Thursday, December 3, 2020


December 4, 2020

Here are the Hot 100 Singles of 2020 as ranked by Billboard Magazine. This year-end recap is based on Billboard Hot 100 chart performance during between the weeks from Nov. 23, 2019 through Nov. 14, 2020.. This is a list of last year's most popular songs across all genres, ranked by radio airplay audience impressions and sales data as measured and compiled by Nielsen Music, while streaming activity data provided by online music sources.

1  Blinding Lights - The Weeknd (#1 for 4 weeks, April 2020)

"Blinding Lights" has set a new record for most weeks in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 at 40 weeks, with 4 non-consecutive weeks in the #1 spot. He also holds the record for most weeks in the Top 5 at 28 weeks.

2  Circles - Post Malone (#1 for 2 weeks, November - December 2019)

"Circles" spent 39 weeks in the Top 10, a record until "Blinding Lights" edged it out. 

3  The Box - Roddy Ricch (#1 for 11 weeks, January - March 2020)

4  Don't Start Now - Dua Lipa

5  Rockstar - DaBaby Featuring Roddy Ricch (#1 for 7 weeks, June - July 2020)

6  Adore You - Harry Styles

7  Life Is Good - Future Featuring Drake

8  Memories - Maroon 5

9  The Bones - Maren Morris

10  Someone You Loved - Lewis Capaldi

11  Say So - Doja Cat (#1 for 1 week, May 2020)

12  I Hope - Gabby Barrett Featuring Charlie Puth

13  Whats Poppin - Jack Harlow Featuring DaBaby, Tory Lanez & Lil Wayne

14  Dance Monkey - Tones And I

15  Savage - Megan Thee Stallion (#1 for 1 week, May 2020)

16  Roxanne - Arizona Zervas

17  Intentions - Justin Bieber Featuring Quavo

18  Everything I Wanted - Billie Eilish

19  Roses - SAINt JHN

20  Watermelon Sugar - Harry Styles

21  Before You Go - Lewis Capaldi

22  Falling - Trevor Daniel

23  10,000 Hours - Dan + Shay & Justin Bieber

24  WAP - Cardi B Featuring Megan Thee Stallion  (#1 for 4 weeks, August - September 2020)

25  Ballin' - Mustard & Roddy Ricch

26  Hot Girl Bummer - blackbear

27  Blueberry Faygo - Lil Mosey

28  Heartless - The Weeknd (#1 for 1 week, December 2019)

29  BOP - DaBaby

30  Lose You To Love Me - Selena Gomez

31  Good As Hell - Lizzo

32  Toosie Slide - Drake (#1 for 1 week, April 2020)

33  Break My Heart - Dua Lipa

34  Chasin' You - Morgan Wallen

35  Savage Love (Laxed - Siren Beat) - Jawsh 685 x Jason Derulo (#1 for 1 week, October 2020)

36  No Guidance - Chris Brown Featuring Drake

37  My Oh My - Camila Cabello Featuring DaBaby

38  Dynamite - BTS  (#1 for 3 weeks, September 2020)

39  Go Crazy - Chris Brown & Young Thug

40  High Fashion - Roddy Ricch Featuring Mustard

41  Laugh Now Cry Later - Drake Featuring Lil Durk

42  Woah - Lil Baby

43  Death Bed - Powfu Featuring beabadoobee

44  Senorita - Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello

45  HIGHEST IN THE ROOM - Travis Scott

46  Bad Guy - Billie Eilish

47  Mood - 24kGoldn Featuring iann dior (#1 for 1 week, October 2020)

48  Rain On Me - Lady Gaga & Ariana Grande (#1 for 1 week, June 2020)

49  For The Night - Pop Smoke Featuring Lil Baby & DaBaby

50  RITMO (Bad Boys For Life) - Black Eyed Peas X J Balvin

51  Heart On Ice - Rod Wave

52  Nobody But You - Blake Shelton Duet With Gwen Stefani

53  Trampoline - SHAED

54  Come & Go - Juice WRLD x Marshmello

55  Truth Hurts - Lizzo

56  If The World Was Ending - JP Saxe Featuring Julia Michaels

57  We Paid - Lil Baby & 42 Dugg

58  Yummy - Justin Bieber

59  One Man Band - Old Dominion

60  Got What I Got - Jason Aldean

61  Sunday Best - Surfaces

62  Godzilla - Eminem Featuring Juice WRLD

63  Bandit - Juice WRLD & YoungBoy Never Broke Again

64  Party Girl - StaySolidRocky

65  Die From A Broken Heart - Maddie & Tae

66  Popstar - DJ Khaled Featuring Drake

67  All I Want For Christmas Is You - Mariah Carey (#1 for 3 weeks, December 2019 - Januarty 2020)

On the chart dated December 21, 2019, "All I Want For Christmas Is You" topped the Hot 100, only after 35 cumulative weeks and 25 years from its original release -- setting the record for the slowest climb to the top spot and the longest trip to the number one position. When it spent a third week atop the Hot 100 chart dated January 4, 2020, Carey became the first artist in history to rule the chart in four separate decades: 1990s, 2000s, 2010s & 2020s chart.

