In its 46th season, Ballet Philippines presents Sarong Banggi, Filipino Classics Reimagined by Maestro Ryan Cayabyab. The show includes 15 classic folk songs from different parts of the Philippines that are arranged and orchestrated by Cayabyab. They are emotional songs that bring back nostalgic memories to the older generation (myself included) and exemplify Filipino values to the younger ones (the students who made up most of the audience).
Margie Moran Floirendo, the President of Ballet Philippines, gave the welcome address on the last show of Sarong Banggi. According to Floirendo, Sarong Banggi means “one night” in Bicolano. It is not just any other ordinary night because it is a night of festivities. She is correct because inside Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theatre), I was transported to the days of my childhood as I listened to Atin Cu Pung Singsing, Si Filemon and Saranggola in Pepe, while the winds of Typhoon Koppu raged outside.
The first act of Sarong Banggi is romantic like most love stories are. The young leads in Jose (Earl John Arisola) and Pilar (Monica Amanda Gana) meet, flirt with each other and fall in love. Young Jose gives Young Pilar a red kite, and they become a couple. In the midst of a celebratory mood and with the whole town in attendance, they get married and soon after they have two gorgeous children. All is swell in their lives, but Jose leaves for Zamboanga to look for greener pasture. Gana was breathtaking as Young Pilar; she was as beautiful as her flawless movements onstage. In the absence of Richardson Yadao, I rooted for her. 🙂 I thought that their fictional family was the picture-perfect Filipino family – doting and hardworking parents who love each other and their offspring, and children who are as limber as their parents. I like the boy because he reads books (I assume it is a book he was holding).
The second act of Sarong Banggi starts out slow and sad. Adult Jose (Jean Marc Cordero with long hair) succumbs to loneliness and finds himself a body to warm his nights in the person of Elena (Sarah Anne Alejandro). Unfortunately for him, Adult Pilar (Rita Angela Winder) visits him in Zamboanga, and well, he deserves what happens next. The next three songs are all about Adult Pilar being emotional. One of my friends said, she is doing a Dawn Zulueta (a Filipina actress) where Adult Pilar looks forlorn, stares off into the distance or watches young lovers wistfully while sighing inaudibly. Her husband’s philandering ways must have zapped her energy to dance and be merry. Thankfully, the last two songs cause a much-needed 180°-degree turnaround. With the accompaniment of upbeat tempo, the ensemble appear with kites in their hand, followed by Adult Jose, also with a kite, to woo his wife back. Just like most romantic stories, the leads live happily ever after. Uffff. I rolled my eyes. Thrice.
There was no live music on the October 18, 2015 2pm show, but the first song, Atin Cu Pung Singsing, has left an indelible mark in my mind (from singing it in grade school) that hearing it made me feel good immediately. The good feeling stayed with me throughout 80% of the show. My attention strayed a bit when Adult Pilar was having her Dawn Zulueta moment. I did not like the costumes of the dancers (except Young Pilar’s) in the first three songs. They were too colorful so much so that I had to close my eyes a couple of times to avoid the glare they emit, like some blinding light coming from multiple lightsabers. They might have been aiming for the fiesta/festival feel, but the sapin-sapin-on-top-of-halo-halo type of costume was too much.
In terms of Filipino family values, I am supportive of almost all of the teachings the show showcased. Almost all, but not all. I did not like the philandering husband bit. I know it happens sometimes all most of the time in real life, but does Adult Pilar have to forgive Adult Jose just like that? If I were her, Adult Jose would have to bribe 100 million Filipinos to hold 100 million kites while dancing simultaneously in front of me. Yes, it is not going to happen. Which is my point exactly.
Ballet Philippines’ Sarong Banggi features choreography by Carissa Adea, Ronelson Yadao, Ronelson Yadao, Cyril Aran Fallar, Paul Alexander Morales, Nonoy Froilan, and Carlo Pacis. Ryan Cayabyab is the Music Director, Arranger and Orchestrator of Sarong Banggi. It is directed by Paul Alexander Morales. Other collaborators are: Dennis Marasigan (Libretto), Rajo Laurel (Costumes), Meliton Roxas, Jr. (Lighting Design), Ohm David (Set Design).
The complete set of songs featured in Ballet Philippines’ Sarong Banggi:
- Atin Cu Pung Singing
- Dalagang Pilipina
- Ti Ayat Ti Meysa Nga Ubing
- Malinac Lay Labi
- No Te Vayas
- Sarong Banggi
- Si Filemon
- Ay Kalisud
- Walay Angay
- Pepe en Pilar
- Saranggola ni Pepe