Thursday, April 28, 2016

Recap and Winners List GAWAD BUHAY AWARDS for 2015: Mabini and Peter Pan Lead Awardees!

April 29, 2016

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. Gawad Buhay is the name of its awards of excellence.

Last night, Gawad Buhay, the Philstage industry awards exclusively for the performing arts, gave its awards for the 8th year. This was the third year in a row that I watched it. For the last two years, the awards night was held in the CCP Little Theater. This year, the ceremonies were held in Onstage at Greenbelt 1, with the show directed by Jenny Jamora.

For 2015, it was my distinct honor to have been invited to serve on the Gawad Buhay jury, an independent panel of critics, scholars, artists and theater enthusiasts who determines the winners for the awards. I was not only watching the show this year, but for the past year, I actually participated in the nomination and voting process for the quarterly citations and of course, these awards. Since the final vote was by secret balloting, I had no idea who will win. So some winners also came as a big surprise to me.

Representatives of the Philstage member companies gather onstage

Like last year, the ever-funny Topper Fabregas was the emcee of the proceedings. But this time he had Kakai Bautista (in an eye-catching body-hugging white outfit with a deep plunging neckline) to banter with as co-host. They gave out the first four awards, all of which were automatic winners for being the only nominees in their category.

Emcees for the Night: Topper and Kakai

1. Outstanding Original Musical Composition
Joed Balsamo, “Mabining Mandirigma” (TP) (MY REVIEW)
"Ganito pala ang pakiramdam ng manalo pag wala kang kalaban."

2. Outstanding Original Libretto
Nicanor Tiongson, “Mabining Mandirigma (TP)

3. Outstanding Original Musical—Original or Translation/Adaptation
“Mabining Mandirigma” (TP)

4. Outstanding Production of Existing Material for a Musical
“La Cage aux Folles” (9WT) (MY REVIEW)

The cast and crew of La Cage Aux Folles receive their award.

The next presenters were Roselyn Perez and Fred Lo.

5. Outstanding Ensemble Performance for a Musical
“Mabining Mandirigma” (TP)

6. Outstanding Musical Direction
Joed Balsamo, “Mabining Mandirigma” (TP)

7. Outstanding Stage Direction for a Musical
Chris Millado, “Mabining Mandirigma” (TP)

Chris Millado, receiving one of 11 awards for "Mabining Mandirigma"
with Fred Lo and Roselyn Perez behind him

This was followed by "How Do I Prepare?" This was the first of a series short documentary videos (directed by Joaquin Valdez) showing the theater or dance production as a evolving process by collaborating artisans.

The next presenters were Nar Cabico and Phi Palmos (who was in a blonde wig, trying to channel Meryl Streep, I think) to present award for acting in a musical.

8. Female Featured Performance in a Musical
Cris Villonco, “Bituing Walang Ningning, The Musical” (Full House) (MY REVIEW)
Her Lavinia was the life of the whole show.

9. Male Featured Performance in a Musical
Antonio Ferrer, “Mabining Mandirigma” (TP)
His portrayal of Emilio Aguinaldo was too powerful to forget.

Antonio Arman Ferrer receives his award
with Phi Palmos and Nar Cabico behind him

10. Female Lead Performance in a Musical
Delphine Buencamino, “Mabining Mandirigma” (TP)
Her award was received by proud mother, Ms. Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino.

11. Male Lead Performance in a Musical
Audie Gemora, “La Cage aux Folles” (9WT)
"Two years ago, Melvin Lee won this award for "Care Divas." Last year, it was Red Concepcion for "Priscilla". Now this. If you want to win this award, you have to wear a dress!"

Audie Gemora receives his award

After another short video was shown about "Designers in their Element", John Herrera, Giannina Ocampo and Caisa Borromeo strutted out like fashion models to give out the design awards.

12. Outstanding Costume Design
James Reyes, “Mabining Mandirigma” (TP)

13. Outstanding Sound Design
TJ Ramos, “Mabining Mandirigma” (TP)

14. Outstanding Lighting Design
John Batalla, “33 Variations” (RTT) (MY REVIEW)

15. Outstanding Set Design
Toym Imao, “Mabining Mandirigma” (TP)

Toym Imao won for his "steampunk" designs for "Mabining Mandirigma

The NATATANGING GAWAD AWARDS were chosen by the Philstage Board Members, not the GB jury. These lifetime achievement accolades recounting the lives of veterans who led lives filled with passion for the performing arts were very inspirational parts of the show.

