Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sneak peek: Tanghalang Pilipino's Banaag at Sikat

DECADES before the electric guitar and rock music were introduced to the Filipino audience, there was the groundbreaking novel “Banaag at Sikat” by Lope K. Santos. It exposes the breakdown of the traditional Filipino family among the ruling class in the early 1900s and the rise of socialism in the country.

The parallelism between the two--rock music and the novel--is, in the operative word, “revolutionary.” And what a coincidence that in the middle of the prolonged staging of “Cats” at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, literally under its ground, or at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino, will be the 10-day run of “Banaag at Sikat, Isang Rock Musical” by Tanghalang Pilipino come mid-August...

-- “Lope K. Santos’ 1906 novel ‘Banaag at Sikat’ gets the indie-rock treatment,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, Aug. 2, 2010

The rest of Totel De Jesus' feature story is here, detailing the process by which National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera adapted the archaic language of the pioneering Tagalog novelist and social thinker Lope K. Santos for the contemporary stage, and how composer Lucien Letaba went about writing the music for it. Joining them is another National Artist (for Production Design)--Salvador Bernal, who does the sets and costumes, making this production one of the season's true heavyweights.

At the presscon a few weeks ago, the lead members of the cast previewed four tracks from the score, the comeliest of which, it seemed, was the duet between Al Gatmaitan and Ayen Munji-Laurel (the second song in the two-part clip below). The performers--which also include Franco Laurel, Banaue Miclat, Greg De Leon, Angeli Bayani, Roeder Camanag, Clottie Lucero and Raymond Roldan--have uniformly strong voices, most of them having had formal backgrounds in classical singing. (Gatmaitan, in fact, alternates with John Glen Gaerlan as the cocky tenor Anthony Candolino in Philippine Opera Company's ongoing Master Class, where he gets to sing a transporting Recondita Armonia from Tosca.)

But now, while yet garbed in period attire, they're being asked to retell Banaag at Sikat in the looser, hipper idiom of pop-rock music (hence the glut of shades above), so it'd be interesting to see how they'd pull it off. At the presscon, the excerpted music and vocals still sounded rough, but rehearsals should have remedied this by now. Also among the leads, by the way, is Cinemalaya 2010 Best Actor winner John Arcilla.

“Banaag at Sikat,” directed by Jose Estrella, runs Aug. 18-29, with 8 p.m. performances every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday; 3 p.m. shows every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater). Special performances available upon reservation. For inquiries, call 8321125, loc. 1620 to 1621. Telefax 8323661. E-mail or visit

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