chan, “Cinderella” (Ballet Manila)
Violet Hong, “Cinderella” (Ballet Manila)

Cyril Fallar, “Firebird” from “Firebird and Other Ballets” (Ballet Philippines)
Victor Maguad, “Firebird” from “Firebird and Other Ballets” (Ballet Philippines)

“Weighted Whispers” from “Firebird and Other Ballets” (Ballet Philippines)
“Simoun” (Ballet Philippines)
“Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko” (Ballet Philippines)

“Firebird” from “Firebird and Other Ballets” (Ballet Philippines)

Rem Zamora, “Constellations” (Red Turnip Theater)
Bart Guingona, “Almost, Maine” (Repertory Philippines)
Topper Fabregas, “Tribes” (Red Turnip Theater)
Ralph Peña, “The Wong Kids in the Secret of the Space Chupacabra Go!” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Nor Domingo, “3 Stars and a Sun” (Peta)
Robbie Guevara, “American Idiot” (9 Works Theatrical)
Michael Williams, “Annie” (Full House Theater Company)
Robbie Guevara, “Tick, Tick…Boom” (9 Works Theatrical)

“Almost, Maine” (Repertory Philippines)
“Tribes” (Red Turnip Theater)
“The Wong Kids in the Secret of the Space Chupacabra Go!” (Tanghalang Pilipino)
“The Tempest Reimagined” (Peta)

“3 Stars and a Sun” (Peta)
“American Idiot” (9 Works Theatrical)
“Annie” (Full House Theater Company)
“Tick, Tick…Boom” (9 Works Theatrical)

“Weighted Whispers” from “Firebird and Other Ballets” (Ballet Philippines)
“Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko” (Ballet Philippines)

No nomination

“Constellations” (Red Turnip Theater)
“Almost, Maine” (Repertory Philippines)
“Tribes” (Red Turnip Theater)
“The Wong Kids in the Secret of the Space Chupacabra Go!” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

“American Idiot” (9 Works Theatrical)
“Annie” (Full House Theater Company)
“Tick, Tick…Boom” (9 Works Theatrical)

No nomination

“3 Stars and a Sun” (Peta)

Joy Virata (Repertory Philippines)
Soxie Topacio (Peta)

Saturday, May 6, 2017


May 6, 2017

This is already the 11th year of the Theater Festival held every summer by the Philippine Stagers Foundation. This is only the first time I had ever attended one of their sessions, held for four consecutive Saturdays each summer. Each Saturday there would be at least six original one-act plays -- two amateur, from their summer workshop participants: two from collegiate theater organizations, and two by members of PSF themselves. This was held in the intimate setting of the PSF home theater along G. Tuazon St. in Sampaloc, Manila.

This is a competition to be judged by a distinguished panel of judges, this year including award-winning writers Atty. Nicholas Pichay and Moira Lang, and actors Patricia Javier and Mike Lloren. Listening to the funny, meaty and instructive commentary of this panel of experts was very eye-opening as they spoke from their own trove of experiences in the world of theater. Their notes and suggestions were indeed very rich lessons in theater craft for the cast and crew, and in theater appreciation for us theater fans.

Trisha and her tutor Daniel in "Puppy Love"

I came in about 4 pm already, but I was still able to catch the two amateur plays about children written by the same playwright Jomar Bautista. The first play "Puppy Love" was about a 10 year old girl Trisha and her crush on her 23 year old tutor Daniel. The topic was not exactly too comfortable to watch for a parent like me. However, the simple premise of seeing puppy love in the child's point of view was quite cute, especially since the spirited young aspiring actress from Cagayan de Oro Chill Paloma Albasin portraying Trisha is really 10 years old. This was directed by Rotsen Etolle.

Francis' poster boy Tony comes to life in "Fan"

The second play "Fan" was about a 10 year old boy Francis who was secretly gay. That night, he had his friend Trisha (played by different actress now) over for a sleepover. I am not sure why Trisha was allowed to sleep in Francis' room if the parents were not aware he was gay. I would not know if this is really how gay boys behave in their bedrooms as they fantasize over a poster of their favorite male singer, but I guess the current over-the-top standards set by Awra (in turn influenced by Vice Ganda) prevailed in this characterization. The huge guy playing Francis' mom attacked his character the same exaggerated way, with hilarious results. This was directed by Gerald Magallanes.

