Creo que la cultura es el alma de la sociedad. Permite a la gente, especialmente los niños, soñar y pensar que todo es posible si tienen ilimitada imaginación. La cultura anima a la gente a ser creativos, aprender más sobre su historia y estar orgullosos de los logros de sus antepasados. A través de la cultura, aprendemos más sobre otra gente y, eventualmente, sobre nosotros mismos. Cada espectáculo de teatro en Filipinas ha afectado por lo menos a un niño que estará eternamente un enamorado de la cultura. Y eso es más que suficiente para justificar las ayudas económicas que los teatros reciben de los patrocinadores.
The skies set the stage on the night Jed, John and I watch Rak of Aegis. It is raining and I am half-expecting members of Aegis to appear out of thin air and belt out “Basang-basa sa Ulan” while wearing black leather pants and jackets and thigh-high boots. At 745pm, holders of orchestra tickets (P1000 = US $23) enter the main theater in an orderly fashion. We sit on the left side of the stage (I watched the Rak of Aegis on its first run and sat in the middle and elevated portion of the stage. I advise anyone to buy the VIP tickets if they are available). The stage is dominated by a skillfully contained flood, flanked on either side by the house of Aileen (Aicelle Santos) and the sari-sari store of Joel/Jewel (Jimmy Marquez), Aileen’s best friend while the background shows miniature houses. While waiting for the play to start, we hear Myke Salomon’s voice telling us theater etiquette and our (fun) punishment if we violate any of them.
|Rakking on a Saturday night|
|Stage designed by Mio Infante, the flood in the middle is treated with chlorine to avoid mosquito infestation|
|The store of Joel/Jewel|
|View from the left side of the stage|
|A very blurry photo with Jed|
The rerun of Rak of Aegis is the opening presentation of the 46th theater season of PETA (Philippine Educational Theater Association). The musical is based on the songs of Aegis, the band topbilled by women with powerful lungs who dish out gut-wrenching songs. It is written by Liza Magtoto and directed by Maribel Legarda. Musical direction and arrangement are done by the multi-hyphenated Myke Salomon.
It is set in Barangay Venizia, an area plagued by knee-deep floodwater for three months. It started when a subdivision was built near Barangay Venizia. The flood has affected the shoe-making business of barangay captain Mary Jane (Isay Alvarez-Seña) that employs her ex-boyfriend Kiel (the scintillating Robert Seña) and his wife Mercy (Kakai Bautista).
|The gorgeous Isay Alvarez-Seña is an effective Mary Jane|
|A very blurry photo with the very talented Robert Seña|
|Kakai Bautista displaying her assets. Her Mercy character is the silent force of the play, like that character in Looney Tunes who speaks softly but carries a big stick|
The financial problems of the couple affect their daughter Aileen, who is helpless due to her nonexistent salary as a saleslady who earns on a commission basis. She wants to augment their income by appearing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and hopefully earn US $10,000 in the process. She thinks that a YouTube video can help her achieve her goal.
With the help of Kenny (the talented Myke Salomon), the son of Mary Jane, she shoots a video under the pouring rain. Yes, real droplets of water fall from the ceiling of the theater. Unfortunately, in the middle of a melee, the camera falls into the flood. All of these happened while Tolits (Jerald Napoles), the witty boatman, looks forlorn while admiring Aileen from a distance. One of my favorite parts of the play is the bubble scene that features Aileen and Tolits. It is a simple but very clever stunt. It makes one feel like a blushing teenager once again.
|Myke Salomon – attractive actor, musical director and arranger of Rak of Aegis|
|Jerald Napoles is perfect as Tolits because you want your boatman to be witty and have abs as hard as rock|
Throughout the play, the characters go on with their lives and treat the flood like their next-door neighbor. Will Aileen’s voice become her ticket to stardom and financial security? Will Aileen end up with Kenny or will Tolits’ hirits endear him to the budding singer? Who is Fernan Ganda y Revilla, the man in immaculate white who appears to be the savior of Barangay Venizia? Is it really over between Kiel (which is short for kilabot ng mga chicks) and Mary Jane?
|My favorite characters are Kiel and Tolits|
These questions are answered in the second act. Tolits earns his chance to shoot a video of Aileen singing and what do you know, it rains again! The video turns her into an instant celebrity and Barangay Venizia and its extra feature – the flood, as parts of the main attractions. Everybody except for Kiel is excited about and is supportive of Aileen’s concert. The proceeds will fund the building of a barangay health center, which is greatly needed at that point because Mercy has leptospirosis.
Joel/Jewel auditions as Aileen’s front act. He performs a doble-cara number that wows the crowd. Robert Seña and Arnell Ignacio have a showdown singing Mary Jane. Wow! I watched Robert Seña perform the same number from the center of the theater and he was luminous at that time. From the left side of the stage, he is still sexy as hell! That air guitar scene would have looked cheesy had someone else portrayed it, but Mr. Seña made it look cool. Meanwhile, the rivalry between Kenny and Tolits intensifies as Aileen slightly veers towards Tolits. They decide to settle their differences by having a who-has-a-better-set-of-abs contest. When Tolits and Kenny lift their shirts up to expose their Greek-god sculpted midsections, half the people inside the theater shriek with delight while the other half collectively drop their jaws open and drool. As the shock subsides, everybody applauds loudly and whistles with great abandon.
|Arnell Ignacio as Fernan Ganda y Revilla|
On the day of the concert, the city government finally sends a team to drain the flood. A debate whether or not they will allow the drainage of the flood occurs. On one hand, it is part of the concert promotion and people buy tickets partly to experience the flood. On the other hand, without the flood they will have peace of mind that no one will have leptospirosis and they can set foot on solid ground again. More singing and dancing follow to justify their respective opinion, with Kiel leading the drain-the-flood-now group and Mary Jane taking the opposite position. Eventually, the residents of Barangay Venizia agree on one thing (at least that is how I understand it. Hahaha).
Rak of Aegis is a good example of art imitating life as it showcases the resiliency of the Filipinos—the people whose spirits are forged by the fires of Mordor. This spirit prompts us to rise like a phoenix after a typhoon or an earthquake, with smile on our lips and hope in our eyes. It also touches on the inefficiency of government leaders in solving the problems of their constituents posthaste. This ineptitude or general apathy of our elected officials forces the people to act on their own and grasp at straws to survive.
Rak of Aegis is a complete production. It is replete with talented artists, has a tightly written script with infinite witty remarks, a stage that gives the audience a simulated feel of flood and rain, and songs that are ingeniously arranged to not only highlight the voice of the actors but also to suit the storyline.
|The actors being mobbed by their adoring fans|
For more information, please visit http://petatheater.com/shows/rak-of-aegis-rerun/