The Arctic and Antarctic in Ocean Park Hong Kong

The Arctic and Antarctic in Hong Kong 
By Walter Ang
Dec. 29, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Guests visiting Ocean Park Hong Kong now have a new attraction to enjoy: Polar Adventure, whose exhibits simulate the natural environments of both the North and South Polar regions.

In other words, guests can now get to see a small slice of the Arctic and the Antarctic and the animals that live there.

Cantopop superstar Andy Lau (yes, the same Andy Lau that comedienne Eugene Domingo "demanded" a kiss from at this year's Asian Film Awards when she won the people's choice favorite actress award) graced the grand opening ceremonies led by Leung Chun-ying, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, with Allan Zeman, Chairman of OPHK.

Polar Adventure's North Pole Encounter section is home to a variety of arctic species, including spotted seals, Northern sea lions, Pacific walruses, snowy owls, and arctic foxes. The entire area is maintained at a cool 15°C.

Its South Pole Spectacular is maintained at an even cooler 8°C and houses King Penguins, Southern Rockhopper Penguins, and Gentoo Penguins. Portions of the South Pole Spectacular can be seen at Tuxedos Restaurant via immense viewing panels that serve as the restaurant's fourth wall.

The attractions have exhibits and videos for guests to find out more about the animals housed there. Sandwiched in between the two attractions is, of course, the gift shop where stuffed toys of the polar critters can be acquired.

The area also has the Arctic Blast, a roller coaster with a top speed of 35 km per hour. For the thrill-seekers, this is only one of several rides that the park offers. The Thrill Mountain has rides such as The Flash (with a top speed of 60 km/hour) and Hair Raiser (an even faster 88 km/hour; the fastest roller coaster in Hong Kong).

Guests with more relaxed proclivities can enjoy Polar Adventure's Whale Karaoke, where guests can listen to recordings of their messages translated into whale vocalizations.

Fun education "Polar Adventure conveys ? the plight of polar wildlife living under the threat of climate change and global warming in both a fun and educational way," said Zeman.

Aside from its numerous animal attractions, rides, and restaurants, OPHK also has an Ocean Park Academy that offers over 35 courses on giant pandas and red pandas, dolphins and sea lions, birds, fishes, plants, and mechanical rides. The park's breeding programs have resulted in the births of rare shark species, bottlenose dolphins, sea lions, sea horses and different species of sea jellies.

The park also has its own foundation that helps with conservation of endangered marine mammals in Asia. Lau said, "As [the foundation's] Conservation Ambassador, I am proud that OPHK has created a world-class attraction dedicated to the important issue of global climate change. With the launch of Polar Adventure, we can learn about the impact of global climate change on polar wildlife and how we can help slow climate change."

Up and away Located on the southern side of Hong Kong Island, OPHK is actually divided into two levels, the lower Waterfront and the higher Summit, which can be reached via the park's iconic cable cars that travel 205 meters above the South China Sea.

For guests who want more height-related fun, the park has The Abyss Turbodrop ride, a 20 second ride up 62 meters and a drop incurring a minus one gravitational force, much faster than a free fall.

But those afraid of heights needn't worry as there is the Ocean Express train. If you have friends or family members who are so inclined, there is also Hong Kong's second longest outdoor escalator series up from Tai Shue Wan Bay to Ocean Park.

The Waterfront is where the classic Grand Aquarium is located, where guests can see up to 400 different species of fish such as the scalloped hammerhead shark, manta ray, Pacific bluefin tunas and Japanese skipjack tuna via a 13- meter giant viewing panel and the world's largest aquarium viewing dome.

After walking inside the Grand Aquarium, the viewing can be done while seated and eating away at Neptune's Restaurant, which offers viewing walls of the aquarium.

Cuddly The Waterfront level also has the Giant Panda Adventure which houses giant pandas, red pandas, Chinese giant salamanders, Asian small-clawed otters and Chinese alligators. The Goldfish Treasures section has a collection of over 300 goldfish of all shapes, sizes and colors, including the largest goldfish variety in the world.

A section of the Waterfront called Old Hong Kong offers a glimpse of the culture, history, and tasty delicacies of HK from the '50s to the '70s. With building facades designed to mimic the streetscapes of yore, there are 70 local street food stalls that feature dishes from that time period.

End the day's visit at the Lagoon, where a night time show spectacle features the world's first and only 360 degree water screen in an explosion of lights, sounds and, yes, fire that burns hot and bright right on top of the lagoon's water.

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Jay Españo Does Movement for 'At The Flash'

Jay Españo Does Movement for 'At The Flash,' Runs Through Dec. 16
By Walter Ang
Dec. 6, 2012

Jay Españo
CHICAGO — Former Tanghalang Pilipino actor Jay Españo has taken assistant director and movement coordinator responsibilities in the recently opened "At the Flash," a one-actor, five-character play that condenses LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) history from the 1960s to the 2000s.

Written by Sean Chandler and David Leeper, this comedy features a closeted man in the 1960s, a black drag queen in the 1970s, a club kid in the 1980s, a budding lesbian activist in the 1990s, and a family man/entrepreneur in the 2000s as they relate their stories in the gay club The Flash.

For its world premiere, presented by Pride Films and Plays (PFP), co-playwright Leeper stars under the direction of David Zak, PFP's executive director.

Leeper's acting credits include roles in David Mamet's "Oleanna" and Lanford Wilson's "Fifth of July."

Españo collaborated with the Leeper and Zak to create distinct physical silhouettes, mannerisms, and behavior for each of the five characters. Españo received his yoga teaching certification in Singapore and has a graduate certificate in Laban Movement Analysis from Columbia College, Chicago.

Españo's recent acting credits include portraying King Mongkut in two productions of "The King and I," for The Drama Group (Chicago, Illinois) and The Peoria Center for Performing Arts (Pheonix, Arizona). He directed his play "The Tales of Three Marias," about three Filipina domestic helpers who have moved to Singapore, for its US premiere presented by Alab Entablado at The Den in Chicago in September.

"At the Flash" won PFP's Great Gay Play and Musical Contest earlier this year. Since it was founded in 2010, PFP has become an international center for the development of fresh works for the stage and screen using stories with GLBTQ characters or themes as a cultural bridge for understanding.

Portions from ticket sales support Center on Halsted's programs that support the LGBTQ community, which include free rapid HIV testing, group therapy, vocational training, and senior and youth programs.

At The Flash" runs until Dec. 16, 2012 at Hoover-Leppen Theatre, Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St., Chicago. Ticket prices start at $21.

'Nutcracker' ballet gets modern treatment

'Nutcracker' ballet gets modern treatment
By Walter Ang
November 22, 2012

Ballet audiences are familiar with "The Nutcracker" as it is usually staged during the year-end holidays.

Set to Peter Tchaikovsky's music and originally choreographed by Marius Petipa, the ballet's libretto is based on E.T.A. Hoffmann's story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King."

The story is about a girl who receives a nutcracker carved in the shape of a soldier on Christmas Eve. After she goes to bed, the Nutcracker comes to life and battles the evil Mouse King. The Nutcracker transforms into a handsome prince and takes the girl to the Land of Sweets where she meets the Sugar Plum Fairy and different sweets from around the world.

Tchaikovsky's score has been given other ballet choreographies, such as by George Balanchine in the US and Noordin Jumalon (after Petipa and Ivanov) in the Philippines. Local companies sometimes set the production design in a Filipino setting.

The story has been remade into other mediums such as film, including excerpts in Disney's "Fantasia" and even a Barbie movie.

A new Filipino contemporary dance version of "The Nutcracker" presented by Myra Beltran’s Dance Forum takes off from a similar point: paper dolls of American icons.

Beltran has choreographed "Nutcracker Swit," a one-hour contemporary dance piece that retells "the classic as an adventure of a poor young boy, his loves, and desires, in scenes that meld together fantasy and reality."

"The 'swit' is a play on Tchaikovsky's 'suite' and the 'sweets' from the ballet. This show is my imagination of my parents' childhood, from the 1930s to 40s, and of their projection of desires couched in 1950's pop culture," she says. "The dance is filled with wonder, whimsy, and hope."

"The 'sweets' in Act 3 of the 'Nutcracker' ballet is really about desire," Beltran explains.
In her version, the sweets are rendered through popular American culture icons such as Shirley Temple. "We must remember that [Filipino children during those times] were inculcated with desire for American things."