Tara listens to Nathan's woes in "Kolorete"

The next play "Kolorete" was competing in the collegiate category, and was from the Colegio de San Juan de Letran. This play was about a day in the life of a gay make-up artist named Tara who worked in the salon of Madame X. His customers that day include a pressured student who failed in school, a hero cop, a battered wife, an abused child and finally, his own mother. The progression of the play was quite puzzling and long-winded, but when you realize what's going on, you will understand why it went on that way. Adjustments could still be made to improve on what is already a solid story concept.

After a 15 minute break, it was the turn of the plays written by Stagers to be presented. Both were directed by Atty. Vince Tanada himself. According to both writers, they only submitted their final scripts earlier this week and their casts barely had time to get their acts ready. In fact, both of these shows only had their first and only general rehearsal last night. This fact made the actual performances we saw tonight all the more impressive. Also amazing was the fact that the writers were also actors in other plays in this same set. 

Rizal (Patrick Libao) hams it up in "Posisyon"

The first Stagers play was "Posisyon" written by Kierwin Larena. It was about an opening for one certain unspecified position where the applicants were various Filipinos throughout Philippine history, including Rizal, Bonifacio, Aguinaldo, Mabini, Juan Luna,  Marcelo H. del Pilar, Tandang Sora, Gabriela Silang and Sultan Kudarat. The concept is quite iconoclastic as it pits one hero against another using scandalous bits of information known about them. This resulted in an irreverent yet very entertaining play. The ending was a big question mark for me though. I don't think I understood why it ended that way.

The second Stagers play was "Loob" by Patrick Adrian Libao. There were only two characters -- Mika, a male ballet dancer who was brought up thinking he was female by his mother, a prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Ballet; and Mika, his favorite doll, a silent witness to everything happening in that damaged household. How Libao was able to come up with such a psychologically exhausting script in two days is a miracle of writing talent.

Mika and Mika (Magallanes and Golondrina) in "Loob"

The performance of Gerald Magallanes, the Stagers resident choreographer, as the ballet boy Mika was bold and graceful in the course of his painful self-discovery, literally baring himself body and soul on that stage (and for a significantly long time). His intensity was matched stroke for stroke, step by step by Arian Golondrina, who amazed everyone with her fluid versatility as she seamlessly transitioned from sympathetic doll Mika, to invalid father to dominating mother, even dropping a few lines in Russian. A thunderous standing ovation greeted this mesmerizing play when it ended, all truly deserved!

Benjo (Lim) and Emil (Larena) in "Dilaw o Pula"

As a bonus for this night, Vince Tanada presented one more play not in competition. It was a performance of his own two-hander play, "Dilaw o Pula," starring Kierwin Larena and Chris Lim as two political inmates, the Marcos-loyalist Emil and the Aquino-loyalist Benjo respectively. They were awaiting the announcement if they would be among those pardoned and released by the president that Easter Sunday which was the usual custom. This was one heavy play with both politically, emotionally and visually vexing moments. This play is truly signature Vince Tanada in its script and execution. 

It was already 9 pm when that day's activities wound down. Three Saturdays down and one more Saturday to go before this year's PSF Theater Festival concludes its run. Even if I just watched this week, I think I may have already seen the winners for best play and best acting. In any case, win or lose, the intensive exposure of these aspiring theater artists to all aspects of theater production during this festival is an invaluable enough reward.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Review of UPPT's ANGRY CHRIST: Enthralling Epiphany

April 30, 2017

UP Playwright's Theater (UPPT) is an arm of Dulaang UP started in 1986 by Antonio Mabesa to exclusively stage original plays by Filipino playwrights. As I reviewed the list of plays produced by UPPT, I realized that the only play of theirs I had seen before was "Death in the Form of a Rose" by Anton Juan, and that was back in their 5th season (1991-92), staged at the Teatro Hermogenes Ylagan in the Faculty Center. 

