Latest Stories

Ballet Manila’s ‘Lola Basyang’ is great fun


Great ballets are like old friends: You know that wherever in the world you go, no matter what the company is, a “Swan Lake” or a “Nutcracker” will always be a satisfying experience.

The dancers might not be familiar names, some might even become faceless once you leave the theater, but they would certainly deliver. A self-respecting dance company would only cast the best dancers in the leads. Otherwise, why would they even bother mounting a production of a ballet beloved?

Ballet Manila’s “Tatlong Kuwento ni Lola Basyang” could become one of those great ballets, up there with thrilling dance productions such as “Don Quixote” and “Le Corsaire.” Give the show a chance to travel and it would definitely find itself a crowd favorite anywhere in the world. It could not go wrong.

This three-parter has all the ingredients for a really good time at the theater: gorgeous sets, colorful costumes, great storytelling and winning choreography. All that is needed are dancers who can also act.

Considering how dancers nowadays are dedicated to their craft, there will never be a lack for performers who will bring magic to this show.

I’ve seen this ballet a couple of times in the past three years, and it never fails to deliver. And I have no complaints. The children who fill Aliw Theater on weekends have no complaints, too. If a ballet can excite children to scream with delight and break out into laughter during a performance, then it must really be a good show. Always, “Lola Basyang” does that.

Homegrown production

Ballet Manila restages “Tatlong Kuwento ni Lola Basyang” this year as the opener for its 2011-2012 season. Since the ballet premiered in 2008, the company has kept it intact.

For this staging, the sets have been spruced up and, in the case of the second ballet, “Ang Kapatid ng Tatlong Maria,” it has been improved so that it moves a lot quicker than before.

Also, for this staging, Missy Elizalde took over from her mom, Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, as one of the child narrators who interact with Lola Basyang, as performed by Luz Fernandez.

But, those details don’t matter, really. What matters is that “Lola Basyang” is homegrown, an original Filipino production based on Filipino stories. And when it crosses over to a foreign audience, it will introduce Filipino art and culture to the world. Isn’t that a nice thought?

Ballet Manila artistic director Macuja-Elizalde happened on the “Lola Basyang” series of books by accident at a school fair. The stories, as retold by Christine Bellen with illustrations by Frances Alcaraz, sparked an idea in her head. Instead of just one ballet, she chose three from the series of 12. And the rest is history.

The first ballet, “Ang Prinsipe ng Mga Ibon,” tells the story of a princess who falls in love with a bird prince, much to the disapproval of her father. The king eventually gives in to her daughter’s love after the bird prince saves his kingdom from the attack of giants.

This is the most romantic of the three ballets, the most traditional in the lot. Mon Faustino has arranged the music of Nicanor Abelardo, National Artists Lucrecia Kasilag, Antonino Buenaventura and Levi Celerio, and George Canseco in a dramatic score.

Faithful choreography

The choreography by Osias Barroso, Ballet Manila artistic associate, was true to the story he was telling. As the star-crossed lovers, Yanti Marduli and Rudy de Dios provided thrilling dancing and committed acting.

The second ballet, “Ang Kapatid ng Tatlong Maria,” is the longest of the three. It tells of Pedro’s journey to strange lands to search for his three sisters who vanished after his father chopped down a healing tree.

Macuja-Elizalde directed this ballet with the assistance of Barroso, Gerardo Francisco and Ernest Mandap. She adopted a neo-ethnic style of choreography that relied on a lot of native movements and gestures. The music of Joey Ayala tied up the story with his brand of ethnic-inspired rock.

Alvin Santos performed Pedro, the brother of the three Marias, namely, Jennifer Rose Olayvar, Zaira Cosico and Mylene Aggabao. Dancing as their parents were Harold Salgado and Eileen Lopez, while the sisters’ husbands were performed by Nazer Salgado, Francis Cascaño and Niño Guevarra.

The character of Pedro served as the link between the many scenes in this ballet, and Santos was a delight with his strong dancing.