68  One Of Them Girls - Lee Brice

69  Hard To Forget - Sam Hunt

70  One Margarita - Luke Bryan

71  Panini - Lil Nas X

72  Hot - Young Thug Featuring Gunna

73  I Hope You're Happy Now - Carly Pearce & Lee Brice

74  Emotionally Scarred - Lil Baby

75  Suicidal - YNW Melly & Juice WRLD

76  The Bigger Picture - Lil Baby

77  Only Human - Jonas Brothers

78  The Woo - Pop Smoke Featuring 50 Cent & Roddy Ricch

79  Sum 2 Prove - Lil Baby

80  Stuck With U - Ariana Grande & Justin Bieber (#1 for 1 week, May 2020)

81  Mood Swings - Pop Smoke Featuring Lil Tjay

82 You Should Be Sad - Halsey

83  Dior - Pop Smoke

84  Supalonely - BENEE Featuring Gus Dapperton

85  Even Though I'm Leaving - Luke Combs

86  The Scotts - THE SCOTTS, Travis Scott & Kid Cudi (#1 for 1 week, May 2020)

87  Juicy - Doja Cat & Tyga

88  Be Like That - Kane Brown With Swae Lee & Khalid

89  Homesick - Kane Brown

90  Rags2Riches - Rod Wave Featuring ATR Son Son

91  Bluebird - Miranda Lambert

92  Wishing Well - Juice WRLD

93  Does To Me - Luke Combs Featuring Eric Church

94  P*$$y Fairy (OTW) - Jhene Aiko

95  ily - surf mesa Featuring Emilee

96  More Than My Hometown - Morgan Wallen

97  Lovin' On You - Luke Combs

98  Said Sum - Moneybagg Yo

99  Slide - H.E.R. Featuring YG

100  Walk Em Down - NLE Choppa Featuring Roddy Ricch

** Number 1 songs that did NOT make it into this year-end list:

Trollz - 6ix9ine and Nicki Minaj  (#1 for 1 week, June 2020)

Cardigan - Taylor Swift (#1 for 1 week, August 2020)

Franchise - Travis Scott featuring Young Thug and M.I.A. (#1 for 1 week, October 2020)

Positions - Ariana Grande (#1 for 1 week, November 2020)

Sunday, October 11, 2020


October 12, 2020

BTS is currently the most popular South Korean boy band in the US, and probably the whole world. Their debut single album "2 Cool 4 Skool" was released in 2013 in Korea, and from that year onward, they had been steadily building up their loyal fan base called the ARMY with members from all over the world. 

I first heard of them only when they hit it big on the US charts in 2018 with two #1 albums on the Billboard 200: their third studio album "Love Yourself: Tear" and their compilation album "Love Yourself: Answer." That same year, their singles "Fake Love" and "Idol" reached #10 and #11 respectively on the Billboard Hot 100.

BTS is composed of 7 members, but I did not really know each one by name before. I had watched their recent Tiny Desk concert on YouTube last September 2020, and noted that each one carried a microphone of a different color which also corresponded to the colors of their earpieces, so that was how I identified them. They are RM (blue), Jin (pink), Suga (black), J-Hope (red), Jimin (gold), V (green), and Jungkook (purple). 

I had no idea that BTS was having an online concert until an FB friend who watched the first day last Saturday October 10 encouraged me to go check out the second day of the concert Sunday afternoon. She sent me instructions on how to book a ticket (good for two devices) to the concert from the Weverse app, which I tried but could not figure out. Fortunately, my daughter, who was a big Kpop fan, was able to score a ticket for us at the last minute. 

The whole concert began with a video of the boys all donning their red hoods in a desert with a crag of rock jutting out from the sand. This would transition onto a live stage where they opened the show with a performance of their 2020 song "On" (a #4 song on the Hot 100) with a platoon of masked backup dancers. Then, they performed two of their earliest hits from 2013, "N.O" and "We Are Bulletproof Pt.2." 

