Philippine theater

Cagayan de Oro original musical to debut at Higalaay Festival

Mike Baños
Cagayan de Oro original musical to debut at Higalaay Festival

PLAY. The cast of Ang Paglaya-The Musical will stage the play in time of the annual Higalaay Festival in Cagayan de Oro this August.

Oro Teatro Bulawanon

'Ang Paglaya: The Musical' tackles an issue that many can relate with – what parents want their children to take up in college versus what their children are really passionate about

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – An original Filipino musical written and directed by a Kagay-anon will debut in August in time for Cagayan de Oro City’s Higalaay Festival.

Written and directed by Maia Fortich-Poblete, Ang Paglaya: The Musical focuses on the protagonist Annika’s various relationships – her struggle to free herself from her domineering father Manuel, her longing for her mother Anna, and her journey to discovering her true identity.

The piece starts at Manuel’s house but later segues to a mythical world of diwatas, engkantos, and duwendes (fairies, wizards, and dwarfs).

“It tackles an issue that many can relate with – what parents want their children to take up in college versus what their children are really passionate about,” Poblete said. 

She added, “To add a bit of excitement to our play, we featured an enchanted forest, some Filipino mythical creatures, and a strange family whose only intention is to do good.”

Ang Paglaya was first staged by Oro Teatro Bulawanon (OTB) as a one-act play co-written by Poblete with Bex Espino at Tanghalan sa Kampo Juan, a series of three cultural and culinary evenings celebrating the arts, music, culture, and cuisine of Northern Mindanao at the Kampo Juan Eco-Adventure Farm and Heritage Resort in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon, in May 2019.

In 2021, Poblete joined Sulat Dula, a playwriting workshop commissioned by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), where she was encouraged to reformat the play into a musical. The reworking was completed in May 2022.

Ang Paglaya: The Musical features 13 original songs written, arranged, and composed by some of the cast members. 

“It’s good to know it’s been made into a formally staged musical since that would mean the production values would be much better than their first iteration three years ago,” said Jonathan Cabrera, who produced Tanghalan sa Kampo Juan. “Also, with much more time to prepare, it can only get much better, and I wish them the best for their upcoming performance.”

CHARACTERIZATION. ‘Ang Paglaya The Musical’s’ cast and production staff take part in a characterization activity. Oro Teatro Bulawanon

Sulat Dula aims to help develop the writing skills of local playwrights for one-act plays, said Hobart Savior, program director and founder of the annual regional playwriting workshop.

Savior, who once served as a regional committee member of the NCCA’s National Committee on Dramatic Arts and National Committee on Cinema, said the workshop panelists were the ones who asked Poblete to explore the possibility of turning Ang Paglaya into a full-length musical since it already featured songs and dances. 

Theater group

Oro Teatro Bulawanon is a community advocacy theater group founded by Poblete and similarly inclined friends in 2016.

“While we’ve been doing productions since 2013, we only formally named our group in 2016, in time for our staging of my mom’s play Reyna Elena,” said Poblete.

Her mother, the late playwright and columnist Ma. Soledad “Chic” Nery-Fortich, was behind the full-length play Reyna Elena, which won second place in the 1983 Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature.

Fortich’s other stage credits include being the writer, lyricist, and director of the original Binisaya musical Ay Kasing Ko staged at the Manila Metropolitan Theater’s Dalubdulaan in 1987 and the XU Little Theater in 1989.

She was also the co-writer for Labaw sa Bulawan: A Musical Tribute to Visayan Songs and Songwriters, a musical variety show staged at the City Tourism Hall and Grand Caprice in Cagayan de Oro in the early 1990s. It was directed by the late Nestor U. Torre.

Advocacy and promotion

The Oro Teatro Bulawanon has been staging Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues every year as part of its advocacy to raise awareness about violence against women. 

The group has also been a part of several stagings of Lima: HIV Monologues, as part of a campaign to raise HIV and AIDS awareness.

“It is the group’s advocacy to help aspiring young performers find their place in the theater scene in Cagayan de Oro. So OTB took in several senior high school students as performers for The Vagina Monologues, which had performances at Rodelsa Hall, Superstar KTV, USTP, and in Balingasag, Misamis Oriental,” Poblete said.

Ang Paglaya is OTB’s first step towards spotlighting local theater talents, mostly graduates of Liceo de Cagayan University’s Senior High School Arts and Design strand. 

Christy Aboniawan and Mykie Sostinto alternate as Annika, while Bernard Alain Castro and Raven Joshua Zamora alternate as Manuel (Annika’s father). 

Kareem Almirante and Dawid Rosh Mahilum alternate as Oren, while Jay Abcede plays Annika’s good friend Marco.

They lead a cast of over a dozen people.

The home-grown production team is headed by Jean Jacques Agbon with Zilpha Kaye Ibañez and supported by Carolene dela Cruz, Phoebe Nickole Otero, Jessa Bernaldez, Hanhn Felicity Agawin, Franklin Toledo, and Donie Galigao.

Ang Paglaya: The Musical will be staged in partnership with Liceo de Cagayan University as one of the featured events for this year’s Higalaay Festival, Cagayan de Oro’s annual fiesta celebration this August.

Produced by 7HS Productions and Oro Teatro Bulawanon, Ang Paglaya will be staged at the Rodelsa Hall in Cagayan de Oro on August 5 and August 6, with a matinee at 3 pm and a gala premiere at 7 pm. 

The proceeds will be for the benefit of the Liceo U High School Alumni humanitarian and special projects. – Rappler.com

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