Monday, August 20, 2007

Sarah, Bituin, Mitch and 'Katy!'

“ONE AFTERNOON a few years ago, we found ourselves in a small room at the food court level of the Shangri-La Plaza mall. A mini-show had been announced, and a crowd sat waiting on the floor just inches away from a low, makeshift stage that had nothing on it except a vintage piano.

Canned orchestral music started. From the wings came a slender, dusky girl in a 1930s blue dress splashed with pink flowers. Her movements were ungainly, she didn't look too attractive and was in danger of being swallowed by the swirl of dancers now congregating on stage. Then, she opened her mouth to sing, and out came an incredible voice, a vast, soulful torrent of sound inexplicably pouring from a tiny frame. She sang her jazz-inflected ditty playfully, powerfully.

Her name was Bituin Escalante, and she was playing “Katy” in the touring production of the landmark Filipino musical that had starred Mitch Valdez many moon cycles ago. That very afternoon at the mall, we became a fan, even if we had no idea who she was.

Since that time, as Escalante burst forth in the national consciousness with more pounds to her frame and the accruing glitter of divahood, we've often gone back to the memory of that afternoon, wondering how she would have burned up the stage had "Katy" been revived full-scale with her in the lead. When would she ever get the chance to rip into the part again?

Lavish tribute
In the recent stellar concert “Ryan Cayabyab: The Music Man at 50” at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Escalante briefly stepped into the role of Katy once again, singing “Aba, 'Ba, 'Ba Boogie" like a force of nature, and in so doing gloriously reaffirmed her dormant claim to this role.

In a night that offered show-stopper after show-stopper in lavish tribute to the country's most well-known composer, Escalante's performance was a high point, a drop-dead incarnation of the combined genius of Cayabyab's music and Jose Javier Reyes' buoyant lyrics.

Too bad it was an all-too-brief moment, sandwiched as it was between the passable growling of Angelika de la Cruz (who played the teenage Katy), and the stirring take by Mitch Valdez on “Minsan ang Minahal ay Ako,” the now-classic stage anthem she and Celeste Legaspi sang in the original show. We never got to see that “Katy," but Valdez's spiky, atmospheric vibrato was enough to bring a glimmer of the magic that must have attended that legendary run...” (
“Show-stopper after show-stopper,” PDI, Oct. 24, 2004)

One more valuable stage moment lost to fading memory, I had thought, until show producer Mickey Munoz lent me his DVD file of “Ryan Cayabyab: The Music Man at 50” and gave me permission to post excerpts of the show in this blog. The earlier clip of Grace Nono singing a haunting “Iduyan Mo,” and the “Rama, Hari” suite that reunited Basil Valdez, Kuh Ledesma and Leo Valdez, were also from that show.

Now it's my pleasure to share with you Bituin Escalante in the “Katy!” medley that I had raved about in my review. This time, you won't see Angelika de la Cruz as the teenage Katy, but--tadaaan!--Sarah Geronimo, who would sing a sensational “Pahiram ng Kanta” (she appeared on the first evening of the show, Angelika on the second). Her ebullient turn had me thinking that if “Katy!” got revived, say, a decade from now, Sarah would be perfect for the role. Just listen to her ditch the bland pop singing for once and roar her way through the big, brassy sound of 1930s bodabil (as Mr. Cayabyab had re-imagined it).

Casting, however, is a moot issue at this point. Celeste Legaspi recently announced that Musicat Philippines, the production company behind “Katy!” and other original Filipino musicals (“Larawan,” “Alikabok,” “Kengkoy at Rosing”), will no longer mount shows due to prohibitive costs and sparse audiences. That is tragic news, because Musicat was the only theater company we had that was exclusively dedicated to creating original Filipino musicals.

We may never see a “Katy!” again in our lifetime, so enjoy this all-too-rare clip. (Sorry for the messed-up sound in some parts, couldn't clean it up.)

Performers: JM Rodriguez, Mickey Munoz, Raul Montessa, Topper Fabregas, 92 AD, Sarah Geronimo, Bituin Escalante, The Hotlegs, Mitch Valdez


1. Look closely at Jose Javier Reyes' lyrics for “Aba, 'Ba, 'Ba Boogie.” They not only capture in words the liberating sensations of an era-defining dance, they also demonstrate the versatility and range of our native tongue:

Kakawagkawag, kakalag-kalag
Paa ko'y napapalundag
Kakati-kati, kikiri-kiri
Malala 'to, napakatindi!

Parang kiti-kiting kinakati-kati
Parang paru-parong 'di mapakali
Kamay at paa, umeekis, sumasalisi
Aba, 'ba, 'ba, ano ba ito?
Aba, 'ba, 'ba, boogie!

