Fil-Canadian Anthony Raymond Yu directs queer staging of 'Dog Sees God'

June 28, 2017

TORONTO  Filipino Canadian Anthony Raymond Yu has founded a new theater company, rejznkliv, and is directing a queer and colored staging of "Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead" for its inaugural production.

Anthony Raymond Yu

Bert Royal's dark comedy imagines familiar characters from the Peanuts comic strip as teenagers dealing with issues from identity to sexual abuse.

While the original comic spawned a musical, "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," and a recent animated film, "The Peanuts Movie," this particular play is pegged as an "unauthorized parody."

The production will be performed for the Hamilton Fringe Festival. This year's festival features more than 40 groups staging musicals, dance, comedies, magic shows, dramas and family entertainment in more than 300 performances across 11 days in the downtown Hamilton area.


"The direction I'm taking it in is pretty different from the ones I've heard of and seen," Yu says.

"What's neat about the script is that, except for one word, nothing indicates what each character's race should be.

Yu stages a queer and colored "Dog Sees God."

"I've cast actors who are mostly of color, with the majority of them identifying with the LGBTQ+ community."

Out of the cast of eight, four are ethnic minorities: Filipina, Jamaican and Vietnamese; and six identify with the Queer community. An actor of Indigenous Canadian heritage had originally been cast but had to drop out of the production.

"They'll bring the issue of same-sex relationships between ethnic minorities to the forefront, which you very rarely see in theater and film."


"As a gay director, I want to see people like me onstage, telling our story for the Queer community. I want us to know that we should never be held back because of our sexuality. I want us to be proud of who we are.

His theater company's name and its spelling "was inspired by the International Phonetic Alphabet spelling of my favorite English words: 'raze' and 'raise,' to destroy and to build, and 'cleave,' to cut apart or to stick together."

"I found it fascinating how a pair of words can sound the same, and yet mean their exact opposites. Along with inspiring the company name, these sets of words are the foundations of rejzndkliv's goal, which is to break down walls and build bridges to overcome what divides us and bring us together."


Born and raised in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, to Filipino immigrants, Yu was drawn to theater in high school, having acted in "The Wizard of Oz" and "Honk!"

He went on to study acting at Sheridan College and theatre and drama studies at University of Toronto and has since worked with groups such as Filipino Canadian theater company Carlos Bulosan Theatre.

He had noticed in his own experiences with auditions that, unless a company was looking to fill ethnically specific roles, Asians and other actors of color rarely showed up.

Stereotypes aside, he notes that gender and sexuality are not immediately known. "And of the queer people I've met at auditions and shows, very few are from ethnic minorities."

After sending out audition notices highlighting his search for these kinds of actors, the results gave him new insights to work with.


Yu reports that of the people who auditioned for his play "approximately 80 percent identified with the Queer community; only one identified as non-binary; none were trans; and no more than 25 percent were of ethnic minorities."

These statistics filled him with questions. "What prevents actors of underrepresented communities from auditioning? Are the methods of outreach inadequate? Could it be that some queer actors of color are not out due to cultural stigma, and auditioning for a queer play would immediately out them?"

He decided to open his criteria to include allies: "For actors who can't be open with their gender or sexuality, but wish to be among people they identify with."

"When it comes to playing gay characters and interracial couples, many ethnic communities still experience deep-seated homophobia. Although we can't change the script to address race and homophobia, I'm certain the presence of ethnic diversity and inclusion in queer theater will help start the conversation."

"Being a gay Filipino Canadian, I really want Filipinos and other people of color who identify with the Queer community to come see the show."

rejzndkliv's production of "Dog Sees God" runs July 20-30 at The Players' Guild of Hamilton, 80 Queen Street S., Hamilton, Ontario. Visit

How PJ Rebullida is training a band of actors to become high-kicking "Newsies"

June 24, 2017
Philippine Daily Inquirer

In 9 Works Theatrical's upcoming staging of "Newsies the Musical," only the book (script), lyrics and music must be followed. All other aspects of the show (direction; designs for costumes, set, lighting, etc.) must be created from scratch.

