Ballet Manila opens it’s 20th Season with a magical re-telling of our old, and almost-forgotten, bedtime tales about fantasy, love and family. With the return of TATLONG KWENTO NI LOLA BASYANG, Ballet Manila calls back our past dreams and wishful fantasies, through a set of three lovable stories, told through an amazing choreography and an ensemble of powerful performers. Under the direction of Roxanne A. Lapuz, and music by the Ryan Cayabyab, Joey Ayala, Arnold Buena and Mon Faustino, TATLONG KWENTO NI LOLA BASYANG triumphs so wondrously in our hearts.
ANG PRINSEPE NG MGA IBON
MUSIC: Nicanor Abelardo, George Canseco, Levi Celerio, Lucresia Kasilag
MUSICAL ARRANGEMENT: Mon Faustino
CHOREOGRAPHY: Osias Barroso
Elpido Magat as the Prinsipe ng mga Ibon is regal, unassuming and marvellously graceful. In him, I see the high-beaked colorful bird of my yellowing Lola Basyang volumes from the 80s. In spite of his feathered form, Magat, as the Prince of Birds, finds beauty and honor in himself; one aspect that made the beautiful Singsing fall in love with him. While Magat is dignified and breathtaking, alternate Rudy de Dios interprets the Prince of Birds as carefree, youthful and a wondrously light lord of the skies. In de Dios, I see a young heart, adventurous and wild. Deconstructing Reyes’ form and stereotypes, this new take on the character is something that quite refreshing, yet still doesn’t miss the point of the original characterization.
Osias Barroso‘s choreography offers a fusion of ballet and Philippine folk dance. It is amazing to see how wonderful this mixture is. As the ensemble dances to a sychronized grace, we see ballet in all its form and wonder, and at the same time celebrate the familiar steps of our own local dances. In PRINSEPE NG MGA IBON, Barroso gives the Filipino audiences a glorious treat with something familiar, and very close to home.
ANG KAPATID NG TATLONG MARIA
MUSIC: Joey Ayala
CHOREOGRAPHY: Osias Barroso, Ernest Andap and Gerardo Francisco
Young Pedro (Alvin Santos/Rudy de Dios) leaves his home for an adventurous journey to find his missing sisters in ANG KAPATID NG TATLONG MARIA. Before he was born, his father Teong (Francis Cascaño) was cursed by a pythoness after he cut down the magical Kolesmeloko tree. As part of the punishment, the tree’s guardian snake abducted Teong’s three daughters, Marya Trining (Joan Emery Sia), Marya Loleng (Abigail Oliveiro) and Marya Upeng (Violet Hong). In this unlikely trip, he is bound to set foot on different kingdoms reigned by three different royalties.
Set in the South, Lola Basyang’s second story comes with captivating music by Joey Ayala. In an era of brotherhood, diversity and freedom, this second act greatly embraces our own Moro-Islamic roots. Also, Barroso, Mandap and Francisco’s choreography for this piece creates a dashingly ethnic appeal. ANG KAPATID NG TATLONG MARYA may be as silent and plain in a scene, but can be gloriously grand in the next. As Pedro discovers the whereabouts of his sisters, the Aliw Theater stage transforms magically to offer an overflowing visual feast!
This adventure, is a powerful example of how we, as a culture and as a people, give great importance to the family. Here, we examine ourselves and ask if we, like Pedro, would travel great bounds to complete our own. As we travel with Pedro, Severino Reyes’ story – in all its universality – echoes most powerfully to the new set of readers and audiences.
ANG MAHIWAGANG BIYULIN
MUSIC: Ryan Cayabyab
MUSICAL ORCHESTRATION: Arnold Buena
CHOREOGRAPHY: Tony Fabella
My father would read to me this Lola Basyang story about Rodrigo (Gerardo Fransisco) who only wanted to receive the wages he deserves. Unfortunately, his cunning master, Ahab (Michael Divinagracia) fools him by paying him less than what he is expecting. While wallowing in his despair, he chances upon an old lady in need of food and shelter, to whom he offers help. As tales turn out, this old lady melts away (Sofia Peralta) to reveal a beautiful enchantress and offers him a myterious golden violin that will help him get what he wants.
ANG MAHIWAGANG BIYULIN is undoubtedly a fitting fun-filled finale that can cap BM’s cheeful Season Opener. With choreogrpahy by Tony Fabella and music by Ryan Cayabyab, this final piece in the first set of Lola Basyang’s stories delivers an extremely delightful roller coaster ride of emotions and just pure, pure fun!
Fransisco as Rodrigo delivers the archetypal Filipino underdog, one that is quite familiar in our beloved stories. As Rodrigo gets the undeserved treatment, in spite of his hard-work, we empathize with him most lovingly and silently wish for an ultimate payback. Fransisco offers a great representation of who we are and how we often see ourselves. In him, I see the stereotypical Reyes hero, where kindness overcomes grief and love triumphs over villainy.
Worthy to note, of course, is Divinagracia. As the Machiavellian master, he is undeniably perfect for the role. Despite his character’s viciousness, he is still as lovable as the hero. Divinagracia commands the crowd of young children to uncontrollble laughters and cheers, especially when Rodrigo returns to his master’s house armed with the magical violin.
Ms. Luz Fernandez graces the Aliw Theater stage as Lola Basyang. Fernandez, who did the original role for almost three generations and through different media forms has finally come back to give life to the Filipino’s quintessential Mother Goose. I salute Ballet Manila for bringing her back to the stage and having her read the familiar stories of our bedtime.
But beyond its music and choreography, BM’s ANG TATLONG KWENTO NI LOLA BASYANG is a celebration of our own literature. It reminds us that there is power, and magic, and wonder in stories and that dreams – still – do come true. Also, it is a celebration of our own beloved authors, one of which is National Artist for Literature, Severino Reyes.
Above all this is a celebration of our language. Teka, bakit nga ba ako nag-i-English?
Higit sa lahat, ito ay isang selebrasyon ng sarili nating Wika. Sa mga gawa at likha ni Reyes, napatunayan natin na buháy pa rin ang ating mga literatura at tuloy-tuloy ang paglago at pagyakap nito hanggang sa kasalukuyang henerasyon. Na ang mga kwento nina Rodrigo, Prinsesa Singsing at Pedro ay namumutawi pa rin sa ating mga sariling diwa, buhay at mga karanasan.
Walang makakaparis sa ligayang naramdaman ko, kagabing pauwi na kami, kasama ang mga mahal kong pamangkin na may bagong namumuong inters sa mga kwento ng matandang mahilig magbasa at magsalaysay. Tulad namin ng kapatid ko noon, na halos mapuyat, matapos lamang ang isang kwento ni Lola Basyang, nakita kong muli ang bagong pagkilala, mahigpit napagyakap at masigabong pagkabuhay ng sarili nating literatura!
Salamat, Ballet Manila! Tunay ngang ang arte, teatro, sayaw at literatura ay hindi lamang nagtuturo. Ito ay nagpapa-buti, at nagpapabago, at nagpapalago. Mabuhay, kayo!
Mabuhay si Severino Reyes!
Mabuhay ang Literaturang Pilipino!
Photos by Erickson dela Cruz