Mabining Mandirigma: Awakening our Collective Greatness as a Nation

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I finally had the chance to watch Tanghalang Pilipino’s Mabining Mandirigma last February 19, 2016. I’ve been very vocal about how I admire Tanghalang Pilipino, and seeing another production from this theater company is as magical as the first time I saw them perform at the CCP Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino years ago. Watching a production of Tanghalang Pilipino is not just a form of entertainment, more so, it is a celebration of life, an exultation of love, and an experience that will haunt you until the moment you leave the theater – giving you a challenge to think of many ways to be a better Filipino, a better human person, and Mabining Mandirigma masterfully combined all these aspects.

Liesl Batucan, a woman, playing a male lead role is both a statement and a symbol. Her exemplar performance as Apolinario Mabini smashes the stereotypes we unjustly accorded to each other. Just like Mabini who withstood political machinations despite his disabilities, Batucan’s Mabini transcends the question of gender roles and responsibilities in order for us to focus more on to what is essential, and that is, the love we have for our country.

Sitting through the whole show is much like watching current events unfolding before your very eyes. The problems Mabini encountered during his time is very much the same with what we encounter today, and for me, the lingering question is not so much on our difficulty to think as a Filipino, but on our incapacity to learn from the lessons of history. As a whole, Mabining Mandirigma attempts to awaken the sleeping greatness within each Filipino. It is a reminder for us to look back to what happened to us as a country, and resolve, even in our little way, not to let the horrors of our historical past manifest again in our future.

Mabining Mandirigma is both timely and relevant. It is a show you must not miss before you cast that sacred ballot this coming national election. It is a show that will challenge you to shout “never again” all the more – never again to corrupt political dynasties, to incompetent politicians, and to all leaders who, in their negligence to serve the poor, have enriched themselves with taxes from the pockets of the people whom they claim they serve. At higit sa lahat, ang Mabining Mandirigma ay hahamunin kang mahalin ang bayan ng higit sa sarili.

Catch Mabining Mandirigma until March 13, 2016. For tickets, call Ticketworld at 891-9999 or visit http://www.ticketworld.com.ph

 

The Kuripot Diary in Amazing Chiang Mai

Thailand will always be special to me. In 2008, I did my Peace Fellowship at the Rotary Peace Center in Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, and this opportunity started my love affair with everything Thai – from its beautiful countrysides, impressive temples, pristine beaches, delicious food, and its kind-hearted people.

Chiang Mai in My Mind

Last October 2015, after 7 long years, I finally had the chance to come back to Thailand. Instead of staying in Bangkok, I decided to stay for several days in the Northern Province of Chiang Mai. If you like to learn to cook new dishes, try some extreme sports, explore more temples, mountains, and forests, or just interact with elephants, Chiang Mai is the best place for you. In my case, I decided to simply discover the Old City by walking for countless kilometers and hours, I allowed my self to get lost in its rich history and culture, discover new crafts and things in its night markets, and of course, I went for an exciting gustatory adventure!

From Suvarnabhumi Airport to Chiang Mai

My adventure started in Suvarnabhumi Airport. In this airport, there are plenty of Money Exchange booth, if you want the best rate, go to Super Rich, their kiosk is located near the entrance of the Airport Rail Link.

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SuperRich booth at Suvarnabhumi Airport. Photo credit: startyourbag.com

Part of my Chiang Mai experience is to take the train going there from Bangkok. There are several trips that will take you to Chiang Mai in Hua Lamphong Railway Station. To get to Hua Lamphong from Suvarnabhumi, take the Airport Rail Link to Makkasan Station, this will cost you 35 Baht (1 USD = 35 Baht). After getting off at the Makkasan Station, walk towards Phetchaburi Station of MRT Route. From Phetchaburi Station, you can go directly to Hua Lamphong for 30 Baht. When you reach Hua Lamphong, there is a big board which contains information of all trips going to several provinces outside Bangkok. There are at least 3 or 4 daily trips to Chiang Mai, in my case, I chose the 10:00 PM train, the last trip. I took the 2nd class couch, sleeper train (upper berth), for  531 Baht. The train ride from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is 14 hours, but you will be rewarded with a good countryside sceneries on your way to your destination.