The first Floy Quintos play I had seen was "Collection" staged by Dulaang UP in 2013 (MY REVIEW), directed by Dexter M. Santos. I had seen two other Quintos - Santos collaborations since then, both by Dulaang UP -- "Ang Nawalang Kapatid" (MY REVIEW) and "Ang Huling Lagda ni Apolinario Mabini" (MY REVIEW)-- both excellent shows as well. 

This new Quintos - Santos collaboration is inspired by the real life story of Alfonso Ossorio, a Filipino artist who painted on a wall in the sanctuary of a chapel in Victorias, Negros Occidental in 1950. The creation of this mural, called "Angry Christ," was the source of much turmoil and controversy for Ossorio, but it eventually became a high point of his career as an artist, and the work he will be remembered for in the land of his birth. 

I did not know that this play was based on a real person or events. I confess that I had never heard of Alfonso Ossorio the artist, or about this bold church mural of his before watching this play. As the play unfolded, I recalled Quintos' other play about art that I had seen before -- "Fluid." (MY REVIEW). I was swept with the feeling of how this story of artistic angst was perfect for Floy Quintos to weave his dramaturgical magic.

Quintos built up dramatic tension of Ossorio's internal and external struggles with such eloquent impact. While he admits literary license with the inclusion of a Christmas manger scene and Holy Week penitential rites, but these were very vividly effective in making the audience understand Ossorio's fascination with the Christ figure. Quintos credits art consultant Liliane 'Tats' Manahan for keeping his script loyal to artistic temperament of his subject and assuring accuracy in the production design of Gino Gonzales. He uses the device of Lecturer, smartly played by Micaela Pineda (alternating with Arya Herrera), to deliver the expository details.

For a second consecutive time this year, Nelsito Gomez is playing an artist with a controversial painting about Jesus Christ against popular conventions of religious art. In "My Name is Asher Lev" (MY REVIEW), Gomez played a Jewish artist who faced controversy with his avant garde painting of a crucifixion scene. 

As Alfonso Ossorio, Gomez here faced similar artistic dilemmas but with more complex conflicts. Instead of mere canvas, his painting will be on a wall to be seen by simple farmers every time they hear Mass that in that chapel. Artistic conceits aside, Ossorio was a wealthy man whom the whole community kowtowed to and called "señorito". On top of all that, Ossorio was also a homosexual, feared and derided by society. To his credit, Gomez was able to delineate one conflicted artist character from the other, which is no mean feat. This was definitely not just a case of Asher Lev transported to 1950s Negros. 

Playing the innocent farmhand Anselmo in perfect contrast against Alfonso's worldly gay artist is Kalil Almonte. As with his past plays that I had seen like "Games People Play" and "Fluid", Almonte can convincingly play a country bumpkin ripe for corruption with his wide-eyed quizzical look and his heavily-accented line delivery.

Adelaide de Bethune was a Belgian-born American artist who did the mosaics of the chapel's outer walls. Banaue Miclat-Jannsen gave her such a charming and delightful disposition, especially when she was able to pick up the native language. There was a scene there when Ade had to shout, and I feared for Ms. Banaue's precious vocal folds for a while. (Stella Cañete-Mendoza alternates in this role.)

Padre Nunelucio was the local parish priest who represented the Church's resistance against Ossorio's progressive artistry. He was played with studied wariness by ever-reliable Juliene Mendoza. (Jojo Cayabyab alternates in this role.) Jose Nava was a Communist rebel who used to be an artist, actor and writer. He was played with powerful dignity by Greg de Leon. (Neil Tolentino alternates in this role.) Alexander Cortez, Randy Villarama, Felipe Ronnie Martinez and Jomari Jose complete the primary cast. 

Jose, Mendoza, Miclat, Gomez, Almonte Villarama, Pineda, and Valdez
 at the Curtain Call

The lighting design of veteran Monino Duque was on point throughout. The musical score of Krina Cayabyab consisted of traditional folk songs, classical tunes (Verdi, Chopin) and jazz classics (by Gershwin, Holiday). I had never seen video designs so critical in the success of a production than the work of Steven Tansiongco here. 

Dexter M. Santos translated Quintos' ideas so well on that stage with such vibrancy of vision, with his own distinctive brand of fluid stage choreography. The two and half hours (with 10 minute intermission) of the play never became dull even if it had several scenes of deep wordy internal dialogue. The climactic reveal of the final mural at the end was so enthralling and magical that the whole audience was in absolute awe. 