There was a video interlude with closeups of the boys, while the stage was set up for the first solo number called "Intro : Persona" featuring RM (or Kim Namjoon) who was the recognized leader and spokesman of BTS. He delivered his strong rap number from behind a lectern, as if delivering a political campaign speech. That hanging mic he used that burst into flame when he threw it into the air was a cool gimmick.

The other guys later joined him to sing "Boy In Luv" (2014, not to be confused with the 2019 hit "Boy WITH Luv") with a building in flames behind them. After the song, all the members individually addressed their fans in Korean language. At first, there were no English subtitles, so I could not understand what they were saying. Fortunately, the later speeches would eventually have these much-needed subtitles. After their introductory messages, they performed "Dionysus" (2019), with the building ruins behind them lit in green.

After another video of the boys posing and modeling, it was Suga's turn to show off his rap skills in his solo spot "Interlude : Shadow." Suga had a quick costume change from white to black ensemble as his hooded dancers surrounded him. Then the other guys got back together with him in a smooth transition to perform another 2020 single "Black Swan" with an underwater kelp forest-like backdrop, which concluded in a balletic solo dance by Jimin.

With a major set change, the three rappers Suga, RM and J-Hope came out donning satin boxing robes to perform the highly energetic hiphop number "UGH!" After this, the other four guys, Jin, Jimin, V and Jungkook, rendered a dramatic "00:00 (Zero O’Clock)" number, wearing white outfits, with a giant digital clock display and winter scenery behind them.  

There was another video montage of the boys, which concluded with Jungkook in a room full of clocks. This segued into his solo number "My Time" which had him dressed in fiery red dancing under a spotlight, first alone, then with four dancers in black. The next was Jimin's solo number "Filter" in a white room with TV monitors and mannequins where he danced ala Michael Jackson. Jin had his turn next with the song "Moon" where he began singing on a replica of the moon with huge red flower growing on it. The next number of this set was "Inner Child" by V, in an elaborate set with a giant suspended carousel, with a little boy riding on one of the horses with him.

There was another video montage of images of the boys, after which J-Hope performed the final solo number "Outro : EGO" with a red classic convertible and four ATVs on stage. This was followed by the first song I was actually familiar with in this whole show -- their #8 US hit "Boy With Luv" which they sang carrying transparent umbrellas. After this song, the guys were already expressing their initial thanks and goodbyes, but like it was in a regular concert, of course there would be more to come. 

The next three high energy numbers -- "DNA" (2017), "Dope" (2015) and their very first single "No More Dream" (2013) -- were performed with elaborated computer-generated sets like a floating stage, a moving elevator or bursts of fireworks to make things more visually interesting. Then, the boys stood in front of massive video walls which showed a multitude of ARMY (mostly female) cheering them on their webcams while watching the concert live. With that background, they performed "Spring Day" (2017), "Idol" (2018) and their recent Hot 100 #1 hit song "Dynamite" (2020).   

Each one of the boys addressed their fans again individually to thank them for their support and express their hopes to be able to perform live once again with them. The live audience was really the missing factor in this concert, as their fangirl energy could not really transmit very well through their Zoom screens, even if they were frantically waving their light sticks and balloons. Their loud screams and fan chants are very much part of this and any Kpop concert and they were much missed in this online concert experience. 

The boys sang their 23rd and final number "We Are Bulletproof : the Eternal" before walking back to the initial stage with desert. They bid their final farewells standing on the same massive rocky crag set piece where the whole concert began 2 hours and a half ago. 

This is the first time I had seen BTS in a full-length concert, and I have to say, these guys really give their singing and dancing their all in terms of energy and dedication. It was clear why their fans love them well beyond their androgynous looks alone.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Recap and Winners List GAWAD BUHAY AWARDS for 2019: "LAM-ANG," "EVERY BRILLIANT THING" and "PASSION" Lead Awardees

October 8, 2020

Because of the pandemic this year, the presentation of the Gawad Buhay awards this year were pushed back six months, from its usual date in April to today. The awarding ceremony was a combination of pre-recorded segments with Phi Palmos and Meann Espinosa with smooth transitions to live speeches from the excited winners.

The emcees opened the show wearing colorful bunny suits, keeping in tune with the times, but they would later change to regular clothes for the rest of the show. Philstage President Audie Gemora delivered the opening remarks. 