Patrick Rebullida

"We can't do what they did on Broadway," says the show's choreographer Patrick Rebullida. "We have to create and are required to have our own vision."

The musical is about boys who sell newspapers on the streets of 1899 New York City and their strike to challenge the low wages paid to them by publishers.

With music by Alan Menken ("Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast"), lyrics by Jack Feldman and book by Harvey Fierstein ("La Cage aux Folles," "Kinky Boots"), the musical is based on the 1992 Disney movie.


Rebullida's been working with director Robbie Guevara and the rest of the artistic team to build the show.

"We began by discussing who and where the newsies are in the whole scheme of things. Where do they come from? How do they live? What are all the aspects that led to a successful strike?"

"These kids are survivors, they are tough. They made the headlines by coming together and fighting a system that did not value them."

The performers who've been cast for the show -- a 21-member cast of "newsies" that include Gian Magdangal, Jef Flores and Ariel Reonal -- also have to be tough. They had to undergo and pass a six-week boot camp Rebullida put together that included ballet, jazz and gymnastics.

For fun

"I never meant to be a choreographer nor an artist." He directed and choreographed small and amateur shows when he was still in school, "but it was all just for fun and for extra-curricular events."

He'd geared himself for life in the corporate world, applied to an IT firm in Ortigas and promptly quit on his second day. "I couldn't take being cooped up in the office. I went to Megamall to watch a movie and soul search. There I saw a Triumphant People's Evangelistic Theater Society (Trumpets) Playshop poster for Adult Musical Theater."

Choreographer James Laforteza spotted him during the workshop and gave him a scholarship to take up jazz, ballet and modern dance at Steps Dance Studio. "The little boy who would make his friends dance to the 'Macarena' back then was always in me."

"I was old at 22 to even start, but with hard work and inspiring guidance, I became a full-fledged dancer."

He went on to perform for groups such as Repertory Philippines and Trumpets; and eventually danced for Ballet Philippines and Germany's Ballet Lüneburg.

He started choreographing while he was in Germany and continued to do so upon returning to Manila, working with groups such as Red Turnip and Stages.

He received the Philstage Gawad Buhay for outstanding choreography in a musical for 9 Works' "American Idiot." He'd competed against himself with another nomination for "A Christmas Carol."

Signature steps

He admits that the first few weeks of choreographing "Newsies" were difficult. "All the signature steps from the Broadway staging are off-limits. I had to provide my own solutions to the demands of the story."

He credits teamwork to paving the way. "The more we worked, the clearer the path became. The dancing must be driven by intent. What do we want to push forward?"

In addition to ballet and jazz movement, Rebullida is including tap and boxing moves into the dance vocabulary. Though he says even he doesn't know how it will turn out exactly just yet.

"We're still in the creative process. We might throw everything out after a week and go for something completely different."

"We're all excited. We want to put on a great show. Despite all the pressure, I'm taking my cue from the newsies: 'We will carry the banner, persist and seize the day!"

Daniel Bartolome is musical director; Ed Lacson, set designer; Eric Pineda, costume designer; Martin Esteva, lighting designer; GA Fallarme, video and projection designer; Myrene Santos, hair and makeup designer.

"Newsies the Musical" runs July 7-30 at Globe Iconic Store, Bonifacio High Street Amphitheater, Taguig. Visit or link


These boots are made for dancing: the Manila shoe studio that makes theater footwear

Atlantis Theatrical's 'Kinky Boots,' opening June 30, is just one of many local shows depending on one plucky shoemaking company in Cubao for its costume footwear

June 17, 2017
Philippine Daily Inquirer

How does a failing shoemaking factory save itself? By making stiletto-heeled boots for men.

The musical "Kinky Boots" is about cabaret performer and female impersonator Lola helping shoe factory owner Charlie Price keep his business afloat.

Wilson Shoes is fabricating the footwear for "Kinky Boots."
Photo by Alexis Corpuz.

Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group (ATEG)'s upcoming production of the musical will have Nyoy Volante as Lola and Laurence Mossman, originally from New Zealand, as Charlie.

The Tony-winning musical (including Best Musical and Best Score), with music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper and book by Harvey Fierstein, is based on the British film of the same title.

It starred Chiwetel Ejiofor ("Dr. Strange," "12 Years a Slave") as Lola and Joel Edgerton ("Revenge of the Sith," "Great Gatsby") as Charlie. The movie, in turn, was inspired by true events featured in a BBC2 documentary.

ATEG's founding artistic director Bobby Garcia helms the musical, with musical direction by Molinder Cadiz.

Costumes were originally to be designed by couturier Pepsi Herrera, who died earlier this year. He'd designed or co-designed costumes for Atlantis' "Jersey Boys," "Disney's Aladdin," "Addams Family" and "Rock of Ages."

Raven Ong stepped in to take over the task. Ong's recent credits include Repertory Philippines' "Alice in Wonderland" and "Producers," Atlantis' "Carrie," Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas' "Collection" and Red Turnip's "Closer."

In the musical, Charlie observes that existing high-heeled boots aren't constructed to hold a man's weight; working with the drag queen Lola, his factory switches from producing drab working men's boots to fab show footwear.

Wilson Shoes

In real life, fabricating the 48 pairs of shoes (17 pairs of dance shoes, 10 half boots and 21 thigh-high boots) for the cast fell into the hands of Alex Ng, head of Wilson Shoes-where his 20 shoemakers craft bespoke footwear.

Laurence Mossman and Nyoy Volante

Ng's father, Ng Tiam Tiong, founded Wilson Shoes in the late '70s. "After working as a sales agent for a big shoe factory, he decided to open his own," recalls the son. It supplied local stores like Shoemart (now SM) and Cinderella and even exported to clients abroad.

Mirroring the tenacity of the musical's factory, Wilson Shoes has had to adjust to market forces over the years and reinvent itself from factory to atelier. It eventually downsized and rechanneled its output to cater to theater, TV and movie productions. (It also services brides/grooms and wedding entourages, and fashion designers for their one-off couture shoes).

And just as Charlie inherits the factory from his father, the Ng siblings all learned the trade from their father. "It started when we were still young, helping make patterns, drawing designs, making molds, cleaning the shoes," says Alex.

Theater connection

The theater connection began with Ng's late eldest brother, for whom the factory was named. He'd started servicing TV and film celebrity clients and got to know Rep's founders Zeneida Amador and Baby Barredo, which led to building costume shoes for theater.

Wilson Shoes worker.
Photo by Alexis Corpuz.

Wilson Shoes' show credits span different time periods and cultures.

Fantasy? Check. They built the boots for various incarnations of Darna, from Anjanette Abayari and Nanette Medved to Angel Locsin and Marian Rivera.

Medieval? Check. Rep's "Camelot." American depression era? Resorts World Manila's "Annie." '70s disco? Platforms and chunky heels for Atlantis' "Saturday Night Fever."

Functional and fanciful? Army boots for "Cabaret" and "The Producers;" "glass" shoes embellished with real Austria Swarovski clear crystals for "Cinderella;" Native American moccasins for "Peter Pan," and gold slippers for "The King and I."

Let's not forget the nonhuman characters-ogre feet and donkey hooves for "Shrek" and enlarged clawed beast feet for "Beauty and the Beast."

It also did the shoes for Rep's recent 50th anniversary concert, "Rep: 50 Years of Telling Stories," and is crafting those for 9 Works Theatrical's "Newsies the Musical" (opens July 7).

Glittery and colorful

For "Kinky Boots," the titular footwear will be built to look "shiny, glittery and colorful based on Raven's designs," Ng says, listing materials such as leatherette, patent, snakeskin and embellishments like lace and crystals.

The challenge, he says, is to make the male actors' typically bigger feet and leg sizes fit into the silhouette of typically smaller ladies' thigh-high boots, and making sure the actors can dance in them.