"Angry Christ" runs from April 26 - May 14, 2017 at the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, 2F, Palma Hall, UP Diliman. Show times are at 7:00 p.m.for Wednesdays to Fridays; with 10:00 a.m and 3:00 p.m. matinees on Saturdays and Sundays. For further inquiries, please contact Arkel Mendoza, DUP’s Marketing Manager, through 0917-967-3616.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Review of Twin Bill's W;T: Compassion for Cancer

April 19, 2017

I thought it was an astute decision of Twin Bill Theater to stage this particular play in the Mandel Hall on the second floor of their Main Library building in the Trinity University of Asia campus. The flagship course of TUA is Nursing, and this 1999 Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Margaret Edson could not have been staged in a more appropriate venue.

Dr. Vivian Bearing PhD, a stern 50-year old university professor specializing in 17th century English poetry, particularly those by John Donne, had been diagnosed of having Stage IV metastatic ovarian cancer. Her oncologist, Dr Harvey Kelekian is giving her an experimental chemotherapeutic treatment regimen consisting of eight rounds at full dosage. 

Having no family nor friends, she did not have any visitors at the hospital except for the callow Dr. Jason Posner, the fellow who coldly treated Vivian as simply a subject of his research. Fortunately, her nurse Susie Monahan still showed Vivian the compassion she so longed for. This made Vivian realize her own faults as she faced mortality.

Tami Monsod as Vivian Bearing

As a medical professional myself, I was totally riveted to the subject matter of the play --cancer. In my field, I encounter cancer patients frequently, and the years that pass do not make it any easier to deal with them as individuals. It is always difficult to break the news of their dire diagnosis to them.  I always take my time when I speak with a cancer patient on their initial consult, every follow up thereafter, sometimes up to their death bed. I have to find the balance between explaining the gravity of the condition but at the same time still be encouraging and positive. I hope I never come across the way Jason did to Vivian.

This play gives me a view from the cancer patient's side -- what the patient thinks as we attend on him, as we discussed his case during Grand Rounds. While I always strive to establish rapport with my patients, but it can't be helped to keep a certain distance for the sake of professional objectivity. In clinical practice, most patients simply do not open up as much as Vivian does in this play, so her frank and incisive commentary about her illness, her doctors and her therapy are important to me as a cancer surgeon. 

Secondarily, as a lover of the English language, I enjoyed this play's wit as Vivian related her present state with her opinions about English vocabulary, poetry, syntax and grammar. That scene where college-age Vivian and her mentor Prof. Ashford argued about the difference of punctuation marks in a famous John Donne poem and that scene where the five-year old Vivian discovered the word "soporific" from reading a Beatrix Potter book with her father were both fascinatingly executed.

Concepcion, Bradshaw, Monsod and Reyes

Bald and gaunt, Tami Monsod played Vivian Bearing very realistically -- so realistically that it was disturbing and astounding at the same time. Her complex lines all delivered perfectly -- at first with the prideful confident elocution of a university English professor who lived and breathed John Donne, progressively fading into the weak halting phrasing of a dying terminal patient. She literally deteriorated in front of our eyes, it was chilling. She was so committed to her role, it was as if she was not acting. I witnessed method-acting live right there on that stage, and it is unforgettable.

With his facial hair and deep voice, Raymund Concepcion projected authority in the three characters he played: as Vivian's attending Dr. Kelekian, as Vivian's logophile father, and as Vivian's only friend Prof. Ashford (a role originally played by a female). Bibo Reyes, all bright-eyed and preppy, effectively played the callous Jason to be a model of how a doctor should NOT act or speak in front of a patient. Mikkie Bradshaw, with her sweet face and voice, played Nurse Susie, Vivian's sole ray of sunshine in her confinement.

The other actors who played the various med students, lab technicians and Vivian's college students were Jillian Ita-as (in a non-singing role this time) and Twin Bill co-founder Francis Mattheu (along with twin brother of ace lighting director Joseph Mattheu). To add authenticity, two actual Trinity nursing students, namely Annika Estrada and John de Lima, were also cast in these minor roles. 

