Friday, September 12, 2008
I’m-Glad-I’m-Here-in-the-Philippines List of Must-Do Things
Below is a crazy set of things I have accomplished since I got back from the US. Or better yet, the things that are worth missing when you’re outside the country (hehehe). Sorry, Jaejay and Vianney.
CCP Main Theater – August 15
This Broadway calibre show was definitely this year’s banner event as we tried to forget for a while that we’re a third-world country. Boasting of none other than our very own Tony-decorated performer, Miss Lea Salonga as the lead, with a big-budgeted production of a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “Cinderella” was on the right cue. The show was amazing (except for the program having limited copies). I’m glad that Manilans had the chance to peek at the musical before it tours to other Asian cities until April next year. I was late for 15 minutes because of the heavy rain that night (I left the office one hour and 30 minutes before the show and syndicated a cab for a P100 more just to be on time). I think I missed the overture and the opening number from the fairy godmother. I’m just thankful that I stayed for 30 minutes more because if not, I wouldn’t be catching Lea’s third autograph after sharing a nice chitchat (a la “The Buzz”) with her driver and after KC Concepcion passed by. I even had a small talk with Lea and mentioned to her that maybe next time, she can write about fans on Backstory (her column in PDI). I’m just curious how her fan club fares. It makes me wonder that among our female divas/performers, only Lea doesn’t have any impersonator. She replied with something like “That’s a good one.”
The Golden Child
CCP Little Theater – August 16
July is normally the month where most of the play season (in Filipino, it’s called “tagdula”) in Metro Manila starts. For Tanghalang Pilipino’s part, they unofficially started their season with this year’s Virgin Lab Fest (which I missed), Cinemalaya’s equivalent for stage plays. Officially, their season opener is David Henry Hwang’s “The Golden Child”. It’s some sort of a memoir of Mr. Hwang’s Philippine-based grandmother, a Chinese, living with her husband’s other wives. Mr. Hwang, by the way, recreated Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly” into a twisted tale of a French diplomat and a male Chinese opera singer (“M. Butterfly” with the film version starring Jeremy Irons and John Lone). Loy Arcenas, who is connected to US-based Ma-yi Theater (I like their “Flipside”!), directs the play. The material can be mixed up with our “Mano Po” film series except, of course, the play is more authentic and unpretentious. Cast includes the great Irma Adlawan who delivers the most “natural” Chinese accent among the three wives. I don’t see anything bad about the production. It’s just that I’m missing the days when Nonon Padilla (another great) sits as TP’s Artistic Director.
Noli at Fili Dos Mil
PETA Phinma Center – August 17
I don’t know but there’s really something about PETA. They don’t just sit on their laurel as a premire theater group, they keep on getting better and better. Their season opener is a retelling of Jose Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo”, told in a telenovela fashion in a contemporary setting, addressing a contemporary issue (it may sound cheesy but the play’s “cancer” is rooted from illegal logging). Crisostomo Ibarra is now a town mayor, engaged to Maria Clara. Padre Salvi is now General Salvi who has the hots for Maria Clara and the one responsible for illegal logging. No more Sisa this time but Basilio is still there and the rest of the gang. Soxy Topacio’s execution is very smooth. I am pretty sure that the students in the crowd absorb the essence of Rizal’s novels, as the theme remains relevant (corrupt politicians, graft, church meddling, etc.). Bonus is kuya Bodgie playing Bishop Damaso (with Bembol Roco as alternate).
