Philippine theater

PETA’s ‘One More Chance’ musical merges two icons of two different times

Lé Baltar

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PETA’s ‘One More Chance’ musical merges two icons of two different times

POPOY AND BASHA. Actors performing a scene at the 'One More Chance' press conference.


The journey to bringing the classic hugot movie to the stage actually took seven long years

Three years ago, in the thick of the pandemic, Filipino folk pop band Ben&Ben, in a vlog, recreated the iconic scene between Popoy and Basha in Cathy Garcia-Molina’s One More Chance, with the iconic line: “She had me at my worst. You had me at my best. At binalewala mo lang lahat ‘yon (And you threw it all away).”

A couple years back, the nine-piece band also met John Lloyd Cruz, one of the film’s lead stars, when the latter invited them to his birthday party, recalling how they offered the actor mangoes as a present.

These might just be silly incidents of the past, but to Ben&Ben, it felt like a full-circle moment, now that the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) is turning One More Chance into a musical, featuring the band’s music, a project that was unveiled during the final curtain call of Walang Aray in October last year.

While the announcement was met by the public with much anticipation, informed mostly by nostalgia, the journey to bringing the classic hugot movie to the stage actually took seven long years. “It kinda started [in] 2017,” said PETA artistic director Maribel Legarda in a media briefing recently, sharing how Star Cinema, who produced the film, and PETA could no longer recount who approached whom first to talk about the project.

Courtesy of PETA

Pero, I guess, at the end of the day, ang pinakaimportante ay nangyari siya. Sometimes, may mga bagay talaga na ‘pag hindi napapanahon, hindi siya mangyayari kahit ano pang gawin ninyo. So this is happening because it’s meant to be here and it’s meant to be now. And we are so excited,” she said.

(But I guess, at the end of the day, what matters is that it happened. Sometimes, there are things that, if the circumstances aren’t right, just won’t work out no matter what you do.)

Released in 2007, One More Chance tracks the fractured relationship of college sweethearts Popoy (Cruz) and Basha (Bea Alonzo). The film went on to become a box office success, prompting Star Cinema to release the sequel, A Second Chance, in November 2015, with the two lead stars reprising their roles and Garcia-Molina still at the helm. It was just two months after the original was adapted into a novel.

And parallel to the Star Cinema formula that catapulted One More Chance into a huge cultural moment, PETA knew that it also needed one for the adaptation to work. 

“When we thought about putting together One More Chance and Ben&Ben, it was like, ‘Yeah, it makes sense.’ You have two icons of two different timeframes, but putting them together [is] such an interesting creative exercise,” shared Legarda, who is also directing the musical.

Indeed, the film’s nostalgia and the band’s appeal to new audiences make for a fitting match, reflecting how cultural and temporal distance can shape theater and art at large. 

“The music, the story, they’re adapted for new times, for new generations kasi iba ‘yung thinking ng 2007 at iba na ang 2024. At ang ganda-ganda that the music, the film, and the theater are growing with it,” added Legarda.

Courtesy of PETA

‘Big shoes to fill’

Given the ticket sales and the added show dates, the production’s main cast is well aware of how daunting the task is. “We have big shoes to fill,” Sam Concepcion, who is playing Popoy (alternating with CJ Navato), told Rappler. 

He added, “There’s a big pressure that comes with the role. But it’s good guy pressure. Hopefully it produces diamonds. But one of the challenges for me, I think, is to stay true to the character and the material. But at the same time, like, you know, adding our own truthfulness to the role without deviating so much dun sa kung ano talaga si Popoy (from who Popoy really is). So excited ako para ma-discover (So I’m excited to discover) the parts of Popoy that I’m hoping to be able to communicate with and be able to relate in my own way.”

Meanwhile, Anna Luna, who is playing Basha (alternating with Nicole Omillo), said that there’s also a lot of excitement. “Kung paano pa mami-milk ‘yung eksena, kung paano pa mas masakit ‘yung mga pupuntahan ng bawat character.”

(How we’ll milk a scene for all it’s worth, how we can take the characters to more painful places.)

The staging also marks Luna’s sixth collaboration with PETA, which she became part of at age 17.

Breakdowns, breakthroughs

Of course, the challenge in turning a work into another form is capturing its essence but also leaping from what it has previously offered. With this vantage point, the artistic team ensures that they’re approaching the material with utmost respect.

