Apolinario Mabini is a revolutionary hero whom most of us unfortunately only know by his name and by his monikers "The Sublime Paralytic" or the "Brains of the Revolution." We cannot really say anything more about him or his heroism beyond these nominal details. This latest musical play by Dulaang UP tackles the final days of Mabini and gives us a deep insight into the patriotism of this man and his forgotten legacy which remains relevant even up to the present time.
In April 1901 Mabini was exiled by the Americans in Guam with his brother Prudencio and other revolutionaries led by General Artemio Ricarte. They are disappointed and angry when President Emilio Aguinaldo agreed to sign the pledge of allegiance to the United States government. In 1903, Mabini (with Prudencio) and Ricarte were brought back to Manila by ship. However, before they can disembark, they too had to sign the pledge in front of no less than Gov. General William Howard Taft himself. Ricarte is firm on his resolve not to sign, but will Mabini give in to his homesickness?
The cast in this one-act (no intermission), 1-1/2 hour play were all very accomplished actors and talented singers. Not only were there very difficult dramatic moments to essay, the songs also had very challenging high notes to hit.
Now on 27th year as a performer, Roeder Camanag first made a name in the local entertainment scene as a pop singer. He has also been in various plays and musicals by Tanghalang Pilipino and PETA. The last time I saw him in action was in Lav Diaz latest 5-1/2 epic film, "Mula Sa Kung Ano ang Noon." I believe this is the first time I have seen him playing lead in a theater play. His face had to tell the story very well since this hero is confined to a wheelchair.
He opens the show with a solo number, "Hindi Ito ang Bayan Ko". Then through the play he would regale us with solid duets with Aguinaldo (Kung Naroon Ka Lang"), Ricarte (Ito ba ang Bayan Ko?"), and the nurse Salud ("Sapat Na Ito"). These songs were suffused with deep pent-up emotions of this weakened and weary man, and Camanag's communicates that so eloquently.
Aside from these poignant sung moments, Camanag was also outstanding in his scenes without songs. His confrontation scene with Leo Rialp (so aptly cast as Taft) was an electrifying and memorably well-written and well-staged big moment of the play. That very last scene of Camanag on stage when Mabini takes his final leave with the audience was truly haunting in its silence.
Poppert Bernadas had the reputation for monster pipes, but I have not seen him in action yet. For his previous musicals like "Lorenzo" and "Rak of Aegis", I had always caught his alternate, not him. Fortunately, not this time. He certainly lives up to his reputation, as Ricarte had the most punishing notes to sing. His was also a hot-headed, angry man and that adds to his vocal stress. However, his vocal instrument was in tiptop shape. Al Gatmaitan alternates in this role.
Jean Judith Javier was a rousing success as Sisa in both the Dulaang UP and the Resorts World productions of "Noli Me Tangere: The Opera." As Salud, the fictitious Filipino nurse who gets to speak with Mabini as he wrestled with the biggest decision he had to make in his life, Javier impresses us again with her beautiful full-bodied soprano here. Banaue Miclat alternates in this role, with Chase Salazar as understudy.
I have seen two other collaborations of playwright Floy Quintos and director Dexter M. Santos before, and these were "Collection" and "Ang Nawalang Kapatid". Both of these were brash and audacious productions. In contrast, "Mabini" is relatively quieter and more contemplative. In a remarkable debut as a composer of a musical play, Krina Cayabyab gave life to Quintos' lyrics eight songs sung in different styles -- traditional musical theater, modern rock opera and classical opera -- transcending boundaries.
The Manila String Machine provides the live musical accompaniment, with Farley Asuncion on piano. The lighting design of John Batalla was so instrumental especially in those final scenes. The way the lights and shadows framed Camanag's face made us believe we are looking at the real Mabini as we see him in vintage photos. Ohm David's innovative set design had props and platforms coming up through the floor, and interacted very well with the videos designed by Winter David. That important, visually-dramatic scene highlighting Mabini's Decalogue was a successful display of technical cooperation and complementation.
Congratulations once again to the cast and crew of Dulaang UP for another successful and meaningful project. UP is truly the best venue for this nationalistic theatrical masterpiece.
Hurry and get your tickets,as these are selling out fast. These are the remaining performances left: October 12 / 10 am, October 15 / 7 pm, October 16 / 7 pm, October 18 / 3 pm. There are additional shows opened on October 22 / 7 pm and October 23 / 7 pm. For tickets, please contact Dulaang UP Office at 926-1349 or Samanta Clarin (09277406124).
There is an another show on October 19 / 3 pm, with tickets care of Vincent Pajara (09363033879), and yet another show on Oct 24 / 8pm, with tickets care of Poppert Bernadas (09178466352) / Nazer Degayo Salcedo (09277328754) / Arion Sanchez (09359668769). Ticket price only at 500php/350php,