Karl Joaquin’s Christening
Mt. Carmel Church – August 17
From PETA Phinma Center, I took a cab to Mt. Carmel Church near Eat Bulaga’s Broadway Centrum. It’s Karl’s Christening and Nicole’s 7th birthday, a double celebration organized by their parents (my kumareng Jas, an officemate, and kumpareng Mark). It was my first time to godfather an officemate’s child and I’m getting the hang of it. It’s also good to see some old peeps and get in touch with them even just for a while. Mt. Carmel Church, by the way, is one of the biggest churches in Metro Manila. Some of my girl friends dream of having a wedding there because of the long aisle. My inaanak didn’t seem to care. For his baptism, only a small portion of the church was used. It was very organized as the parish office already prepared a laminated guide on the ritual and the schedule was solely alloted to Karl. In the adjacent center, Nicole’s Disney princess-themed birthday party was held. The place was garnished with pink balloons, surround-sounded by party music and kids were everywhere. Best part of the party perhaps was the kiddie cotillon, something that I had watched (and enjoyed!) for the first time.
Otelo: Ang Moro ng Venecia
Rizal Mini-Theater (Ateneo) – August 21
The play gave me a big gush of adrenaline as three of the highly respected stage performers shared one arena for the first time. Neil Ryan Sese as Cassio, Irma Adlawan as Desdemona and Nonie Buencamino as Othello. What more can I ask for? I left the office at 5pm, took a cab (again, syndicated with P100 extra) and braved the traffic (or the absence of it). I was already at the grounds of Ateneo’s Xavier Building at 5:45pm, trying to locate Rizal Mini-Theater (which happened to be just a few meters away from Gonzaga Hall where I first watch my very first play inside ADMU). I was too early for a 7pm-ish staging. I decided then to get dinner at Gonzaga (a serving of herbed chicken from Healthy Options-like stall) while enjoying the cheers from students rallying over a UAAP game on TV. Minutes later, I was already back at the theater’s entrance. I saw the play’s director, Mr. Ricky Abad (now he’s forgiven for snoring at Rep’s “Hamlet”), and Neil Ryan Sese still wearing a prisoner’s garb (maybe he’s doing a lagari of teleserye shows as he hurried back to his car right after the curtain call). The play was supposedly Tanghalang Ateneo’s season opener for their 30th year in the business but most of the leads came from Dulaang UP. It just so happened that the production was satisfying, from Salvador Bernal’s set (I kinda miss his sets for TP) to Irma’s virginal character and Nonie’s strong presence. The thing with TA is that I started to enjoy the school production feel and that the whole idea was not for the profit but for the love of Shakespeare.
Best of Basil and Kuh
Captain’s Bar at the Mandarin Oriental – August 22
The situation was this: I haven’t seen Basil Valdes perform live and I haven’t been to a hotel just to watch a lounge show. Thanks to a surprise bonus (from Santa), I got the chance (and the money) to experience these firsts. Straight from the office, I took a bus and a jeep on my way to Mandarin Oriental. I was sweating when I reached Captain’s Bar (my first tete-a-tete with the place was during one of the company’s Christmas parties). I didn’t mind the stares that I was alone in the concert. The usherette even repeated her question on how many tickets will I be purchasing. Everything just dawned on me when I went to the “balcony” area where some small round tables were installed: I had to share a table with a bunch of people! My Mentos moments prodded me to stay in the sofas near the tables and just got back to my seat when the lights went off. Basil’s repertoire that night comprised of Original Pilipino Music (OPM) compositions in Filipino, since it was “Linggo ng Wika”, he said. He only broke this promise when he sang “Lift Up” as encore song. Kuh’s repertoire was crazier and more varied. Best part of the show was a duet of two “Kailangan Kita” songs, originally sung by Leah Navarro and Gary V/Piolo Pascual. If people are wondering if it’s true that Basil’s voice has a healing power, the answer is “I don’t know”. But surely, I felt better after the concert.