Alam namin na maraming nagmamahal sa kuwento. So as I said, we’re not trying to deconstruct it. So kung ano ‘yung napanood niyo sa pelikula, makikita niyo yun and more. Ngayon, kung ano ‘yung ‘and more,’ ‘yun po ang exciting because what else can you add to something so beautiful?” said playwright Michelle Ngu-Nario.

(We know a lot of people love this story. So as I said, we’re not trying to deconstruct it. So whatever you saw in the movie, you’re going to see that and more. Now, as to the ‘and more,’ that’s the exciting part, because what else can you add to something so beautiful?)

Ngu-Nario also noted that the changes made during writing remain organic to the story, while keeping PETA’s advocacies in perspective. 

Lahat naman ng pagbabagong hinahanap natin sa lipunan sa pangmalawakan, nagsisimula sa sarili. At ‘yun ang in-explore namin na organic dito sa istorya natin. Paano ba palalakasin ‘yung self-agency and empowerment? Hindi tayo lalayo kung ano ‘yung essential dun sa istorya, pero at the same time, hindi pinapakawalan ‘yung ganung pinanghahawakan ng PETA na nagsisimula sa sarili ang lahat ng pagbabagong gusto nating makita,” she said.

(All the grand changes we seek as a society actually start with us. And that’s what we’re exploring organically in our story. How do we strengthen our self-agency and empowerment? We won’t be straying far from what’s essential to the story, but at the same time, we’re not letting go of what PETA advocates for: that the change we seek starts with the self.)

Courtesy of PETA

“It doesn’t have to be big all the time. [It’s about] giving yourself grace to learn from your mistakes, to break down so you can get to your breakthroughs,” added the playwright. 

Among these changes is the production’s focus on depicting mental health. “The whole idea of mental health and all that stuff coming from the pandemic, feelings of isolation, all the things that came out of three years of that kind of isolation,” said Legarda. “That’s one thing that we’re trying to flesh out in this adaptation because that’s the only thing you can flesh out that is organic. Kasi ayaw rin naman namin ‘yung parang (Because we also don’t want that) we’re seeing something so important but it’s not organic in the story, right?”

Deciding on one bar to the next

Similar challenges extend to working on the staging’s music, even for seasoned musical director and sound designer Myke Salomon. 

“Of course it’s the same hard challenge. As in kung paano ko ginawa ‘yung (Like with how I worked on) Rak of Aegis, ‘yung [Ang] Huling El Bimbo, it’s always the same challenge because it’s considering the script and the existing songs at the same time and what’s the best thing to do for the whole narrative for every scene,” said Salomon. 

Face, Head, Person
Courtesy of PETA

“It requires my whole life experience to decide on one bar or the next bar. Actually, ‘yun ang foundation ko at puhunan ko (that’s my foundation and investment) as a musical director because I’m also an actor. So that’s my lens. How do I tell the story through music? How do I embody the melody, the sounds, the harmony, the music? Everything. Pare-pareho silang mahirap. Walang madali sa buhay na ‘to (They’re all difficult. Nothing in life comes easy).” 

Salomon, who starred in the local adaptation of The Last Five Years with real-life partner Gab Pangilinan last year, added that creating the music for each scene feels like toying with jigsaw puzzles, especially with 29 songs in consideration, including reprises.

“How do we match the verses and the context? How do we break the context of this song to fit in with that character? How do we make this a barkada song? How do we make this a barangay song? Those are the kinds of approaches. Because that’s what makes music so fun. It can go beyond the wall. And go crazy.”

Keeping local art growing

After Walang Aray last year, PETA is ultimately hoping that this merging of film, music, and theater propels things forward. “As we increase, we also get a chance to educate more people, send out our messages. So first, maybe they’ll come to One More Chance because they know the film or they know Ben&Ben, but maybe they’ll love the experience and they come back, and the next time we do a play about gender human rights, [and] boom they’re there for us and and so for me that’s the most [important thing],” said Legarda.

“This new adaptation will strengthen our own Philippine art and culture because we’re going back to our own text, our own music and try to re-envision it and reimagine it and enrich that experience along the way. So it doesn’t disappear. It just keeps on growing,” she added. –

PETA’s One More Chance: The Musical runs from April 12 to June 30, 2024.

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Lé Baltar

Lé Baltar is a Manila-based freelance journalist and film critic for Rappler. Currently serving as secretary of the Society of Filipino Film Reviewers (SFFR), Lé has also written for CNN Philippines Life, PhilSTAR Life, VICE Asia, Young STAR Philippines, among other publications. She is a fellow of the first QCinema International Film Festival Critics Lab.