'3 Stars and a Sun': Dystopian sci-fi told through Francis M songs
MANILA, Philippines – Welcome to the future, year 2026.
This is the Stormdome, a fallout shelter encompassing the Philippine archipelago from a toxic catastrophe decades ago. Generations have been born under its artificial light having never known the light of the sun, the twinkling of the stars, or the history of their people.
In a future where memory loss is a tool of enslavement, remembering what it means to be Filipino is an act of rebellion.
This is the premise of 3 Stars and a Sun, a rap musicale based on the songs of the late Francis Magalona – better known as Francis M, the godfather of Philippine hiphop. The show ran at the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) Center, in New Manila, Quezon City from February 4 to March 6.
In 3 Stars and a Sun, the ruling family of Grand Vidame Inky, with her daughter Dianne and son Chino – as well as their cronies, Winston and Chelsea – lord over Lumina City. They are protected from the scum of Diliman City by the protektanods – stormtroopers who are culled from the masses of Diliman after having their memory wiped clean.
On the other hand, there are rebels who sabotage Grand Vidame's paradise for the elite. They are Sol, Poy, Kat, and Nazty – collectively called Tropang Gising.
While Tropang Gising scavenges the ruins of Diliman City for scraps they can sell, they come across Mang Okik and a strange piece of cloth colored red, white, and blue with 3 stars and a sun, which reawakens the old man's fragile memory of life before the apocalypse – leading the rebels to aspire for more than the Stormdome.
The cast of 3 Stars and a Sun includes Nicco Manalo and Gold Villar alternating as the impetuous rebel Sol, Che Ramos-Cosio and Carla Guevara-Laforteza as the Stormdome tyrant Inky, Giannina Ocampo and Justine Peña as Inky's daughter Dianne, John Moran and Nar Cabico as the scavenger Poy, Bodjie Pascua and Raffy Tejada as the wise yet unhinged Mang Okik, Paolo Valenciano and Gio Gahol alternating as spoiled brat and groomed future leader Chino, Anj Heruela and Gab Pangilinan as Chelsea, Anna Luna and Jet Barrun as Nazty, Lee Villoria and EJ Pepito as Kat, and Jef Flores and Norbs Portales as Winston. The ensemble also includes Jason Barcial, Raflesia Bravo, Yesh Burce, Lance Busa, Roi Calilong, Gimbey dela Cruz, Nica Santiago, and Ian Segarra.
The artistic team includes playwrights Rody Vera and Mixcaela Villalon, director Nor Domingo, musical director Myke Salomon, production designer Gino Gonzales, lighting designer Shoko Matsumoto and Ian Torqueza, sound designer Teresa Barrozo, and choreographer Delphine Buencamino.
MGA KABABAYAN! Sa lahat ng pumasok sa Stormdome, sana manatili ang musika at mensahe ng mga kanta ni Francis M sa ating mga isip, puso at damdamin! #PETATheater #PETA3StarsAndASun #FrancisM #3StarsandaSun #MgaKababayanKoPosted by Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) on Sunday, 6 March 2016
3 Stars and a Sun is PETA's follow-up to its wildly successful and long-running original musicale Rak of Aegis. Following the same formula for success, 3 Stars and a Sun, like Rak of Aegis, is a musicale built around the songs of a hugely popular Filipino musical artist.
It has a coherent and compeling story as well as fleshed out charters audiences can identify with. It also has a seasoned creative team that can create concise content with discpline, and a cast of luminary thespians that can bring an entire world to life.
Myke Salomon and Nor Domingo, both cast members of Rak of Aegis, are also responsible for 3 Stars and a Sun's success, albeit backstage, as musical director and director, respectively.
Just like Rak of Aegis, 3 Stars and a Sun's cast is no less stellar. Nicco Manalo and Jef Flores most recently impressed audiences with their riveting performances in Red Turnip Production's This is Our Youth. Nar Cabico and Giannina Ocampo awed theater lovers unforgettable performances in their respective roles for Dalanghita Productions' Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady. Paolo Valenciano also made his professional theatrical debut among fellow showbiz dynasty scions in the cast of Sandbox Collective's No Filter 2.0.
Manalo, Ocampo, and Cabico shined brightest among a briliant ensemble cast. There is genuine pathos in their performances.
Like Rak of Aegis, 3 Stars and a Sun has a compelling yet socially relevant and timely story that can stand apart from its songs. If Rak of Aegis sucessfully pulled off creating a flooded shanty community onstage, 3 Stars and a Sun is equally ambitious, creating a post-apcalyptic world that is truly Filipino – save for several references to established science fiction tropes (Notably, its premise resembles that of City of Ember, a novel by Jeanne DuPrau.)
It is to the credit of the show's creative team that even theater goers unfamiliar with Francis M's songs can appreciate both the musicale's story and its songs. Songs such as "Mga Praning," "Kabataan Para sa Kinabukasan," "Mga Kababayan," "Ito Ang Gusto Ko," "Meron Akong Ano," "3 Stars and a Sun," and even a Tagalog version of "Cold Summer Nights" are rearranged and reinterpreted in ways that make them fit the musicale perfectly.
The cast can rap. Even veteran actor Bodjie Pascua convincingly pulled it off. Previous musicales by other productions have floundered just because some pivotal cast members couln't rap well enough. In 3 Stars and a Sun, the lyricism flows naturally.
As unavoidable as comparisons are with Rak of Aegis, they are also unfair. 3 Stars and a Sun is every bit as successful in its own right.
Its appeal, much like Francis M's music, differs from that of Aegis'. While Aegis' torch songs all tug at the heart strings, many of Francis M's songs tacked social issues, from power outages, to dynastic politics, to national identity.
By any standard, 3 Stars and a Sun is a success, a delightful show worth watching and telling friends about. – Rappler.com
Writer, graphic designer, and business owner Rome Jorge is passionate about the arts. Formerly the Editor-in-Chief of asianTraveler Magazine, Lifestyle Editor of The Manila Times, and cover story writer for MEGA and Lifestyle Asia Magazines, Rome Jorge has also covered terror attacks, military mutinies, and mass demonstrations as well as reproductive health, gender equality, climate change, HIV/AIDS and other important issues. He is also the proprietor of Strawberry Jams Music Studio.