Tonight the first honoree is Ms. Celia Diaz Laurel. The introduction by Ms. Joy Virata told us about Ms. Laurel's prolific career on stage, starring in probably a hundred plays as lead actress throughout her career, from UP to Repertory Philippines. She was also a master of designing costumes within a limited budget using her "glue-gun and stapler". When Ms. Laurel went up the stage, her children Cocoy, Nicole and Iwi accompanied her as she sang "The Colors of My Life" before her heartfelt speech.

An unprecedented special number featuring three pairs of dancers from each of the three biggest dance companies of the country -- Ballet Philippines, Ballet Manila and the Philippine Ballet Theater -- regaled us with the power and grace of contemporary ballet. This led to the the presentation of the awards in the Dance categories.

One of the Ballet Pairs in an elegant excerpt

A reunion of the "Priscilla Queen of the Jungle" cast, namely Jon Santos, Red Concepcion, Michael Williams, presented next. Jon Santos was a hilarious scene-stealing riot as always.

16. Male Featured Performance in Modern Dance
Earl John Arisola, “Sarong Banggi” (BP) (MY REVIEW)

17. Female Featured Performance in Modern Dance
Monica Gana, “Sarong Banggi” (BP)

A shy and excited Monica Gana
with Jon Santos, Red Concepcion and Michael Williams behind her.

18. Male Lead Performance in Modern Dance
Gerardo Francisco, “Ang Mahiwagang Biyulin”/from “Tatlong Kuwento ni Lola Basyang” (BM)

19. Female Lead Performance in Modern Dance
Rita Winder, “Sarong Banggi” (BP)

Sleek and statuesque Rita Winder receives her award

20. Male Featured Performance in Classical Dance
Gerardo Francisco, “Romeo and Juliet” (BM)

21. Female Featured Performance in Classical Dance
Pia Dames, “Romeo and Juliet” (BM)

22. Male Lead Performance in Classical Dance
Victor Maguad, “Peter Pan” (BP)

A genuinely surprised Victor Maguad did not expect to win this award.

23. Female Lead Performance in Classical Dance
Lobreza Pimentel, "Don Quixote" (PBT)

The second Natatanging Gawad Award was for the recently-conferred National Artist for Dance -- Ms. Alice Reyes. She was introduced by Paul Morales of Ballet Philippines.  She was given a dance tribute entitled "Tagistis ng Ulan" accompanied in song by OJ Mariano. In her speech, Ms. Reyes reminded us, that in the midst of this fast-paced world we live in today, we should always make time for artistic excellence.

National Artist and now Natatanging Gawad awardee Ms. Alice Reyes

Kim Molina presented the next set of Dance awards with her "Rak of Aegis" co-stars Pepe Herrera and Jerald Napoles (in drag) wackily "dancing" behind her. All the awards of Ballet Manila in this section were received by no less than Ms. Lisa Macuja Elizalde. The awards of Ballet Philippines were received by Paul Morales

24. Outstanding Ensemble Performance for Modern Dance
“Bloom”/ from “BM 2.0” (BM)

25. Outstanding Ensemble Performance for Classical Dance
“Peter Pan” (BP)

26. Outstanding Choreography for a Dance Production
Edna Vida-Froilan,“Peter Pan” (BP)

Denisa Reyes receives her award, 
with the goofy pair of Jerald Napoles and Pepe Herrera behind her

27. Outstanding Choreography for a Play or Musical
Denisa Reyes, “Mabining Mandirigma” (TP)

28. Outstanding Production for Children
“Peter Pan” (BP)

29. Outstanding Modern Dance Production
“Bloom”/from “BM 2.0” (BM)

30. Outstanding Classical Dance Production
“Peter Pan” (BP)

Pair from "Peter Pan" dance an excerpt from the show

Ms. Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo introduced the In Memoriam segment next. On the live accompaniment of Ejay Yatco on piano and Jef Flores on violin, the video screen reminded us of the recently departed theater artists, like tenor Nolyn Cabahug, actor Felindo Obach, playwright/director Rosauro de la Cruz, soprano Eleanor Calbes, production manager Lisa Camus and actor Junix Inocian, among others.

