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Eto Na! Musikal nAPO: A Palpable, Original Filipino Stage Hit Production

The Six Male Leads

(L-R): Jobim Javier, Alfritz Blanche, Jef Flores, Vyen Villanueva, Jon Abella, and Jep Go. Photograph courtesy of Kathy Rivera.

Eto Na! Musikal nAPO! has nothing to do with the 2012 Filipino musical, romantic-comedy flick I Do Bidoo Bidoo: Heto nAPO Sila! with singers Sam Concepcion, Ogie Alcasid, Gary Valenciano, Zsa Zsa Padilla, comedienne-stage actress, and TV host Eugene Domingo and introducing new actress Tippy Dos Santos as stars.


I used to have reservations when the musical opened in August last year. What could be the audience’s response since the film was also APO-based songs and failed to pick up in the box-office back then that time? Would today’s generation appreciate APO‘s music?

I Do Bidoo Bidoo: Heto nAPO Sila! was a letdown and failed to duplicate the success of Mama Mia‘s jukebox musical romantic-comedy film and the stage version.

Six years later Eto Na! Musikal nAPO was born.


APO Music is Retrospective.

Filipinos who grew up along with the APO Hiking Society music could not resist but to retrospect about the 70s era when it all began in the campus of Ateneo at the time of the Marcos regime and in the height of Martial Law in the Philippines.

A misconception of many that the Ateneo high school group was composed of 15 members, in reality, they were, just 12.

Apolinario Mabini Hiking Society (AMHS) was its original name. It sounds witty and an irreverent reference to the paralyzed Philippine revolutionary intellectual-hero, Apolinario Mabini. Later it was shortened to Apo, an Ilocano term for a wise man or a Tagalog term for grandchildren. The prominence of the group did not limit to the group’s original musical contributions and cultural influences. It expanded into establishing and furthering the careers of new Original Pilipino Music (OPM) artists in the Philippines.

A Scene from the Musical

It’s playtime between five buddies in the musical. Photograph courtesy of Kathy Rivera.

Among the 40+ songs of APO, I have four favorites. These are Awit ng Barkada (covered by Itchyworms, now covered by Noel Cabangon), Batang-Bata Ka Pa (covered by Sugarfree, now covered by Noel Cabangon), Blue Jeans (covered by Wise Guys, then Eraserheads, and then by Rocksteddy), Panalangin (covered by Moonstar88, then by Richard Poon, now covered by Noel Cabangon) and Saan Na Nga Ba’ng Barkada (covered by Sponge Cola). These were also included in the musical to tell a story of seven musically-inclined young men. At least loosely based on real accounts.

What makes this musical more relatable than the 2012 local film? It is not pretentious. It tells the story about male friends with one common interest to make beautiful music together and how they slowly drifted apart, one-by-one until only three were left to pursue their dream.

It indicates that APO songs per se is the unique selling point (USP) of the musical. Their songs are timeless and still has relevance even up to this day and age.


The Storytelling is also Immersive.

The material may be distant, set in the 70s, but the creative team was able to lead its audience to a trip down the memory lane. APO songs are the basis for telling the stories of seven young men along with their friends.

In the musical, Mark Bautista and Floyd Tena (Rick), Jobim Javier (Butch), Alfritz Blanche (Sonny), Jon Philippe Go (Ray), Jef Flores (Jaime), Jon Abella (Donnie) and Vyen Villanueva (Bobby) are the male leads. Apart from losing one-by-one its members, a piece of news shocked them all and compelled them to make a stand.

A Broadway hit musical is identifiable in one of its scenes. Nevertheless, it still succeeded in conveying a tranche de vie during those times.

One of the moving scenes in the musical involves Raul Victor Montessa and Neomi Gonzales as Ramon and Carmen, respectively.


Everything about the Musical is Effective.

The show may not be perfect, yet its execution is well-thought-of. It makes it effective.

