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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.  


A Review on ‘Tribes’

The following texts are excerpts from the review I wrote for BroadwayWorld.com Philippines.

It is about the play presented by Red Turnip Theater titled ‘Tribes’ by Nina Raine.

BWW Review: Red Turnip Theater Stages Nina Raine’s TRIBES


The cast and the director of Red Turnip Theater’s ‘Tribes’. Photograph courtesy of Erickson Dela Cruz.

Manila, Philippines–In its fourth year, theater company Red Turnip Theater, via Nina Raine’s comedy-drama “Tribes,” has proven time and again its top-notch quality.

Billy (Kalil Almonte), who was born deaf, is raised by parents Christopher (Teroy Guzman), an intellectual, demanding father, and Beth (Dolly De Leon), a smart yet understanding mother.

In a tough, dysfunctional family, Billy grew up with siblings Daniel (Cris Pasturan), a marijuana-dependent, and Ruth (Thea Yrastorza), an opera singer in pubs and churches.

“Tribes,” which is directed by Topper Fabregas (“Rabbit Hole,” “This is Our Youth”) theater-in-the-round style, succeeds in piercing the hearts of the audience by presenting the vulnerabilities and idiosyncrasies of its characters.

Fabregas perfectly casts Almonte to tackle the most challenging role in the play: a deaf young man who has been lipreading and was never allowed by his parents to do sign language. His parents believe that he’ll be able to do better this way in the hearing world.

To read the full story, click here!

Gala Night for Shimizu Kunio’s ‘The Dressing Room: That Which Flows Away Ultimately Becomes Nostalgia’

The Dulaang UP (DUP) closes its 40th theater season with Shimizu Kunio‘s The Dressing Room: That Which Flows Away Ultimately Becomes Nostalgia (adapted by Chiori Miyagawa from an original translation by John K. Gillespie), a 1977 post-war Japanese play and its gala night for the said English production is tonight, April 8 at Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, University of the Philippines-Diliman.

Teaser 5

Three actresses–Makil-Ignacio, Quesada and Maramara star in an all-female cast for its English version. Images courtesy of Dulaang UP.

Its all-female cast for the English version will star–Frances Makil-Ignacio, Ces Quesada, Missy Maramara and Maxine Ignacio; and will be directed by former DUP’s artistic director–Alexander Cortez.

The production is a play within a play and paints stories on frustrations, memoirs and aspirations of four actresses preparing by the ‘gakuya’ (means backstage in English) as they all await their turns to go onstage. The actresses express their desire to perform the lead role named Nina Mikhailovna Zarechnaya from a play of Anton Chekhov’s ‘The Seagull’.and their obsessions to covet it; ignite a comic yet dramatic narrative about shared memories and their relationship with each other. It is about a tender and humorous drama about actors, the theater, aging, surviving, and moving on.

For its Filipino version, it will be starred by Roeder Camañag, Andoy Ranay, Gwyn Guanzon, and Ian Ignacio. It will run from April 6-24.