I extend my sincere congratulations to the director Steve Conde and his whole Twin Bill Theater crew for choosing yet another well-written, topically significant play to produce. Like "Suicide Incorporated" and "My Name is Asher Lev" before it, this new play "W;t" is again so ideally cast and so inventively staged with the minimum of props. Bravo!

The cast and crew of "W;t"

I wholeheartedly recommend this play as required viewing for medical students, residents and especially Oncology fellows and even consultants.  Watching how insensitively the doctors were portrayed in this play is very eye-opening. Doctors should honestly reflect upon themselves if the behavior they see onstage mirrored their own. All the medical knowledge and skill we possess cannot make up for atrocious bedside manner. Kindness is a key virtue for doctors, as it is for everyone.


"W;t" only has a very limited run of only 4 shows: April 29, 3pm and 8pm, April 30, 3pm and May 2, 8pm. Tickets at ₱ 1,000 and ₱ 800 via Ticketworld. You can call 09274604652 for further inquiries.

Trinity University is very accessible to public transport as several jeepneys pass through E. Rodriguez Ave. The venue proper is Mandel Hall, about 100m walk from the gate. Bring an ID to show the guard as per university rules.  

Saturday, April 8, 2017


April 8, 2017

Honestly I am not sure I had ever seen a production of Ateneo Blue Repertory (or blueREP for short). (I recall watching a production of "Suessical" in Ateneo many years back, but unsure if that was blueREP or not.) Anyhow, because this theater company is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year via a reunion concert, I thought it would be very interesting to go watch, in order to see how they put up a show and who among the current crop of actors were blueREP members once upon a time.

Two anniversary concerts were supposed to have been staged today, April 8, 2017 at the Cine Adarna, UP Film Institute in UP Diliman. However, yesterday after, there was an announcement that the 3 pm show had been cancelled due to "unforeseen circumstances and technical difficulties." There will only be one show left, the 8 pm show, which I could not watch. However, I found out from a friend that they are opening the technical dress rehearsal (or TDR) that afternoon to the public. Thankful for this chance, I rushed over after work and reached the venue before the TDR started about 4 pm.

AM, Mia and future AM

The show proper had a unifying story (script by Gabbi Campomanes and her team) upon which the retrospective of past productions will be organized around. It involved AM and Mia, a couple of blueREP staff members who only had a few minutes before open house for their 25th Anniversary. They stumbled upon a magical production book which sang songs from old blueREP shows when you flip its pages. When they fight over the book, this causes all the pages inside to fall and scatter out and disappear. 

An mysterious bald man in black appears before AM and Mia and told them that he had come back from the future to help save the history of blueREP from being forgotten and lost. In order to do this, the three of them had to time travel into the past to pick up all the missing pages about each and every past blueREP productions. The three need to work fast because if they do not succeed, every memory about blueREP will fade forever.

We first heard present blueREP members sing the song "Magic to Do" from their maiden production "Pippin"As I learned from a video shown, blueREP was founded in 1991 by Dennis Temporal. For its initial show, Temporal chose "Pippin," which he was able to produce with a grand amount of P2,000. From such a humble and challenging beginning, blueREP had now grown to be the only musical theater group in the Ateneo de Manila University, and the premier college-based musical theater group in the whole country.

Jill Pena and Mako Alonso in "High School Musical"

These present members were practically in every suite throughout the show. They definitely got their hearty fill of physical and artistic challenges doing this show, either by themselves or supporting the visiting guest alumni performers. The frenetic and colorful suites for "High School Musical" ("Stick to the Status Quo") and "25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" ("Pandemonium") were particularly fun and entertaining.

Then we see a series of blueREP alumni to perform their respective solo spots. I first recognized Red Concepcion with a song from "Freakshow." Vic Robinson III sang "Lost in the Wilderness" from "Children of Eden." Mako Alonso performed the title song from  "Footloose". Derrick Fuentes sang "Giants in the Sky" from "Into the Woods." Tanya Manalang had a smashing rendition of "Come to Your Senses" from "Tick...Tick...Boom!"  It was a pleasant surprise to hear pianist/musical director Ejay Yatco burst into song, singing "Not a Day Goes By' from "Merrily We Go Along." Abi Sulit soulfully sang final song of Act 1 which was "Home" from "The Wiz."

