Magsimula ka

I didn’t know that the classic OPM song Magsimula Ka came from a musical of the same title. It was, according to my friend Gibbs Cadiz, one of the very first musicals in Filipino staged in the 1980s. With the onslaught of Broadway musicals that almost totally eclipsed the Philippine musical theater scene during that decade, Magsimula Ka was a welcome respite from the tried and tested production of musicals imported from that famous street in the Big Apple.

After my Media Literacy class at UP last Thursday which ended at around 7:30 in the evening, I took a cab to Greenhills. It was my first time to be at the Music Museum, or the Greenhills Shopping area, so I had no idea where it was except that it’s “sa likod ng mall”. I thought of directing the cab driver to ask around where the venue was as he was also not knowledgeable. It was a good thing I did not because the word Music Museum was in bright white neon light, drowning all the other signage in the area. I climbed up the narrow semi-spiral staircase and was directed by a very amiable staff to my seat.

The venue was not as big as I imagined it to be based on the video clips of concerts shown on Showbiz reports of the nightly prime time Tagalog news programs I used to watch. I got not expectations of the production either. I am not keen on singing and dancing. But since Gibbs invited me, I thought of giving it a try. Although i know it’ll run for more than two hours which is my threshold of boredom for musicals and other forms of theater.

The musical was not extraordinary. There were some painful moments, probably because of the un-updated script or the exaggerated acting, but the play was, shall I say, passable. It reminded me of Janice de Belen or Manilyn Reynes starrers that failed not in giving me goosebumps when I am reminded of them now. And interestingly, Magsimula Ka gave me lots of those.

Ciara Sotto’s performance was very noticeable. It was noticeably unnoticeable. The rest were forgettable. Though I remember, while writing this line, that the maid and her paramour who were both superfluous in as far as the story line was concerned, did catch my attention. And to think that the musical could stand on its own without them. But Magsimula Ka would have totally lost my attention had it not been for the duo.

I wonder why my professor in that Media Literacy class did not include theater in the list of media we will be dissecting in class. I got to suggest it to him then.

Thanks to Gibbs Cadiz for the ticket and the wonderful during- and after-dinner conversation.

A night of ‘A Little Night Music’

I watched my first live musical last night at the RCBC auditorium with a friend I met more than a year ago when I was still struggling in Manila (not that I struggle less now, of course I do, but at least for different reasons). I received the invitation from Gibbs Cadiz several days before to watch Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. I gave myself days to decide whether to watch something that might bore me comatose and end up wasting my time, or give it a try and see for myself if a Filipino production’s take on a Scandinavian playwright’s adaptation of a 1950s Ingmar Bergman’s flick, Smiles of a Summer Night, would work and not end up becoming a shoddy version of the original Broadway production.

And I believe it worked.

I am the least capable of reviewing this production, so I’m leaving it to the experts to do what has to be done. I got nothing to compare it to except for some live video recordings of popular musicals such as Rent, My Fair Lady, and splices of Jesus Christ Superstar. And a live performance is definitely not on the same plane as the limited perspective of a recording.

Furthermore, I would describe my taste on theater art ignorant if not downright crass, and on musical illiterate. I can count using my fingers the number of plays I have watch in my entire lifetime, so I thought giving a little of my time watching the beautiful Dawn Zulueta sing (to my knowledge) for the first time, with a man whose reviews on theatrical presentations in the metro are highly regarded, would not be a waste of time. So off I went to Ayala  on a rainy Saturday evening.

And I am glad I went because the show didn’t fail to dazzle and nearly sent me to tears (if only for this part, I’d say it was an excellent production) when Dawn sang  the lachrymose Send in the Clown.

The direction by Bobby Garcia was seamless, and the cast almost perfect (although I can mention some few miscast such as the character of Henrik Egerman (Felix Rivera) who sounded a bit too gay and confused to me and Frederika Armfeldt (Crystal Baranda-Paras) who lacked any semblance (the appearance, that is) to her mother, played by Dawn). And I am glad I went because of the conversations I had with the writer Gibbs Cadiz before and after the show that were as animating as the articles he has written on theater.

Upon entering the venue, I noticed that I was ridiculously dressed down, wearing my usual garb of unwashed (two weeks and counting) jeans with a huge rip in the left knee and a simple black shirt while the rest were in their semi-formal or decent casual. I was out-of-place. I looked like I was attending a matinee show at the UP Film Center. I got so much more to learn and work on in conducting myself in events like this one.

