Monday, August 27, 2012

Signing Up for Boracay: Junior Chamber International Philippines Campaigns for Environmental Protection

More than 70 JCI Philippines members, led by National President Ivan Ruste, joined in the coastal cleanup

The “Sama Ka, Let’s Protect Boracay!” coastal cleanup drew 252 volunteers

            Even on a stormy weather, Boracay was beautiful. The rows of resorts, stores and restaurants that huddle along the shore of the famous White Beach of the Philippines' foremost tourist island were silent in the early morning of Aug. 4, but the beach was rambunctious, spewing detritus of last night's party as well as those from other shores. The beach cannot clean itself up in a short span of time and it needs help. And help came from hundreds of people who volunteered for a coastal cleanup. The volunteers were bouyed up by the fact that Boracay was recently awarded the number-one island in the world by Travel+Leisure magazine based on a survey of a number of tourists. This gave added impetus to take care of Boracay's environment, which its main attraction aside from the establishments that crowd in it.
            The coastal cleanup though was not brought about by the recognition. It was conceptualized months ago by Junior Chamber International (JCI) Philippines for its social responsibility campaign “Sama Ka, Let’s Protect Boracay!”
            Junior Chamber International Philippines, formerly known as the Philippine Jaycees, is an affiliate of the Junior Chamber International (JCI), which is a global, membership-based, non-profit organization of young people aged 18 to 40 in more than 100 countries. Its members swear to take an active role to effect change as well as help communities.
            Through the years, JCI Philippines, which has about 6,000 members all over the country, has had many civic projects. The present national president Randolf Ivan Ruste, a civil and geodetic engineer and a member of 12 years from Zamboanga City, is inclined more towards environmental efforts. The “Sama Ka, Let’s Protect Boracay!” campaign is a major project under his leadership and aims to develop awareness and generate funds for training youth in environmental advocacies, tourism and hospitality industry. The campaign kicked off with a coastal cleanup.
            "Protecting our natural resources, specifically our beaches, is an advocacy close to my heart. This campaign, ' Sama Ka, Let’s Protect Boracay!' is a call for everyone to do their share, no matter how small, to ensure that the beautiful beaches that we enjoy today will be inherited by generations to come," Ruste said in a speech before the cleanup. "I want to have my own family someday, and I want my kids to see the same Boracay that I've seen in my youth—beautiful and blessed with spectacular sunsets. I want my kids to have the chance to appreciate the world's best island. 'Sama Ka, Let’s Protect Boracay!' is a way for me to achieve that. This project will make it possible for our kids to inherit the beautiful natural resources we have."
            JCI PR and marketing officer Ana Pista shared, “As an organization committed to creating positive change in the society, we see the preservation of the environment as one of our key responsibilities. Boracay is one of the country’s treasures but due to heedless commercialization, the island is slowly losing its beauty so we want to do something about that.”
            Administered by Philippine Tourism Authority and the provincial government of Aklan, Boracay Island has been for many years the country's number-one tourist destination, drawing a total of 908,875 foreign and domestic tourists in 2011, which is a 16.57 percent increase over 2010’s 779,666 tourist arrivals. Tourist arrivals in Boracay have increased consistently for the past several years. Many fear the number of people has been taking a toll on Boracay's environment. For a long time, there has been criticism of overdevelopment with structures being constructed yearly to accommodate and entertain tourists. And these bring in substantial tourism revenues, which have been increasing—from P11.9 billion in 2009 to P16.7 billion in 2011.