Gab Medina and ensemble in "Hair"

After a 15 minute intermission, Act 2 began with a suite from "Once on this Island" from the "Prologue" to "We Dance" and "Waiting for Life." Then the scene shifted to the coffee shop setting of the show "Stages of Love" and the ensemble sang "Ale (Na Sa Langit Na Ako)" in counterpoint with "Limang Dipang Tao." 

Maronne Cruz led off the suite from the dark musical "Spring Awakening," singing Wendla's song "Mama Who Bore Me." The boys then followed by singing "The Bitch of Living." Gab Medina took on the role of Melchior to lead the group in the singing of "Totally F**ked." Bibo Reyes took on the big stage by himself for the song "Role of a Lifetime" from "Bare." An suite from "A Little Shop of Horrors" included the song "Feed Me." The psychedelic suite for "Hair" featuring a moving rendition of "Let the Sunshine In." The hip-hop suite for "In the Heights" included the lively rap of "96,000."

A special suite was dedicated to the first original musical of blueREP, "Toilet the Musical" written and composed by Ejay Yatco. The storyline was about painful experiences high school students go through in high school. The dramatic songs were rendered by the ensemble led by Vic Robinson III, Abi Sulit, Boo Gabunada, Gabriela Pangilinan and Nel Gomez.

Since this was only a TDR I am watching, the flow is still rather rough, with uneven transitions from scene to scene with video and sound glitches. The acting and singing was occasionally stilted or awkward, but I am thinking that they were just getting used to the stage set up and blocking. This, after all, is still just a rehearsal. 

I am sure directors Toff de Venecia and Andrei Pamintuan all of these kinks will be ironed out by time the 8 pm concert proper begins -- barely an hour after the rehearsal ended just before 7 pm. I can imagine how awesome the actual show will be. There is no denying the power of youthful zest and energy in this show. Happy 25th blueREP!

Grand Finale

Friday, April 7, 2017

Recap of SINGKUWENTA: The PETA 50th Anniversary Concert

April 7, 2017

The acronym PETA stands for Philippine Educational Theater Association. Established on April 7, 1967 through the pioneering efforts of Ms. Cecilia Guidote Alvarez, the PETA is a theater company that not only focused to staging plays, but it also has an advocacy for teaching theater arts to all Filipinos, as well as to impart social awareness and raise questions that need to be asked. 

Soxie Topacio, Meann Espinosa, Dessa Quesada-Palm

Cris Gonzales, Mae Paner, Joel Lamangan

Today on its 50th anniversary, PETA celebrates its milestone by staging a special invitational concert that aims to remind everyone about how PETA came about, how it developed and survived to this day. It aimed to showcase the various social advocacies that PETA undertakes, apart from its well-known quality stage shows. This stories and ideals were told throughout the show via animated narrations and recollections by PETA stalwarts and mentors: Soxie Topacio, Joel Lamangan, Mae Paner, Dessa Quesada-Palm, Cris Gonzales, and Meann Espinosa

There were 17 musical numbers that comprise the two hour concert directed by Melvin Lee, showcasing the best songs from among the 400 or so plays PETA has produced in the past 50 years. The musical directors of the show were Jeff Hernandez and Myke Salomon, with Jed Balsamo on the piano and Tim Cada and Dodjie Fernandez on guitar.

Pilipinas Suite Singers

The first song number was the PILIPINAS CIRCA SUITE with Joel Lamangan singing about the colonial mentality in theater back in the 60s and 70s. He was given humorous support by Upeng Galang-Fernandez, Avic Ilagan, Glecy Atienza, She Maala, and Neomi Gonzales. Direk Lamangan sang with much gusto despite his very hoarse voice, echoing the old theater sentiment, "The show must go on."

This was followed by a very elegant KUNDIMAN SUITE, including "Sa Loob at Labas" ("Halimaw", 1971, with lyrics by Francisco Balagtas, music by Lutgardo Labad).
The songs were rendered by Upeng Galang-Fernandez, Michael Odeomene, and finally a glorious duet by husband and wife team, Cynthia and Lionel Guico. In this suite, PETA founder Ms. Cecile Guidote-Alvarez was escorted onstage to be serenaded in an early emotional moment of the show.