And I need to buy a pair of black leather shoes.

The man with a black umbrella

It has been raining since the time I woke up this morning. Atmospheric conditions such as today’s remind me of rainy November afternoons in Hanoi when all I did was to cuddle a pillow and bury myself with blankets my friend’s mom provided me or to bathe in the rain while cycling with my red bike around Ho Dac Di or Pho Thai Ha.


Yesterday when I went to Inquirer office in Makati to get my prize and my friend’s for the Virgin Labfest theater review, I mentioned to Gibbs Cadiz, the man who organized the competition, in our chat that I studied in Hanoi for almost a year. It felt as if it was already a long time ago, and the people and the place more fantastic than real. It has almost been five months since I arrived here in Manila and decided to ‘test the water’. Nothing much has come up from this youthful adventure I am embarking on.  I could’ve directly gone home to my parent’s house in Polomolok.

Hanoi was the first thing I thought of when I woke up today. How I miss that city.

While exerting all my efforts to climb the steep stairs going to Boni MRT Station, the black umbrella I bought from 7eleven weeks ago when I got caught in a downpour in Intramuros, flipped a la Mary Poppins to the chagrin of the woman in front of me who seemed to have magnetized all the water soaked in the synthetic fabric of my umbrella’s canopy. She gave me a deathly and almost deadly look and proceeded unceremoniously, before I could say my apologies, to her despirited gaits up the train station.

One of the reasons I love rainy days: people are cool-headed.

Harry Potter

Although I have no intention of watching the latest installment, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, to the 8-part movie, the film review by Manohla Dargis of the New York Times may help you put the film in a perspective using an unimportant critic’s critique  here.

Wifi, bumming, green-rice-and-shiomai, and Virgin Labfest V

I became aware of  a very funny thing this morning when I was in my usual contemplative, almost trance-like state doing my routine morning writing exercise. I’ve been rambling about the world lying supine on the stairway, my laptop on top of my belly. And I only realized I was in this unflattering pose when my housemate arrived from his night shift work at a call center company located in a building nearby. He reminded me that I looked like I’ve been raped by 10 devils. His use of that hyperbole was too much, but the way I look might have been something close to that. I’ve been doing my writing in all the parts of the house depending on the location of available sources of wifi signals.

I am too tired to walk to the mall across EDSA to avail of the free wifi connection. The thought of using the very slow elevator down to the ground floor, bumping on people who are waiting for buses going to Baclaran or Ayala in front the building, climbing up the steep stairs going to Boni MRT station, then dodging the aggressively pushy real estates agents who are distributing badly written leaflets and selling units in a condominium yet to be built on a vacant lot adjacent Robinsons Pioneer is already too discouraging. Instead, I stayed inside my room and waited for divine providence to shower me with a wifi connection faster than 5.5 mbps.

I feel like I am already starting to master the art of bumming with grace and perfection. I steamed the rice and shark’s fin shiomai I bought last night for dinner but which I totally forgot because I was too tired from my whole day work and my travel to Cubao for a talk with a professor who was supposed to help me in my graduate school application but then called to postpone the meeting while I was already inside the train in Ortigas. When I arrived home, I collapsed to my bed and slept like a dead man.

So here I am eating a goosebumps-inducing green colored rice that is as tough as dried coagulated blood that forms just outside a wound we collected with so much gusto when we were seven years old, and the shiomai that tastes like rubber drenched in oil.

But not everything is lost to bumming and the chilling green-rice-and shiomai boxed inside a purple polystyrene.


At least I have Garcia-Marquez to entertain me and divert my attention from my troubling food to a love story that is a bit popish but is a truly evocative romantic love story that unfailingly provides generous literary visions in every line. I am reading the saga of love involving three interesting characters – Fermina Daza, Florentino Ariza and Dr. Juvenal Urbino – set during a time of cholera.

My review of the three plays in the recently concluded Virgin Labfest 5 is one of the honorable mention in the competition organized by Gibbs Cadiz, a theater reviewer for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. My attempts paid off as I will be receiving an anthology of essays as prize. I watched four sets out of five, and the Virgin Labfest was a good venue to introduce myself to the theater which I never really though that it could be that fun.

Now I need to continue eating lunch. Lose some, win some.