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Bicol love tales ‘Ibalong' and ‘Magayon’ to be staged at the CCP

February 2, 2013 1:36pm
Last January 25, Maestro Ryan P. Cayabyab was given the rare honor of having his two major works spanning 25 years performed simultaneously at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. 
This is a rare feat for a living Filipino artist, even for Cayabyab, who's internationally celebrated and famous for bridging the wedge between classical music and Filipino pop, 
At the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo, Cayabyab’s “Violin Concerto” made its world premiere, while over at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino, the OPM musical “Katy” returned to where it was shown in 1988. 
“Violin Concerto” is Cayabyab’s first serious classical music composition.
One of Cayabyab’s professors at the UP College of Music, former Dean Ramon P. Santos, considered one of the current pillars in leading a generation of young Filipino composers championing contemporary Philippine music rooted in the social and aesthetic contexts of Southeast Asian music cultures, was at the PPO performance. 
On February 8, it is Santos' turn to witness the world premiere of his latest composition: a rondalla musical score to accompany a full-length musical. Santos, to be awarded the 2013 Gawad CCP para sa Sining on February 27, composed the unprecedented rondalla score for “Daragang Magayon: An Istorya ni Mayon,” a full-length production using music, dance, poetry, and multi-media reprising legend of the famous Mayon Volcano.
“Ibalong” is a musical about the story of Handyong and his warriors who went to Bicol to wage war against the monsters ravaging the region.
“Ibalong” rising
Also on February 8, the Tanghalang Pilipino (TP) holds the world premiere of “Ibalong” a dance-theater musical take-on the Bicol epic “Ibalong.” It has been adapted for stage by playwright Rody Vera, directed by Tuxqs Rutaquio, musical direction by Carol Bello, and choreography by Alden Lugnasin. It also closes the 26th season of TP.
“Ibalong”  is a musical that narrates the story of Handyong and his warriors who went to Bicol, formerly known as Ibalon, to wage a war against the monsters and beasts ravaging the region’s natural resources.
Warrior Handyong meets the monster Oryol, setting the stage for a love story exploring an individual’s capacity to do good and evil against the background of Bicol’s history, its progress and destruction.
In an interview, Santos said he had composed a score for a ballet production of poetess-dancer and Bicol-born Merlinda Bobis’ “Kantada ni Daragang Magayon, Mandirigma” in the late 1990s. Santos is a university professor emeritus since 2007 at the UP College of Music.
The Bicol maiden's tale 
With two pianos, a percussion, a soloist, and a narrator, Santos had set to music the 40-minute Bobis’ feminist interpretation of “Daragang Magayon.” In this version, the maiden Magayon becomes a female warrior asserting her rights. The innovative portrayal of the female warrior Magayon drew positive critical reviews.
“For the 2013 Daragang Magayon production, I had to compose a new musical score using a rondalla to accompany a big production. This is the first time a rondalla is being used for this purpose. Rondalla has always been stereotyped as for folk music only,” said Santos, also the current executive director of the UP Center of Ethnomusicology.
“Initially, we talked about re-staging the ballet production using the poetry of Merlinda. But as we talked, the story evolved into a bigger production. I told them with the changes that they want, the music in the Merlinda Bobis production will not be appropriate. We have to totally change the music for the 2013 'Daragang Magayon',” Santos said.
National Artist for Literature Virgilio S. Almario wrote the poetry, Albay poet laureate Abdon Balde Jr. did the dramaturgy, Aimee Escasa and Boni Ilagan wrote the storyline and script, Gerald Mercado directed and choreographed the production, Leo Abaya designed the production set, and John Batalla was in charge of the lighting designs.
Filmmakers Chuck Escasa, Niko Salazar, and Henry Posadas worked on the filmic elements of the production that included animation, which added to the visual excitement of the production.
Rutaquio welcomes myth-making revival 
In a separate interview, Tuxqs Rutaquio, the director of TP’s “Ibalong” welcomed the return of Filipino myths, legends, and epics in the theater and entertainment industries.
“The modern concepts of nation-building utilize myths in the formation of a nation and the crystallizing of its identity. It is about time we revisit our roots, to clearly see what makes us a nation, and what makes our identity. We value myths because they impart lessons. Moral lessons found in myths are important,” said Rutaquio, who is also the Ibalong set designer.
“We need myths. . . .Myths are stories that are handed down from generation to generation,” Rutaquio said.
He said when he was offered to direct Ibalong, he immediately “grabbed” the opportunity. Rutaquio, a professor at the Department of Communication Arts in Miriam College, appeared to be in a ruminative mood when he asked whether young Filipinos well-versed in anime and foreign productions “have a full grasp of the entire legend of the pineapple.”
The music and chants by Ibalong musical director and arranger, Carol Bello, “capture” the Bicol culture, while the costume and puppet designs by Leeroy New showcase the artistry and beauty of monsters and beasts “not present in Western mythology,” he added.
“There are Cyclops in Western myths, but the evil eye here in Ibalong is very Filipino, its powers are distinctly Filipino. Let me be very clear. We do not want to exoticize Ibalong, but we want to share it to the world,” said Rutaquio, who was recently appointed as Virgin Labfest festival director.
Rutaquio, admitted though, that the cast had initial adjustment problems with the complicated stunts and choreography by Alden Lugnasin, Ballet Philippines resident choreographer.
“The music, the costumes, the stunts, or simply, the monsters, mayhem, and music will make and sell this production. One scene that you have to look forward to is the cutting of the tail, one magical moment. Please look forward to the puppetry also,” Rutaquio said as an advice to theater-goers.
In his playwright notes, Vera said, “As playwright, I focused not on the fragment’s authenticity. What I found more interesting and ennobling is how the people of the Bikol region appropriated this fragment and claimed it as part of the enrichment of their culture.” – KDM, GMA News 
Tickets for “Ibalong” and “Daragang Magayon” are available at TicketWorld. 
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