CB Garrucho and Cecile Guidote-Alvarez

There were also some solo and duet numbers. "Awit ng Karnabal" (from "Ang Buhay ni Galileo") was sung with masculine vigor by Rody Vera. Mr. Vera would then join the beautiful Ms. Dessa Quesada-Palm in a so-called SECTORAL SUITE, including the song "Awit ng Magsasaka" (from "Ang Panunuluyan ni Birheng Maria at San Juan sa Cubao, Ayala, Plaza Miranda, atbp. sa Loob at Labas ng Metro" 1982), and which also featured an exciting rap by Myke Salomon

Michael Odeomene and Neomi Gonzales

"Paghahanap ni Oryang" (from "1896", 1995) was dramatically rendered by a most glamorous Cynthia Guico dressed in a voluminous scarlet gown. “Pagsapit ng Dilim” (“Kahapon, Ngayon at Bukas”, 1990, by Aurelio Tolentino) was sung by Michael Odeomene and Neomi Gonzales. The wedding song "Sa Hirap at sa Ginhawa" (from "Canuplin" 1980) was sung by Noel Cabangon and Aicelle Santos.

The GENDER SUITE had the songs "Ako Ito" (from ASL Please", 2004) given a powerful rendition by Jet Barun-Concepcion, "Hanggang Dito Na Lang Ba" (from "Hanggang Dito na Lang at Maraming Salamat" 1997) in a poignant performance by Paeng Sudayan, and "Buhayin ang mga Sana" (from "Libby Manaoag Files" 2000) by the PETA Choir. This suite was capped by "Saan Ka Man Dalhin" (from "Care Divas", 2011) featuring star/musical director Vincent de Jesus along with Ricci Chan, Buddy Caramat and Gio Gahol in their big top hats and fishnet stockings.

Care Divas Vincent de Jesus, Gio Gahol and Ricci Chan

An ETHNIC SUITE showcased the intense dance prowess of Carlon Matobato, Gold Villar-Lim, Gerhard Pagunsan and JP Basco interpreting the songs being sung by guest choir, the UP Singing Ambassadors, including "Iligtas ang Sanggol" and "Sinimulan ang Laban" (both from "Diablos", 1989). 

There was suites from more recent audience favorites, both jukebox musicals. The 3 STARS AND A SUN SUITE featuring songs by Francis Magalona was led by Mark Salomon. Of course, a PETA reunion would be incomplete without highlighting the megahit RAK OF AEGIS in its own suite, led by the original Aileen and Tolits -- Aicelle Santos and Jerald Napoles, with its musical director/original Kenny, also Myke Salomon.

The PETA choir was very hardworking tonight. They were Gold VillarYeyin dela CruzShe MaalaAda TayaoZoey DamagIcee PoUpeng Fernandez and Neomi Gonzales among the ladies, with Gio Gahol, Ian Segarra, Norbs Portales, Paeng Sudayan, Carlon Matobato and John Moran among the guys. 

Aside from participating in other suites, they had their own suites. From the upbeat title tune "Padayon" (2014), they then sang the GOOD VIBES SUITE, which included the songs "Kalikasan" (from "Ang Alamat ng Limbaswang" 1992) and "Bakit Ka Pa Maghihintay" (from "Juan Tamad, ang Diablo at ang Limang Milyong Boto" 2010). They also sang the song "Pag-asa ng Bayan" (from "Batang Rizal", 2007) and "Awit ng Haraya" (from "Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang", 2005), as well as the closing song, "Alay ng Lumikha."

The best and most memorable moment of the whole show ago for me was the climactic MAKABAYAN SUITE which began and ended with stirring "Sulo ng Kapatiran" (from "1896", 1995) lyrics by the late Charley de la Paz and music by Lucien Letaba. This penultimate number had the entire ensemble of the night's performers -- from narrators, the singers and the choirs -- all singing together on that stage in one spectacularly inspirational number which ended in a colorful shower of confetti. 

Kudos to all the incredibly multi-talented people behind this uniquely Filipino artistic and educational institution called PETA, past and present, in its first of many 50 years!

The Multi-Talented People of PETA!