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Hua Lamphong Station

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Hua Lamphong Ticket Booth

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Inside the 2nd Class Couch

Amazing Chiang Mai

From Chiang Mai’s train station, you can hire a red pick up truck locally called Songtaew. You may tell the driver your destination and discuss with him the fare. Alternatively, you may get out to the streets, just outside the train station and hail a songtaew to your destination, and remember that songtaew is a shared public tranportation system, so there will be other people with you when you get inside the vehicle. The fare will be around 15 – 30 Baht (or more) depending on your destination.

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Songtaew. Photo credit: cmstay.com

During my stay in Chiang Mai, I stayed in Tara Boutique Guesthouse located within the Old City; for a three-night stay in their dormitory, I only paid 395.16 Baht. The fee comes with a daily breakfast (bread & jam), coffee/tea, bottled water, and a free use of bicycle. Tara is located near Wat Phra Singh and other interesting places in the Old City but the place has a homey feel and it is quiet at night so sleeping will not be a trouble at all. The owner can even plan a trip for you to make the most out of your Chiang Mai trip.

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Tara Boutique Guesthouse. taraguesthouse.chiangmai@gmail.com

In Chiang Mai, I pretty much went with the flow of everyday life. I did not go for a special trip anywhere else, I just stayed in the Old City because the Old City alone and its vicinity offer a lot to discover already. I was able to explore many things by walking around. Food is affordable, there are many dishes to choose from, from extraordinary to exotic, food that teases your taste buds, and food that makes you fall in love with Thai cuisine – which in itself is an adventure worth having!

I enjoyed my Chiang Mai trip and I hope to go back there again for more Kuripot Travels soon…perhaps in 2016 🙂

p.s. I took an airconditioned bus on my way back to Bangkok for 550 Baht. The price includes a bottled water, a simple snack, and a meal. There are many travel agencies around the Old City that sell bus tickets to Bangkok 🙂

 

The Kuripot Diary in the Holy Land: Travelling from Amman, Jordan to Jerusalem

I had the privilege to attend the Global Forum on Youth, Peace and Security in Amman, Jordan from August 21-22, 2015. The moment I stepped out of the plane, the song A Whole New World kept playing on my head. Everything was new to me: the sights, sounds, and food. Jordan will always be special to me, not only because it’s the first Arab country that I’ve ever visited, but because of the kindness and warm welcome I received from its people as well. After the forum, I decided to visit one of the places included on my bucket list – Jerusalem.

I started my journey to Jerusalem on the 23rd of August. I took Jett Bus from Amman to the border or King Hussein bridge for 10 JD. Posted below is the address of Jett Bus station in Amman, it’s written in Arabic by a staff of Jett office near our hotel, you can show this address to the taxi driver. Jett Bus has only one trip to the border everyday, be sure to catch it at 7:00 am, the trip is more or less 1 hour long.

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Jett Bus Station Address – Amman, Jordan

Jett Bus Ticket to King Hussein Bridge

Jett Bus Ticket to King Hussein Bridge

View from my window, Jett Bus from Amman to King Hussein Bridge

View from my window, Jett Bus from Amman to King Hussein Bridge

When I reached the Jordanian side of the border, I proceeded to the passport check area. Take note that small pieces of paper are available to write your passport details, give this to the officer together with your passport, the officer will not put a stamp on your passport but on this piece of paper. You also have to pay 10 JD exit pass fee. Your passport will be given back to you once you are already inside the bus which will take you to the Israeli side of the border (crossing King Hussein Bridge/Allenby).

Part of the Exit Pass

Part of the Exit Pass

The same Jett Bus that brought you to the Jordanian side of the border will also take you to the Israeli side. You don’t need to pay for this trip if you have taken this bus from Amman, however, you need to pay for your baggage at 1.50 JD each. In my case, I did not pay the baggage fee since I only had a backpack.

When I reached the Israeli side, I lined up for the passport check. Afterwhich, I proceeded inside the building for a baggage check and another passport check. Right after this, the passport control followed where I was given a small card/stay permit that included my passport details. I am posting my stay permit below for your reference.