2. Wondering how Mitch Valdez originally sang this song? Here, from the original cast album of “Katy!”

[video copyright © ABS-CBN]


rico said...

thanks gibbs for this post. I regret that i missed watching katy at shangrila before. I hope they'll revived this musical again!

thanks again gibbs.

martin malabanan said...

sayang naman. i've been interested in this show ever since i heard the song "minsan ang minahal ay ako." naturally, seeing this medley on tv made me even more interested. perhaps musicat can work something out with tanghalang pilipino, peta, or other producers to stage this and all their other original musicals?

anyway, i guess i'll just have to be content with this clip until then... unless someone still sells copies of the cast recording. i'd love to get a copy. :)

by the way, thanks again for that peta tour thing. i'm really looking forward to it. :D

beektur said...
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beektur said...
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beektur said...

Un gran aplauso para Sarah! Performances like this prove that given the right material, a great performer can rise above mediocrity. Bituin's voice was dumbed down by pop songs and her version of Vernie Varga's Love Me Again was horrible. But on stage, she reclaims her soul and talent. But Sarah's number is a revelation. Wow! That's something that Sharon not be able to do at Sarah's age (mwaha) or any age for that matter (double mwaha).

Katy is a fantastic musical, its numbers are a throwback to the last golden years of bodabil and sarswela, when American influence in pop culture is dawning (shades of Dalagang Bukid?). Its book and music are decades apart in maturity from the balmy melodramatic narrative and humid hyperdramatic music of Magsimula Ka. Cayabyab can sometimes be very populist, pedestrian and prosaic. His Mass for Peace, Misa and Misa 2000 are discombobulated mix of themes and styles never acquiring cohesion. Even his Noli and Fili, which have great isolated moments, can be tedious. But Katy, thanks partly to Reyes' wit but mostly to Cayabyab's inspired music, is a crowning glory of his non-studio works.

Great thanks for posting this!

Dennis N. Marasigan said...


i am seriously considering having katy in a future tanghalang pilipino season, maybe the 23rd in 2009-2010 to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the ccp, along with other plays that will have art and artists as theme. i have had brief conversations with both celeste legaspi and girlie rodis about this and they are open to the idea. musicat may have stopped doing regular productions, but they welcome the possibility of collaborating with other groups to mount their properties. so, there may be a chance to see it in your lifetime, just keep your fingers crossed.


annamanila said...

Bituin Escalante is a magnificent but underrated singer. I just love her "Kung Ako Na Lang Sana." Pray .. where is she??!!

The youtube of her song takes too long ... is it my connection?

gilbert yap tan said...

Hi tukayong gibbs, i was surprised to know mitch valdes had a version of minsan ang minahal ay ako. Share naman with me the mp3 :)

gibbs cadiz said...

RICO, hi, thanks! i hope so too. teka, are you rico of agape dati? :)

MARTIN, ayan, dennis marasigan of TP answers your question, they're thinking daw of re-staging katy a couple of years from now, yehey! :) unfortunately, the soundtrack is no longer commercially available. hay. :)

BEEKTUR, galing ni sarah ano, revelation! sana andito ka na pag natuloy ngang i-restage 'to. we can't afford to miss this again! :)

DENNIS, naku, sana nga matuloy, i'm keeping my fingers crossed na ngayon pa lang. :)

ANNA, agree! hmmm, if it's too slow, either your connection's acting up or the youtube server is also slow. happens sometimes. do try again, you can't miss sarah g. and bituin. :)

GILBERT, no, mitch doesn't have a solo version of it, except her performance in this video clip. the song was originally a duet between her and celeste in the musical, and that's how it is in the soundtrack. then, when ryan c. came up with his silver anniversary album (tama ba title?), celeste sang it as a solo piece. so dito lang sa clip na 'to talaga me version of her own si mitch. :)

nina bumanglag said...

where can i buy ryan cayabyab's tribute album? is it a dvd or an avcd?
thanks so much for this post! =)

gibbs cadiz said...

hi NINA, if you're referring to the 'ryan cayabyab: music man at 50' concert, it's not available commercially either in dvd or vcd form. :(

Anonymous said...

so then gibbs, baka naman pwedeng mapakiusapan si Mickey Munoz na payagang maki-burn ng copy since hindi mo naman ibebenta sa amin. just for our collection. likewise with rama at sita. kumbaga para lang sa mga visitors ng blog mo. kasi sayang naman yung materials kung ibuburo lang sa baul ng mga producers. it won't inspire people when it's there.

sensya pero hindi ako pamilyar sa Katy (i mean, hindi ko siya inabutan), pero fan ako nung “Minsan ang Minahal ay Ako”. ano ba yung context ng kanta as i was surprised na duet pala siya. all along, i though that she was saying goodbye to the stage. pa-explain naman.

Dennis N. Marasigan said...