"The toes are on platforms and the stiletto heels will be at least four inches. They have to be sturdy and strong."

Choreography by Cecile Martinez, set design by Faust Peneyra, lighting design by Adam Honoré, sound design by Kevin Heard, wig and makeup design by Johann dela Fuente.

READ previous coverage of Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group here.

"Kinky Boots" runs June 30-July 23 at Romulo Auditorium, 4/F RCBC Plaza, Makati City. Visit or link


Mail-Order Pride: Fil-Am baker sends Filipino pastries to foodies in the US

June 16, 2017

LAS VEGAS  First, a list of ingredients and flavors usually associated with the Philippines: mango, jackfruit, calamansi, pandan, tamarind, coconut, macapuno (gelatinous coconut meat), matamis sa bao (caramelized coconut jam), ube (purple yam), cashews and chocnut (peanut-milk chocolate bar).

Buko pandan caramel being piped on to sugar cookies. 

There are also egg or milk-based treats: leche flan (flan), yema (custard candy), dulce de leche (caramelized milk) and milk candies like powdery polvoron and chewy pastillas.

Second, a list of pastry vessels: cookies, cupcakes, poptarts, twinkies, snickerdoodles, madeleines. Non-pastry carriers include truffles, mallows, popcorn and lollipops.

Gregory "Greggy" Soriano combines one to two items from the first list into varying iterations with the second and sends them off to foodies in the US and Canada with his pastry subscription box service, Flip Crate.


"We love to change things up every month with exciting new treats," says Soriano, who was born in Glendora, California, to Filipino immigrants.

Greggy Soriano

He loves to come up with something new with each batch. Matamis sa bao (coco jam) brownies topped with pink Himalayan salt, anyone?

Soriano set up the business last year with his family. "We were inspired by all of the subscription services trending in the e-commerce world," he says.

"There are subscription boxes for make-up lovers, foodies and even pets! We thought, `Why isn't there one for Filipino snacks?'"


"My parents are both amazing cooks. I grew up learning how to bake and cook all of the traditional recipes, passed down through generations."

As a child, Soriano religiously watched with his father the TV show "Cooking Secrets of the CIA (Culinary Institute of America)," which is where he eventually went to study

Currently based in Las Vegas, he has lived and worked from coast to coast. He has appeared on the TV competition show "Cake Boss: The Next Great Baker" on TLC and previously owned a cake shop in Jersey City.

He has a presence online as well, teaching baking tips and tricks on his Youtube channel "Greggy's Digest."


"Each batch is limited and exclusive. My mind is always running with fun, creative ideas for desserts and dishes."

Soriano runs Flip Crate mail-order company with his family. 

Soriano says one of the reasons he put up the service was because he wanted to use standard recipes and techniques to develop "exciting, contemporary treats using Filipino culture" as his inspiration.

"We were also inspired by the delicious and fun Filipino `frankenfoods' that are trending in local Fil-Am bakeries and restaurants," he says.

Soriano's own arsenal of 'frankenfoods' include chocnutella, a combination of chocnut and Nutella, and typically "American" flavors such as cookie butter (aka Speculoos), pumpkin spice, and pecan pies making combination appearances here and there in traditional Filipino pastries.


Another reason Soriano factored in when he started the service was his market's proximity to these kinds of treats. "Not everyone has access to a Cafe 86, Manila Social Club, or even your standard Valerio's bakery."

And not everyone can bake, even if they happen to live in areas with access to Asian ingredients.

Flip Crate imports its fillings and flavoring ingredients from the Philippines (eggs, dairy and pantry staples are sourced in the US) and hand-prepares and bakes the items that go into the boxes.

While the word "flip" has been used in the past as a derogatory term for Filipinos, Soriano dispels any negativity. "I actually grew up with it being a positive term associated with Filipinos."

He says the name was chosen to be welcoming, current, unique, quirky and fun.


"It's time for our beautiful culture to be shared with everyone out there. We want to show how awesome it is to be Filipino and we want to familiarize everyone with yummy Filipino flavors."