Officials from JCI Philippines, Boracay Foundation and other organizations affix their signatures on the “Sama Ka, Let’s Protect Boracay!” banner to signify the start of the campaign of acquiring as many signatures as possible for Boracay 

From left: Adel Al Karis L. Lumagod, project officer/marine biologist, Boracay Foundation; Alexander Chok, 2012 National President of JCI Malaysia; Johnny Dayang, president of Boracay Global Press Corps; Ivan Ruste, National President of JCI Philippines; Miguel R. Labatiao, vice president internal and co-chair on environment of Boracay Foundation; Ryan Ravanso, JCI Philippines National Treasurer; Lanie Atanacio, JCI Philippines executive director; and Bernard Dy, JCI Philippines 2011 National President 

           Gradually though, environmental measures are being put in place such as a sewage system. Environmental-friendly practices were implemented by many establishments. The Boracay Foundation, an organization of business owners in the island, also has environmental activities such as coastal cleanup. Environmental fees are collected from tourists to be used for the environmental projects on the island. Boracay is clean compared to Metro Manila, which wallows in its own garbage and environmental problems. But studies are yet to be conducted on the environmental impacts of tourism and other factors on the island. Help from outside is always welcome.
            The JCI coastal cleanup drew 252 participants from both private and public sectors including Shangri-La Boracay Resort, Islander Bikers, Uno Corp., the Philippine National Police, the Philippine Coast Guard, the Philippine Army, the Philippine Red Cross, Sunshine Inns, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, South West Tours, Megaworld, Aria, PCCI Boracay, Hama Japanese Cuisine, The Informer, Boracay Island Global Academy, BIWC, Marian and Webster, and Palassa Spa. In addition, 73 JCI Philippines members from other parts of the country joined in. The activity was supported by establishments such as Pearl of the Pacific Beach Resort, Sea Wind Beach Resort, Red Coconut Beach Resort, Juice Bar, La Carmela de Boracay and Paradise Garden Beach Resort. Major partners were the BFI and the local government of Malay, Aklan.
            Starting in Station 3 in the barangay of Balabag, the volunteer group split into two and combed White Beach. About 90 kilos of non-biodegrable trash and 400 kilos of biodegrable trash, mostly seaweed brought about by the habagat, were collected. Most of the trash came from other areas, particular from the Aklan mainland, washed up on the shore of Boracay. The garbage was turned over to the materials recovery facility (MRF) unit of Balabag, one of three in Boracay.
            But the "Sama Ka, Let’s Protect Boracay!" campaign is not only about coastal cleanups.
            "Aside from the coastal cleanup, 'Sama Ka, Let’s Protect Boracay!' is also a signature drive," said Ruste. "We want to ask people to sign, to pledge their support of protecting the beautifying our beaches. Each signature is one step towards achieving our goal. For every signature that we get, JCI and its partner will donate P1. The money will be used for lectures where we will teach elementary school kids of Boracay how they can protect the environment. These lectures will also teach them how they can promote the country's tourist spots. These will be done in October in cooperation with the Department of Education."

The Philippine National Police, the Philippine Coast Guard, and the Philippine Army also participated in the “Sama Ka, Let’s Protect Boracay!” coastal cleanup

About 90 kilos of non-biodegrable trash and 400 kilos of biodegrable trash, mostly seaweed brought about by the habagat, were collected

During the coastal cleanup, JCI collected about 700 signatures, which translates to P700. The signature campaign is still ongoing. The second phase of the campaign in October will be highlighted by a fun run which will be participated by various JCI chapters all over the country and other stakeholders in Boracay. Ruste said that they plan to take their advocacy to other places such as Bohol, Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte, Palawan and Cebu.
            "We hope that the 'Sama Ka, Let’s Protect Boracay!’ campaign will inspire people to do their share in preserving nature. As they say, to whom much is given, much is expected. We have been blessed with so much natural treasures so we have to be responsible stewards and start acting to preserve what is left of these," Ruste declared.

For more information on JCI Philippines and its projects, visit or

Friday, August 17, 2012

Pres. Aquino Confirms National Artist Status of Fernando Poe, Jr.

