Sunday, August 18, 2013

PETA's BATANG RIZAL: Patriotism Made Young!

August 18, 2013



"Batang Rizal" is a play by PETA that I have heard about for a very long time.  This musical about the child Jose Rizal had been first staged way back in 2007, and had been toured around the country several times since then.  I knew that this is a play I would like to watch with my children.  When I found out just a few days ago that PETA will be re-staging this modern classic at the PETA Theater for a limited engagement this month, I made sure my whole family went to watch it this rainy Sunday morning.

"Batang Rizal" tells the story of Pepito (Vic Robinson), a student of Rizal Elementary School, who is in deep trouble for accidentally breaking the expensive new Jose Rizal statue donated by their oily Mayor Rafcu (Wylie Casero) for their Linggo ng Wika celebrations.  Pepito encounters a magical Book which teleports him from the present time back to the late 19th century in Calamba, Laguna when Jose Rizal, or Pepe (Lemuel Silvestre), was still a young boy like him.

From such an innovative scenario, we are given an inside view into the psyche of the still young and innocent boy Rizal, still being bullied by other kids for his diminutive stature, only beginning to be wakened to national consciousness by his elder brother, already very devotedly attached to his mother.  The situation gets more interesting when Pepe is likewise brought by the magic Book to present times and he meets Pepito's teacher and classmates. Ultimately, the young Rizal and his modern day friends will be taught lessons in nationalism and heroism.

We will get to see all the stories we hear about Rizal's childhood unfold on the stage as they have been skillfully integrated into the script.  The oft-repeated fables of the "Turtle and the Monkey" and the "Moth and the Flame", were retold in imaginatively via hand puppets.  We will hear the young Rizal himself recite "Sa Aking Mga Kabata," the poem he supposedly wrote when he was only eight years old.  There was even an episode about Rizal's mother being arrested and incarcerated, which I have never before heard of until I watched this play.



The young adult cast playing children was so cool and natural, not trying too hard at all to be childlike.  Vic Robinson is charming as the lead character, Peping.  Hard to believe this guy had already played a romantic lead in "Sa Wakas" just a few months ago, and here he is now playing an elementary-age kid.  This is the first time I am seeing Lemuel Silvestre on stage, and yet here he is now playing co-lead as Pepe.  He may not be conventionally good-looking as Robinson is, but Lemuel's charisma steadily grew as the play went on.  Most importantly, he is credible as the titular young Rizal.

Peping has his friends: the bossy Bambam (Timee Gorrecho), the big cutie crybaby Chiqui (J-mee Katanyag), and of course, his crush, the pretty Kaye (Rissey Reyes).  Of course, as in any school, there are those bullies: the naughty Manuel (Ron Alfonso) and his gang Raffy (Rafael Sudayan) and Ella (Divine Aucina). These mischievous bad guys were quite the hit with the crowd with their boisterous antics. 

What is amazing about this supporting cast is that in complete contrast to the relentlessly zany characters they play in the present time, they also play the very serious characters in young Rizal's life on the other side of the time tunnel.  Casero also plays Rizal's older brother Paciano (though he did look old enough to be Rizal's father).  Katanyag, Gorrecho and Reyes also play Rizal's sisters Saturnina, Maria, and Narcisa respectively.  Alfonso tells the grim tale of the execution of Gomburza with the garrote. Sudayan plays a wicked Spanish friar selling indulgencias.


The most remarkable extreme transformation was by Ms. Noemi Gonzales. She was just so perky and crazy as their ditzy Filipino teacher Ma'am Tangolang, who has a penchant for channeling opera diva Sylvia la Torre. Yet in a total turnaround, she was also a serenely solemn and very dignified presence as Teodora Alonzo, fondly called Donya Lolay, Rizal's mother.  You would never imagine that these two exceedingly contrasting characters were just played by just one very talented actress.

This play was brilliantly written by Christine Bellen, with such loving respect for the Filipino language.  It also features lively all-original music composed and arranged by no less than Vincent de Jesus. Dudz Terana directs the action very well, mixing the serious and the comic moments with much control.  The moment when Pepe realizes the lesson of the "Moth and the Flame", and that moment when Pepe discovers how exactly he became a hero, were so beautifully and sensitively written and staged.

This is by no means a very serious play about patriotism.  As PETA targets this play for children, the audience is also treated to rollicking, laugh-out-loud, schoolyard comedy.  This 2013 script was obviously updated to include hilarious present day pop references, like the current Pork Barrel issue, Ser Chief, Juan de la Cruz's "latigo ng katarungan", and many others.