"I want to unite us all and show that we're quite proud to be who we are and that some of us do actually know our roots and traditions. The only way I can think of doing that is through food."

His efforts have already gained many non-Filipino customers. "They either have a Filipino friend or partner or have had Filipino food in the past and wanted to try out our crates."

He's even had inquiries from, of all places, the Philippines. "We unfortunately don't offer shipping overseas as of yet.

Soriano is happy to report that they've received positive feedback. "We constantly get long, heartfelt letters, thanking us for paying tribute to our culture and how they're enjoying the goodies."

He says love is an important ingredient. "We just love packing our boxes. It feels like we're packing itty-bitty pasalubong or Balikbayan boxes for our loved ones. As Filipinos, we love giving gifts to people. It's just who we are.

"There's a bit of work to do for Filipino food to gain popularity in the foodie scene, but hopefully, we're contributing to that, one Flip Crate at a time."


Fil-Am actors play homicidal couple in musical thriller 'Sweeney Todd' in Seattle

June 15, 2017

SEATTLE  Filipino American actors Ben Gonio and Corinna Lapid Munter play a murderer and an evidence-eliminating accomplice, respectively, in "Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street," ongoing until July 1.

Ben Gonio as Sweeney Todd.
Photo by John McLellan.

Staged by ArtsWest Playhouse and Gallery, this musical thriller follows Sweeney Todd (Gonio) as he returns to London to exact revenge on corrupt officials, aided by pie-maker Mrs. Lovett (Lapid Munter). Music and lyrics are by Stephen Sondheim and book is by Hugh Wheeler.

Co-directors Mathew Wright (who is also ArtsWest's artistic director) and Eric Ankrim have developed a bold vision for "Sweeney Todd" that places race, oppression and power squarely at the forefront of this new telling, says ArtsWest in a statement.

The show has been multiracially cast and includes black, Latino and white actors.

Right time

"We've had standing ovations in all our shows thus far and upcoming shows continue to be sold out," reports Gonio, who felt "honored, humbled and elated" when he found out he had been cast for the title role.

"I submitted a video audition very late in the casting process. Apparently, they were having trouble casting the role, so I suppose I came around at the right time!"

He's appeared on TV shows like "The Librarians" and "Grimm." Recent theater credits include lead roles in "It's A Wonderful Life" and "Love Letters."


A coloratura soprano (and belter), Lapid Munter had been cast in the ensemble of a 2005 staging of this musical where she immediately fell in love with Sondheim's music.

Corinna Lapid Munter as Mrs. Lovett.
Photo by John McLellan.

"Just singing the ensemble music was so thrilling, so difficult, so challenging. You have to be precise and that's what I like," she says.

The music wasn't the only thing she fell in love with. The Lovett role was a revelation to her, though she never thought she would ever get to play it.

When she found out she was cast as Lovett for this production, "I was thrilled, shocked, surprised, dumbfounded!"

Recent theater credits include Abuela Claudia in "In the Heights" and Christmas Eve in "Avenue Q." Opera roles include Mercedes in "Carmen," Hansel in "Hansel and Gretel," and Rosina in "The Barber of Seville."


Partial to apple pie a la mode, Gonio was born in the Philippines (Malabon, Rizal) and moved to the US when he was eight years old.

Lapid Munter, on the other hand, was born in Connecticut to Filipino immigrants. "I love peach and blueberry pie. And I must say, I make an amazing chicken pot pie!"

When asked if pork adobo or pork sisig would make a better filling for a savory pie, both voted for adobo.

Another thing they have in common is that performing runs in their respective families. Each has a relative that's popular in Philippine showbusiness: singer/recording artist Gary Valenciano is Gonio's maternal cousin; actor/politician Lito Lapid is Lapid Munter's uncle.

Humanity and relevance

Levity aside, both actors have chosen to ground their characters by tying into their humanity.

Gonio says, "If I were pushed to a point where my family and my child were taken away and I was hauled away for no reason, how would I react?"

