January 25, 2014
Just like that, my Alma Mater, St. Jude Catholic School, which we alumni would like to believe is the best Chinese school in the Philippines, has now turned 50 years old. Our dear school, nestled securely beside Malacanang Palace along the Pasig River, was a dream come true in 1963 for three intrepid SVD missionaries: Msgr. Peter Tsao, Fr. Peter Yang and Fr. Charles Tchou. Throughout the years of its existence, it has produced graduates who take pride with their tradition of academic excellence in English and Chinese, neat penmanship and an ingrained sense of strict discipline.
One of the highlighted events to celebrate this momentous golden milestone is a cultural extravaganza entitled "I Have a Dream," held in no less than the posh and luxurious Newport Performing Arts Theater at the Resorts World Manila. The school produced this show in cooperation with SJCS Bath 1978, the SJCS Alumni Association and the SJCS Parents Auxiliary Group. This special twin-bill musical program will be run for two nights, January 25 and 26, 2014.
Outside the venue before the show, there were souvenirs on sale in the lobby of the theater. Notably, there is a SJCS Golden Anniversary Commemorative coffee table book that costs P3000 each. There were also t-shirts and various smaller knick-knacks with the insignia of the school and the title of the event. There was also a desk where alumni could register and get photographed for their SJCS Alumni ID cards, which has some benefits in select shops around the city.
The show started with an invocation song "I Will Carry You" sung by a priest. This was followed by the National Anthem and the SJCS Hymn played the Drum and Bugle Corps. I wished the SJCS Hymn would have been sung with the words. We have not heard it sung since we sang it during our high school graduation! School Director and Principal Fr. Vicente R. Rayco then delivered the welcome remarks.
The first half of the program was a performance of excerpts from Cam Floria's "Joseph the Dreamer", following the life of the Joseph, the favored son of Jacob, who was thrown into a well by his jealous brothers. He was then sold to an Egyptian lord Potiphar and seduced by his wife. Because of that, Joseph was thrown in prison. He later interpreted the Pharaoh's dream and eventually became Egypt's second-in-command.
The kids played their parts with gusto the best they can for such an elaborate story on a huge stage. There were so many sound glitches but they did not fall out of character and just continued to perform. Of course, the performances were not really perfect, but we do not really expect perfection for an all-student presentation such as this. These kids are not professionals and I heard they only had the chance to practice on this stage a day before this performance, yet they still delivered.
The lead role of Joseph was played by HS 4th year student Troy Espiritu, who was visibly nervous, but understandably so for he was playing such a formidable part. High school students from all levels played the other supporting roles. It is remarkable that the role of Mae East (a.k.a. Potiphar's wife) was played by a Grade 6 student who recently played professionally for Trumpets' successful "The Bluebird of Happiness", Chimmi Kohchet-Chua.
While I blame the sound system for the garbled words which were not too easy to understand, but the backdrops, set pieces and costumes were grandiose and glittery! We are entertained by the efforts of the students, and were amazed at the number of singing talents in this segment of the show. (VIDEO)
Nothing like this had ever been produced when I was in SJCS, and I am glad to see that the school is taking big strides in promoting the theater arts among the students. During our time, we only had the Passion Play, which of course had no singing and dancing in it.
There was a 10 minute intermission. After the short break, there was a raffle draw for people who had bought a P500 raffle ticket at the lobby. Prizes ranged from P60,000 to a whopping P100,000! Following that, there was an awarding of an outstanding alumni, Sherwin Christopher Tiu, for his valuable contribution in the promotion of sports in the school Three awards were also given for donors for scholarship grants, namely: Batch 1978, Mr. Alfred Lao and our Batch 1983!
The second half of the program was divided into four parts: Dreaming, Praying, Striving, and Winning. Each segment was portrayed by very big song and dance numbers featuring kids from kindergarten all the way up to alumni. I have to say the small kids were all so cute on stage in all their various numbers. There was this little girl even sang solo to kick off an inspiring "Imagine" (by John Lennon) group number while beautiful photographs of the kids flashed in the background. (VIDEO) There was also a very energetic number by elementary kids where they danced to a medley of modern dance pop songs like "Superbass", "Titanium," and others while doing complicated formations and electric choreography. (VIDEO)
There were a group of ladies from the parents, faculty and school administration who danced to a series of hit disco songs like "Proud Mary", "Tragedy", "Staying Alive" and "I Need a Hero" dressed in brightly color-coordinated 70s-inspired psychedelic costumes. The 60-strong Alumni Choir had solid performance of Celine Dion's "Power of a Dream." (VIDEO) This was followed by a quartet of young alumni guys singing a great arrangement of "Long and Winding Road." (VIDEO)
The Chinese segment of the performances was so vibrant with their gold and red motifs representing dragons and phoenixes. The part where little kids were synchronously banging on drums while many others were dancing was done so well! The solo of alumnus and professional tenor Sherwin Sozon of a Chinese ballad was very solid and strong. (VIDEO)
This second half of the program is mainly what I was expecting to see when I went to see this show. All the numbers were grand and at the same time, very inspirational. Obviously so much effort had been expended to rehearse the precision of the choreography. So much money had been poured into all the beautiful sets and costumes, and I would say it was worth it. All those kids running up and down the stage, apparently not getting confused with their complicated blocking. All the bright and vibrant colors working so well with each other. Whoever conceptualized all of these numbers, bravo! You have great vision, and they have come to life so well. We the audience were so moved and entertained.
Even seeing the second half alone makes the whole price of admission already worth it. Practically all the numbers in this second half were so good visually and aurally, even with still some obvious sound glitches with the microphones. This is not to take anything away from the performers of the "Joseph the Dreamer" though, as they really had a formidable task to pull off, and they delivered the best they could given their age and experience.
Congratulations to Overall Director Belly Ng, costume designer Ranito Santos and all the backstage staff and crew for efficiently running the show. I am glad to see that the students also put in efforts backstage with overall student production head Pauline Ang. I hope they can still improve on the coordination with with sound system before the show tomorrow.
Most specially, congratulations the students (and their parents) who really took a lot of time and dedication to rehearse all of these very elaborate song and dance numbers. It must definitely have been so difficult to juggle their studies and their rehearsals throughout the past few months, and to perform at this level for TWO nights in a row! Kudos also to all the alumni who have dedicated time and effort to sponsor and organize this special event.
I am pretty sure the message of Fr. Rayco during his inspirational speech in Act 2 about GRIT (or the passion and perseverance to achieve goals) got through to everyone. We will imbibe the persistence of the dragon and the resilience of the phoenix as we go through life as proud alumni of St. Jude Catholic School. Here's to 50 more years of academic success!