The first set of awards were for the technical categories:

Outstanding Original Score

Fitz Bitana, Jen Darlene Torres and Eljay Castro Deldoc, “Lam-ang” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Vince Lim, Jeff Hernandez and Michelle Ngu, “Charot!” (Philippine Educational Theater Association)

Eljay Castro-Deldoc

Outstanding Choreography

JM Cabling, “Lam-ang” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

PJ Rebullida, “The Quest for the Adarna” (Repertory Philippines)

Outstanding Sound Design

Arvy Dimaculangan, “Every Brilliant Thing” (The Sandbox Collective)

Jethro Joaquin, “The Dresser” (Repertory Philippines)

Glendfford Malimban, “Dani Girl” (The Sandbox Collective)

TJ Ramos, “Coriolano” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

TJ Ramos, “Lam-ang” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Outstanding Musical Direction (tie)

Daniel Bartolome, “Passion” (Philippine Opera Company)

TJ Ramos, “Lam-ang” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Ejay Yatco, “Dani Girl” (The Sandbox Collective)

TJ Ramos

Outstanding Lighting Design

John Batalla, “Every Brilliant Thing” (The Sandbox Collective)

Dennis Marasigan, “Coriolano” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Meliton Roxas Jr., “Lam-ang” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Barbie Tan-Tiongco, “The Dresser” (Repertory Philippines)

Shakira Villa-Symes, “Passion” (Philippine Opera Company)

Outstanding Costume Design

Bonsai Cielo, “Coriolano” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Bonsai Cielo, “Lam-ang” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Daniel Gregorio, “Katsuri” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Tata Tuviera, “The Dresser” (Repertory Philippines)

Outstanding Set Design

Ed Lacson Jr., “The Dresser” (Repertory Philippines)

Joey Mendoza, “The Quest for the Adarna” (Repertory Philippines)

Faust Peneyra, “Dani Girl” (The Sandbox Collective)

Kayla Teodoro, “Dancing Lessons” (Twin Bill Theater)

Marco Viaña, “Lam-ang” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Julie Borromeo

The first Natatanging Gawad award of the night was given to Ms. Julie Borromeo for the field of Dance. She received tributes from all her children and students, as well as performance of one of the contemporary ballets she choreographed to the tune of "Maging Hanggang sa Dulo ng Walang Hanggan".  

The next set of awards were for the writers:

Outstanding Translation or Adaptation

Guelan Luarca, “Coriolano” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Luna Grino-Inocian

Outstanding Original Book of a Musical

Luna Griño-Inocian, “The Quest for the Adarna” (Repertory Philippines)

Outstanding Production for Children

“The Quest for the Adarna” (Repertory Philippines)

The second Natatanging Gawad award of the night was given to Freddie Santos for Theatre. His tribute began Gary Valenciano performing the song "Would You Be Messiah" which he wrote for Santos's musical "First Name." This was followed a lengthy narration about Santos' long career in performing and directing theater as well as concerts.

Freddie Santos

The next set of awards were for performances.

Male Featured Performance in a Play

Jaime del Mundo, “The Dresser” (Repertory Philippines)

Fernando Josef, “Katsuri” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Brian Sy, “Coriolano” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Jonathan Tadioan, “Coriolano” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Female Featured Performance in a Play

Antonette Go, “Katsuri” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Sherry Lara, “Coriolano” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Tami Monsod, “The Dresser” (Repertory Philippines)

Lhorvie Nuevo, “Katsuri” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Kakki Teodoro

Female Lead Performance in a Play

Teresa Herrera, “Every Brilliant Thing” (The Sandbox Collective)

Jill Peña, “Dancing Lessons” (Twin Bill Theater)

Kakki Teodoro, “Every Brilliant Thing” (The Sandbox Collective)

Male Lead Performance in a Play

Audie Gemora, “The Dresser” (Repertory Philippines)

Teroy Guzman, “The Dresser” (Repertory Philippines)

Jonathan Tadioan, “Katsuri” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Marco Viaña, “Coriolano” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Marco Viaña, “Katsuri” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Marco Viana

Male Featured Performance in a Musical

Paw Castillo, “Lam-ang” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Daniel Drilon, “Dani Girl” (The Sandbox Collective)

Lorenz Martinez, “Dani Girl” (The Sandbox Collective)

Juliene Mendoza, “Dani Girl” (The Sandbox Collective)

Raul Montesa, “Passion” (Philippine Opera Company)

Female Featured Performance in a Musical

Jasmine Fitzgerald, “Passion” (Philippine Opera Company)

Anna Luna, “Lam-ang” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Justine Narciso, “The Quest for the Adarna” (Repertory Philippines)

Tex Ordoñez-de Leon, “Lam-ang” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Shiela Valderrama-Martinez, “Dani Girl” (The Sandbox Collective)

Vien King

Male Lead Performance in a Musical

Vien King, “Passion” (Philippine Opera Company)

JC Santos, “Lam-ang” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Female Lead Performance in a Musical

Rebecca Coates, “Dani Girl” (The Sandbox Collective)