Lapid Munter says, "Mrs. Lovett just wants what everybody else wants: a nice life, to be happy, to share that life with somebody. It sounds pretty simple but not everybody has that. And that's what she yearns for."

Both also highlight the relevance of the material in present times.

"It's more relevant today than ever," says Gonio. "If you really peer into the thematic elements like class systems and oppression, it's all grounded in that simple story of a father who has been unjustly wronged."

Munter agrees. "In society, there's always the upper class who will step on the lower class. We can all relate to that feeling of being wronged and wanting to be vindicated. [This story] is always going to be relevant."

Music direction by Matt Hohensee, sound design by Kevin Heard, choreography by Trina Mills, costume design by Siri Nelson, set design by Christopher Mumaw, lighting design by Tristan Roberson.

"Sweeney Todd" runs until July 1, 2017 at ArtsWest Playhouse and Gallery, 4711 California Ave SW, Seattle. Visit

Fil-Am comedian Ron Muriera helps keep San Jose Stage Company running

June 7, 2017

SAN JOSE, California  Filipino American Ron Muriera is San Jose Stage Company's new development director. He's a stand-up comedian, but this new gig is no laughing matter.

Enrico Roselli, Filipino lounge accordionista,
the alter-ego of Ron Muriera.

Muriera is responsible for raising funds for the group, which includes researching for available grants and preparing the proposal applications. He also handles donor relations, which includes reaching out to potential donors and cultivating relationships with them.

He first became involved with The Stage in 2011 as a grants consultant. "I was working with my longtime friend, Filipino American playwright Jeannie Barroga, on her production of `Buffalo'd.'"

After the play ended, he was asked to stay on as a consultant for both fundraising and educational outreach. The position of development director was offered to him last year.

"We hope to announce The Stage's 2017-2018 season line-up very soon," he says. "The Stage's artistic director Randall King has been working on putting together a powerful season to commemorate our 35th anniversary as the anchor arts organization in the SoFA (South of First Area) District."


If the position and work involved conjures an image of a straight-laced and serious person, it may surprise people to know that Muriera does stand-up comedy, among many other performing pursuits.

"I still perform every once in a while, most recently at Local Color and the San Jose Improv a few years ago as part of the Filipino Kingz of Comedy Tour, a special fundraiser benefit show for victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines." He performs using an alter ego: Enrico Roselli, Filipino Lounge Accordionista.

Ron Muriera

He started his stand-up comedy career during his student days at San Francisco State University, trying his hand at clubs like Holy City Zoo, The Other Cafe and The Punch Line. "I was probably one of the younger would be stand-up comedians at age 18 at the time."

He became one of the founding members of Fil-Am comedy troupe Tongue In A Mood, whose other founders include Kennedy Kabasares, Rex Navarette and Allan Manalo (who went on to reconfigure Bindlestiff Studio in San Francisco into a Filipino American performance venue and theater group).


Muriera became involved in theater work by way of a professor and a classmate. "My Filipino American Studies instructor, Oscar Peñaranda, announced auditions by the Asian American Theater Workshop (which later became the Asian American Theater Company) for two one-act plays that he had written."

Cast of San Jose Stage Company's "Toxic Crusader."

His friend wanted to go, but not alone. He agreed to accompany her. "The director asked if I was auditioning and I said 'No.' She convinced me to read for one of the roles and to sing a song.

"My friend was not called back." But he ended up being cast in three roles between the two plays.

"It would be through AATC that I would get a scholarship to attend the American Conservatory Theatre, which provided me with the professional training to become an actor."

He divided his time in college with theater training, working part-time, and doing stand-up comedy. "Being a young man with a lot of energy, I was able to pursue all these simultaneously!"


The energy is still there and he's still involved in several endeavors all at the same time.
Aside from performing, he has more than 15 years of experience working in the non-profit sector.

In addition to his work with San Jose Stage Company, he's been an arts commissioner of the San Jose Arts Commission since 2013 (the first Filipino American to be appointed the position) and is currently chair of its Public Arts Committee.

