Like coming from a vortex” is how Maribel Legarda, artistic director of the 50-year-old Philippine Educational Theater Association, describes the country’s current socio-political situation, with its eerie echoes of a more tumultuous time.
“We did a lot of street theater back then. Nakakaloka na parang umuulit na naman siya, andito na naman tayo,” she says. But—“mas mahirap ngayon, kasi parang ’di ka oppressed but there’s a big story coming.”
Legarda joined Peta in the late 1970s as a college freshman. From the martial law era to the assassination of Ninoy Aquino in 1983 and the eventual overthrow of the dictatorship, she and the pioneering theater group she now heads have been both a living witness and an active participant in the nation’s history.
But so much so with struggle for now. Peta has only happy thoughts these days in the run-up to a big part of its 50th-year celebration—a two-night, two-hour concert on April 7 (the day Peta was founded in 1967 by Cecile Guidote-Alvarez) and April 8 at the Peta Theater Center.
Dubbed “Singkuwenta: The Peta 50th-Year Anniversary Concert,” the show is “purely invitational… because it’s our way of saying thank you to our partners, friends, alumni and so on. It’s free, but we’re paying the artists naman,” says Legarda.
And it has to be two nights to accommodate all those invited; there is no plan for an extension.
“Singkuwenta” is also meant to launch the 13-track “Sa Hirap at Ginhawa,” Peta’s 50th-year commemorative album. It has five suites and eight singles, all of which will be performed in the concert. “Plus additional four to five numbers or more, we’ll see,” says Legarda, of the performances all meant to celebrate highlights and milestones in Peta’s rich theater legacy.
The album “Sa Hirap at Ginhawa” is a prized collector’s item for lovers of original Filipino musical theater. It was made available in November last year at the Peta Theater Center, and is now on Spotify.
The title track, “Sa Hirap at Ginhawa” is a wedding song from 1980’s “Canuplin,” a play about Canuto Francia, regarded as the Charlie Chaplin of the Philippines during the bodabil era. The album interpreters, Aicelle Santos and Noel Cabangon, are confirmed to perform in the concert.
Other songs from the album to be performed are “Pagsapit ng Dilim,” a kundiman duet from a 1990 production of Aurelio Tolentino’s “Kahapon, Ngayon at Bukas”; “Paghahanap Ni Oryang” from the 1995 historical musical “1896”; “Laman ng Isip” from 2011’s “Rated: PG”; and “Padayon,” from a play of the same title in 2014 that tackled the plight of Supertyphoon “Haiyan” survivors.
Also included are two numbers from Peta’s most-toured and longest-running educational children’s plays—“Awit ng Haraya” from 2005’s “Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang” and “Pag-asa ng Bayan” from 2007’s “Batang Rizal.”
Capping the selection is Vince De Jesus’ “Saan Ka Man Dalhin” from the recent Peta blockbuster “Care Divas.”
The five suites in the album are classified “Good Vibes,” “Sectoral,” “Ethnic,” “Kundiman” and “Makabayan.”
As the name implies, “Good Vibes” offers numbers from Peta’s musical comedies. It has three compositions by De Jesus: “Masaya ang May Kaibigan” (lyrics by Ernie Coloma) from 1988’s “Ngo: Ang Dagang Patay”; “Kalikasan” from 1998’s “Ang Alamat ni Limbaswang: Ang Ampon ng mga Aswang” (lyrics co-written with Angelo Dazo); and “Bakit Ka Pa Maghihintay” from De Jesus’ 2010 masterpiece “Si Juan Tamad, Ang Diablo at Ang Limang Milyong Boto,” arranged by Jeff Hernandez and interpreted by the Peta Choir.
The “Sectoral” suite gathers “Awit ng Magsasaka” from 1979’s “Ang Panunuluyan ng Birheng Maria at San Jose sa Cubao, Ayala, Plaza Miranda, atbp, sa Loob at Labas ng Metro”; “Magdamag sa Laot” from 1982’s “Ang Mahabang Pagdadalawang-Isip sa Maikling Buhay ng Isang Peti-Burgis”; and “Pahimakas ni Joe Hill” from 1979’s “Joe Hill.”
Peta stalwart Rody Vera sings in this suite, and is also confirmed to perform in the concert.
The “Makabayan” suite is, as Legarda puts it, “something na kapag narinig mo, tataas talaga ang kamao mo.”
It has “Panata sa Kalayaan” (original lyrics by Jose “Ka Pepe” Diokno translated by Pete Lacaba) from 1983’s “Oratoryo ng Bayan”; “Sulo ng Kapatiran” from 1995’s musical “1896”; and “Artista ng Bayan” from 1990’s “Petabisyon.”
The “Ethnic” suite has three songs from 1989’s allegorical drama “Diablos” and one titled “Namayan” from Al Santos and Malou Jacob’s 1978 movement drama, “May-i, May-I.”
Finally, the “Kundiman” suite has “Tapunan ng Lingap” from 1982’s “Pilipinas Circa 1907” and “Kalayaan” from 1990’s “Kahapon, Ngayon at Bukas.” It also has “Sa Loob at Labas” (lyrics by Francisco Balagtas and music by Lutgardo Labad) from 1971’s “Halimaw.” Celeste Legaspi, who sang in the album, has confirmed her attendance in one of the two shows.
Besides Cabangon, Santos, Vera and Legaspi, the UP Singing Ambassadors and the Kilyawan Boys Choir are also confirmed performers.
“As for the additional four to five songs, we have to keep them secret,” says Legarda. Then she adds, “Oh well, there’s one from ‘Rak of Aegis.’ Pero ang dami pa rin naming hindi nagawa, naisama!”
“Singkuwenta” is directed by Melvin Lee, with script by Anj Heruela.
Since there are no tickets to be sold, lucky musical theater lovers would just have to wait for that SMS, e-mail or snail-mail invite. The struggle continues. —CONTRIBUTED