Cory's life now a musical

Cory's life now a musical 
By Walter Ang
Nov. 3, 2008
Philippine Daily Inquirer

While a musical and a concert have already been made about a former Philippine First Lady (the East West Players theater company of California staged "Imelda: A New Musical" in 2005 while David Byrne and Norman "Fatboy Slim" Cook devised a "song-cycle" titled "Here Lies Love," staged in Adelaide in 2006), no one has yet made a theatrical production that focuses on our country's first female President. Until now.

"Cory: The Musical," a production based on the life of former president Corazon "Cory" Aquino, was conceived by Lourdes "Bing" Pimentel (wife of Senator Aquilino Pimentel), a self-taught composer who has produced and composed musicals such as "Nasaan si Hesus," "Huwag Pumayag sa Dagdag Bawas," and "Pagibig sa Bayan."

To say Mrs. Aquino's life has been trying is an understatement. She is known to have been a devoted wife who was supportive of the political career of her husband, Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr., whom she married in 1954. He started out as mayor of Tarlac, became the youngest senator in Philippine history in 1967, and emerged as a leading critic of the Marcos government. He was arrested during martial law in the 70s, sentenced to death, and eventually allowed to leave for exile in Boston with his family.

Her husband's assassination in 1983 catapulted Mrs. Aquino to global recognition. After a snap election in 1986, she served as the 11th President of the Philippines until 1992, the country's and Asia's first female President. Through all her struggles, Mrs. Aquino emerged, as Wikipedia notes, "a world-renowned advocate of democracy, peace, women's empowerment, and religious piety."

In 1986, Mrs. Aquino was Time Magazine's Woman of the Year and was nominated to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Later on, she would be cited as one of the "100 Women Who Shaped World History" and become a recipient of the J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding. She was also chosen by Time Magazine as one of the "20 Most Influential Asians of the 20th Century" as well as one of "65 great Asian Heroes."

Pimentel says that when she learned the former president had contracted cancer earlier this year, she felt it time for people to demonstrate their love and appreciation for the sacrifices Mrs. Aquino had undergone. "I thought of gifting her with a musical," she says.

"Cory: The Musical" has twenty songs and tackles the life of Mrs. Aquino from her teenage years until the time she accepts the presidency. Acclaimed singer-actress Isay Alvarez, who is usually most known for being in the original London cast of "Miss Saigon" as Gigi and was recently seen onstage in Peta's "Skin Deep," will be playing the titular role.

"It's nerve-wracking," says Alvarez of portraying the former president. "I read a lot of materials on what she went through to figure out where she was coming from. There is a stereotype of Mrs. Aquino that portrays her as a timid person. But she's not timid at all; she's composed. And she's composed because she's really a strong person and she's gone through a lot."

Leo Quinitio serves as the musical director, conductor, and arranger while directing duties will be handled by Nestor U. Torre. Torre has been involved in theater, radio, TV, film, and entertainment journalism (he is editor of PDI's Saturday Special). He was the creative force behind musicals such as "Katy!," and "Magnificat," among others.

This production also serves a reunion of sorts for Alvarez and Torre since Alvarez was in the original cast of Torre's musical "Magsimula Ka." In fact, Alvarez's husband Robert Seña was with her in the original cast of that musical and is part of this one as Ferdinand Marcos. The role of Ninoy Aquino will be essayed by Sherwin Sozon, who was recently seen onstage in "Dalawa Niyang Libing," one of the plays in Virgin Labfest 4. Pinky Marquez will play Imelda Marcos.

"The story for this musical is really a study of two people, Cory and Ninoy," says Torre, who also developed the book (i.e. script) for this production. "It's about the dark night of the soul when Ninoy is incarcerated for seven years and the transformation they go through as a couple. It's about how hey are challenged by the events surrounding them, how they rise above themselves."

Produced by the Buhay Isang Awit Foundation, Inc., "Cory: The Musical" goes onstage Nov. 29, 30, and Dec. 1 at the Meralco Theater. For details, call Sheila at 851-3120.

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