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Kunan mo ako at gawin mo akong sining. Gawin mo akong imortal.” — Elsa

Truer words were never spoken. From Nora Aunor to May Bayot-De Castro, the former to Aicelle Santos, the iconic role of Elsa has been immortalized every which way—transcending various mediums from page to stage. Whatever the form, the legendary heroine, who beckons to a higher being then aches with disappointment in the lines, “Walang Himala!” launched a crusade of sorts, bringing in flocks of followers, who struggle with their own faith and morality.

Based on allegations of Marian apparitions on Cabra Island, Occidental Mindoro, writer Ricky Lee sought to document one of the country’s greatest mysteries—faith healers and religious crusaders. Amidst the film’s multiple revisions and developments, one thing remained constant: the casting of Nora Aunor, whom the creators had in mind from the very beginning. Considered one of Philippine Cinema’s greatest films of all time, Himala is also considered Aunor’s best work, earning her multiple nominations and awards, including her Best Actress Award in the 1982 Metro Manila Film Festival.

May Bayot-de Castro (c) Photographed by Erickson dela Cruz

Aunor passed on the baton of faith to May Bayot-De Castro in 2003, when the original stage adaptation was mounted at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Bayot-De Castro’s turn as Elsa earned her an Aliw Award for Best Actress in a Musical. She is equally honored and humbled to be returning to Barrio Cupang in the role of Nanay Saling, and admits to having the jitters prior to rehearsals. “Ninenerbyos ako days before the rehearsal. Maybe the anxiety came from not knowing what to expect. Also, most of the cast members did the musical before, and coming in with a new track is kind of nerve-wracking.

Still, she thanks her lucky stars for giving her the opportunity to work on the musical that may well be considered her big break. Over all, the rehearsal process has been a refreshing and reassuring experience for the veteran actress. She shares “It was refreshing to find out that Ed is very open to new attacks on the characters. It was also reassuring to know that there are no set profiles for the characters. The process and technique appealed to me— that we are freely allowed to explore and discover our characters and relationships within the community.”

Aicelle Santos and Celine Fabie will alternate for the role of Elsa.

Returning to the show, albeit in a different role and track, May Bayot-De Castro shares that she has nothing but pride and admiration for the Elsas of this generation. “Having played Elsa in the past and now watching Aicelle and Celine take on the iconic role, makes me proud of them. It is not an easy role to play. I’m also learning from them. May mga nakita akong acting choices na ginagawa nila na I wished I could have done myself.”

She elaborates further on her return to Barrio Cupang in the role of Nanay Saling, a role that came naturally to her because of her maternal instincts. “Being a mom myself has helped tremendously. And as I’ve said, it’s helpful that Ed is very open to acting choices. He does not censor right away.” Challenges and all, she is thrilled and inspired to be retelling the story of Himala, and passing on the torch to Aicelle and Celine for this year’s re-run.

Down from the hill of Barrio Cupang, Elsa will continue to call on her followers and unveil the hard truth—that miracles merely exist in the eyes and hearts of its firm believers. Decades after the film and the original stage adaptation, the baton of faith will be passed on generation after generation to keep the legacy of Himala alive, and forever in the annals of Philippine film and theater.

HIMALA isang Musikal 2019 will star Aicelle Santos in the role of Elsa, with Celine Fabie covering for the role at certain performances. Joining her are May Bayot-De Castro and Sheila Francisco alternating for the role of Nanay Saling, Kakki Teodoro as Nimia, Neomi Gonzales as Chayong, Sandino Martin and Vic Robinson alternating for the role of Pilo, David Ezra as Orly and Floyd Tena as Padre.

Rounding out the cast are Jon Abella, Roxy Aldiosa, Sigrid Balbas, Gene Barsaga, Jay Barrameda, Patricia Bermudez, Raflesia Bravo, Joshua Cabiladas, Dannielle Cruz, Christian Cusi, Katreen Dela Cruz, Angelo Esperanzate, Marielle Estalani, Mano Domingo, Kits Falcis, Jef Flores, Nel Gumalog, Pam Imperial, Sean Inocencio, Jasper Jimenez, Gary Junsay, Glenda Liao, Alvin Maghanoy, Roby Malubay, Hazel Maranan, Eizel Marcelo, Nathan Molina, Red Nuestro, Ivan Panganiban, Matel Patayon, Cristy Peredo, Neil Tolentino, Onyl Torres and Jenny Villegas.

Award-winning director, Ed Lacson, Jr., returns to the director’s chair in this year’s re-run of Himala: Isang Musikal. He also doubles as the show’s set designer. Multi-awarded composer and lyricist, Vincent A. deJesus, is at the helm once again as composer, lyricist and musical director. Completing the artistic team are Ricky Lee as writer and lyricist, Barbie Tan-Tiongco as lighting designer, Carlo Pagunaling as costume designer, Jed Balsamo as music consultant, JM Cabling as assistant to the director and Ejay Yatco as assistant musical director.

Toff De Venecia leads the production team as co-executive producer alongside Santi Santamaria, for The Sandbox Collective and 9 Works Theatrical, respectively. Rounding out the team are Anna Santamaria as operations and finance director, Sab Jose as marketing and PR director, Maine Manalansan as design director, Erwin Romulo as creative consultant, Charyl De Guzman as production manager, Jonjon Martin as public relations manager and Mara Agleham as head stage manager.

Ricky Lee and Vincent A. deJesusHIMALA: ISANG MUSIKAL will open on September 20, 2019 and will have a limited engagement until October 20, 2019 at the Powermac Center Spotlight in Circuit Makati. Tickets are now available through Ticketworld online or 891.9999, The Sandbox Collective at 0956 200 4909, 0917 554 5560 and 586 7105.

This Musical is co-presented by The Sandbox Collective and 9 Works Theatrical, in commemoration of their 10/5 anniversaries.

Official (character) posters of Himala: Isang Musikal 2019
More Photos from the Press Conference:

Photographs by Erickson Dela Cruz

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