Felicity Kyle Napuli, “Dani Girl” (The Sandbox Collective)

Shiela Valderrama-Martinez, “Passion” (Philippine Opera Company)

Shiela Valderrama-Martinez

Outstanding Ensemble Performance for a Play

“Katsuri” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Outstanding Ensemble Performance for a Musical

“Dani Girl” (The Sandbox Collective)

“Lam-ang” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

“Passion” (Philippine Opera Company)

The next segment was an In Memoriam slideshow accompanied by the song "Matatapos Din" (from "Mula sa Buwan") sung by Gab Pangilinan. The notable theater personalities included in the list were Heherson Alvarez, Carlos Celdran, Gilda Cordero-Fernando, Peque Gallaga, Tony Mabesa, Manny Pambid and Menggie Cobarrubias.

The final set of awards were as follows:

Outstanding Stage Direction for a Play

Jenny Jamora, “Every Brilliant Thing” (The Sandbox Collective)

Francis Matheu, “Dancing Lessons” (Twin Bill Theater)

Carlitos Siguion-Reyna, “Katsuri” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Jenny Jamora

Outstanding Stage Direction for a Musical

Toff de Venecia, “Dani Girl” (The Sandbox Collective)

Robbie Guevara, “Passion” (Philippine Opera Company)

Outstanding Production of Existing Material for a Play

“Dancing Lessons” (Twin Bill Theater)

“Every Brilliant Thing” (The Sandbox Collective)

Karla Gutierrez 

Outstanding Production of Existing Material for a Musical

“Dani Girl” (The Sandbox Collective)

“Passion” (Philippine Opera Company)

The final remarks were given by Philstage Vice President Congressman Toff de Venecia. There was an emotional final song "Darating Din ang Araw" rendered by a group of theater singers led by Sweet Plantado and Poppert Bernadas. This first-of-its-kind online awards show was very well-executed by Black Box in cooperation with PETA and Philstage. 

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Reviews of VIRGIN LABFEST 2020 Writing Fellowship Program Showcase Sets A and B

June 28, 2020

Since 2012, the Writing Fellowship Program had been a 2-week program about writing plays which was held in conjuction with the Virgin Labfest. I had never seen any showcase live before, although I had seen some products of the workshop which had later made it into the Labfest roster itself. From last year's Workshop came three of this year's featured plays, namely "Titser Kit" "Blackpink" and "Mayang Bubot." 

From the usual 10, there were only 6 fellows this year because of the pandemic, all of them just happened to be female, and all from Metro Manila. Ms. Melissa Corazon Mantaring is the program director. Playwright and professor Glenn Sevilla Mas is again the program mentor as he had been since 2009 when it was called the Writer's Lab. All plays had been directed by Dennis Marasigan, which he had been doing since 2013.

Set A:

Laureana at Larissa

Written by Bienangela "Gentle" Mapagu

It was April 2020 during this time of the pandemic. Larissa (Chloe Jenna) could not absorb anything from the books she had been reading. Laurene (Micah Musa), a being who transported dead souls to the afterlife, appeared beside Larissa and engaged her in a game of checkers (a la Bergman's "The Seventh Seal") where winner gets to decide her fate.

The whole play turned out to be an internal conversation of a mentally-disturbed individual -- a manifestation of a restless mind when such a person is locked down in the house because of a community quarantine. These imaginary friends are their means of coping with the stress and crisis, and a way for them to express their frustrations about everything happening around them, from current events to personal problems. It was probably through these "friends" where they can bounce their thoughts to come up with the best logical decisions.  

Dalawang Tibok

Written by Franchesca Palattao

It was 11 pm in a studio in Manila. Angeli (Mina Cruz) and Paula (Bench Bautista) were a lesbian couple who had been together for 15 years. Both of them are already pushing 40 and gainfully employed. One night, Angeli expressed her desire to bear a child. Unfortunately, Paula did not agree. 

This play was an intimate private conversation between two partners, which later evolved into a major argument which brought up buried skeletons. This type of situation could realistically have happened to a relationship of any couple of any sexual orientation where one wanted a child and the other does not. Perhaps it becomes more problematic if the relationship had already lasted as long as this one in the play -- 15 years. Have they not made this matter clear long ago, or was there a desire that only arose later in life when one somehow felt something lacking in one's life?


Written by Jhudiel Clare D. Sosa

Teenager Ana (Pat Maliwat) was asking advice from her older sister Jessica (Maia Dapul) about a piece of advice she read from a girlie magazine. The conversation started lightly from a question about shaving. Then it later evolved to more sensitive matter regarding Ana's boyfriend Gregory and what he was demanding for her to prove her true love. 