He's also a national trustee for Northern California of the Filipino American National Historical Society.

Better world

Born in Trenton, New Jersey and raised in Wahiawa, Oahu and San Francisco, Muriera moved to San Jose in 2006.

"Like my mother, the late Dr. Helen Bautista Muriera, who was a physician for over 30 years in San Francisco, I follow in her steps as an active and committed advocate in service to not just the Filipino and Filipino-American community, but across all communities."

How does he find the time and energy to be involved in all these groups? "There's really no secret. I make time for those issues and concerns that I'm most passionate about: the arts, culture, education, social justice and community."

"As a father of a six-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son, I always remember that at the end of the day, what's most important is family. What propels me to do what I do in the community is wanting to ensure that we have a better world for my children and future generations."

San Jose Stage Company's staging of the musical "The Toxic Avenger" closes its 2016-2017 season. Based on the film of the same title, the musical is about how Melvin Ferd transforms into the superhuman mutant Toxic Avenger, saves the day and wins the heart of a blind librarian.

"The Toxic Avenger" runs June 7-July 23 at 490 S 1st St., San Jose, California. 
Visit or

Malou Jacob pens her last play, and some 'Notes for the Filipino Playwright'

June 3, 2017
Philippine Daily Inquirer

"I've just finished what I refer to as my last play," says Malou Jacob.

"'Batang Mujahideen' has as backdrop the Abu Sayyaf's kidnapping of a priest, a principal, some teachers and pupils of Claret School in Tumahubong, Basilan. It's an interpretation of the chaos of our 21st century.

"My hope is it be produced and toured nationally in the regional languages, ultimately changing the mindset of the Christian majority vis-a-vis the Muslim and lumad minorities."

Malou Jacob.
Photo from Philippine Commission on Women.

Jacob says this is her last play because she wants to shift to "testing the waters of poetry" and finally reading her "accumulated books through the years."

But, just in case Jacob can't be enjoined to write another play in the future, audiences, theater artists, scholars, students and up-and-coming playwrights can take solace in the fact that she's codified a few of her pointers for them in a new book, "Notes for the Filipino Playwright."

Published by De La Salle Publishing House, the book contains essays and talks that she's delivered in various conferences and fora. She curated these pieces to revisit her "personal history as an artist, a writer, a woman, a Filipino."

Writing vs acting

After going through all backstage and onstage disciplines with Philippine Educational Theater Association (Peta), as is the group's way of training artists, Jacob realized writing suited her more than acting.

Cover of Malou Jacob's book 
"Notes for the Filipino Playwright."

"Peta trained me to write about the others-the majority who are in a worse state than me," she says.

The result of that epiphany are searching, questioning plays that include "Aidao," about the Christian-Muslim conflict, and "Macli-ing," about the assassinated Kalinga leader Macli-ing Dulag and his peoples' struggle for their ancestral land.

Aside from Peta, other professional groups like Tanghalang Pilipino and student groups have staged Jacob's works.

Scene from "Macli-ing" staged by Peta.
Photo from Malou Jacob Facebook account.

Her "Anatomiya ng Korupsyon," about a woman lawyer's struggles working in a corrupt government office, remains popular and was staged in a Hiligaynon translation by University of St. La Salle's Maskara Theater Ensemble in Bacolod and Iloilo just last year.

Her "Juan Tamban," a look at society's neglect of impoverished children and a play inspired by news reports of a boy who ate cockroaches and lizards, was included in Dennis Marasigan's "14 essential plays on martial law" (part 1 and part 2) written for Philippine Daily Inquirer's Theater section last year.

Jacob's book contains the genesis details of some of these works, including the challenges she faced in researching and crafting them.


In addition, it "offers a selection of my personal and political writings on the genre of drama and the actualization and mobilization of its potential as play.