For research, Beltran interviewed her own mother and it was revealed that "she kept her paper dolls from her childhood in a precious little box. When I found them and saw the Shirley Temple dolls and the cut-out magazine paper dolls, I knew I was on the right track."

The production will feature University of the Philippines Dance Company artists Dingdong Selga, Minette Maza, and Nicole Primero, as well as dancers from Chameleon Dance Theatre and Contemporary Dance Network Manila.

Performers from theater group Sipat Lawin Ensemble will also be part of the cast.
Videos used in the production were directed by Sherad Anthony Sanchez using video production design by Eddie Perez.

"Nutcracker Swit" will be the inaugural production of the newly renovated Dance Forum Studio in Quezon City, whose interiors were designed by The Pirouette Movement, University of the Philippines' Interior Design Batch 2013.

"Nutcracker Swit" runs from November 28 to 30, 7 p.m. at Dance Forum Studio, 36E West Ave., Quezon City. Student and senior discounts are available. Contact 0927-784-9579 or, or visit

UP performing groups win at int’l fests

UP performing groups win at int’l fests
By Walter Ang
November 5, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

UP Concert Chorus
University of the Philippines Concert Chorus has won three awards on the international scene: 1st Prize in the Folk category of the Festival Internacional de Musica de Cantonigros in Vic, Spain; and the gold diploma and the Audience Prize (People’s Choice Award) at the 9th Cantemus International Choir Festival at Nyíregyháza, Hungary.

In Spain, the group sang “Kruhay” (Beny Castilon); “Pasigin” (arranged by Eudenice Palaruan); and “Ilay Gandangan” (Rodolfo Delarmente) for the Folk category.

The contingent had 28 singers and one pianist. The chorus, celebrating its 50th anniversary, was led by director Jai Sabas-Aracama.

In Hungary, under the baton of president and assistant conductor Emmanuel de Leon Jr., the group sang “Ama Namin” (John August Pamintuan); “Jezus es a Kufarok” (Zoltán Kodály); and “Ilay Gandangan.”

For the Folk concert, the basis for the Audience Prize, Sabas-Aracama led the choir in singing “Gabaq-An” (Ruben Federizon), “Pasigin” and “Kruhay.”

“At the gala concert and awarding ceremony, UPCC performed a tribute to the King of Pop, Eman de Leon, where it received a rousing standing ovation from the audience and festival participants of nearly 2,000 people from all over the world,” says Sabas-Aracama.

The group had performed in several cities in the US before joining the festival in Spain. From September to October, it will give performances in Switzerland, Germany, Finland, Sweden, Italy, Malaysia and Singapore.

UP Arco String Ensemble
UP Arco String Ensemble, after a struggle to raise funds, made it after all to the Festival International de Music Universitaire in Belfort, France.

It was the first time a Filipino group had joined the festival.  Under musical director Edna Martinez, the group was composed of 27 students, all majors of the Strings and Chamber Music Department of the UP College of Music.

Before the festival, Arco performed twice in Paris, at Saint Bernadette Church, organized by the Philippine Catholic Mission in France; and at Unesco Miollis Building, hosted by the Philippine Embassy in France.

After the festival, Arco also performed in Geneva, Switzerland, at Notre Dame Church.
Robert Belot, Belfort’s vice mayor and the city’s cultural head, said the group “has fine quality sound, [is] technically adroit, and brought to the festival something unique and fresh.”

Arco’s repertoire included the Tsaikovsky Serenade for Strings; Serenade for Strings by Elgar; and Concerto Grosso by Corelli. Filipino masterpieces Rombino from the Children’s Quartet by Bueneventura and Buencamino’s Pizzicato Caprice were also performed.

“In its second and last concert at Belfort, the audience gave a prolonged feisty applause and standing ovation,” says Ruben Defeo, head of the UP Diliman Office for Initiatives in Culture and the Arts. “UP Arco had to reciprocate the warm reception by giving two encores. The organizers invited UP Arco to render another concert on the last day of the festival.”

Scene from "Screen: Macbeth"
UP's Department of English and Comparative Literature’s production of “Screen: Macbeth” was performed at National Taiwan University, Taipei, for the 6th Conference of the NTU Shakespeare Forum.

This production of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” premiered last year and features video projections as part of its staging, thus the inclusion of the word “Screen” in the title.

The conference theme “Shakespeare across Media” aimed to explore how Shakespeare had been translated in various forms of media.

“The production’s use of film fitted the conference theme superbly,” says cast member Ricky Abad.
The contingent had seven actors in multiple roles, with direction by Anton Juan; dramaturgy by Judy Ick (who also played Lady Macbeth); technical direction by Meliton Roxas; and video design by Winter David.

“The show was received very well. The organizers were pleased, and look forward to more Philippine participation in the future. The biggest achievement, I think, was that ‘Screen: Macbeth’ identified the Philippines as the Asian country that could do Shakespeare in English well. The acting was praised. It was deemed passionate.”

For details of UP Concert Chorus’ touring performances, visit or call 9296963, 9818500, 0927-4284629 or 0917-6283739.

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British dance company does outreach in the Philippines

British dance company does outreach in the Philippines
By Walter Ang
October 15, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Photo by Ige Ramos.
Hope for Children
Philippine representative Kevin Connolly,
DanceAid founder and CEO Laura Wilson,
Pangarap Shelter for Street Children
resident Erick Soberano,
Flava lead member Kyle Richardson,
Big Dance Company founder Fiona Richardson,
Pangarap Shelter for Street Children
executive director Br. Francisco Tanega.
Big Dance Company (BDC), based in Cornwall, England, sent a delegation to Manila for outreach and interaction activities with three charity groups that assist street children.

The group spent a day visiting the Philippine Community Fund (PCF) School in Tondo; Childhope Asia Philippines in Paco; and Pangarap Shelter for Street Children in Pasay.

The group gave workshops, performances, and danced with the children.

BDC founder Fiona Richardson said: “We can’t save the world with our dance outreach, but we can help get rid of a lot of ignorance, we can help build compassion.”

Reaching out
BDC first visited the country in 2010 upon the invitation of Shirley Halili Cruz, whom the group met at the Dance Excellence festival for young dancers in Los Angeles in 2009, to participate in the annual Dance Xchange Philippine International Dance Festival.

BDC brought over its most popular dance group, Flava, a hip-hop group which was a semifinalist in “Britain’s Got Talent” in 2008.

BDC visited children on the Smokey Mountain dumpsite in Tondo for an outreach with Philippine Community Fund, a charity group founded by British national Jane Walker.  BDC has returned annually since to conduct outreach activities at the site.

Flava has won competitions and represented the UK at the World Hip-Hop Championships. Last year it performed with Halili Cruz Ballet Company in Cornwall.

BDC works with young people in the UK to tackle antisocial behavior and gun and knife crime.

This year
This year BDC brought over a group of younger dancers.

“Some of the Flava dancers came, but we included dancers from Tricky Crew, our under-14 group, and Sweet Flava, our girl group.  The youngest in our group this year is 11 years old.  It’s important to let young people see what’s going on in the world,” said Richardson.

With BCD this year is UK-based DanceAid, a charity group that raises funds for charities through dance-related activities such as performances.

Laura Wilson, founder and CEO of DanceAid, said: “BDC is one of the many dance schools working with DanceAid to raise the UK to its feet to dance to make a difference for suffering children in the UK, Africa and Asia.”

“[Laura] knew we would be performing in Manila, and thought that we might want to help them out, and we have been ever since,” said Richardson.  “I am hoping to plan a big project next year with these charities to help more and get these talented young people on a stage with a captive audience.”

Ongoing aid
Wilson, who has a master’s degree in Conflict, Governance and Development from the University of York, founded DanceAid as a way to bring together her passions in developmental work and dance.
“We were inspired by the work being done by another charity we work alongside, Hope for Children,” said Wilson.

Among other projects for Manila charities, Hope for Children collects donations for PCF’s school (built from recycled shipping containers), which gives free education to street children in the Smokey Mountain area; for Pangarap Shelter for Street Children, a shelter and recovery center for homeless and at-risk boys aged 8-17 years; and for Childhope Asia Philippines’ Street Education Program, where 20 full-time street educators are deployed to teach street children on-site.

Hope for Children’s projects in the Philippines are monitored by its representative Kevin Connolly, who has been living here since 1996.

This was Wilson’s first time in Manila.  She came over to help set up funding protocols from DanceAid to its Hope for Children Manila charities.

“We visited to see what the situation is here, and how DanceAid can help more and organize a DanceAid day for the children, who, we already know, love to dance!”

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Tanghalang Pilipino’s silver anniversary coffee-table book now available

Tanghalang Pilipino’s silver anniversary coffee-table book now available
By Walter Ang
October 8, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Tanghalang Pilipino has produced a coffee-table book, “Tanghalang Pilipino: Celebrating 25 Years of Philippine Theater,” to commemorate its recently concluded silver anniversary.

Spearheaded by  artistic director Fernando “Nanding” Josef and written by Inquirer contributing writer Amadis Ma. Guerrero, the 171-page hardcover features a jacket with the image of actress Noemi Manikan-Gomez in costume as the character Angelita from “Dalagang Bukid,” the company’s inaugural production in June 1987.

Her photo is stylized with sketches of the production’s set design in a manner that recalls the style of TP founding artistic director Felix “Nonon” Padilla’s woodprint designs for many of the company’s early souvenir-program covers.

The book is divided into chapters which “deal with material that provided the company with its unique identity.”

It begins with the group’s history; its objectives of “developing a national theater [group] that would develop original Filipino plays and mount translated foreign works”; and the rationale behind its original and updated logos.

The different theater forms that TP has staged are discussed: sarsuwela (the indigenized Filipino theater form “with songs and dances” that evolved from the Spanish zarzuela); original musicals (with subject matter or themes that range from historical pieces and films to indigenous epics and oral-narrative chants; and even comic-book gender-changing superheroines), and plays that mirror societal issues (from political milieus to personal relationships and everything in between).

Guerrero gives summaries and histories of selected scripts or librettos; quotes from interviews with the productions’ respective directors and other collaborators; and excerpts of reviews published at the time of the productions.

The book reveals the inner workings and processes undergone by the backstage disciplines, featuring composers, translators, set designers, costume designers, and lighting designers who have worked on TP productions.

The book concludes with a section that showcases the actor, specifically the kind of actor molded in the TP spirit.

Padilla’s creation of the Actors Company (AC), the group’s pool of resident actors who perform in season productions and continuously train in performance methods, has since been one of the defining elements of TP.

Josef was part of the pioneer batch of AC (personally invited by Padilla). Former TP artistic director Herbert “Herbie” Go was also an AC member.  Other former AC members have gone on to acclaim as actors for stage, TV and film, or administrators of other theater groups.

Call 8321125 loc. 1620-21, 0917-7500107, 0918-9593949, 2183791. E-mail

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Tony-winner David Gallo designs set of "Nine"

Tony-winner David Gallo designs set of "Nine," closes Oct. 7
By Walter Ang
October 3, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Gallo's computer sketch of his set design for "Nine."
Atlantis Productions' staging of the musical "Nine" features a set designed by Tony Award winning set designer David Gallo.

"Nine," based on Federico Fellini's semi-autobiographical film "8½," focuses on Italian filmmaker Guido Contini, who, dreading his imminent 40th birthday, gets entangled in a web of romantic difficulties in early-1960s Venice.

With book by Arthur Kopit and music and lyrics by Maury Yeston, the musical was made into a movie in 2009, directed by Rob Marshall (“Chicago”) and starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Contini.

Directed by Bobby Garcia, Atlantis’ “Nine” features Jett Pangan as Contini with an ensemble of popular theater actresses, recording artists, and TV/film actresses: Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo plays Contini’s wife, Cherie Gil plays his film producer, Eula Valdez plays his muse, Carla Guevara-Laforteza plays his mistress, Ima Castro plays a prostitute he encounters, and Jay Glorioso plays his mother.

Gallo met Garcia in Broadway Asia Entertainment’s touring production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” in the late ’00s, where he designed the set while Garcia directed. The show opened in Manila and toured several Asian countries.

“I’ve always enjoyed working in the Philippines, so naturally when he rang me asking if I was interested in working on the production of the great musical ‘Nine,’ I jumped at the chance,” Gallo says.

Based in the US, Gallo worked with Atlantis’ production staff via the Internet. “[Since] it’s become the norm to design shows almost entirely using technology, most of the things I design are communicated via the Internet. Everyone can open and share even the largest files with ease.”

The only drawback, Gallo notes, is the loss of personal interaction, though a situation that’s mediated by this familiarity with Garcia.

“Theater is a business of emotion and feeling. It’s then that having a great bond with someone such as Bobby truly pays its dividends.”

Gallo has not seen the film version and has only seen one staging “many years ago.” He emphasizes the need to “approach every project as a new beginning.”

He researched on various bath houses and spas around the world. “I found some particularly interesting images from India, which I was then able to spin into a Viennese look. I find that capturing a feeling, a mood or style is more important than attempting to replicate a place, either real or imagined.”

“One of the interesting things about being a scenic designer is the fact that every production naturally finds its own way to a particular style.”

Costumes are designed by New York-based Filipino fashion designer Robin Tomas.

“Nine” runs until Oct. 7, at Carlos Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza Bldg., Makati. Call  8927078, 8401187 or Ticketworld at 8919999.

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Tanghalang Pilipino's suspense thriller 'Walang Kukurap' runs until Oct. 7

Tanghalang Pilipino's suspense thriller 'Walang Kukurap' runs until Oct. 7 
By Walter Ang
September 24, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Scene from 'Walang Kukurap.'  Photo by Erickson Dela Cruz,
grabbed from
Tanghalang Pilipino is staging "Walang Kukurap," a suspense thriller about the pervasive shady politics and unethical business practices in the Philippines today.

Suzette Ranillo plays Cristina, a first-time vice mayor candidate who is sucked into corruption, deceit and murder.

"We always connect corruption with the big fish, like the case of former Chief Justice [Renato] Corona as an example, but what's more frightening are the corruption done by the `small fish'—the towns and barangay, the grass roots," says TP associate artistic director Tuxqs Rutaquio, who is directing the production.

Written by Layeta Bucoy, the title is a play on words, with kurap homophonous to "corrupt," explains Rutaquio, as well as a play on notions of vigilance.

The material started off as a devised performance piece by TP's Actors Company, its resident pool of actors. "As a group, we started asking ourselves, Why do we want to do a play about corruption? We recounted incidents of corruption experienced by us, or ones we heard from family and friends. Those accounts became the basis for our first draft."

From personal experiences, the group moved on to interviewing other individuals who had experiences with corruption.

The group spoke with Jun Lozada, government-anomaly whistleblower in 2008, and the nun who helped protect him after his revelation, Sis. Mary John Mananzan, women's advocate and former St. Scholastica's College president.

"We also came across [journalist] Maria Ressa's speech for the graduation at Far Eastern University delivered earlier this year. She talked about corruption, zero tolerance, and how corruption is personal. Her ideas helped move our play articulate a notch higher in terms of what we really want to say.

"This production has been collaborative from Day 1. It must try to answer what we initially asked ourselves: Why do we want to do this? It is not to preach about corruption. It is simply putting another perspective to the concept. We have to jolt our audience. We have to provoke them to think."

The production will feature all members of the Actors Company, TP's pool of resident actors, and guest actors such as Manila 6th District councilor and actor Lou Veloso and, in certain performances, rapper Gloc 9.

"We don't expect audiences to change completely and suddenly become vigilant against corruption, though we hope they will. We want them to become aware of the problem, even if it's just a sneak peek of what is really happening in our society. And, of course, they decide if they will still tolerate these things or they will do something about it."

With technical direction and lighting design by Katsch Catoy; production design by Jerome Aytona; and sound design by TJ Ramos.

After its run at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the production will be open for bookings for shows around Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

"Walang Kukurap" runs until Oct. 7 at Huseng Batute Theater, Cultural Center of the Philippines. Call 8321125 loc. 1620 and 1621, 0917-7500107, 0918-9593949, 2183791.

