We’ve heard this line too many times—borrowed as a line in a TV show, quoted by a friend in jest during a random conversation. And while it’s so easy to just say it out loud for impact, it’s also worth knowing what made this line so iconic.
Translated as “there is no miracle” in English, the line is Nora Aunor’s famous one from “Himala,” a 1982 drama film lauded by critics worldwide. In the film, the actress plays Elsa, a faith healer who becomes a symbol of hope and a cause for fanaticism in an isolated barrio.
Written by Ricky Lee and directed by the late Ishmael Bernal, “Himala” was the first Filipino film to be included in the Berlin International Film Festival. It also bagged the Viewer’s Choice Award for Best Film of All Time in the Asia-Pacific region at the CNN Asia Pacific Screen Awards in 2008. The film is a cultural landmark on its own.
In 2004, more than two decades after the film’s release, “Himala” was adapted into a musical that was met with critical acclaim. Theater fans that weren’t able to see it back then and who have been asking for a miracle may now rejoice, as “Himala” will be returning on stage this month.
The big question is, why should one see “Himala: Isang Musikal,” and what makes it relevant in this day and age?
An old tale that reflects present-day truths
The story is set in the small, arid town of Cupang. Its people believe that the drought was brought about by a curse from a leper they spurned years before—not any weather-related phenomenon, whatsoever. It’s a sleepy town where the land is barren and life is slow-paced and simple. People are desperate for a miracle that will save them all.
One day, a young woman named Elsa claims that she witnessed an apparition of the Virgin Mary. From there on she engages in faith healing, and becomes a symbol of hope in her community. Word gets around and pilgrims come to Cupang. Enterprising townsfolk see the sudden surge of patients and tourists as an opportunity for commerce.
One of the most intriguing elements in “Himala” is the blind fanaticism that Elsa ignites. People believe that she can cure even the most complicated illnesses that require medical attention, and that she holds the key to solving all their woes. Tragedy ensues in the name of blind faith.
It’s a disturbing concept, but it is a reflection of realities we continue to face, particularly as Filipinos. It’s 2018 and yet, many are still looking for a saviour. Many still believe that an omnipotent individual could have all the solutions to our country’s problems.
There’s more. “Himala” also touches on moralistic ideals, greed, corruption, fraud, and heinous crimes such as rape and murder. It is fascinating how this story, written in the ’80s and inspired by the life of a young woman from the 1960s, could still be as relevant in the society we now live in.
A powerhouse cast and creative team
“Himala: Isang Musikal” boasts of a powerhouse cast led by Aicelle Santos in the role of Elsa. The rising star was last seen in the musical film “Ang Larawan,” and on stage in “Maynila Sa Kuko ng Liwanag,” for which she won an Awit Award.
Theater veteran and premiere songstress Bituin Escalante will play Elsa’s mother, Aling Saling; Kakki Teodoro will play Nimia, a former prostitute. Neomi Gonzales will take on the role of Chayong, Elsa’s childhood friend and sidekick. Floyd Tena, who starred opposite Aicelle in “Maynila Sa Kuko ng Liwanag,” will portray the town’s vicar.
Another rising star in film, television and theater, Sandino Martin, will be playing Pilo, Chayong’s former lover. Veteran actor Pen Medina took on the role in the 1982 film. On the other hand, David Ezra will take on the role of Orly, the filmmaker, which was portrayed by late actor Spanky Manikan.
Presented by The Sandbox Collective and 9 Works Theatrical, “Himala: Isang Musikal” is an original production with book and lyrics by Ricky Lee, music and lyrics by Vincent de Jesus, and direction and set design by Ed Lacson Jr. It will run at the Power MAC Center Spotlight in Circuit Makati from Feb. 10 to March 4.
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