This was a humorous sisterly conversation which could be objectionable for some because the girls were liberally saying terms which corresponded to private parts of the body and other profanity. Hearing those words said in Filipino further added to the vulgarity factor than if the medical English terms had been used. This play offered advice to young girls not to get their knowledge from magazines. They were also reminded to love and respect themselves first. What toxic men want should not dictate what their decisions about their bodies. 

Set B:


Written by Cecilia M. de Jesus

Allie (Nicole Chua) was admitted in a private room in the hospital. Her admitting physician Dr. Salazar (Marvin Ong) was asking her tough questions in his need to understand when she tried to take her own life two days ago. To further draw her out of her resistance, the doctor related the suicide of a person dear to him.

This play was one very somber mental health affair replete with pregnant pauses throughout which cause a lot of tension and suspense. Having someone dear to us unexpectedly commit suicide leads us to blame ourselves for not being able to predict and prevent the tragedy. Being unpredictable events, we cannot be held responsible for the decisions other people make about their lives. Time will eventually lighten the weight of the guilt if we ourselves make the right choices. This play spoke to those left behind, to assuage them in their extreme anguish and to reassure them of eventual acceptance and moving on.

Balat, Sando, at Boxers 

Written by Hannah Dorol

One warm summer afternoon, Maggie (Pia Meily) and her elder brother Matt (Alvin Obillo) were both lounging around with their legs raised on their seats, wearing only sleeveless shirts and short shorts. Matt began chastising his sister about her poise and clothes, and how they were attracting lascivious looks from the men passing outside their house. 

This play covered a very current controversy about blaming the victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault for wearing skimpy clothing which provoked the men around them to entertain lusty thoughts. The approach of the play was light and humorous at first, but the argument between the siblings did become quite heated before long. I guess this topic will generate unending arguments between women (who want freedom to wear whatever they want) and men (who think that showing skin invites maniacs). 

Teacher Ka Lang/ Pa Naman 

Written by Ansherina May D. Jazul

Ms. Javier (Matel Patayon) was a Filipino teacher in a private university. One day she was called to speak with Mr. Ocampo (Jon Montes), the principal. She was asked why her students went to a rally with her, and admonished for posting a complaint about the school on her social media account. Ms. Javier used the opportunity to air her misgivings.

This play talked about the current difficulties experienced by teachers in our country. Being a teacher in Filipino was not being given its due importance. Feedback from students counted for only 5% of a teacher's yearly assessment, in contrast with 70% for feedback from the administration. Teachers were not given an open channel to complain to the administrators. Teachers who were idealistic and fought the status quo in their youth would eventually get jaded as they get promoted into the administration. 

Friday, June 26, 2020


June 26, 2020


Written by Claro de los Reyes
Directed by Guelan Luarca and Zoe de Ocampo

Enrica (Kakki Teodoro) was the daughter of a dark-skinned African-American man and a fair-skinned Filipina with Hispanic ancestry. After suffering a violent assault which resulted in the loss of her left eye, she decided to migrate to New York City to live her dreams in anonymity. There she had a Haitian-American landlord (Anthony Vaughn Merchant) and African-American neighbors Punnygal (Teisha M. Duncan) and Brownman (Ybes Bagadiong). Along with foreign celebrities like Queen Isabel II and Billy Ray Bates, Enrica also encountered local personalities like Imelda (Tata Tuvera) and Rizal, both of whom had her facial deformity.

This staged reading turned out to be quite a web odyssey -- an online orienteering course or an obstacle course. On its website, you follow a series of written instructions which would lead you through a maze of YouTube videos, as designed by the tech team of Kat Dizon, Franny Tan and Carmen Dolina. It was fun at times and frustrating at times, as you click on boxes and arrows to get to the next page, or click on numbers on the side to get side notes, or click on a box to drag and read the unintelligible dialogue, or click on drawings of open eyes to close them. Seeing Imelda and Isabel eating bangus with huge wooden utensils was truly bizarre.

I am not going to pretend to completely understand what this play was all about. I went through the videos twice and watched the after-show Q and A session, but I really do not get what Filipino-American playwright de los Reyes was trying to tell me exactly. I think it may be about the tough life ahead for those of either the "mongoloid" race or worse, the "negroid" race (as they were called in the play's archaic terminology) throughout history up to the present. I am really not sure, in fact I may be way off. However, in creating this unique "virtual theater" web experience, directors Luarca and de Ocampo made sure I kept my fingers busy clicking links instead of scratching my head in confusion. 


