Walk back in time with ‘mad artist’ Juan Luna

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GEORGE VAIL KABRISTANTE

There’s no stopping the Philippine Stagers Foundation (PSF)—most especially Vince Tañada, the genius behind it—from measuring up to it most recent accolade: Broadway World Philippines’ Best Theater Group.

So much so that Vince, who has gathered several awards in directing and acting himself including new male best actor award from PMPC’s Star Award for Elwood Perez’s film noir “Otso,” won’t allow his detractors call unfitting for the award for it is a non-mainstream theater organization.

To him, the label “mainstream theater” has to be validated by the quality and reach of any theater company’s past and current productions.

In that direction PSF’s body of work is almost unimpeachable. Just to name a few, “Katips Ang Mga Bagong Katipunero” won Aliw’s Best Musical for 2016. Previously, Broadway World awarded respectively the Best Musical Production to “Joe, A Filipino Rock’sical” and to “Filipinas 1941.”


Another musical production, “Bonifacio Isang Sarsuwela,” won in the KBP Golden Dove Awards and CMMA as Best Educational Cultural Show.

To date, the 16-year-old company claims that they tower over their colleagues as far as number of productions and audience reach are concerned. On the record, PSF has the sole distinction of averaging from 100 to 500 shows in big venues like SM Cinemas, UP Theater, St. Scholastica’s St. Cecilia’s Hall, Waterfront Hotel Cebu, AFP Theater, and Tanghalang Pasigueño, just to name a few.

In 2010, then President Noynoy Aquino 3rd named PSF as one of the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations at the Heroes Hall of Malacañang Palace. Then there were Dangal Ng Bansa by the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino, and Ten Outstanding Manilans by Manila Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada for Vince’s contribution in the field of culture and the arts.

Just recently, friends from the film industry were treated to a special sneak preview of Vince’s current magnum opus “Obra Ni Juan.” The musical tells one of the most tragic love stories in Philippine history: that of revered painter Juan Luna and his wife Paz Pardo de Tavera.

In his fits of violent temper, Luna shot dead his wife and mother in-law out of jealousy. The highly temperamental brother of General Antonio Luna was, however, acquitted of his murder as he invoked temporary insanity. Upon his return to the country, the artist died of heart attack.

The preview showed the PSF Ensemble breathing brilliance into Vince’s masterful libretto, story-telling, and direction, sparkling as it did with the music of the renowned Pifo Cifra, an award-winning musical director arguably best remembered for Charo Santos’s longest-running drama anthology “Maalaala Mo Kaya.”

More than the aesthetics and laudable production value, the musical showed the desire for freedom and independence of the Filipino illustrados in Spain such Juan Luna, Jose Rizal and Marcelo H. Del Pilar. It is indeed a walk back in time showcasing the lives of heroes in Madrid minus the overcoat, the glitz and glam.

Finally, the musical also showed the unique language, fashion, and culture of the 1800s through the paintings of Juan Luna, moving on canvasses and reflecting the delusions of a mad artist amongst emerging Filipino heroes.

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