WITH countless Hollywood blockbuster screenings and Asian-novelas steadily available in the local entertainment industry, Filipinos tend to neglect the importance of cultural heritage and history, which in fact can inspire much-needed changes in the country.
As the nation continues to commemorate revolutionary leader Apolinario Mabini’s 150th birth anniversary, Filipinos are called to return to their roots and experience a different kind of history in the fourth restaging of La Revolucion Filipina, a theater-dance production by Ballet Philippines (BP). The critically acclaimed performance will unfold anew on July 25 to 27 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ (CCP) Main Theater.
“Dance is an important part of our culture. Like the Filipino language, we have to put in the effort to learn, fight and broaden this art so we can use it to guide younger generations,” BP’s artistic director Paul Morales told The Manila Times in the vernacular.
Proud to be one of the oldest classical and contemporary dance companies in the country, BP opens its 45th year with this all-original production that highlights Mabini’s role in the Philippine Revolution.
Created by renowned choreographer Agnes Locsin, La Revolucion Filipina raises the curtain on BP’s “Sapphire Season” with a dance interpretation of an important part of Philippine history, and at the same time, showcase local talents known worldwide.
First staged in 1996, Locsin went through what she calls an “immersion process” of getting to know the “brains of the Revolution” that is Mabini. With one year to create an interpretation of the hero’s 11-chapter biography La Revolucion Filipina, Locsin shared how she transformed Mabini’s life and work into the art of movement.
“I did a lot of reading. I read all the books that were written about Mabini and the Revolution. I went to the house of Mabini, I prayed for his spirit to come to me,” Locsin recalled during the press briefing of the upcoming event on July 9 held at the CCP Lobby.
“I read different history books—works of Ambeth Ocampo, the memoirs of Katipunan, and so on. I actually started with Philippine history books that were used in high school, which didn’t contain anything,” she laughed.
Through this process, Locsin discovered Mabini’s selfless love for his country, which in turn is where the choreographer became certain that she could make Mabini dance.
“When Mabini saw that his countrymen were fighting for independence, he readily joined and supported their battle—and that’s love for his country. When I read about him and learned about him, I knew I could make him dance because his passion was strong,” she declared.
Stressing on the Revolution’s historical importance even today, Morales encouraged Filipinos to look back into the past to better understand the current situation of the country, and to identify how the nation can move forward.
In an effort to inspire nationalism, Morales continued to speak in the Filipino language and explained that La Revolucion Filipina is a “reflection on the history of Mabini’s book.”
“It is important that Filipinos understand our history because it is still very short. Compared to countries like France and the United States, our history is just very short after many years of oppression and colonialism. We need to go back, experience and deeply understand why our heroes thought and acted in certain ways, and so we can identify where we are headed as a nation,” the artistic director said.
In addition, La Revolucion’s librettist Dennis Marasigan said, “It is important that it’s clear to Filipinos why things happen, and why these are significant to us as a people. That knowledge is something relevant now as it was 18 years ago when we first staged La Rev. People simply prefer to act in the moment, without knowing what had happened before.”
Planning for the centennial commemoration of the Philippine Revolution in 1996, Locsin was commissioned to do a historical dance performance based on Mabini’s account of the Revolution a year before.
After working on various projects together, Locsin asked Marasigan to write the libretto of La Revolucion Filipina. She also worked with an original cast from Ballet Philippines comprised of Annette Cruz-Mariano, Judell de Guzman-Sicam and Alden Lugnasin, who have been commissioned to lead this year’s restaging. Theater actor Nonie Buencamino was chosen to play the role of Emilio Aguinaldo, setting a high-standard performance for the future performers playing the role.
Professor Ryan Cayabyab, who said he was “inspired by the strength of Filipino dancers,” composed all-original music for La Revolucion Filipina. Initially called to lend some of his existing works to the production, Cayabyab only took two weeks to create a whole composition for the three-act show.
For the fourth restaging of La Revolucion, the role of Mabini has been given to Sonny Locsin, whose career in dance has taken him all around the world. BP’s principal dancer Jean Marc Cordero alternates with Locsin.
Another company dancer, Richardson Yadao, has been chosen to play the role of Emilio Aguinaldo. Alternating is Tanghalang Pilipino’s Nicolo Magno, who is trying his hand in theater dance for the first time.
Former company members Jojo and Kris-belle Mamangun will also join the cast as guest dancers.
In an interview, Locsin shared that through her readings, she discovered that Mabini also called for an “internal revolution,” which can positively change how Filipinos viewed their own culture, values, and beliefs. Even then, colonial mentality was a clear trait in Philippine society.
With the events re-enacted in this historical dance-drama production, Locsin said that Filipinos should learn to be accountable for their actions. Instead of blaming colonizers for what they have done in the past, Filipinos should move on and move forward to create a better future for the country.
For Marasigan, the production should force people to think about the meaning of past events, to connect different facts into one coherent story, and to ask questions about the country’s history and government.
“We want the audience to develop a consciousness and desire to look back into history—to understand it, to learn about it and to learn from it,” the librettist expressed.
“The word kalayaan [freedom]is loosely used by Filipinos without ever understanding its true meaning. Do people know the responsibilities of this freedom that we enjoy? Filipinos forget about what they have to do and instead focus on what they want to do as citizens of this democracy,” he ended.
Agnes Locsin’s La Revolucion Filipina will be staged at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater) from July 25 to 27.
The show is at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. (Friday and Saturday) and 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. (Sunday)