Basing on a Dawson-type-of-casting (many of the actors who appear, and in reality are, much older than the characters they are portraying), still there is no case of miscast.  The three remaining APO members breathed by Flores, Abella, and Villanueva fit-to-a-tee.

Jep Go is Ray

This is a solo number of Go in the musical. Photograph courtesy of Kathy Rivera.

Then the three romantic pairs: #BuChelle (Javier and Sab Jose), #JaSon (Blanche and Roxanne Barcelo) and #RiAnn (Tena and Mica Javier) provided the ‘kilig’ factors. Go as Ray did shine (find out about it by catching the remaining shows). While Javier, the son of Danny, stood out in all the shows; he was oozing with charisma that his character could equal the three APOs. Meanwhile, Jobim’s partner, his love interest in the production–Michelle as portrayed by Jose, distinctly showed her presence whenever she is with Javier. Their tandem and their duets are probably the most applauded.


The #BuChelle tandem is composed of Jobim Javier as Butch and Sab Jose as Michelle. Photograph courtesy of Kathy Rivera.

#JaSon Tandem

Roxanne Barcelo and Alfritz Blanche are Jane and Sonny of #JaSon tandem. Photograph courtesy of Lionel Guico.

#RiAnn Tandem

Mica Javier is Anna and Floyd Tena is Rick of #JaSon tandem. Photograph courtesy of Lionel Guico.

PJ Rebullida’s mixed old school and modern jazz choreography that gave a hint of a Saturday Night Fever movement blended with 9PO’s musical arrangement based on the APO songs. The costumes provided by both Eric Pineda and Ian Cartalaba complemented well with the overall feel as required in that era.

Joey Mendoza’s set design captured the ambiance of Ateneo during those challenging times. GA Fallarme’s visual and projection design painted fun and created tension for the entire gang and for the audience to feel and appreciate what was to live in a country governed by militarization.

The trio of Robbie Guevara as the director with Jonjon Martin as dramaturg and Daniel Bartolome as the musical director made the show a palpable, original Filipino stage hit production.


This stage production has redeemed the musical movie (I Do Bidoo Bidoo: Heto nAPO Sila!). Some scenes need tightening, but the adjustment in the rerun gave more depth for character sketches of the seven male leads.

The material is a tribute to Jim Paredes, Buboy Garuvillo, and Danny Javier who gave an invaluable legacy to the OPM industry.  

Kudos to Santi Santamaria and Anna Santamaria of 9 Works Theatrical, Joe Caliro and Denise Seva of Globe Live for this APO-calyptic experience.

The show is until April 7 at Maybank Performing Arts Theater. For those who missed it before, for tickets, contact TicketWorld at (632) 891-9999.  


Baguio: The Romantic and Nostalgic Subject and Backdrop of Gari Escobar’s Single

Baguio, known to be the Summer Capital of the Philippines, owing to its cool climate since the city is located approximately 4,810 feet (1,470 meters) above mean sea level, often cited as 1,540 meters (5,050 feet) in the Luzon tropical pine forests ecoregion, which also makes it conducive for the growth of mossy plants and orchids; and this the very place where singer-songwriter Gari Escobar chose to use as his subject and backdrop of his single of the same title.

On Friday, February 8, Escobar launched Baguio as his carrier single on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, and all digital platforms.

Single Cover - Baguio

Baguio as a Nostalgic Place for Him.

He revealed that the song is partly dedicated to his late mother. He was a mama’s boy and among the three kids, he was close to her. Back when his mother was still alive, she always tagged them along to the place and that’s how he has been too acquainted to Baguio, being his second home and his refuge during his state of devastation when his eventually passed away.

Amid his depression, he started writing songs and Baguio is just one of his many songs. It was in 2008. Apart from his mom, the song is also his way of giving tribute to his last girlfriend who also passed away last year.

In the postcard-like CD cover design–he is seen with his former girlfriend, which was taken when they visited the place as a request of his girlfriend since it was her first time to set foot in the City of Pines.

“We were already shooting the video at the time. I just wanted to make my girlfriend happy.”