Stay Permit

Stay Permit

After receiving my stay permit, I went outside the building where transportation from the border to Jerusalem is available. Take note that there’s a money exchange booth located near the exit, so I purchased 62 Shekels for 20 USD, which I thought was not a good rate so I only got Shekels enough for me to reach Jerusalem. I took a shared taxi (it looks more like a big van) to Jerusalem for 42 Shekels, I also paid 5 Shekels for my backpack. The trip from the border to Jerusalem was more or less 45 minutes – 1 hour long. It brought me near Damascus Gate of the Old City. I left Amman at 7:00 am and reached Jerusalem at around 12 noon.

Tickets for taxi (42) and baggage (5) fees

Tickets for taxi (42) and baggage (5) fees

Damascus Gate

Damascus Gate

I stayed in Jerusalem for two nights and left on the 25th of August for Amman, Jordan.

Jerusalem!

Jerusalem!

Going back to Amman, Jordan is easier. You only need to take the shared taxi/van going to the border. The shared taxi/van terminal is located at the back of Golden Walls Hotel, near Damascus Gate. The trip to the border will cost you 42 Shekels.

Ticket from Jerusalem to Allenby

Ticket from Jerusalem to Allenby

In the Israeli side of the border, after the baggage check, proceed to the passport control area where you will pay 181 Shekels exit fee, you will also be given a small card/exit permit. Again, I am attaching a photo of my exit permit below for your reference. You may also exchange all your remaining Shekels to JD at the money exchange booth.

Exit Pass

Exit Pass

Outside the building, there are buses which will take you to the Jordanian side (crossing King Hussein Bridge/Allenby), this short ride will cost you 8.50 JD.

When I reached the Jordanian side, I proceeded to the passport control area. An officer will just check your passport and you do not need to pay anything. After this process, you may now look for a transportation which will bring you to Amman. There are taxis available for 30 JD (some would offer a lower rate), and to minimize my expenses I shared my taxi with another traveller.

I left Amman on the 26th of August but I felt the need to come back to Jordan in the near future for these reasons – the food, the ruins at Amman, Petra, and of course the Jordanian friends I met during my stay.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

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Note: God sends help when we’re lost and we don’t know what to do next in our journey. Hasan from Amman volunteered to keep some of my things which may be questioned when I cross the border. The Jordanian taxi driver gave me a cup of coffee because he said he knows a lot of Filipinos living in Amman. The Jordanian driver assistant spoke to me in Tagalog which he learned from his Filipino friends when he worked in Dubai. He endearingly called our driver “sira ulo.”  I met Mei, from Beijing. She jumped for joy when she saw me because she thought I was from China too. We also met Frank, from the US, & is working for the UN. He gave us instructions on the process involved in the border, and assisted us in looking for a ride going to Jerusalem. A Franciscan friar from Spain at the church of the Holy Sepulchre tried to speak in English and introduced me to the Spanish-speaking pilgrims because he said I never left him when he started the Mass, despite the fact that I was the only one present when he started the liturgy. And lastly, Fr. Jean-Daniel Gullung, AA, welcomed me to stay at their community in the church of St. Peter in Gallicantu.
Thank you God for sending me these angels during my trip. Bless them always.

The Story of Us: Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady

I highly anticipated Dalanghita Production’s “Kung Paano Ako Naging Lady” to come alive onstage, so much so that I watched the show in its opening night during its initial run at PETA Theater. With the same excitement and anticipation, I welcomed its second run at Onstage Greenbelt last July 2 during its Press Preview.

Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady Press Preview

Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady Press Preview

Freshly Squeezed 

Promoted as “the musical to end all musicals,” Kung Paano Ako Naging Lady offers a powerhouse casts that we have not seen lately in on stage. The musical gives a rare chance for all to see the who’s who of Philippine Theater and Music Scene together in one production. For three hours, yes three hours, the show’s promotional materials promise to bring you “comedy, drama, romance, action, deception, confessions, superheroes, supervillains, family, and a maid.”