"Minsan ang Minahal Ay Ako" was sung by Katy (Mitch Valdez) and her friend (a fellow actress, a fictional character played by Celeste) as they talk about their lives in the theater. It is reprised in the end of the musical when the old Katy revisits the old theater she works with (parang Sunset Boulevard, before the latter's musical version).

The eerie thing is that Katy begins with Katy commenting that the theater is about to be torn down. The musical was first staged at the Rizal theater, I think the last before it was torn down to give way to the construction of the Shangri-la Hotel. We knew that when the play was restaged, so the lines had very real resonance.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I can die now. No other than Dennis Marasigan just took time to explain a very trivial detail to me.

Thanks! So medyo may tama din pala ako sa context. And thanks for the trivia.

cinderella said...

galing ni sarah geronimo sa pahiram nga ng isang kanta (not sure if that's the right title). bagay sa kanya yung song, sayang lang nawewaste nya yung boses nya dahil sa pag gaya sa ibang singers at sa matataas na nota.... wala lang,,, sana magbalik ang era ng mga ganitong kanta.. :(

sana mapanood ko yung katy... :( said...

hi gibbs!

thanks for posting these performances - i've been looking for copies of the original recording of Katy The Musical since the late 90s pa - I even approached Mr. Gallardo (Celeste Legaspi's husband) regarding this but he just told me to try again with Jose Javier Reyes. I've seen the musical during my highschool days - both at the Rizal Theatre and even the gala at the CCP, even met Katy dela Cruz in person after the show. Somehow along the years I lost my soundtrack copy to friends who kept on borrowing them. Pati na nga din yung souvenir programme with Katy's autograph.

Would you know where or who to ask for MP3s of Katy The Musical? Miski yung highlights lang magiging masaya na ako. It was originally produced in cassette tape form lang noon but I'm sure there's someone na who might have transferred the album into digital form recently. I've tried searching for those songs in several download sites pero wala eh - yung version lang ni Celeste Legaspi from Ryan Cayabyab's The Silver Album ang lumabas dati. If possible, I wish to be able to get copies of "Minsan ang Minahal ay Ako" with Mitch Valdez and Celeste Legaspi, "Pahiram ng Isang Kanta" with Tenten Muñoz, "Mainit..Maligamgam.. - hehe, I'm not sure na about the title basta it's the duet by Mitch Valdez and Marco Sison, "Wag Mong Sabihin"...the break up song also with Mitch and Marco Sison and "Tingnan Mo Nga Naman" sung by Bernardo Bernardo. Sana may magshare naman ng Mp3s won't be for any commercial purpose - just for personal collection.

Also (lubos-lubusin ko na ha?), can I get a copy of that Ryan Cayabyab Musical Special? If you remember Gibbs I wrote you a reader's feedback years ago when you did a review about this special - I've never seen it kasi I'm based abroad.

I wish my prayers will be answered soon. OA ba? Hahaha - pero sana talaga may magshare ng copies ng Katy Soundtrack and Ryan C's Musical Special.


The Golden Man from Manila said...

hi there.

i came across your blog while reading doctony's multiply account. kalokah bah?

I just want to invite you to my multiply account. I have posted the soundtrack of Katy in my Music portion.

I do not know if that was the original since it was the copy given to me by Bernardo Bernardo when we met in Singapore in 1990. I became part of the Philippine Independence Day celebration at Hyatt Singapore then and I just auditioned for any part. Luckily I got in. And my am I lucky, I came to learn about this great musical.

my site :

The Golden Man from Manila said...

follow this link for the ever famous duet of Celeste and Mitch Valdez

Yohann said...

I am so happy I found this one. I also played young Katy back in 1999 for the final presentation of Marco Sison's free acting workshop. I also played the young Katy. It's a very memorable one for me since it was shown on Cable TV. I like the songs in the musical and I liked the story of Katy dela Cruz's life and career. It was a very nice experience. Mitch Valdez was also there to give us pointers on how to portray the parts. She positive feedback on my singing and acting (for the young Katy part)

I sincerely hope that I'd meet her again and maybe play the part of Katy dela Cruz again. :) Thanks for this wonderful post. :) More power and God bless you. :) said...

i watched katy at the ccp 2 decades ago. sana nga maipalabas uli. 2010 na pero wala pa yata sa line up ng tanghalang pilipino ang katy. my favorite song there was the tango, LARUAN KONG LANGIT by celeste.
how time flies. 20 years ago, i subscribed to TP 3rd season of plays. 220 lang yata for a student like me then. that's for 8 plays! 400 for non students.
hayy, no wonder, ayaw na mag produce ng plays ang musicat.
sana maging successful ang MAGSIMULA KA!
and please, more katy videos at youtube please. Ang LARAWAN musical, kumpleto.

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