A notable ballet production of 2018 was Philippine Ballet Theatre’s “Darangen ni Bantugen,” which was mounted at SM Lanang Premier in Davao City in May, National Heritage Month (NHM).
Darangen (literally to narrate in song) “is an ancient epic song that encompasses a wealth of knowledge,” according to its World Heritage List inscription by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (Unesco).
The oral epic of the Maranao people from Lake Lanao region of Mindanao, was transformed into ballet at the recommendation of Armita Rufino, president of the Filipino Heritage Festival Inc., as one of the highlights of the 2018 NHM in partnership with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
Gener Caringa, who choreographed the production, focused on the major character, Bantugen. The set design was by the late Salvador Bernal, National Artist for Theater and Design.
The music of Jessie Lucas infused the performance with aural delight, deepening the listeners’ immersion into a timeless realm.
Power and verve
Prince Bantugen was ably played by Peter San Juan, who performed with extreme sensitivity but also with explosive power and verve, most notably in the second half of the program.
Kim Abrogena, as Princess Magimar, was on pointe, and she sparkled in her scenes, showing remarkable emotional depth and projection while maintaining perfect lines throughout.
Joel Matias, playing King Madali, was expressive and true to his character’s reversal of mood and attitude.
The pivotal roles of the Angel of Death and Bird were played by Jimmy Lumba and Gladys Baybayan, respectively; they captivated the audience with the natural grace and compelling authenticity of their expressive movements.
The characters of Magali and Mabanig were portrayed by Mark Pineda and Kazier Policarpio, who delivered refreshing performances and provided comic relief.
Regina Magbitang, appearing as Princess Datimbang, was elegant, phrasing her turns and balances with serene exactitude. Ditto with Loby Pimenteas Diwata, who appeared to float across the stage, embodying the the very essence of her magical character.
Crimson Guirjem as King Miskoyaw endowed his role with swagger and menacing intensity.
Overall, PBT displayed competent ensemble ballet dancing to bring to life an oral epic that has been declared by Unesco as a key intangible heritage of the Philippines and the rest of the world. —CONTRIBUTED