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Ballet Philippines explores magical talismans in "Anting"

Ballet Philippines explores magical talismans in "Anting" 
By Walter Ang
September 10, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

From left: Hedwig de Leon, Tony Perez, and Paul Morales.
Ballet Philippines stages "Anting" for its "Neo-Filipino" series this September. The series features new works by Filipino choreographers and allows them a venue to tackle issues and experiment with form and choreography.

"'Anting' explores the world of talismans and amulets of Filipino magical traditions," says BP artistic director Paul Morales. "It's made up for four separate movements, each depicting a specific kind of amulet and its powers."

The libretto is by playwright Tony Perez, also known as the author of a series of books on how to cast spells and perform Wiccan rituals. He is also popularly known as the founder of Spirit Questors, a group of psychics who "communicate with earthbound human spirits and elementals."

Perez explains that anting is the street term for anting-anting (talismans). "'Anting' touches on indigenous Philippine 'magickal' systems practiced from the time of the Katipunan to the present day."

He notes, however, that Filipinos have been practicing these forms of "magick" since the pre-Hispanic era. "The mumbaki in the North and the babaylanes in the South; to when oraciones [prayers] were composed and distributed during the Spanish colonial period; to the continued practice of faith healers in the Cordillera; more than 200 existing cults on Mount Banahaw; and the numerous groups and individual practitioners until the present time."

The production will include projections of images of taladros, cloth with magickal patterns and oraciones drawn on and used by albularyos (rural medicine men); medalyones, brass and copper medallions; and anting-anting from Perez's personal collection, featuring the photography of Hedwig de Leon and video art of Andre Cawagas.

"Nang Wala Pang Mundo," is a creation story that traces the origins of the Dios Infinito sa Bato medallion. "This medallion is used for empowerment, establishing supremacy over others, escape from/evasion of danger, and enhancement of masculinity," he says.

In "Sinotris Gentillorum," a taladro comes to life and showcases the syncretic images of the Blessed Virgin Mary. "Specifically Atris, the Immaculate Conception; Matris, Ang Birheng Nagpapasuso; and Sinotris, La Virgin Milagrosa."

"Krus ng Alitagtag" shows the legend of the origins of the holy crosses in the churches of Alitagtag and Bauan in Batangas. Krus ng Alitagtag talismans are made from pieces of wood from the crosses and are worn as pendants for protection, power, success, and fame. "Variations of the talismans are set in gold, silver, copper and/or brass. Thousands of Krus ng Alitagtag have circulated over the years, so that it's difficult to determine which are authentic and which are not."

"Haring Bakal" is about a renegade member of the cult of Haring Bakal, a group that originated in Mindanao and was heavily influenced by the warrior rituals and movements of the area's ethnic groups. "The group is known to have its own distinct taladros and oraciones, and are most widely known for their training to be unaffected by blows dealt with bladed weapons."

Unlike his involvement in plays in which he attends rehearsals to revise scripts based on actors' speech patterns, when it comes to dance, "I always give directors and choreographers the freedom and the creative space they need to bring the works to life on stage."

Each movement will have its own choreographer: Morales; BP associate artistic director Christine Crame; BP alumnus and E-Dance Theater artistic director Gerald Mercado; and Airdance artistic director Ava Villanueva-Ong.

They will work with the music of Jed Balsamo, Jerrold Tarog, Teresa Barrozo and Israel Rodriguez. Set design by Zard Eguia; costume design by Dennis Maristany; and lighting design by Jonjon Villareal.

"Neo-Filipino: Anting" opens Sept. 14 at Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (Aurelio Tolentino Theater), Cultural Center of the Philippines. Contact 551-1003 or Ticketworld at 891-9999. Student and senior citizen discounts apply. Visit

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"The King and I": Pageant to enthrall Manila

'The King and I': Pageant to enthrall Manila
By Walter Ang
September 10, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

A costume design sketch by Laurel
Resorts World Manila is staging the musical “The King and I,” with Leo Valdes and Bo Cerrudo as King Mongkut and Monique Wilson and Sheila Valderrama as Anna, starting this September.

Based on the experiences of Anna Leonowens, the musical is set in the late 1860s and is about how the King of Siam (now Thailand) hires an English governess to tutor his children in ways of the Western world.

With music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics and book by Oscar Hammerstein, the Broadway musical was adapted into a movie in 1956 starring Yul Brynner as the king.
Directed by concert director Freddie Santos, the production will have close to 200 costumes designed by Rajo Laurel and Aksana Sidarava.

Full circle
“I am actually very familiar with the musical!” Laurel says. He was cast as one of the children in the 1978 staging by Repertory Philippines, where he shared the stage with Lea Salonga and Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, who were also cast as children.

He says it feels as if he’s come full circle by now designing costumes for the production.  He’d been fascinated by the costumes in the Rep production and it made him realize he wanted to become a fashion designer.

Tasked to design for the lead characters, Laurel’s “plan is to just go in and update the 19th-century costuming with a more modern take. The costume history of this production is very rich, specifically Anna’s corsetry and hoop skirts set against the King of Siam’s traditional garb. All it needs is just a modern flourish!”

Laurel has designed costumes for Repertory Philippines (“Evita,” “My Fair Lady”); Atlantis Productions (“Dreamgirls,” “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”); Ballet Philippines (“Inamorata”).

Design process
“Designing for the stage is very particular because it deals with both practical functionality and presence. It has to do with all of the minute details whilst simultaneously appealing to the point of view of an audience member. Theatricality is key as the sum of all the details makes for visual impact.”

Sidarava, who hails from Belarus, will work on costumes for the rest of the cast. She says the preparations for costume design included research through books and the Internet as well as viewings of film versions of the story. “My guideline is the traditional costumes of that time period.”

Having started off as a dancer, Sidarava also incorporates her experience with body movement into her works. “As a costume designer, you always have to think about the actors and the way the costumes are going to flow around with their movements, and choose the right material for maximum stage effect and best comfort for the artists.”

With the participation of Philippine Ballet Theater and Manila Philharmonic Orchestra; musical direction by Rodell Colmenar; vocal direction by Lynn Fabella; sound design by Radz Corpuz; set design by Jo Tecson; and lighting design by John Batalla.

“King and I” opens Sept. 15 at Newport Performing Arts Theater, Resorts World Manila, Pasay City.  Call tel. 8366333 or visit

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Eugene Domingo: From 'Kimmy Dora' to 'Bona'

Peta's "Bona" opens Aug. 24
Eugene Domingo: From 'Kimmy Dora' to 'Bona'
By Walter Ang
August 20, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Eugene Domingo
TV and film comedy actress Eugene Domingo ("Kimmy Dora") will portray Bona, a role performed by Nora Aunor in the film version, in Philippine Education Theater Association's stage adaptation "Bona."

Bona is a diehard fan of Gino Sanchez, played by Edgar Allan Guzman ("Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me"), a contestant on a television talent search show.

Originally written as a teleplay by Cenen Ramones featuring Laurice Guillen (Bona) and Ruel Vernal (Gardo), National Artist for Film and Peta founding member Lino Brocka directed the film version in 1980 starring Aunor as a high school girl smitten by macho bit-player actor Gardo (played by Philip Salvador).

Movies headlined by Aunor have been adapted for the stage before.  Peta staged the 1976 film "Minsa'y Isang Gamu-Gamo" in 1991 with Aunor herself in the leading role. Tanghalang Pilipino staged the 1982 film "Himala" in 2003.  Both productions were directed by Socrates "Soxy" Topacio, who will also direct Peta's "Bona."

Layeta Bucoy was approached by Peta artistic director Maribel Legarda to handle the script. Bucoy has been gaining recognition in the theater industry over the years, given her multiple Palanca awards and steady stream of one-act plays that have created buzz for their subject matter, use of language, and surprise twists, such as "Isang Libong Tula para sa Dibdib ni Dulce" (obsessive love), "Ellas Inocentes" (sexual innocence) and ""Doc Resureccion:  Gagamutin ang Bayan" (politics). Last year, she adapted William Shakespeare's "Titus Andronicus" with director Tuxqs Rutaquio, her constant collaborator, into a contemporary Filipino setting.

"In this version, Bona is more empowered. She's financially independent. She's a call center agent," Bucoy says. "As a fan, she lays claim to empowerment as she believes that the inclusion of fan votes for a talent search affords her the power to choose tomorrow's next big star."