Umayos Ka

The show is about Mely, whose relationship with Viva, her sister, is a plot enough to fill our daily dose of teleserye. In her desire to help her family, she ended up being employed as a maid of Fuerza Filipinas – a bunch of English-speaking and mestizo-looking individuals, whose day job is to save the Philippines from the society’s bad forces and elements. While working as a maid of Fuerza Filipinas, a love story brewed between Mely and the dashing hero, Leading Man. This love angle created an internal conflict in Mely, prompting her to remind herself to “umayos ka” and to stay focused on her goal to help her family by doing her work well as a maid. Then came the Kayumanggilas and their connivance with Viva.

Pinalakas ng Isaw at Balut

The Kayumanggilas and their head, Senor Blanco, are the plays supervillains who look very much the same like many of us – with most of them sporting a tanned skin and who proudly proclaimed that they were “pinalakas ng isaw at balut.” The Kayumanggilas took advantage of the relationship conflict between Mely and Viva to infiltrate the headquarter of Fuerza Filipinas, to steal pertinent superhero information, and to put an end to the limelight and popularity the members of Fuerza Filipinas enjoy.

What Lies Beneath

“Kung Paano Ako Naging Lady” may look like an ordinary story of heroes and villains, the clashes between Kayumanggilas and Fuerza Filipinas; or even between two sisters, the rift between Mely and Viva – but its merit lies under the message it subtly gives. For me, the play ridicules our human tendency to live a life of double standard. The Fuerza Filipinas paraded themselves as the country’s savior but their inability to see the worth of an individual, much more a maid (We have a maid!), uncovers the true colors of their selfish messianic endeavors. On the other hand, the Kayumanggilas took pride in presenting themselves as pinoy na pinoy, but within their heart lies a tyrant ready to devour the weaklings in their midst, they also have a deep-seated prejudice against people of their own kind and origin – including, of course, Mely and Viva.

The Story of Us

I believe that the story of the two sisters is also the story of us. Mely shows us our leaning to think of ourselves based on the way the society judges us. Her hesitancy to accept openly the love of Leading Man because of her looks and status tells something about the way we fared as human beings in instilling low self-esteem to the people around us. Her character also tells us that in order to find happiness, we need to break free from the prison boxes we have built upon ourselves, and to see the person we love through the lenses of truth and acceptance. On the other hand, the story of Viva is a story of the triumph of goodness present in each of us. Evil plans and deeds may seem to overpower us, but Viva proves that in the end, our capacity to do always prevails. The continuation of Viva’s story is actually our own story, when she raised her hand wearing the ring towards the end of the play, it signifies the start of our own journey as Leading Ladies.

Sa lahat ng bumubuo ng KPANLL, mabuhay kayo! More power, Dalanghita Productions, hihintayin ko ang muling pagpatak ng inyong katas! 🙂

You can still catch “Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady” on its closing weekend.

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Si Leading Man, Si Mely, at mga Extra

Si Natasha Cabrera bilang Viva

Si Natasha Cabrera bilang Viva

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Buy your tickets now!

Si Markki Stroem bilang Leading Man na hindi ko pa napapanood :)

Si Markki Stroem bilang Leading Man na hindi ko pa napapanood 🙂

Dangerously Delicious: Tanghalang Pilipino’s Juego de Peligro

To close its 28th Theater Season, Tanghalang Pilipino staged “Juego de Peligro,” a Filipino adaptation of “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. True to its 28th season theme, “Disease,” the play tackled realities that plague our society since time immemorial – such as deceit, lies, and power play, which oftentimes make us use the people around us as objects of our manipulations and tools to achieve our selfish ambitions.

The Company of Cruelty

This Philippine adaptation was written by Elmer Gatchalian. Set in Intramuros during the latter part of 19th Century, Juego de Peligro’s story reveal the cunning Senora Margarita, and the equally haughty, Senor Vicente. Together, they form a partnership, scheming and powerful enough to bring the virtuous Senora Teresa, the virginal Cecilia, and the innocent Daniel into riding the merry-go-round of sex, betrayal, emotional and psychological exploitations.