My whole family really enjoyed our two hours (no intermission) watching "Batang Rizal" this morning.  I do not wonder why this play had already achieved its status of being a beloved PETA production. It definitely deserves to be seen by all Filipinos, young and old, all over the country.  

To celebrate Buwan ng Wika this month of August, do bring your whole family to watch "Batang Rizal"!  This play will run August 16-18, August 23-25, August 30-31 and September 1 at The PETA Theater Center.  There are two shows per day, 10 am and 3 pm.

For tickets and more information, contact 725-6244, 0917-5765400. Tickets are selling for P600 for adults, and P400 for students.  These shows sell out because entire groups of students book these shows, so hurry to reserve your seats!  


23 comments:

  1. I saw this play with my son Fred. It's a play every school and every family should attend. :)

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    1. Hi Ia. Did you watch this present run? Or one of its previous runs?

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  2. Featuring the Batang Rizal would be good and gives a different aspect of Rizal's life.

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  3. I'm not a big fan of our national hero but I think this is worth watching :)

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  4. You really make me curious about the play. I would like to see it, but I'm not from your country. Do you know if I can still watch it somewhere?

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    1. Hi. This is in the Tagalog language, but I am sure you will get the sentiment of the whole play, especially when you go with a Filipino friend. It is being toured around the country, but who knows it might be toured in Filipino communities abroad one day.

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  5. It interests me to see works of art such as this when artists relive the life of notable personalities with a different, witty twist. I'm so looking forward to be amused with this play.

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  6. I miss watching plays. I used to watch together with my classmates when I was in collage. I hope I can watch this too. Nice to hear you and your family enjoyed the show :)

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  7. We just watched it earlier and yeeeah! It's so cool and amazing. :) To bad I cannot find the real name of the casts who performed in AdNU. Anyone? Well, I had a picture with 'Pepito' ang searching the names, the faces do not match. Hope someone could state their names. ^_^ Thanks! --akosibai.14@gmail.com

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    1. Hi Aileen. Thanks for your comment. I was told that it was the same cast as Manila who performed in Naga yesterday. Good to know they got there safely despite the bad weather, and performed as amazing as ever. I will try to ask who played the major roles in Naga.

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    2. Here is the Naga Cast List, Ms. Aileen! (Thanks to Ms. Timee Gorrecho)

      Pepito - Tim Mabalot
      Pepe - Lemuel Silvestre
      Mayor Rafcu - Wylie Casero
      Maam Tangolang - Abigail Billones
      Kaye - Rissey Reyes
      Bambam - Tricia Husena
      Chiqui - Lotlot Bustamante
      Manuel - Carlon Matobato
      Raffy - Paeng Sudayan
      Ella - Julia Enriquez

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  8. Nice show! Cute talaga ni Bambam! hihi

    God bless

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  9. Crush ko si Bambam tsaka Kaye! hahaha. Cute yung pagiging bossy ni Bambam. weeeeeeeeeeee

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  10. Ask ko lang po yung cast nung August 25 2013 sa PETA Quezon City? (malapit sa E. Rodriguez)

    Thanks! Ang pogi kasi po Pepe <3

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    1. Hello. This is the cast list for August 25, 2013:

      Pepito - Tim Mabalot
      Pepe - Joseph Madriaga
      Rafcu - Wylie Casero
      Tangolang - Gail Billones
      Bambam - Tricia Husena
      Kaye - Rissey Reyes
      Chiqui - Jmee Katanyag
      Ella - Joan Bugcat
      Raffy - Paeng Sudayan
      Manuel- Ron Alfonso (am), Carlon Matobato(pm)

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  11. Ask ko lang po kung cast nung Sept 1, 2013 sa PETA Quezon City?

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  12. As I watched the play. All of the cast were so great especially Pepe and Pepito. 2 thumbs up for the "BATANG RIZAL" Godbless!

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  13. may i just ask the cast of aug 23 that was moved to aug 30 in peta theater center? Please and thankyou

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  14. Hello. Pwede po bang malaman ang pangalan ng mga cast ng Batang Rizal sa Star Theater nitong September 12, 2014? Salamat po!

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  15. pwede po malamanyung mga characters sept 13,2014 po ty

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  16. Was there a Carl Guevarra in the cast list?

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    1. Hi. I wrote this review 4 years ago in 2013, and there have been many different actors who have played various roles in various incarnations of this beloved play over the years. I am not certain if a Carl Guevara was a cast member at any point in "Batang Rizal" history.

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