"At first, we tried to follow the plot points of the movie, but as the adaptation developed and the process, true to the nature of theater, became more collaborative, a lot of changes were introduced, though still anchored on the spirit of the movie."

Comedy drama
The resulting work is now a comedy-drama. Bucoy points out that the addition of comedic angles is not so much a catering to Domingo's comedic skills than it is a result of the "evolution of the adaptation resulting from the team's collective vision."

"The term 'bona' is used in gay lingo. 'Nagpapaka-bona ka sa pag-ibig' means you're being stupid, being too much of a martyr for love. When we look at Bona from this angle, what might be melodramatic or even tragic to some might be comical to others. The difficulty lies in choosing a perspective. Isn't it true that even when it comes to religious fanaticism, some of us may laugh at those who go into a trance while singing 'In His Time?'"

Bucoy also writes novels and scripts for television and film, which serves as a reference point and helps inform her work for the stage. "Usually, when I write a play, I deliberately try to squeeze the action, even for full length plays, into just a day and in only one or two settings. I find it challenging to compress a 'life' into just a half-hour performance."

"Bona's 'story' doesn't happen in just a day and in just one setting.  Stageability is one of my major concerns when writing plays. My mentor Nick Pichay taught me that audiences' attention spans wane when darkness fills the stage."

The production will use videos as a transition device between scenes but Bucoy didn't want the obvious comparisons to television's commercial gaps. "We wanted to make the content of the videos part of the narrative. Working with my soul mate Tuxqs Rutaquio has taught me to be conscious of how text is 'translated' on stage. Form has a lot of influence on both content and how content is communicated."

"With 'Bona,' using videos not only affords smooth scene transitions on stage, but it also enriches the very content of the material: Bona falls for a guy she first sees on television, desires to see on the big screen, and follows in cyberspace. The guy is inside a 'screen' or a 'monitor' as Bona herself is slowly revealed to be seemingly trapped inside a 'screen' monitored by those who dictate what kind of life should we live."

"Bona" runs Aug 24-Sept. 23, 2012 at Peta Theater, Quezon City. Contact 725-6244, 0917-5765400 or Ticketworld (891-9999). Visit

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Repertory's "Wizard of Oz" opens Aug. 18

Repertory's "Wizard of Oz" opens Aug. 18
By Walter Ang
August 13, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Repertory Philippines's Children's Theater, celebrating its 20th anniversary, is staging the musical "The Wizard of Oz," based on the book by L. Frank Baum.

Dorothy Gale is swept away from her home in Kansas by a tornado and ends up in the Land of Oz where she meets a Tin Woodsman without a heart, a Scarecrow without a brain, and a Lion who's cowardly.

The three of them set off to find the Wizard of Oz to ask for his help to get Dorothy back home and for him to grant her three new friends' wishes-all while fending off the evil Wicked Witch of the West.

For this staging, actor Rem Zamora will be alternating with Pinky Marquez in the role of the Wicked Witch of the West.

A role is a role
"I don't treat it so much as playing a female role but more of playing another character," he says.  "Being male does make it more challenging but once I zero in on the character, it becomes much easier.  The role is a lot of fun though.  She's a fun character and I'm having a great time playing her."

Zamora has played female roles before, such as (also) the witch in "Sleeping Beauty" and in the musical "Bare" for Ateneo Blue Repertory. "The witch in 'Sleeping Beauty' was a role that was open to male actors. 'Bare' was tougher because it had more layers."

"I was originally cast as the Tin Man in but when I read the script, I asked to play the Witch. The Wicked Witch of the West is fun because it's very one dimensional. Fun and games really."

He hopes audiences won't even realize that the Witch is being played by a male actor, "But if they do, I hope they can go beyond my gender and just see the merits of the performance. I don't think my being male playing a female role will open up any issues though. The material is so light and fun."

Not MGM version
There have been several stage musical adaptations of the 1939 MGM movie musical that popularized the song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and which starred Judy Garland as Dorothy.  The latest adaptation by Andrew Lloyd Webber premiered in London's West End last year.

Another popular stage musical version is "The Wiz: The Super Soul Musical" which was made into a movie in the late 70s starring Diana Ross as an adult Dorothy and Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow.  Rep staged "The Wiz" in 1994.

Theater fans will also know of the musical "Wicked," based on Gregory Maguire's revisionist book "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West," an alternative prequel that focuses on Elphaba, who becomes the Wicked Witch of the West.

The version Rep is staging has book and lyrics by Jim Eiler and music by Eiler and Jeanne Bargy. Directed by Rep Children's Theater founder Joy Virata.

Cara Barredo and Giannina Ocampo alternate as Dorothy.  Set design by Lex Marcos, costume design by Raven Ong, and lighting design by John Batalla.

Choreographer Nathalie Everett has been tasked to create a "freestyle street dance vibe." Virata says: "We've got the Scarecrow doing waving and bugaloo and the Tin Man as a popping, breaking, locking robot in some of the dance scenes."

Zamora says: "This version caters to a much younger audience. Audiences will definitely like this one. It's simple and fun.  The songs have good recall and the script is really funny.

"Wizard of Oz" opens Aug 18 and runs till Dec at Onstage Theater, Greenbelt 1 Mall, Makati City. Contact 571-6926, 571-4941 or or Ticketworld at 891-9999.  Visit

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Getting jiggy with juice

Getting jiggy with juice
By Walter Ang
Aug. 8, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

The buzzword these days is "feasting" as a replacement for "fasting," in that you can feast on all the juices that you want during your fasting period.

Fasting has never really been out of vogue. For thousands of years now, whether for religious, spiritual or medical reasons, the premise for fasting is to allow the body to rest from ingesting all sorts of unhealthy foods and to allow it to "detox."

While some people forego all food during their fasts, some ease into it or do it with liquid diets. I wanted to do a one-day juice fast with other liquids thrown in, like soy milk and yogurt (a no-no for some vegan fasting regimens since yogurt is a dairy product).

But I wanted to do the fast and I thought, it's my fast and what the heck, I'll do it my way. In any case, since I'd eaten that morning (the unfortunate result of hemming and hawing before I decided to push through with my fast), I recalibrated my 24-hour fast to last from lunch of Saturday to lunch of Sunday.

I wanted to do a juice-by-color fast, starting with red. I road tested the Avance Juicer from Philips and threw in tomatoes, carrots, a red apple and an orange. I'd wanted to do red (tomatoes, red apple and beets) and orange (carrots and oranges) separately, but in a moment of confusion, laziness and realization that I had no beets (good for liver detox) on hand, just threw the reds and oranges in.

The large entry tube allows users to just throw in the fruits or veggies without pre-slicing. The Avance comes with two settings for soft and hard items. The juicer is really powerful with its 800-watt motor. I realized too late why the pitcher came with a cover--the juice comes out pretty strongly. If you get this juicer, trust me, place the lid on the pitcher before you turn the machine on.

Clean up
Clean-up is easier compared to another kind of juicer that I'd been using. The upside down sieve detaches together with the blade-disc with one pull. I found this very convenient because with my old juicer, you had to remove the blade-disc with this weird screw that came with the juicer and it was a hassle to screw back in.

The pulp is collected in a donut-shaped bin for easy disposal. The bin collects the equivalent pulp for up to 2.5 liters of juice, good for when making juices for your entire family or a group of friends.

Some people use fruit pulp for mixing with pancake or pastry batter for fiber, color and a bit of flavor. Vegetable pulp can be used for soups, stuffing or extenders for meat dishes.

Since my attempts at baking have never come out well and the weather was too humid for making soup, I threw the pulp out into the small patch of garden that we had. I thought I was being smart by helping enrich the soil, until the ants arrived.

For those who have a dishwasher, you can dump all the removable parts in.

Missing enzymes, missing cucumbers
Merienda was a can of pineapple juice (the kind with pulp and enriched fiber), not the kind made from concentrate, and yogurt. (Note to self: next time I do a juice fast, I really should prepare more thoroughly and acquire the fruits instead of the canned juices.)

Juicing purists frown upon canned, bottled or boxed juices because these are usually treated, pasteurized or sterilized, therefore, the enzymes that are beneficial for the body would have been destroyed.

Thus, the thrust towards fresh juices. In fact, they recommend drinking the juice immediately after juicing, before the enzymes degrade into nothingness.

Throughout the afternoon and evening, whenever I got thirsty or hungry or got cravings, I would drink plain water or soy milk. At one strange craving moment that night, I sucked on a piece of kiamoy and waved my arms above my head while jumping up and down to distract myself. (Not recommended unless you have a sense of humor and family members who are used to your antics.) It worked.

For dinner, I was planning on having my green juice using the spinach leaves, kangkong leaves and cucumbers in the ref and a packet of wheatgrass powder. I don' t know what kind of mysterious dimension I was thrown in but, first, I couldn't find my wheatgrass sachets. Second, I don't know what happened to the cucumber, because all I saw that night was an ampalaya.

I tried to be creative and added a pinch of rock salt and a dash of apple cider vinegar. "A soup-juice! Super healthy and delicious!" I thought to myself. Unfortunately, I don't remember how delicious it was because I gulped this one down fast.

But really, one should not have to suffer through a juice fast or any kind of juice concoction. If you don't like the taste of a fruit or vegetable, either leave it out of your mix or just put pieces of it so you can still get its nutrients while "masking" its taste with other ingredients.

Otherwise, you can simply search the Internet for juice recipes. The Avace blender also comes with a recipe booklet that you can use.

A few hours before bed, I had an apple cider vinegar and honey drink. No growling, hungry stomach nor cravings.

The following morning, a yellow juice comprised of lemons, peaches and a bit of ginger. The fragrance of the lemon and the sharpness of the ginger was a nice zesty wake-upper. (And yes, this time, I threw the pulp into the garbage instead of the garden.) I continued the fast until lunchtime and that was that.

Most people rush through fasts and diets, but really, why not see a fast as the start (instead of a be-all and end-all event) of sustained healthier eating behavior? I'd still use ampalaya for future juices, but maybe I won't dump the whole thing into the juicer next time.

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REVIEW: Theaterbatoring two awit-based productions: Tanghalang Ateneo's "Sintang Dalisay" and Gantimpala Theater's "Florante at Laura"

thoughts on two awit-based productions:
tanghalang ateneo's "sintang dalisay" and gantimpala theater's "florante at laura"
by walter ang
aug. 7, 2012

i recently caught two productions that were based on awit. awit is a form of filipino narrative poetry with dodecasyllabic (12 syllables per line) quatrains (4 lines per stanza).

ta's "sintang dalisay" is based on the awit "ang sintang dalisay ni julieta at romeo" (the pure love of julieta and romeo) by g.d. roke (1901). this awit is, in turn, based on william shakespeare's "romeo and juliet" (circa 1590s), among other versions of the story. ricky abad and guelan luarca have devised a staging script using national artist for theater rolando tinio's tagalog translation to supplement the plotline of roke's awit.

while shakespeare's play is set in verona, director abad resets the story in a fictional philippine southern muslim location and uses igal, a traditional dance of the indigenous sama-bajau people of mindanao, as its movement motif.

gt's "florante at laura" is based the awit "pinagdaanang buhay nina florante at laura sa kahariang albanya ..." (the life of florante at laura in the kingdom of albania ..." by francisco balagtas (1838), adapted by bonifacio ilagan and directed by roeder camañag using the staging conventions of komedya. not to be mistaken as the tagalized translation of "comedy," komedya is the performance/theater form evolved and indigenized from spain's "comedia de capa y espada" (cloak and sword drama) and "comedia de santo" (drama about saints), evangelizing tools used by spanish colonizers.

gt's use of komedya staging conventions is an interesting endeavor in that it aims to show audiences how this particular form used to be done. the "non-realistic, externalized" (i.e. exaggerated, declamatory) acting style and mustra (hand and body gestures) are not too difficult to accept, as the actors give off a performance vibe that, while hammy and hokey, kind of feels as if one was watching a children's play.

however, the entrances and exits where actors march on to and off the stage are distracting and interrupt momentum (it does not help that the music used for these marches stay the same regardless of the tone of the scene). and the paseo (pass-in-review) portions, where characters do geometric formations like circles, Xs, or figures of 8s, feel clumsy and look ill-choreographed/poorly executed.

(and do students in ancient greece, even if they are from royal stock, all wear immaculately white tunics? all with gold trim? and with white leggings?)

ta's reconfigured locale and cultural context works and brings the material closer to home. its igal-based movement lends a visually pleasing kinetic layer to the text, though the production could scale it back a bit.

companions who watched with me had these two observations: (1) the hand and arm gestures, though novel in the beginning, loses its potency because almost every single line comes with the gestures; (2) the male actors need work on their shoulder movements ("it's supposed to be an up-and-down motion, not 'shake, body body dancer,'" said one.) and they lack masculinity in their demeanor ("this play is still, at its core, about men and women. the movement should reflect that," said the other.)

i'm ambivalent about the continuous use of hand gestures all throughout and i'm not an expert on dance, so i can't tell if the shoulder movements were correct or not, but i didn't mind so much that the men and women didn't have distinct movement vocabularies. i felt it was a softer (and fresh) take in relation to the love/gender dynamic. perhaps even a more "eastern" or "asian" take versus more "western" notions of masculine and feminine physicality. and when divisions of love loom so largely as a theme, uniformity (not necessarily unison) in movement seems an interesting counterpoint.

here and there, then and now
beyond production values and executions per se, it's the staging choices that interest me. how does one take material written in and set in a different time, and set in foreign locations, and make it work for today, for filipino audiences?

we have, on one hand, a british playwright who wrote a play set in verona (italy), whose work was adapted into an awit by roke (nationality unknown), whose work has been reset back into a play by abad and guelan, (re)set in a philippine muslim locale, staged by manileños portraying their southern counterparts.

on the other hand, we have a filipino playwright who set his komedya in europe (the story spans albania, greece and crotone, even has a character from epirus, and has turks and persians as invading enemies) being staged by present day manileños using an old staging form derived from the spanish.

ta's staging takes its material to a fictitious and "timeless" locale and infuses it with a "non-realistic" movement. gt retains the foreign locale and attempts to replicate old(er) staging devices that also have "non-realistic" movement.

ta's "sintang" is able to make connections with its audience perhaps because it uses devices audiences are familiar with.  gt's "florante," unfortunately, is a challenge to enjoy, perhaps because the devices it chose to use are (now) unfamiliar and harder to appreciate.

plot and familiarity
the awit "sintang dalisay" is based on a play (and ta's version still uses the play as an anchor to stage the awit) while the awit "florante at laura" was not written with the objective of being staged. setting aside issues of engaging plot and/or structure*, let's explore familiarity as an aspect of relatability.

is it easier to relate to a production (and, therefore, easier to like it) if you are (somewhat more) familiar with the material (before you go watch a staging)?

(some) audiences are familiar with "romeo and juliet" because of movies and occasional pop culture references. (most) filipino audiences should be at least familiar with the plot of "florante at laura" because it's required reading in high school.

and here lies the question: in this particular round of "romeo and juliet" versus "florante at laura," are we filipinos more familiar with (and therefore, can relate better to) a foreign playwright's work (because it's easier to watch a two-hour movie version; because there are more versions of it floating around in the world; because theater groups will always find a way to stage shakespeare) than one of our own (because who can honestly read an awit just for fun these days?; because why hasn't any movie producer made a new version for contemporary audiences to enjoy?; because, aside from "canonical" stagings of "florante at laura," who else explores other ways of staging it?)?

i don't know the answer(s), though for possible non-sequitur answers, we can quote both shakespeare and balagtas, kekeke.

shakespeare: "the play's the thing."

balagtas (my sophomore high school filipino teacher required us to memorize the second stanza of "florante at laura" and for some reason, i still remember it to this day, kekeke.):

kung sa biglang tingi'y bubot at masaklap
palibhasa'y hilaw at mura ang balat
ngunit kung namnamin ang sa lamang lasap,
masasarapan din ang babasang pantas.

[eng. translation by patricia jurilla]
at a glance, this may look unripe and sour,
because its rind is still green and immature,
but when savoured, the taste of its meat
will be enjoyed even by the discriminating reader.

[*shakespeare's "romeo and juliet" has love, street fights, family fueds, poison, missed communications, etc., elements that would be at home in a teleserye. (and his general use of major romantic couples supported by comic sidekick couples as a device in his other works is used in many a teleserye, too). balagtas' "florante at laura" is epic in scope, has romance, travel, battle scenes, intrigue, court politics, etc., also elements that would be at home in a teleserye. or even an animated film!]