Scene from "Anatomiya sang Korupsyon,"
Hiligaynon translation of Jacob's Tagalog play.
Photo from Maskara Theater Ensemble Facebook account

"This collection contains my reflection on the dialectics of life and writing: on how to cross the bridge of life from rhetoric to action in order to reach more subjects, specifically those in the sociopolitical contexts of the Third World."

She prompts readers to reflect on their own stances by way of an inventory of her own: What is my life for? What is my writing for? Should the writer be an advocate of an ideology?

Some of her plays were previously published in the 1994 National Book Award-winning "Teatro Pulitikal." The print edition is out of print, but an e-book edition by Anvil Publishing is currently available.

"I'm hoping that DLSU Publishing House would publish `Teatro Pulitikal: Volume 2' in the future," she says.

Jacob previously taught at DLSU and was the director of its Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center. Meanwhile, she continues her work with Women Playwrights International Philippines, which she founded in 2000.

"We do playwriting workshops to enable marginalized lumad and Moro women in Mindanao and Visayas to be the emerging playwrights of the 21st century," she says.

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'Noli Me Tangere' opera to be staged in Boston

June 1, 2017

BOSTON  The opera version of "Noli Me Tangere" will be shown here via a staging by Opera Brittenica in June, to be sung in Tagalog with English supertitles.

Karrel Bernardo (right) in 
2012 staging of "Noli Me Tangere" in Chicago

The opera has music by Felipe de Leon and libretto by Guillermo Tolentino. Its title is Latin for "touch me not" and its plot is based on the novel by Jose Rizal of the same title.

The story involves Crisostomo Ibarra's return to the Philippines after years of studying abroad and his encounters with love, corruption and attempts at his life.

Filipino Americans in the cast include baritone Peter Rolfe Dauz as Elias and tenor Joachim Luis as Don Filipo and Manlilibing.


KGB Productions chair Karrel Bernardo and executive producer Gerardo Gaddi intend to shepherd this opera across the US.

Bass-baritone Bernardo began his singing career in the Philippines and studied under Antonio Hila. Since moving to Chicago, he has been a featured soloist in various church choirs and sung with groups like Filipino folk fusion band Sama Sama Project.

"It began in the fall of 2012. It was the year of the 100th birth anniversary of Felipe de Leon," says Gaddi of their involvement with the opera.

"His son Felipe de Leon Jr. was the chair of the Philippine's National Commission for Culture and the Arts and was seeking ways to commemorate his father's legacy on the international stage."

"Karrel took on the challenge and brought me along to map out a strategy to commemorate De Leon's legacy."

With stagings in Chicago and Richmond, Virginia under their belts, there are plans to produce shows in Maryland and Texas after this Boston production.


KGB productions spearheaded a staging in Chicago in 2012 by Da Corneto Opera Company, where Bernardo sang the role of Elias.

It had a cast of 60, six of which were Filipinos, with music direction and stage direction by Lucia Matos, who also conducted the orchestra.

That seminal production inspired philanthropist Loida Lewis-Nicolas to organize a 2013 staging in New York (music direction by Michael Dadap, direction by May Pamana).

Maryland-based Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Asian Artists presented a 2014 staging in Washington, DC at the Kennedy Center (music direction by Benjamin Dia, direction by Anna Tsuri).

More shows

Lorna Imperial-Seidel, the foundation's co-executive director, then teamed up with KGB Productions to push for more stagings.

Their collaboration brought the opera to Richmond, Virginia last year, where Bernardo sang the Elias and Alferes roles. It was staged by Capitol Opera Richmond with music direction by Anthony Smith, direction by P.J. Freebourn.

Smith and Freebourn will handle the same responsibilities in the Boston production. Opera Brittenica founder Joshua Collins will sing the Crisostomo Ibarra role.

Smith will also conduct 18 orchestra musicians who are affiliated with other Boston groups such as the Boston Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Juventas New Music, among others.

READ about a staging of a musical version of "Noli Me Tangere" in LA here.

READ about Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas (Dulaang UP)'s staging of the opera here.

"Noli Me Tangere the Opera" runs June 16-18 at Strand Theater, 543 Columbia Rd, Boston. Visit