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The Kundiman Party: An Awakening of Hopes?

The Kundiman Party is one stage production that deserves a rerun. The cultural-political-drama written by Floy Quintos and directed by Dexter Santos is timely after the national midterm elections.



The said play that was staged in the summer of last year, is one of Santos’s best plays along with Angry Christ (2017) and Ang Nawalang Kapatid (2014) and Orosman at Zafira (2008).

Despite the exclusion of some of the former cast membersy, having Nonie Buencamino onboard as Sen. Juancho Valderama (replacing Teroy Guzman) and him being with his real-life partner–Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino as Maestra Adela is already a theater treat.


The Second Run is indeed Fun.

It’s fun because of the four ‘Titas’ and the dynamics of their relationships.

Mitoy Sta. Ana’s production design from Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theatre may have some minor changes, but the familiarity of Maestra Adela’s home is still intact.

Who would ever think the three women friends of Maestra Adela–Frances Makil-Ignacio, Stella Cañete-Mendoza, and Missy Maramara as Mayen, Helen and Mitch, respectively, would click and fit perfectly in the private life of a reclusive voice teacher? Their bond and their personalities are perfect caricatures of women with different set of truths.

Makil-Ignacio perfectly fits as the fiercest among the three female friends, while  Cañete-Mendoza as the motherly and neutralizer, and Maramara as the socialite but still the wackiest for she channels that ‘young vibe’ in her as her defense mechanism.

Quintos managed to retain the fun parts as well as the heavy stuff. It worked well in painting how the three women have remained strong amid a situation that they were all shocked to occur in the home of Maestra Adela.

In these challenging times, these three women are our ideal company we can wish for. They are all strong in their respective rights. A newcomer Gabriel Paguirigan as Ludwig, Maestra’s accompanist and veritable sidekick has his own moments. He’s a comic relief. His debut onstage as an actor is sweet and remarkable.


Centenera-Buencamino personifies Kundiman.

Due to Maestra Adela’s decision to isolate herself from the political scene or her refusal to be identified by the present generation or simply live a quiet life by teaching Kundiman, it was Bobby Valderama portrayed by Boo Gabunada who exposes the woman and her art to the online world.

Adela personifies Kundiman, forgotten probably or neglected for too long by some Filipinos. It is like song for the motherland. The rest of the Filipino people have probably heard the music but has taken it for granted instead.  The scene where Adela had her breakdown was a wakeup call for the citizens to be alert and have a sober mind just as described in Scriptures (1 Peter 5:8-9). However, Gabunada who replaced Kalil Almonte (Bobby in the first run) lacked depth in assuming the pivotal role of a rebel son.

Though the story took the audience to where it was envisioned by Quintos, Gabunada provided a weak interpretation of his character, maybe because it was his first time to perform with an audience and in an intimate venue?

That scene where Antoinette (Miah Canton in a flawless voice), his girlfriend serenaded him with a Kundiman song titled Bituing Marikit; it could have been a tender and romantic one. His eyes weren’t gazing on her and it sent a different emotion instead. The scene with Almonte and Teetin Villanueva was ecstatic when I last saw it.


Thankfully, Centenera-Buencamino maintains such commanding presence even with the disruptive acting he (Gabunada) was channeling onstage. Not too sure if he was channeling his Emman character from Ang Huling El Bimbo to the The Kundiman Party of Maestra Adela.


Blood is Thicker than Water?

The ancient and famous English proverb that means that familial bonds will always be stronger than the bonds of friendship or love–is evident between Bobby and his father, the senator. Though the conclusion of the play was subject for the audience’s interpretation, Gabunada’s Bobby is mysterious and unpredictable and at times exhausting.

But at the end of the play, what matters the most was what Bobby has started.

Nonie Buencamino as the loving father of Bobby made a stirring performance just like when Guzman had the role in summer of 2018. Like Shamaine, he was there onstage making the most of his brief but needed appearance. It will forever remind everyone how good he is as an actor.


As a member of the audience, Juancho spoke with authority, but with much love and understanding for his son. It was tough love. Going through the motions of that crucial scene between Bobby and the Senator, a line rang loudly into my consciousness that no matter how the latter was perceived wrongly; Bobby fears the inevitable that he’s turning like his father, somehow. Though not entirely, but he mimics him, unknowingly.

The confrontation scene was essential. It defines who Bobby is and it leads Maestra Adela to a path she has been longing for the longest time.

The Kundiman Party serves as a vehicle to fully embrace the change that this country has gotten into. Whether good or bad, it succeeded in making hope afloat in a stormy seas.

Also in the cast are Jenny Jamora as she alternates for Maramara as Mitch. Soprano Rica Nepomuceno as Melissa, a professional Kundiman singer who desperately wants to be ‘relevant’ again.

The Party runs on these dates: May 24, 8pm; May 25, 3pm and 8pm; May 26, 3pm and 8pm; May 30, 8pm; May 31, 8pm; June 1, 3pm and 8pm; June 2, 3pm and 8pm. Tickets can be obtained via Ticket2Me.

Photographs courtesy of Evo Joel Contrivida.

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!