I was restless in my seat during the last few minutes of Miong. I was dying to stand up and cheer on the characters as they fought for our country’s independence – my heart ached at their sacrifices and swelled at their perseverance.
As their victory approached, I got goose bumps when my ears caught a few notes of our national anthem. And when the Philippine flag was finally waved from the window of the house in Kawit, Cavite, I almost cried. I felt so proud! And yes, grateful for their bravery. I was really drawn by the passion of the performance.
The musical based on the life of Emilio “Miong” Aguinaldo spans his birth on March 22, 1869 until his declaration of independence on June 12, 1898, when he was merely 29 years old. It was first presented in 1998 to celebrate the centennial of the declaration of independence. It had a repeat sometime in 2002 then re-staged again this year, to mark Miong’s 150th birthday.
It took Joy Virata, who also directs the musical, three years to write it – roughly two years for the script then another to develop it with the music. “It is strictly rhymed. I wanted to fashion it like a Balagtasan, with that type of cadence,” she says, adding that Freddie Santos had a hand in the script as well.
Tita Joy (as she is called in Rep, where she is artistic director) is married to Cesar Enrique Aguinaldo Virata, whose mother was an Aguinaldo – she was the daughter of the general who was the first cousin and sidekick of Miong. But tita Joy’s source of information were all books. Among those she read for research were those authored by Carlos Quirino, Onofre Corpuz, and Alfredo Saulo.
Though she laments that Miong has been frequently labeled as the villain, she emphasizes that the musical is not biased in any way. “I cannot be accused of propaganda, it’s not. It’s just a telling of history, it’s just facts presented in an entertaining way.”
Miong is 95% sung through. Most of the songs were very catchy. With great hooks – easy to pick up and hard to shake off. I walked out of Onstage Theater humming some lines. LSS! Heck, it’s been weeks since I watched and I still remember the tunes! My favorite is “One Step at a Time”. Wow, that mantra is applicable even in fighting for your country.
“Ian Monsod is the one who wrote the music. Gerard Salonga wrote one song. The lyrics for that particular song was written by Freddie Santos, Freddie wrote the two love songs. Ejay Yatco is our musical director,” enumerates tita Joy.
“The arrangements are so complicated, that’s why the cast was chosen for their voice and the ear for music. That was a priority, voice and musicality,” tita Joy points out. “I’m very particular about articulation. I made them do diction exercises. Because in this play, the way I’ve written it, every word means something, it’s not just that word so you cannot substitute it and you cannot drop it, you cannot be unintelligible. Everything has to be very clear. They cannot just sing, they have to understand it themselves before the audience can get it because that’s where the story is.”
Unlike the previous versions of Miong, this most recent one has a narrator which made it possible to cut down the running time from 3 hours to 90 minutes. “The one who plays narrator used to play Bonifacio in the original. The one who’s playing Miong’s mother now used to play Yayang, the wife. An original is the one who plays Miong’s father, he played the father also 20 years ago,” shares tita Joy.
The cast, which is much smaller than the original is headlined by Tim Pavino, as Miong. “He’s young, it’s his first lead role, but he’s very open. And he’s very nice. He has a magnificent voice,” tita Joy describes. Cara Barredo is Yayang. “She’s Rep. She’s my favorite Theater for Young Audiences actress, she’s in everything all the time,” she reveals.
Other members of the cast are Noel Rayos, Meynard Penalosa, Elver Esquivel, Lani Ligot, Kuya Manzano, Arion Sanchez, Eizel Marcelo, Michael Musa, Ian Hermogenes, Franco Ramos, and Sean Kevin Inocencio.
The ensemble is composed of Dwight Vito Cruz, Aixia Mallary, Ber Reyes, Bianca Mauricio, Czar Decena, Dave Corpin, Janine Tolentino, Jerome Fugoso, Kenny Isidoro, Kevin Guiman, Laui Guico, Matthew Barbers, Mica Fajardo, Moira Lozada, Naths Everett, Nicky Trivino, Paula Paguio, Steven Hotchkiss, and VJ Cortel.
I was completely absorbed in watching the war scenes, got totally lost in the mood. All the movements reflected strength, every footstep strong. The determination was palpable. I loved how the women fought alongside the men, weapons in hand. “It’s very clever, the way Dexter Santos choreographed it,” comments tita Joy. Stephen Vinas is co-choreographer.
Completing the artistic team are Dennis Marasigan (set designer), Bonsai Cielo (costume designer), John Batalla (lighting designer), Arvy Dimaculangan (sound designer), Winter David (video designer) and Adul Lassin (scenic artist).
Everyone did an outstanding job! Watching Miong made me want to open my old books and read about our history again. It’s not such a bad idea ‘no?
Last chance to catch Miong tomorrow, March 10, 3:30pm and 8:00pm at Onstage Theater, in Greenbelt 1. For tickets, call Rep at (02) 451-1474 or Ticketworld at (02) 891-9999. Or log on to www.ticketworld.com.ph.
For more information, visit @repertoryphilippines on Facebook. #RepMiong