The last ballet, “Ang Mahiwagang Biyulin,” brought the house down with its visual and dance comedy. The set was kept to a minimum, except for a large storybook that was flipped through by the child narrators. “Biyulin” tells of Rodrigo who is cheated by the trader Ahab of his wages after working for him for two years. With the help of a magic violin, Rodrigo gets all the money he deserves.

The late Tony Fabella coaxed out the comedy from this story with large exaggerated gestures that were as cartoonish as the illustration for this book.

Gerardo Francisco and Marcus Tolentino made for the wonderful pair of Rodrigo and Ahab, who matched the choreography with their ability to contort their bodies to comic effect.

Ryan Cayabyab wrote the joyful music for this ballet.

Since “Lola Basyang” was premiered four years ago, Ballet Manila has staged it countless of times, along with single performances of each ballet. And indeed, “Lola Basyang” fans have reason to rejoice. Macuja-Elizalde announced during the show’s opening night that three more “Lola Basyang” ballets were planned for the Christmas season of 2012. That is definitely something to look forward to.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Ballet Manila , “Lola Basyang , ” Lisa Macuja-Elizalde , ” Swan Lake , ” “Nutcracker

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. How to enjoy Buntod
  2. World bids Gabriel Garcia Marquez ‘Adios’
  3. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  4. ‘Wild West’ Masbate’s pristine marine gems
  5. Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  6. How Margie Moran-Floirendo keeps her dancer’s body
  7. Life lessons I want to teach my son
  8. Garcia Marquez left unpublished manuscript
  9. Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  10. Wanted: Beauty queen with a heart that beats for the environment
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  4. Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  5. Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  6. This is not just a farm
  7. How Margie Moran-Floirendo keeps her dancer’s body
  8. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  9. 12 other things you can do at Pico de Loro Cove
  10. President Quezon was born here–and so was Philippine surfing
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  3. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  4. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  10. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer


  • Napoles tags over 100 officials in pork scam – Lacson
  • Vitangcol to sue Czech envoy
  • Senator’s kickback from pork bigger than those of Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – Lacson
  • 43 out of 414 Etihad passengers yet to be found, tested for MERS-CoV – Palace
  • Maid confesses in killing of 2 and stabbing of employer in Laguna
  • Sports

  • UP nips St. Benilde; Adamson blasts RTU in Filoil women’s caging
  • Kevin Garnett responds to Raptors’ GM F word
  • Albert Pujols hits 500th HR of major league career
  • UST posts twin kill in Filoil pre-season cup opening day
  • Wizards beat Bulls in OT to take 2-0 series lead
  • Lifestyle

  • Entering the monkhood a rite of passage
  • Haneda International Airport: A destination on its own
  • Wanted: Beauty queen with a heart that beats for the environment
  • Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  • Life lessons I want to teach my son
  • Entertainment

  • Bollywood Oscars, film stars come to Florida
  • Ex-Fox exec denies allegations in sex abuse suit
  • Kris Aquino backtracks, says Herbert Bautista and her are ‘best friends’
  • Summer preview: Chris Pratt enters a new ‘Galaxy’
  • Bon Jovi helps open low-income housing in US
  • Business

  • SM to rebuild Tacloban hospital
  • PSEi slips after 4-day rally
  • Toyota sells 2.58 million vehicles, outselling GM
  • McDonald’s 1Q profit slips as US sales decline
  • SEC approves SM’s P15B retail bond offer
  • Technology

  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Engineers create a world of difference
  • Bam Aquino becomes Master Splinter’s son after Wiki hack
  • Mark Caguioa lambasts Ginebra teammates on Twitter
  • Opinion

  • One-dimensional diplomacy: A cost-benefit analysis of Manila’s security deal with Washington
  • No ordinary illness
  • Reforest mountains with fire trees and their kind
  • Day of the Earth
  • When will Chinese firm deliver new coaches?
  • Global Nation

  • Filipinos coming home from Mideast must obtain MERS clearance – DOH
  • US Secret Service in Manila ahead of Obama visit
  • Palace thanks Estrada for successful HK mission
  • Hong Kong accepts PH apology; sanctions also lifted
  • China won’t budge, wants PH gov’t to apologize to HK