Dangerously Good

I’ve seen quite a number of plays staged by Tanghalang Pilipino, and “Juego de Peligro,” directed by Tuxqs Rutaquio, remained faithful to what I think this company is doing best through the years. Everytime I watch their production, the darkened theater during the performance becomes a source of enlightenment, the actors’ words turn into inspirations, and the medium itself, theater, blooms into something life-giving. After watching the play, I realized all the more the power and sense of responsibility that go well with our personal freedom. “Juego de Peligro” shows exactly what might happen if we allow evil machinations and insatiable thirst for revenge corrupt the very core of our being humans; our core, which I believe, based on various perspectives, is good and has the capacity to do good. I see Senora Margarita and Senor Vicente not as separate entities but a yin-yang whole potentialities to iniquity, that may be present in all of us. On the other hand, Teresa, Cecilia, and Daniel personify our inner struggles to be what we want to be, they mirror our defeats as well as our effort to stick to this ideals, and they also point to the complexities of our humanity.

Dangerously Beautiful

“Juego de Peligro” is wrapped in a vicious cycle of lies and deceit, which prompted me to look for redemption towards the end of the play. In my attempt to do so, I became aware that as much as Senora Margarita is the perfect symbol of cruelty, she can also be the play’s image of redemption. In the last scene, while Senora Margarita was immersed in a sea of mockery, I saw her strong walls crushed down by her vulnerability, thus, exposing her character beneath the steel-like disposition; and in between sobs and cry of shame, I saw finally her beautiful side as a person.

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Dangerously Delicious

The role of Senora Margarita was brilliantly portrayed by Shamaine Buencamino. She brought into our modern times the Margarita of the olden days, and watching her portrayal of a strong-willed woman is an appropriate way for me to celebrate, on the very day I watched the play, International Women’s Day (March 8). Adrienne Vergara, onstage, is a gentle breeze that excites the senses, it is always delightful everytime she’s delivering her lines; her acting made me root for Cecilia all thoughout the play, even when Cecilia was singing off-key. “Juego de Peligro” is the stage debut of both LJ Reyes (as Teresa) and Vin Abrenica (as Daniel), given the proper guidance and theater exposure, I am convinced that aside from TV, the stage can be their home too. In this production, I would like to commend Arnold Reyes for bringing to life his character Vicente. I admire not only his excellent acting but his stamina as well. Portraying Vicente required him to be onstage most of the time during the play, and his flexibilty as an actor made the transitions of emotions in each scene as smooth as possible. I have seen Arnold Reyes tackled various roles in both TV and Film, and seeing him act on stage made me love him as an actor even more.

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With the Talented Mr. Reyes

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Curtain Call. Bravo! Bravo!

If “Juego de Peligro” is an indication of what’s in store for us in Tanghalang Pilipino’s next season, then I am very excited for whatever it may be.

Bravo Juego de Peligro! Congratulations Tanghalang Pilipino!

Breaking Hypocrisy: La Cage Aux Folles

Georges and Les Cagelles

Georges and Les Cagelles

“Open your eyes…you have arrived at La Cage Aux Folles,” says Georges, the owner of the bar and partner of its star performer, Albin; and indeed, when the curtains were raised, all eyes exultantly followed the story behind “the pride of Saint Tropez, the envy of the cabaret world, and the jewel of the Riviera!”

We are what we are

The story of La Cage Aux Folles revolves around the world of drag entertainment, a gay couple and their son’s plan to marry the daughter of an extremely conservative head of “Tradition, Family and Morality Party.” It features Audie Gemora as Albin, and Michael de Mesa as Georges, Steven Silva plays the role of their son Jean-Michel. In the show I watched last March 7, the role of Anne Dindon, Jean-Michel’s fiancee, was portrayed by Joni Galeste. Raul Montesa and Sheila Francisco, are Monsieur and Madame Dindon, the conservative parents of Anne. On the other hand, Noel Rayos is the butler who prefers to be called a maid.