REVIEW: Theaterbatoring "God of Carnage"

thoughts on atlantis productions' "god of carnage"
by walter ang
july 24, 2012 

Image from the interwebs.
morag cook's set design for "god of carnage" (for state theatre company of south australia's 2010 production) features a swath of red floor-to-ceiling wall treatment that merges with a swath of wall-to-wall red carpet, evoking a waterfall of blood flowing continuously into a river.

for the 2012 manila production by atlantis productions, lawyn cruz's set design shows a slight reconfiguration of the wall treatment into a framed large-scale red wall installation comprised of tightly packed blocks in varying degrees of thickness.  things do not flow so easily here, it seems to say.  instead, it's now choppy waters in a pool. the carpet is also now a square in the middle of the room. blood trapped in a boxing ring.

and that's how the evening's assaults are foreshadowed in this staging of yasmina reza's hilarious play of two couples who meet to resolve a physical altercation between their respective sons: things are going to get bloody. and no one will escape.

(a side observation on the "internationalness" of this production: it's written by a french playwright, translated into english by an english (as in, united kingdom) playwright--with an adjusted version for the usa (versus uk) audience.  the manila production uses the usa version, has a set design reconfigured from an australian production, has filipinos and one singaporean in the cast, has just had its run in manila, and will run in singapore.  but i digress.)

alan (art acuña) and annette (menchu lauchengco-yulo)'s son had hit michael (adrian pang) and veronica (lea salonga)'s son with a stick. the latter couple invites the former couple over to their home.

if you didn't know anything about the rest of the play, the set design and the first few lines about missing teeth and exposed nerves should clue you in nicely. the introductory scoring, an orchestral version of black eyed peas' "i gotta feeling" is also a funny, ironic clue. tonight's gonna be a good night? we'll see.

the set-up of two couples in a living room recalls edward albee's "who's afraid of virginia woolf," though this play is far less daunting and there are no menacing revelations (only a lot of menacing posturing). it also makes one think of oscar wilde's "the importance of being earnest," only in this play, being earnest isn't what's most important. instead, director bobby garcia plays off the text's farcical aspects and highlights the physical comedy bits.  the loudest audience reaction was for stage business involving a body fluid ending up on stage. and its tenuous clean-up.

clipped pace
garcia's guided the actors through a clipped pace as they plow through their lines, punches, and punchlines at around 80 minutes.  the cast are adept in their roles, though it is pang (michael), with his spot-on timing, who milks the funny parts and gets the loudest, longest, and most laughs. (though, a small quibble, the lead-up to a line where he asserts his inner caveman is a bit wanting, leaving the potentially iconic line somewhat of a throw away.)

acuña imbues his role with a slight brooklyn inflection that stays consistent and he maintains alan's aloof disinterest of the evening's proceedings.  lauchengco-yulo looks like she's secretly having the most fun among the four actors, spending much of the time portraying annette in various degrees of physical and mental distress.  salonga's straightforward attack on her role anchors the room together since, as veronica, she is the evening's primary antagonist-who-just-won't-quit.

it's so easy to hate the four characters. so easy to agree and disagree with them all. and so easy laugh at them all. but then, isn't that always the case when one watches a comedy of manners? we laugh because what we see on stage is true, we laugh because the ones we see onstage are us.

the way we are
it is because of this relatability to the characters--while it would be easy to describe the characteristics that define them (alan is a snarky, brutish lawyer. veronica is an arrogant, self-righteous writer. michael is a passive-aggressive business owner and macho man-wannabe. annette is, well, she's drunk.)--that we are led to think about how much of the way we describe these characters, and who we side with during the play, is ultimately a reflection (and admission?) of the way we see things, the way we think, the way we are.

because in this play, as the characters espouse, expound and then skewer their opinions of each other, themselves, and the world, we're not sure who to like or hate anymore towards the end.  is the laywer really snarky? or he's just telling it like it is? is the writer really self-righteous? or is she really right? (you realize midway that the evening, really, is a conversation between these two and the other two are just kind of comic relief.)

reza lets her characters touch on notions of (springing from the dialogue about teeth) veneers and exposed nerves. the roles we are expected to play out in public versus what we really think and feel, the way we see things and the way other people see us, and how big (like that wall installation) these roles can become if we let them.

in this living room, we bear witness to reza's contemplations and iterations on class versus classy, of stereotypes and archetypes and the immovable truths beneath them, of gender roles, of marital roles, of parenting roles, of nice guys/gals and assholes.  reza's lines and ideas, from desserts to lethal medications, from fights in a playground close by to genocide in a land far away, at turns, magnify the inconsequential and trivialize the important, and questions everything in between.

in these arguments reza has constructed, she builds momentum and suspense, and then constantly interrupts the proceedings in order to set up another round. the elliptical looping allows us to see more onstage comedy, and it's also purposefully telling us, oh so slyly, that this is the kind of circular, unending ridiculousness we seem to be trapped in, by choice or circumstance, in our lives. ("and we'll do it all again," sings the black eyed peas.)

the evening goes on and we laugh at the shenanigans on stage. then reza drops the bomb with a poignant scene that makes the characters (and, okay, maybe us, the audience, too) realize that, when the god of carnage pays us a visit, no matter what it is you're fighting about and how you're going on about it, the worth of the fight notwithstanding, sometimes you need remember why you're fighting and/or who you're fighting for in the first place.  and before the scene crosses the line into melodrama, reza knocks it out it with a final punchline. and it sure packs a funny and ironic wallop.

atlatnis productions and singapore repertory theatre's "god of carnage" runs in singapore nov. 6-18, 2012 at dbs arts centre, 20 merbau road, singapore. tickets available at

Campus theater groups bare 2012-2013 lineup

Campus theater groups bare 2012-2013 lineup
By Walter Ang
July 23, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Noli Me Tangere: The Opera
For its 37th season, Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas opens with a restaging of last season’s “Noli Me Tangere: The Opera,” a retelling of José Rizal’s novel with music composed by National Artist for Music Felipe Padilla de Leon and libretto by National Artist for Visual Arts Guillermo Tolentino.

Directed by DUP artistic director Alexander Cortez with music direction by Camille Lopez Molina, “Noli” opened July 18 and runs until Aug. 12. It serves as DUP’s tribute to Padilla de Leon’s birth centennial.

This is followed by Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull/Ang Tagak,” Sept. 19-Oct. 7. “The play is an intimate study of unrequited love and human folly,” says Cortez.

Directed by Tony Mabesa, the play will have English performances using David Mamet’s translation and Filipino performances using National Artist for Theater Rolando Tinio’s translation.

Umaaraw, Umuulan Kinakasal ang Tikbalang
Meanwhile, UP Playwright’s Theater, DUP’s series that stages new works by Filipino playwrights, will restage its children’s play from last season, “Umaaraw, Umuulan Kinakasal ang Tikbalang,” on Nov. 21-Dec. 9.

“This play is a reminder of the richness of our folk literature and the importance of taking care of the environment,” says Cortez.

The play is adapted by Rody Vera from Inquirer contributing writer Gilda Cordero Fernando’s children’s short story “The Magic Circle” (serialized in PDI’s Learning Section in 2009) with direction by José Estrella.

The season concludes with the world premiere of Floy Quintos’ “Collection,” a black comedy about fashion and art. To be directed by Dexter Santos, the play runs Feb. 13-Mar. 3, 2013.

Dulaang UP is under the University of the Philippines’ Department of Speech Communication and Theater Arts, which offers certificate and degree programs in Theater Arts. The group also stages its students’ thesis productions under its Dulaang Laboratoryo series throughout the year.

All productions will be staged at Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, Palma Hall, University of the Philippines, Quezon City. (Call tel. 9261349, 9818500 loc. 2449 or 4337840.)

Harlequin Theater Guild
Si Tonying at ang Mahiwagang Aklat ng Kasaysayan
De La Salle University’s Harlequin Theater Guild opens its 46th season in August with “DuLa Salle,” its annual festival of plays. This year’s “DuLa Salle” will feature the staging of four plays based on short stories by Genaro Gojo-Cruz in one show.

