Fil-Am kids' choir sings carols in Chicago science museum

Fil-Am kids' choir sings carols in Chicago science museum
By Walter Ang
Dec. 24, 2015

Filipino American children sang popular Christmas carols, both beloved English and Tagalog songs, and danced at the Museum of Science and Industries in Chicago.

More than 30 children performed as part of the museum's annual Christmas Around The World program that features performances by different ethnicities from November to December.

The Philippine contingent was composed of Philippine American Cultural Foundation (PACF) Performing Arts group and folk fusion band Samasama Project.

Led by Lou Maningas Cabalona and her husband Baron Lloyd, Samasama, which means "united, together" in Tagalog, performs a blend of Filipino folk, rock, ska and Latin music.

(From left) Baron and Lou Cabalona rehearsing children's choir.
The couple have been teaching PACF's youth performing arts group for the annual Christmas show since 2008.

"We sang 'Payapang Daigdig,' `Sa Paskong Darating' and 'Ang Pasko Ay Sumapit,'" says Cabalona.

"More than half the choir do not speak Tagalog so it was a pleasant surprise that they picked up the songs fast."

"We also sang fun versions of 'Frosty the Snowman' and 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.'"

The children also performed folk dances such as the mazurka Boholana, kasaganaan and tinikiling.

They carried parols and candles in a procession symbolizing the Simbang Gabi tradition of anticipating the birth of Jesus Christ.

Maningas says they feel fulfilled when they spur Fil-Am youth's appreciation for music and Filipino culture. "When we celebrate our music, our traditions, our food, our history and our people, we hope to inculcate in Filipino Americans, young and old, a love for our rich heritage."

Michelle Delson, cultural coordinator for PACF Performing Arts group, says that volunteer parents and older members teach the younger dancers.

To book Sama Sama Project go to

Info on Chicago-based Philippine American Cultural Foundation at

When Robbie Guevara and Peachy Atilano got engaged in Edinburgh

When Robbie and Peachy got engaged in Edinburgh
By Walter Ang
Dec. 12, 2015
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Robbie Guevara and Peachy Atilano first met at a Repertory Philippines summer workshop in 2007.

He taught a class on musical theater and she assisted.

"At the end of the showcase recital, I joked that she was my 'new girlfriend.' Little did I know that I was going to make that real!" says Guevara, laughing.

"It wasn't difficult to get  attracted to her," he adds. "She's talented, very cute and pretty, and had a bubbly personality that I had never encountered with any other girl before."

Atilano has a slightly different recollection. "I was really scared of him because he was so sungit. But when I got to know him more, I can say that he's really a kid at heart."

Next step
They became a couple for the next eight years. Last summer, Guevara decided to pop the question when 9 Works Theatrical (9WT), of which he is founding artistic director, took its first-ever international company outing to the United Kingdom.

"Edinburgh is my most favorite city. I find it really beautiful. When our group got to Edinburgh, I knew it had to be there," he says.

He secretly signaled his friends and they went through the motions of posing for a group souvenir photo with the castle as a backdrop. "The phone was already set to record in video," he says.

Atilano was excited to get to the castle, walking ahead of the group. "They made everyone pause for a picture, then Robbie knelt. I thought he was going to tie his shoelace. Then suddenly there was a ring in front of me!"

Guevara posted the video on his Facebook account to the joy and thrill of the theater community. In the video, Guevara asked, as he was about to place the ring on Atilano's hand, "Right ba o left?"

"I was quite in shock for a while," Atilano says. "I think I just froze trying to process what was happening. Eventually, we went to see the Scottish Crown Jewels with my own jewel on my finger."

Acting bug
When he was still in college, Guevara went to the Rep office to buy tickets to a show and they were asked to audition. Two weeks later, he was cast in "Arsenic and Old Lace."

"I got in with a minor role, got bitten by the bug and never left," he says.

He currently appears in Rep's "The Secret Garden" and last directed 9WT's "La Cage aux Folles."

Atilano thanks Hollywood's  Katie Holmes for her introduction to theater. "There was an episode in 'Dawson's Creek' where she sang 'On My Own.' The performance wasn't entirely moving, but I really liked the song and it got me hooked on musical theater."

She went on to take summer acting workshops and started working as a professional actor after college. Her recent stage credits include 9WT's "They're Playing Our Song" and "Grease" (as a very funny Frenchy), and Trumpets' "The Bluebird of Happiness."