Chicosci Victory Party
Elbow Room – August 29
I somewhat organized the office delegation to share Joel Salvador’s swan song as Chicosci’s drummer before he went to Dublin for a long term work assignment. I just confirmed with “idol” that the band’s victory party (after bagging MTV Philippines’ Favorite Artist) was also his “last gig” then in a jiffy, I was already sending an email to peeps. The turnout was incredible as different rakistas from the office made their way to Elbow Room in Metrowalk along Julia Vargas Avenue in Ortigas. We even made a mock-up banner that read “ofcem8 ko si kuya joel” to Joel’s horror, of course (hehehe). Three bands opened the gig at 11pm-ish. Joel’s set came after with three songs (which “idol” commented with “hindi ko na uulitin”), as in he did both the vocals and guitars, acoustic-type. Chicosci’s set at past midnight with Joel back to percussions. They did some signature songs plus two Eraserheads tracks. The highlight perhaps was the part where the guys traded places, putting Miggy on drums, Joel on guitars, Mong on vocals, etc. It was fun (even if I only finished two bottles of San Mig Light). The picture taking session (was it another mock-up?) was the icing on the cake. I guess I was too pumped up then for the next day’s “concert of all concerts”.
More pics here.
PETA Phinma Center – August 30
The project is a collaboration of Black Theater of Japan, Nottle Theater of Korea and PETA. Basically, it’s the same “Tosca” by Giacomo Puccini but this time, three theater groups interpret it. They just polished it to show cohesion of classical opera, dance and Pinoy humor. It may sound preposterous at first but the outcome is effective (thanks to its director, Soxy Topacio). They managed to retell a story of a woman torn between love and duties, making the theme remain relevant and important. It was amusing to note that the audience, comprised mostly of young college students, was silent (read: sleepy) in the first part (arias and dances) and damn right laughing in the last part (the PETA part). I walked out of the theater totally refreshed and uplifted.
The Eraserheads Reunion Concert
The Fort Open Field – August 30
This tops my list of must-do things. To put it more appropriately, list of do-or-die things. Flashback, two years ago when the tribute album was launched at UP Theater and I had to grab 20 tickets at an FM station booth. That was during a lunch break (cab from RCBC Plaza to Ortigas area and back, all within an hour). It was put in vain as only Buddy, Raimund and Marcus showed up. First week of August 2008, I was registering at the Marlboro Red List, robbing truth that I’m a true-blooeded chain-smoker, only to find out again that it has been put in vain. August 30, at 5:30pm, I was already at Glorietta 4’s Breadtalk waiting for Ben and his sister. We stopped by at Mc Kinley to fetch Matt and off we went to Taguig Open Field for the Eraserheads Reunion Concert. Before the long queue, we dropped by at Italianni’s to meet William and Ruth. Inside the venue, we joined a group of peers from the office and waited for the concert like crazy. At 8:05pm, a ten-minute countdown was set, triggering more cheers and fanning more excitement. The first song was “Alapaap”. It filled the venue with love (year, baby) in a nice acoustic and a topnothch stage set-up (video wall, lights and everything). Cutting the concert short due to Ely’s condition happened but I felt sanctified already right after the first song. With the rest of the songs for the set, the crowd singing every anthem and the spirit that was just nostalgically marvelous, I can’t expect for more.
Visit the National Museum Culture Tour with Mr. John Silva
Museum of the Filipino People and National Museum – September 6
For more details on Mr. Silva's tour (and thoughts), just visit his blog.
Why I did this trip was because I felt bad that I haven’t seen our own museums here (except Ayala Museum which I have visited when I was in college and proudly not because my college asked me to). It’s been a while since I’ve been receiving this guided tour invite from Mr. John Silva. I initially doubted if my P700 is worth it even if I know in the back of my head that a chunk of the fee proceeds to Mr. Silva’s “I Love Museum” program (which promises to bring public school teachers to our musuems). I decided to risk money and time, plus of course I ran out of things to do on a weekend. I left my place at 9am and took a cab. It was drizzling that morning and commuting could lead me to eternity. Manong driver wasn’t really familiar of the building and I myself was surprised that we located the museum just in time. Museum of the Filipino People resides in the old Finance Building near Luneta. On the opposite is another beaux art building called Tourism Building that was originally leased to Agriculture Building. The circle in the middle (part of Luneta) is called Agrifina Circle (Agriculture + Finance, got it?).