“Two of the plays portray the hardships and struggles of an employee, while the other two depict life on the streets. This production will dwell mostly on social problems existing in our country,” says HTG artistic director Romualdo “Raffy” Tejada.

In October, the group will restage last season’s “Si Tonying at ang Mahiwagang Aklat ng Kasaysayan” by José Victor Torres, a play about a young boy’s quest to fix history after it has been mixed up.

The season concludes in March 2013 with HTG’s staging of “The Sky over Dimas,” adapted by Tim Dacanay from the novel by Vicente Groyon, about Rafael Torrecarion’s return to his hometown in Negros Occidental and the “web of long-buried secrets that preserve and threaten the foundations of his family.”

Productions will be staged at venues in De La Salle University, Manila. (Call tel. 0917-8062891 or

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DLSU concludes centennial with performances

DLSU concludes centennial with performances
By Walter Ang
June 11, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

De La Salle University concludes its centennial school year (2011-2012) with the inauguration of a new eco-friendly building and with the staging of two productions.

On June 15, the Henry Sy Sr. Centennial Hall will have its blessing. That same day, there will be a performance of "Cultura Verde" at the building's lobby, a showcase featuring different student and faculty dance, chorale and orchestra groups from all 17 Lasallian schools.

The day ends with a concert, "Lasallianation," directed by alumnus singer and TV personality Randy Santiago. Theater actors Gian Magdangal and Carlo Orosa are just two of several guest alumni performers.

Designed by Leandro Locsin Partners with interiors by Ascuncion-Berenguer, the building is named for retail magnate Henry Sy Sr., whose donation jumpstarted its construction.

Symbolizing the university's "continuous and growing role in Philippine education," the building's design has been anchored on the idea of a "habitable tree." Pillars punctuate the ground level like tree trunks holding up a canopy and aluminum fins that serve as cladding evoke stylized leaf blades.

"The concept represents the university as nurturing," says DLSU president and chancellor Br. Narciso Erguiza Jr. "As well as showing the university's commitment to environmental responsibility and sustainability."

It will be the first academic structure to be rated with the Philippine Green Building Council's Building Ecologically Responsive Design Excellence (Berde) standard, a measure of how "environment-friendly" a structure is, similar to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standard developed in the US.

Emphasis was placed on reducing the energy requirements of the building.

Solar panels will be located on the roof to convert sunlight into electricity for the building. Aside from providing a view of Manila Bay, the roof deck features a multipurpose gazebo amid a garden. "It's partially covered with plants to improve the building's insulation."

The building will have a rainwater collecting system that stores rainwater to be used for flushing toilets. "Used water from sinks will also be collected and treated for reuse in toilets."

To control the building's microclimate more efficiently, windows will have double-glazed glass which reduces the heat transfer between the building's internal and external environments.

The aluminum fins lining the building's sides that face the sun's path are not merely decorative. They're positioned to redirect diffused daylight into the building while reducing the building's direct heat gain. "It will allow us to use less artificial lighting during the day."

The 15-story structure has earmarked most of its floors for a learning commons, which will include the university's library and areas for "relaxation and interaction," to serve the university's average 17,000 students, faculty and staff every school year.

The university's library started operations in 1956 with barely 10,000 books. Through the years, it has acquired up to more than 235,000 titles.

It houses a collection of Filipino-American writer Bienvenido Santos's mementos and a mumismatic collection donated by philatelist Felipe Liao that contains items used as currency from the pre-Spanish era until the 1990s.

"The aim is to have one million books in the Learning Commons. There will be 48 small discussion rooms, as well as `quiet rooms,' reading rooms, meeting rooms and even a bean bag area."

In addition, there will be pocket indoor gardens, outdoor reading areas and wide-open spaces. "These areas are meant to support creativity and engage learners to generate new ideas."

The university's registrar's office, admissions office, and accounting and finance office will all be relocated to this building to provide centralized access to students.

"With the Henry Sy Sr. Centennial Hall, we have a new icon that will be another symbol of our commitment to serve as a resource for God and country," says Erguiza. "We look forward to seeing more scholars walk in this hall with passion, energy, and the desire and commitment to national development."

Founded in 1911 in Paco before moving to its current location in Malate, the university is the first of 17 schools in the country run by the De La Salle Brothers of the Philippines, a Roman Catholic teaching congregation founded in France by Saint Jean-Baptiste de la Salle with schools all over the world.

"Cultura Verde" is on June 15, 6 p.m. at the Henry Sy Sr. Centennial Hall; "Lasallianation" is at 8 p.m. at Teresa Yuchengco Auditorium. Call 5244611 loc. 107 or e-mail

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July kicks off Ateneo theater groups' 2012-2013 line-up

July kicks off Ateneo theater groups' 2012-2013 line-up
‘Romeo and Juliet’ in Tagalog by Rolando Tinio goes on stage
By Walter Ang
July 16, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Sintang Dalisay
Two student theater groups of Ateneo de Manila University announce their season line-ups for schoolyear 2012-2013.

Tanghalang Ateneo opens its 34th season in August with a restaging of "Sintang Dalisay," an awit (metrical romance poetry using dodesyllabic or 12-syllable verse) version of William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" using translations by G.D. Roke and National Artist for Literature Rolando Tinio.

Romeo and Juliet are now Rashiddin and Jamila, star-crossed lovers living in Sempurna, a fictional Islamic community, and fleeing from family and the law to keep their love alive.

Directed by TA artistic director Ricky Abad, the production uses igal, a traditional dance of the indigenous Sama-Bajau people of Mindanao, as its movement and choreography motif.

Sets and costumes designed by National Artist for Theater Design Salvador Bernal, with this production being one of the last works completed by Bernal before his demise last year.

Before its Manila run, the group will perform "Sintang Dalisay" in Minsk, Belarus for the 9th World Congress of the International University Theater Association.  After its run in Manila, there are plans to tour the production in Naga and Baguio, as well as Sarawak, Borneo. "Funds permitting," says Abad.

The group has been invited to perform Suzue Toshiro's "Fireflies," which it staged for its previous season, for the Asia-Pacific Festival of Theater Schools in Taipei in August.

The play, about several characters are on a lonely search for connection and compassion in contemporary Japanese society, is directed by Abad and BJ Crisostomo using the English translation by David Goodman.

In September, TA will stage "4Play," a showcase of directorial works by four recent graduates of the university's Bachelor of Fine Arts Major in Theater Arts (which has concentrations in disciplines such as acting, directing or production design).

The production will feature "Bubbled," a devised work based on Japanese author Haruki Murakami's short story "Silence;" an adaptation of Christopher Durang "An Actor's Nightmare"; "Untitled," an improvisational concept piece based on Jackson Pollock's paintings; and B.J. Crisostomo's allegory "Penitensiya."

The season concludes in January 2013 with the group's staging of "The Conference of the Birds," a play based on a Persian poem.  To be directed by Ron Capdinding, the play is about a nation of birds facing a crisis and learning to conquer the fear that almost ruined their beloved country.

From a previous staging of
Ang Sistema ni Propesor Tuko.
Image from the Interwebs.
Ateneo Enterteyment para sa Tao, Bayan, Lansangan at Diyos (Entablado) opens its 30th season in July with a twinbill of Tomas Remigio's "Mga Santong Tao" and Al Santos' "Ang Sistema ni Propesor Tuko," both comedies.

"'Ang Sistema' is about Professor Tuko's decrepit teaching methods and how his students put a stop to his authoritarian methods," says Entablado artistic director Jethro Tenorio.  "'Santong Tao' is about how Titay outsmarts three powerful suitors."

Directed by Richard "Morny" de Guzman, production design by Martin Malabanan, and lights design by Miyo Sta. Maria.

In January 2013, the group will stage the Ilonggo epic "Labaw Donggon" adapted by Nicanor Tiongson and to be directed by Jerry Respeto.

"This is actually a fragment of a much longer epic 'Hinilawod,'" says Tenorio.  "The hero Labaw Donggon journeys to finding his maiden and battles Saragnayan, the Keeper of Light."

Their season concludes with a street theater festival in February 2013.  The festival will feature a competition between different organizations from inside and outside the university focused on creating plays based on the advocacy in the form Street Theater.

For Tanghalang Ateneo, contact 426-6001 loc. 5427, 0917-856-0787.  For Entablado, contact 0917-829-1714 or

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