The pair has shared the stage in Resorts World Manila's "The Sound of Music" and Rep's "Mulan."

"Mostly I've been her director in her shows," says Guevara. When asked who the director is in their relationship, he replies, laughing, "I like to think it's me, but she can get her way, too, most of the time. I have to admit I learn a lot from her despite her being much younger."

Atilano says, smiling, "When we're together, most of the time I'm the one who ends up scolding him for being such a kid. I like how smart his ideas are and how awesome he is as a teacher, a director, an artist and as a person."

9 Works
The workshop where Guevara and Atilano first met did not only produce a relationship between them, it also spurred Guevara to establish 9WT.

The recital for the workshop students was "The Wedding Singer," based on the Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore movie. He and good friend Santi Santamaria liked the show so much that they wanted to mount it on their own. Guevara would handle directing duties and Santamaria would be in charge of ticket sales.

The group's inaugural production was "Songs for a New World" in 2009, followed by "Rent" and "The Wedding Singer" in 2010.

Come 2016, the group's lineup includes "Tick, Tick...Boom!" by Jonathan Larson, the creator of "Rent"; "American Idiot," a jukebox musical using the music of punk-rock band Green Day; "The Wiz," a soul/R&B version of "The Wizard of Oz"; and a new original Filipino musical.

9WT is also staging a coproduction of "50 Shades! The Musical Parody" in February and is holding its annual theater workshop Stage Camp in the summer.

"50 Shades! The Musical Parody" opens Feb. 12, 2016, at Carlos Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza Bldg, Makati. Visit

Visit and like on Facebook (9workstheatrical). link:

'Miss Saigon's' Jon Jon Briones is off to Broadway

'Miss Saigon's' Jon Jon Briones is off to Broadway
By Walter Ang
Dec. 5, 2015
Philippine Daily Inquirer

From Quezon City to Broadway, with the West End in between. That appears to be the journey of Jon Jon Briones, who will be making his Broadway debut in 2017 as the Engineer in the revival of the musical "Miss Saigon."

Producer Cameron Mackintosh has confirmed that the West End production at the Prince Edward Theatre will close on February 2016 and will transfer to Broadway in 2017.

"This is going to be my Broadway debut, and I'll be turning 51 by that time," says Briones. "Goes to show you that it's never too late for dreams to come true."

Briones had known about the transfer for some time now. "We finished negotiations for Broadway last month but even though I was expecting the announcement to happen, it's still exciting and wonderful to read it in all the news outlets."

"Miss Saigon" returned to the West End in May 2014 with record-breaking advance ticket sales.

His performance has been met with raves. The Telegraph called it "memorably seedy"; The Guardian, comparing him with Jonathan Pryce who originated the role, said his Engineer was "an even grubbier, sleazier figure who is the victim of both his background and pathetic fantasies"; and New York Times hailed his "diminutive presence with a slithery, sleazy command that brings home the sardonic second-act showstopper, 'The American Dream.'"

When it premiered in 1989, the musical thrust Filipino actors into the international theater scene. Lea Salonga and Monique Wilson were cast as alternates for the titular character Kim, a Vietnam war orphan who falls in love with an American soldier during the final days of the American occupation.

The current London revival features Filipino-American Eva Noblezada as Kim, with Filipino actresses Tanya Manalang as alternate for Kim and Rachelle Ann Go as Gigi. Noblezada will be part of the Broadway transfer.

Briones was part of the ensemble in the original production at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. He subsequently landed the role of the Engineer in Germany (where he met his wife Megan), and for a US tour, an Asian tour, a Manila production and a UK tour.

Born and raised in Quezon City, Briones has since relocated to Los Angeles, where his wife and two children also work as actors (

After his stint with the original London production of "Miss Saigon," he acted in several Repertory Philippines productions such as the Lion in "The Wiz" and Enjolras in "Les Misérables."

Before he joined the London revival last year, he was involved in the pre-Broadway development of the musical "Allegiance" with Lea Salonga. He's also done TV work, with guest roles in shows like "Sons of Anarchy," "Bones," "The Mentalist," and "Monk."

During the break from March 2016 onwards before he debuts at the Great White Way, Briones says he will keep himself busy: "Actors don't really go on holidays unless they are really successful and can afford to just take the time off. So, as soon as I get back to LA, I go straight to what actors do-audition and go to acting classes."

He adds: "If there is nothing going on, my family and I will take our convertible and just drive somewhere nice and take a couple of days away." link: