[Part 1 here.]
Though it predated the Broadway musical by nearly 50 years, I'd like to think of Walang Sugat (1902) as our own Oklahoma! (1943). Like that landmark Rodgers and Hammerstein work, Walang Sugat presents two pairs of lovers in an environment of dramatic historic and social change--the forging of the American West in Oklahoma's case, the birth of a new nation in the Severino Reyes-Fulgencio Tolentino sarsuwela.
In the story of the primary lovers--the flush of their youth, the challenges hurled their way, the optimism and promise of their eventual union--is reflected nothing less than the dawn of the dewy, newly-minted land they have fought so hard and bled so much for. When the newlyweds Curly and Laurey ride off into the vast expanse of the prairie, and when the childhood sweethearts Tenyong and Julia overcome all odds to wed on the eve of the first Philippine Republic, they carry with them “Plen'y of heart and plen'y of hope”--the roots and fibers of the brand-new citizenship they are planting in the brand-new nation they are helping to build.
The continuation of Walang Sugat's video clips below:
1. Minamahal Kita nang Tunay. It's been a year since Tenyong left for the war front. Julia is being forced by her mother to marry Miguel, the parish priest's wealthy nephew. In desperation, she sends a letter to Tenyong, begging him to return. Tenyong learns not only that Julia has been betrothed to Miguel, but that his mother has died in his absence. He sinks to his knees in grief and prayer. (I call this Arman Ferrer/Tenyong's Bring Him Home moment.) In a larger sense, of course, the Julia that Tenyong vows to rescue is the motherland whose honor he has offered his life to defend. When Ferrer gathers strength to sing the song's thundering peak--“Hahamakin ko'ng kamatayan, mailigtas kita lamang!”--it's a transcendent moment, the sarsuwela at its most heart-achingly expressive.
2. Ako'y Lubayan/Paalam. Tenyong's brigade attacks a Spanish detachment, and the young man is mortally wounded. Hearing of his death, Julia accepts her fate and agrees to wed Miguel. On their wedding day, Tenyong is brought in--not dead but dying, in blood-stained bandages. Julia reaffirms her devotion to him, and the lovers sing their farewell song. (The voice overheard on the video uttering, “Ang ganda!,” by the way, is director-playwright Floy Quintos, who was seated beside me, and like me was completely enthralled by Janine Santos' impassioned singing.)
3. Walang Sugat/Finale. Near-death, Tenyong makes his last confession, and an unusual last request: that, before he dies, he and Julia be wed. After all, Julia would be a widow so soon after, free again to marry Miguel. Both Miguel's side and Julia's mother agree. The priest pronounces the couple man and wife. The general then bids Tenyong to rise. He does--removing his bandages to reveal he's actually unscathed. (“Walang sugat!”) Tenyong and Julia are reunited, and in the final frame, dressed in the colors of the new nation rising from the revolution going on around them, the couple and their friends sing of a fervent dream--and a promise: “Aking adhika, makita kang sakdal laya!” Blackout.
(Those two kids in front--they're Tenyong and Julia as kids, appearing first in the overture and then at various moments in the play, framing and underscoring the sarsuwela's youthful romance and happily-ever-after quality.)
PLUS: In the video below, Ferrer is shown rehearsing his aria Minamahal Kita nang Tunay--voice already a stunner, singing still perfunctory. More interestingly, the clip shows that director Ricky Abad originally envisioned the musical number to be a “memory moment,” with the kiddie Tenyong and Julia appearing at one point in the song (those two actors seemingly horsing around in the interlude), and the grown-up Julia herself locking arms with Tenyong for a brief dance near the end. Good thing Mr. Abad eventually scrapped this embellishment, trusting the song enough to let it work without frills.