The next short video reminded us how last year 2015 was "The Year of the Straight Play." Following that, Liesl Batucan and Jonathan Tadioan presented two awards.

Kanakan Balintagos receives his award
with Liesl Batucan and Jonathan Tadioan behind him

31. Outstanding Original Script
Kanakan Balintagos, “Mga Buhay na Apoy” (TP) (MY REVIEW)

32. Outstanding Translation or Adaptation
Rody Vera, “Arbol de Fuego” (Peta) (MY REVIEW)

The next set of awards were presented by Loy Martinez and indie film actress Meryl Soriano (who kept on wondering aloud what she was doing in a theater awards show).

33. Female Featured Performance in a Play
Roselyn Perez, “33 Variations” (RTT)
Very happy for her, even if I was rooting for her to win for "The Normal Heart" though.

**** FLASH REPORT! The next day, the Gawad corrected itself and announced that Ms. Perez actually won for her performance in "The Normal Heart"! I am very happy with this news because I considered her "Normal Heart" performance one of the absolute best for the whole year.

Roselyn Perez receives her award
with Meryl Soriano and Lorenz Martinez behind her

34. Male Featured Performance in a Play
Teroy Guzman, “33 Variations” (RTT)
The reason why he was not there to receive his award was because he was in Europe doing a Shakespeare! What more can you say?!

35. Male Lead Performance in a Play
Jef Flores, “This Is Our Youth” (RTT) (MY REVIEW)
If there was an award for Breakout Theater Star of 2015, it would go to Jef Flores, who made a very positive impression last year with his roles in "4000 Miles", "Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady", "The Normal Heart" and this one.

Jef Flores shares his award with his co-star and co-nominee Nicco Manalo

36. Female Lead Performance in a Play
Irma Adlawan, “Mga Buhay na Apoy” (TP)
In this very tight category, Ms. Adlawan won over similarly formidable actresses such as Ana Abad Santos, Cherie Gil and double-nominee Shamaine Buencamino.

It was a stage reunion for "La Cage Aux Folles" couple Michael de Mesa and Audie Gemora as they presented the last set of awards.

37. Outstanding Ensemble Performance for a Play
“The Normal Heart” (AAI/TNT) (MY REVIEW)

38. Outstanding Stage Direction for a Play
Bart Guingona, “The Normal Heart” (AAI/TNT)

Bart Guingona and the award-winning ensemble of "The Normal Heart" behind him.
(Perez, Flores, Concepcion and Fabregas)

39. Outstanding Production of Existing Material for a Play
“The Normal Heart” (AAI/TNT)

40. Outstanding Original Play—Original or Translation/Adaptation
“Arbol de Fuego” (Peta)

Lead star Cherie Gil and director Loy Arcenas receive the award for "Arbol de Fuego".


  1. It must be so exciting to have been part of the jury that nominated and determined winners for the awards. You must have been thrilled to do this. Ms Celia Diaz Laurel still looks great and I think the lifetime achievement award was well deserved.

  2. sounds like an extremely fun and exciting night! it's good to see an awards night dedicated specially for performing arts!

  3. To be able to judge these wonderful shows is an honor, I'm sure you felt proud. It's a great way to be part of a program as amazing as this. I'm sure the winners are worthy of their award, they are all talented actors.

  4. It's good to have an awards night for the theater arts. This is a segment of the arts and entertainment industry that is often placed on the sidelines. I hope that the mainstream media, and society in general, will put the spotlight on Philippine theater. I'm glad to read blogs about them.

  5. Congrats on being a jury. It just says so much how good you are with your craft.

  6. Wow, this must be a big day for all the performers. This is just like TV station's star awards, where people who watch will support them for the show~

  7. Its nice to see Theater actors and ballet performers given a recognition like film actors, esp when their work is much more complicated with no retakes!!!

  8. Wow, being a judge is truly an honor. This event looks hot Favourite among performing artists.

  9. Congratulations on being a jury! You have come a long way and event seems quite nice.

  10. This makes me realize how much of the theater world I didn't know about! Congrats to all the winners! :D

  11. I find that excerpt from Audie Gemora really funny, it must get you an award to cross dress! hahaha

  12. It is always great to see that Arts is being honoured and celebrated!

  13. Sounds like it was a big event and what an honor it was for the winners. I'm sure everyone must have been surprised (unless of course you knew who was going to win beforehand).