Written by Bernice Dacara
Directed by Alon Segarra

Vito (Matthew Deinla) and Erik (King Velasquez) were both plebes in a military school. Their classmate Nico just died from injuries resulting from blunt trauma he sustained after their initiation. On the night before their recognition day, a distraught Vito engaged Erik to discuss what happened to their friend and how he suffered under the their sadistic upperclassmen. Later, the discussion turned to themselves -- on what they should have done back then, and what they could do now.  

This was a straightforward two-hander about the sensitive topic of hazing in military institutions. Playwright Dacara admitted that her story started off as the experiences of an uncle. As she was writing though, the controversial news about the death of PMA cadet Darwin Dormitorio by hazing became a big national issue, and this made her story significant currently as well. That Dacara was able to convincingly write the culture of violence experienced by men with a balance of male and female perspective was notable.

The virtual staging by Director Segarra was quite basic, just one Zoom window for each boy as they were lying down on their beds conversing with each other. The progress of emotion was well-paced for both the nervous Vito and the pragmatic Eric. Both young actors were able to bounce off each other pretty well as the tension between them got more and more intense. The ending felt weaker than what the build-up promised, and could perhaps be polished more when it is actually staged. It was a bit distracting that Velasquez's ponytail and their scripts were both very visible, and their bedrooms looked very different, but then again it was supposed to be a script reading after all (but they could've gone for a full-on performance like the others readings did). 

Saturday, June 20, 2020


June 20, 2020


Written by Nicko de Guzman
Directed by Joel Saracho

Che (Lui Manansala) and Caloy (Ward Luarca) are a senior Filipino couple who had lived in California, USA since they got married after college. Their daughter Hiyas decided to study in UP Diliman for college, like her parents, and was now about to give birth to their first grandchild. While they were packing their balikbayan boxes to go back to Manila, Che unexpectedly disagreed with Caloy's plan to staying in Manila for good. 

Initially, the conversation between husband and wife began innocuously enough, deciding which things to bring back to Manila and which ones to leave behind (using the "sparking joy" philosophy of Marie Kondo). However, once Che declared her firm objection to staying in Manila for good, then we were taken down a trip to their memory lane, from their first meeting in UP at a political rally to the circumstances surrounding their migration to the US, to clarify why this decision being imposed on her was very objectionable to her.

The two senior actors, Manansala and Luarca, acted like they were very much a real life couple. They were very natural as they bantered and shared memories with each other, both pleasant and unpleasant. The idyllic nostalgia soon took a turn to guilt and regret. So much conflict and contradiction, personal and ideological, just welled up inside Che at that point, causing Ms. Manansala to shed tears so raw and painful, it was impossible not to move her audience to tears along with her as well. Che's sentiments may resonate stronger for students and alumni of UP who shared the same socio-political awareness as Che did. 


Written by Dingdong Novenario
Directed by Bunny Cadag

Theater director Dominador Gonzales (Joel Saracho) had been named as one of the latest batch of National Artists. His former student and one-time lover Oliver Torres III (Audie Gemora) called to congratulate Gonzales, whom he called Dmon. Oliver also became a playwright but is now focused on a career in the corporate world. He asked Dmon to collaborate with him to stage an old play he had written about. Dmon was not interested.

Novenario dropped a lot of terminology of the "call-out" millennial generation -- body shaming, ageism, cancelledt, enabling, smart-shaming, toxic masculinity, establishing authority ("hijo"), feeling entitled, misplaced loyalties, etc. There were names of controversial celebrities like Woody Allen and Ben Tulfo, as well current local news, like ABS-CBN and POGO. There is a message for people who avoid taking sides and stay silent, especially for theater artists and their transformative power. Cadag made this a "staged reading" even for the audience when she had the actual script running below the actors. That was a brilliant idea to further vivify the concept of literally bringing the script from page to stage, seeing the skills of the actors as they interpret the written words.

From the start, you already get the feel that Oliver was up to something, and Audie Gemora made sure we felt that with his cocky attitude he projected. His phone call to Dmon was a not purely casual one, he clearly had an ulterior motive -- from how Oliver eyed Dmon's young ward Edward (John Nico Labrador) to how he scoffed with resentment at Dmon's wall of awards. Being the seasoned veteran actors they were, the interaction between Gemora's user and Saracho's diva was mesmerizing. (That dig against harsh theater critics was particularly precious, haha!) As we listened in to their increasingly heated conversation, we were all held rapt witnesses to a scandal about to explode. This is strong stuff. 