Twenty minutes before the tour, there was a blackout that threatened the whole trip. The lady from the museum office informed us that Meralco promised to resume electric power by 10am-ish. So we waited. And waited fruitfully. We were met by Mr. John Silva, had a brief introduction and gathered the whole bunch of eight or ten intrigued museum goers. We started at the grounds of then walked to the upper level galleries where most of the relics and antiquities that define us Pinoys were displayed. Some of the exhibit rooms still need some retouches but what’s already in there is impressive. Mr. Silva’s familiarity (and sincerity) with the items is equally thrilling. I love the way he injects trivia and humor. He really knows what he is doing and I definitely envy his passion.
After touring the building for two hours, we had a 15-minute break (with on-the-house bottle of mineral water) and off we went to another building across. From the old Finance Building, we crossed the street and entered the old Congress Building where ou National Museum is housed. There aren’t many galleries in there. Yet. But what’s already put up is a wide array of paintings from our national artists including our national pride called “Spoliarium” by Juan Luna. In front of the giant oil paiting are three rows of monoblocs. Mr. Silva made it a point to let us immerse with the importance of the piece by explaining how “Spoliarium” made a connection to our independence in 1898. Briefly, he noted that the painting made our national hero Jose Rizal remarked in the middle of alta-sosyedad crowd how we can get even with the Spaniards politically. This led to some commotion, and pushed Rizal to write Noli Me Tangere. Rizal was then shot at Luneta, an incident that led Andres Bonifacio to stage a revolt that paved our way to freedom.
National Museum, on top of “Spoliarium” boasts of other works by Luna and Felix Resureccion Hidalgo, down to Fernando Amorsolo and Arturo Luz. The tour ended in the section where some paintings about Japanese invasion were installed (two of the paintings had semi-nudity). Capping the whole trip was a sculpture done by Rizal while in Dapitan about a puppy being bitten by a crocodile that is being bitten by the mommy dog ontop.
More pics here.
Mark Anthony Guallar, Jr.’s Christening
Cardona Parish Church – September 7
In the afternoon, off I went to Cardona, Rizal to visit my kumpareng Tonyo. It was already 10 in the evening when I reached his (and his wife Journey’s) place. Everybody was busy doing a chore or two while a little nipa hut just a few meters away, which houses a videoke machine, was occupied by belters. I remember somebody singing “Bleeding Love”. I opted to watch a crazy MMK episode inside the house with kumareng Journey, Tonyo’s brother Ron-ron and Journey’s brother Dhel sharing some shots of Red Horse. It was cold and drizzling then, setting the mood for a nice evening of intoxication. The morning after was rather a busier morning as people started to come and go inside the house. I had breakfast, took a bath and, with kumareng Journey, off we went to the parish church of Cardona (which awkwardly built face-to-face with the municipal building). I assumed of the role of a godfather as I helped out kumareng Journey on registration. Beside us was a mom enlisting her son named “Slash”. The whole baptism didn’t take long. There was the usual seminar about the importance of being a Christian and an overview on what’a about to unfold. The priest then came later doing the “bathing” and the blessing. What followed was an eat-and-run back at the house, cutting some conversation short with old friends and familiar faces.
West Side Story
Meralco Theater – September 7
Pardon the pun but it’s the most beautiful locally done Broadway musical I have seen so far. It has over-the-top dances, credible singing, big sets and a satisfying rendition of one of the well-loved musical ditties. I was awestruck. It was that good. I don’t mind inviting friends and officemates, as this staging by Stages is truly a must-see. Never mind the irony of having a Kapamilya (Christian Bautista) and a Kapuso (Karylle) lock licks and sing stunning duets. I would prefer to see Joanna Ampil as Maria but the production doesn’t divulge who’s playing when. Karylle’s singing was a surprise anyway (and I’ve seen Ms. Ampil in West End’s “Les Miz” two years ago). Another bonus on the show was having Australia-based Rowena Villar as Anita. She’s just a scene-stealer. If I have extra bucks, I would love to see this musical again.