The Place is indeed an Ideal Place for Lovers.

If Paris in France is considered to be one of the romantic places in the world as well as New York in the US, or doing sunset watching from a private terrace in Santorini in Greece and in Florence in Italy–then Baguio is a few hours drive away from Manila to run away from the mundane of city life and spend a romantic weekend with one’s partner.

Gari admitted that whenever he has a girlfriend, Baguio is the best place to go because of its cool climate–it adds romance for lovers.

He took his 35-year-old girlfriend to Camp John Hay, to Burnham Park (but it was raining hard when they were there and that prevented them from riding a boat) and roam around the vicinity of Diplomat Hotel.

Writing Songs has become His Life.

Listening to the blues and different types of music gave him the opportunity to escape from the daily challenge of humiliation and physical harm. He rebelled against his aggressors and found his freedom writing songs that expressed every typical persons’ woes and feelings.

With the bitter trials he went through and the low self-esteem he embraced, he only found solace when surrounded by people he loved. This successes he earned via marketing–it gave him more freedom to channel his creative energy into songwriting and singing, until new acquaintances and mentors encouraged him to record his songs which led to the realization of making his self-titled debut album.

Baguio will always be a huge part of his memories both romantic and nostalgic for him. The song is mixed and mastered at the studio of renowned composer Vehnee Saturno, Gari’s upcoming 12-track album is truly something to watch out for.

For more information about the song, visit Escobar’s social media pages like facebook and instagram.

Also visit Ivory Music and Video social media accounts such as facebook, instagram, twitter and YouTube channel.

Ronnie Liang: Grateful for the 12 Years in Showbiz

From a timid person that he was before, the Philippine version of Endemol’s Operación Triunfo (Operation Triumph)—Philippine Dream Academy (PDA), Ronnie Liang chose to stay strong in the industry that gave him a lot of challenges and successes in life.

Liang was the Top Three in the said reality show that has a format similar to Big Brother, where a set number of finalists (billed as scholars throughout the series) would live inside the Academy for four months and will be trained by guest teachers to be multimedia performers. Activities in the Academy are being monitored 24/7 by the headmaster.


His Life after PDA.

Looking back, 12 years ago, he has grown to be confident about himself and of the things he can do. Through the said show—he was able to fulfill his dream of becoming a full-fledged performer. And he’s thankful for the opportunity that helped shape him as an individual and as an artist.

He continued how he felt after placing third to Yeng Constantino and Jay-R Siaboc, “Masaya. thankful sa maraming nangyari at natupad ang pangarap ko.

“Binago ang buhay ko.”

It’s been seven years since he moved out from the Star Magic camp and with Viva Artist Agency he has also explored a lot in terms of his being an artist.

With Viva Artist Agency, he has done a lot.

He has no regrets with the many things he has done over the years and Viva, his new family after Star Magic, he has achieved too many things.

“Nagkaroon ako ng concert, albums, songs, movies and TV series,” he shared.

He is thankful to both Ms. Veronique and Mr. Vincent Del Rosario for the opportunity given to him to grow as an artist.

He was able to venture into other fields like dancing and acting; in fact, he was awarded Best Actor in a Featured Role in 28th Aliw Awards in 2015 for his appearance in the all-new Filipino musical based on a hit movie from Viva Films—Bituing Walang Ningning.


A New Albumon His 12th Years in Showbiz

He just recently promoted his single from his new album Ronnie Liang 12. He’s thrilled to share his thoughts about the single—Tila.

“It sounds original but it’s a revival. Halong love song and I dedicated this to my mom who died in February.”

The song was originally by Clara Benin from Riverchild album.

Tila is his ode for his mom, to whom he realized that he missed spending much quality time with prior to her passing. Each text in the song is his way of conversing to his mom about his feelings and his love toward her.

Life would never be the same without her mom, but life goes on.

Today, with all the blessings that came his way and the ones that are still on its way, he summed up himself as humbled and blessed.