The Best of Times

La Cage Aux Folles is by far, one of the best musicals that hit the Philippine theater scene. Without any hesitation, I can say that it is even better that many international touring productions I have seen lately here in Manila. While foreign productions rely on big budgets, huge chunks of sponsorship, and massive promotional machineries to sustain the audience’s interest, La Cage Manila relied on things which matter the most – excellent story-telling, fabulous costumes and stage design, and the impeccable talent of all people involved with the show. The story’s strength is its impressive coherence with the character development and its music – together they form a beautiful tapestry, intertwined with witty dialogues and  awesome choreography. Watching the show feels like opening a magical wardrobe where you can see all colors of the rainbow bursting through its many costumes, while the lavish stage design transports you to the exact location where the story happens – a visual feast which not only makes the story believable, but also renders the audience with an unforgettable theater experience. The soul of the show remains to be the actors and the people who made La Cage Manila possible. Audie Gemora has proven once again that he is one of the royalties of Philippine theater. His acting and portrayal of Albin is so effective that I already wanted to give him a standing ovation at the end of Act 1, after singing the iconic song “I Am What I Am.” Noel Rayos, breaking away from his theater leading man image, is extremely funny as the butler who prefers to be called a maid. On the other hand, Sheila Francisco as Madame Dindon is a scene-stealer, she may have only graced the stage for a short time, but her presence is so captivating that you will draw to her character everytime she is on stage. I would like also to commend the musicians of La Cage Manila – listening to them is a musical treat in itself. Days after watching the show, I still find myself singing some of its songs under my breath.

Look Over There

There is no doubt that the show is a breath-taking entertainment bliss, but for me watching the show allowed me to look as well at some issues it presents in a subtle way. Watching it made me recognize our tendency to create double standards in some areas of life where we can not even arrive to a compromise. By standing to his real identity, by fighting for what he really is despite the society’s imposing idea of masculinity, Albin broke through the territory of hypocrisy where Monsieur and Madame Dindon tread. La Cage is also a family story nurtured not by blood, but by love, forgiveness, and acceptance.

Come to La Cage Aux Folles and see what the Philippine theater world is raving about – come as you are, no need for excuses, with or without a little mascara.

La Cage Aux Folles is presented by 9 Works Theatrical, directed by Robbie Guevarra.

Buy your tickets now!

Buy your tickets now!

Numbing the Senses: “Manhid: The Pinoy Superhero Musical”

manhidBuilding Expectations

Last year, when I saw the announcement that Ballet Philippines will stage “Manhid” as part of their 45th Anniversary celebration, I instantly told myself that I will not dare miss this production. The poster reminded me of those colorful comic books, the characters captured my imagination, and its synopsis delivered a lot of promises that appeal to my identity as a Filipino. Just like our superheroes, theater productions have their kryptonite moments too, and “Manhid” may be Ballet Philippines’ weakness this season.

The Hero’s Journey

Manhid revolves around the story of the 99 children of protest, who were gifted with superpowers and were named after the characters from the rich heritage of Pinoy epic and mythology; It also traces the vile plans of the Minister of Humanity Mamalahi-ma and her minions, led by Apolaki – elements which are typical of the battle between good and evil. The plot trails into the question what if EDSA did not happen and the people continued to be infected with “kamanhiran.” All of these were woven like a spiderweb since its first staging in 1991 by some of our artists like Kanakan-Balintagos, Vincent de Jesus, and the iconic Pinoy band, Eraserheads. But then again, just like the beloved spiderweb-wielding superhero, theater productions can also get entangled with the messy thread, created by no one but by itself, and the result would oftentimes be something which numbs the senses.

See, Hear, Smell, Taste, and Feel the Chaos

My first disappointment comes with the sight of the costume of the Pinoy Superheroes. I expected something as colorful as the comic book feel of its promo materials, but what I saw were bland-colored costumes, made more lifeless by the stage lighting and design, and the messy blocking and choreography in some scenes.

Some singers were hit and miss, there were flat notes every now and then. Each indidivual song used in the play convey a specific story, many were great songs in fact, but together with other songs, it produces a cacophony of sounds which drown the over-all story telling.

Watching Manhid’s story unfold is like going to a flower shop where your sense of smell can get confused with a lot of scents present in one location. The narrative is out of focus due to some substories and production numbers which seem to be disconnected to the whole piece. The play was already in the middle of Act II and I was still asking what story are they trying to tell.

The show gives an aftertaste of discontent. It makes you hunger for more. But it will still make you feel proud of the many excellent actors and dancers who gave their heart and soul to give life to a chaotic theater material – and I would be very willing to watch the show again, not for the story, but to express my support to our local artists.

There are four remaining shows this weekend (March 6-8). For tickets please visit http://www.ticketworld.com.ph