Written by Buch Dacanay
Directed by Nour Hooshmand

During a drunken party at a classmate's house, college student Jenny Li (Liway Gabo) witnessed her best friend Bernadette (Harriette Mozelle) being raped by her boyfriend Jason. She tried to talk about the unfortunate incident to Bernadette herself but she was still in denial. Her mother (Beng Maramba) was open, warm and caring. Their male friend Max (Esteban Fulay Jr.), also a witness, was wary of getting involved. When she met Jason's friend Paris (Joshua Tayco), he had his own confession which turned out to be a turning point in Jenny's ordeal. 

Playwright Dacanay had chosen a very timely topic to write about, as outfits worn by women are again being blamed for causing them to be raped.  The issue of mental health is a logical consequence of the traumatic experience, not only for the victim, but the friends who care for her as well. Of all the plays in this year's Virgin Labfest, this has got to be the most subdued and restrained. As it tackled a sensitive topic no one wants to talk about so everyone was carefully avoiding the topic. The scenes are generally very tense and quiet. The actors were all talking in soft voices, probably just over a whisper. The gentle piano music of Ali Hooshmand was vital in helping to draw the emotions out. The development of the story was not as straightforward as you might think.

More than the staged reading that it was supposed, this online staging of director Hooshmand was fully produced. Like some of the other featured plays, this was presented as a short film. The graphics by Steven Tantiongco and the animation team of Franchesca Del Mundo and Joanna Mandigal, defining not only the various settings, but also establishing the confused moods of the characters.  It employed green screen technology to get the actors in "closer interaction" with each other, even they were actually in different locations. We see a scene showing books being passed, but it was there to prepare us for an even more intimate act -- a hug. This hug was a major moment of collective comfort, not only for Jenny, but for the whole audience sharing her ordeal.

Sunday, June 14, 2020


June 14, 2020


Written by: Jay Crisostomo IV
Directed by: Sig Pecho

After their final day of high school, Dennis (Khayl Sison) and Yanni (Quiel Andrew Quiwa) meet at their close friend Chippy's (Jerome Dawis) house to get together one more time before their graduation day. Behind their raucous juvenile craziness and raunchy adolescent activities, it turned out each of them was dealing with various problems, such as extreme parental pressure, an impossible crush and hopelessly low grades. 

The melodramatic title seemed ironic for a play about high school graduates. This play was set in 1999, so the writer and director included several pop culture and musical references from that time to create a rich atmosphere of nostalgia. At this age, I know that the thoughts of teenage boys are expected to be rather sexually-preoccupied. However, it was unfortunate that most of their foolish noisy banter that afternoon centered on these kinky topics, which was admittedly not too comfortable to sit through. Even the two adult characters, Chippy's mother Mrs. Garcia (Peewee O'Hara) and their teacher Mrs. Javier (Ina Azarcon-Bolivar), were also made to deliver vulgar sex jokes! 

I realize these were the same naughty gimmicks which made "Wanted Male Boarders" very popular last year and even landed it among the revisited this year. However, in the context of "Dapithapon," there could have been so much more for these boys to talk about which could have made the script feel more substantial than trashy. I felt they missed a vital opportunity to recreate more universal high school graduation memories for more audiences to relate to. The technical aspects of the online staging was more or less basic when compared to the others, nothing very unique to make it particularly memorable. 


Written by Juliene Mendoza
Directed by: Fitz Bitana

Playwright Peter (Iggi Siasoco) was spending a fun time with his younger brother Bobby (Vino Mabalot) who had just been discharged from the hospital after complications from a severe drunken binge. They were having a blast playing video games, discussing comic books, super heroes, multiverses, movies and their mother's cooking. As the two brothers promised each other a closer relationship, Peter invited Bobby to watch the premiere of the new alternate reality play he had written for a theater festival.

The attractive backdrop of their online stage was composed of vividly colorful comic book panels. Director Fitz Bitana came up with very clever ideas on how to stage video games (using the actors themselves "fighting" on the floor) and superhero battles (using costumed hands and fingers "fighting" on the tabletop). There was a playful part where the brothers morphed into Olderman and Alaska Boy. Because of the online platform, this play actually became the visual feast its title promised to be. There were occasional lapses when certain parts of an actor's body would cross over screen borders, betraying the fact that the two actors were not acting in separate places as the illusion should be. 

Stories about brothers (from "A River Runs Through It" to "Rain Man") always get to me, and now I add this story to that list. That I grew up and still have an ongoing fascination with anything comic book and superheroes myself drew me even further into this fraternal drama. I was thankful that writer Juliene Mendoza kept everything wholesome and easily relatable for all ages. As I had mentioned in my previous reviews, Mendoza had consistently amazed me with his acting talent, and now I also recognize his talent as a playwright to imbue this one-act play with so much heart and deep pathos in its short running time. This is certainly a new classic.