 From left: Cultural Center of the Philippines chairman Dr. Raul Sunico, National Commission for Culture and the Arts executive director Emelita Almosara, CCP Board of Trustees chairperson Emily Abrera, NCCA chairman Felipe de Leon, Jr., Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III, Susan Roces, Mary Grace Poe-Llamanzares and Brian Poe Llamanzares (Photo by Marvin Alcaraz)

President Benigno Aquino III conferred posthumously the National Artist award to film actor, director, writer and producer Ronald Allan Kelley Poe, popular known as Fernando Poe Jr. or FPJ, at the Bulwagang Rizal of MalacaƱang Palace on Aug. 16.
Poe was declared National Artist in 2006, together with Bienvenido Lumbera for literature, Ramon Obusan for dance, Benedicto Cabrera for visual arts, Ildefonso Santos for landscape architecture, Ramon Valera for fashion design, and Adulmari Asia Imao for visual arts, by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The Poe family turned down the award because they believe that Arroyo cheated him in the 2004 presidential elections.
Led by FPJ’s wife, actress Susan Roces; daughter Mary Grace Poe-Llamanzares, who is chairman of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board; and grandson Brian Poe Llamanzares, the Poe family now gladly received the award, the highest honor given by the government to the country’s artists. They said the award became more meaningful because it is given by respectable persons and institutions.
Pres. Aquino has earlier signed Proclamation No. 435 on July 20, confirming Proclamation No. 1069, which was signed by Arroyo on May 23, 2006, declaring Poe as National Artist. The conferment almost coincided with the actor’s 73rd birthday on Aug. 20.
Present during the conferment were officials from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) led by its chairman Felipe de Leon Jr. and executive director Emelita Almosara, and the Cultural Center of the Philippines, led by its chairman Dr. Raul Sunico and Board of Trustees chairperson Emily Abrera. These two institutions jointly administer the National Artist awards. Gracing the occasion were some of the country’s National Artists sculptor Napoleon Abueva, writer Virgilio Almario, visual artist Abdulmari Asia Imao, and film director and writer Eddie Romero.
In his speech, which is in Filipino, Pres. Aquino attested to Poe’s popularity, which endures until now: “Alam ho n’yo talagang naiiba itong araw na ‘to. Mayroon akong nakikitang mga matagal na pong empleyado ng Malakanyang na bihira na ho mag-attend ng mga seremonyang ganito, at sawang-sawa na. Pero, nandito po ngayon dahil para kay FPJ. Pati aking mga writer mag-uusap kami tapos nito normally, isa lang ho ang kasama ko dahil kung sinong sumulat o ang may akda ng talumpati ay tinitignan kung natuwa ako sa talumpati o hindi; ngayon po ay marami-rami sila.
Naalala ko po tuloy noong ako po’y nagtatrabaho po sa Luisita, mayroon po kaming empleyado na ‘pag unang araw ng palabas ng bagong pelikula ni FPJ, maski kung gaano kaimportante po ang meeting, absent po siya. Kailangan po siyang manood ng first screening on the first day.”
He further said: “Sino po bang Pilipino ang hindi nakakakilala kay FPJ? O sino po sa atin ang hindi pa nakakapanood ng kanyang mga pelikula? Kakabit na ng pelikulang Pilipino ang kanyang pangalan, at ‘di-matatawaran ang kontribusyon niya hindi lamang sa pinilakang-tabing, kundi pati na rin sa kalakhang lipunan. At higit pa sa pagiging aktor, higit sa pagiging writer, prodyuser at direktor, isa siyang Pilipinong mapagkumbaba, mapagmalasakit, at matulungin sa kapwa.”
Poe had made over 200 films in his lifetime including Anak ng Bulkan (1959), Mga Alabok sa Lupa (1967) and Asedillo (1971). He was popular known for his Panday series of movies. He was also a recipient of numerous best actor awards, particularly from the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (Famas). He set up a movie production company and directed nine films under his pseudonym Ronwaldo Reyes. Poe was widely regarded as the King of Philippine Movies. He died on Dec. 14, 2004, after suffering from cerebral thrombosis with multiple organ failure at the age of 65.
Pres. Aquino said: “Minahal at tinangkilik siya ng marami dahil sa kanyang husay sa pag-arte, respeto sa mga kasamahan sa industriya, at sa paggawa ng pelikulang tunay na sumasalamin sa buhay ng karaniwang mamamayan at kultura ng ating bayan. Abot-langit man sa dami ang kanyang mga parangal na natanggap, nanatiling nakatuntong ang kanyang mga paa sa lupa. Gumanap man bilang magsasaka, pulis, sundalo, tsuper, panday, o ordinaryong taga-Tundo; malinaw po: sa bawat paggulong ng kamera, sa bawat eksena ng kanyang pelikula, sabay na pumipintig ang puso niyang nais bumuo ng sining na gigising sa kamalayan ng Pilipino, magtatama sa maling sistema, at maghahatid ng pag-asa sa kapwa’t bansa. Sa lahat ng ito, bida sa buhay ng maraming Pilipino si Fernando Poe Jr.: tagapagtanggol ng naaapi, takbuhan ng nangangailangan, at tagapagtaguyod ng katarungan. Wala nga pong duda, karapat-dapat siyang kilalanin at hirangin bilang Pambansang Alagad ng Sining.”

Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III with NCCA and CCP officials, the Poe family and National Artists at the conferment of the National Artist award to Fernando Poe, Jr. (Photo by Marvin Alcaraz)

Poe was nominated for the National Artist award, and underwent the rigorous screening process in which his achievements were evaluated by councils of artists, experts, scholars and other National Artists, before being conferred the National Artist award in 2006.
Sa publiko at pribadong institusyon nagmumula ang nominasyon upang mapabilang ang indibidwal sa Order ng mga Pambansang Alagad ng Sining. Maigi namang pinag-aaralan, sinusuri at sinasala ng Cultural Center of the Philippines at National Commission for Culture and the Arts ang lahat ng nominado. Sa ipapasang listahan ng CCP at NCCA, pipili ang Pangulo, bilang kinatawan ng sambayanang Pilipino, ng ipoproklamang Pambansang Alagad ng Sining. Kaakibat ng karangalang ito ang mga serbisyo ng pamahalaan, at pagkilala ng lipunan sa kanyang mga obra,” Pres. Aquino related. “Alam naman po natin na noong 2006 pa dapat ibinigay ang karangalang ito kay FPJ. Ngunit tayo pong nasa tuwid na daan, alam nating hindi kalabisan ang naging pasya ni Susan Roces at ng kanyang pamilya na ipagpaliban ang pagtanggap sa karangalang ito. Batid nating ang kabuluhan ng anumang parangal ay nagbubukal sa integridad ng institusyong nagbibigay ng gawad, at sa tiwala ng publiko sa institusyong ito. Anim na taon mang naudlot ang paghirang kay FPJ bilang Pambansang Alagad ng Sining, mahigit kalahating siglo naman po ang nakalipas mula nang una siyang lumabas sa pelikula; mahigit kalahating siglo na ang nakalipas mula nang makamit niya ang pinakamataas na parangal na maaaring matanggap ninuman ang paghanga at pagmamahal ng taumbayan.”
Sa paggawad natin ng titulong Pambansang Alagad ng Sining kay FPJ, nawa’y libu-libo pang tulad niya ang umusbong at gamitin ang husay at talino upang iangat ang kapwa Pilipino. Dahil sa pagtutulungan, pihadong mapapasakamay natin ang tagumpay, ilang butas man ng karayom ang ating daanan,” Pres. Aquino concluded.

Fernando Poe’s wife Susan Roces and daughter Mary Grace Poe-Llamanzares, who is chairman of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (Photo by Marvin Alcaraz)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Aninuan Anytime

            Sunday morning at the Sunset at Aninuan Beach Resort blossoms with a provincial air—quiet, bucolic, carefree. From the window, one sees a staff member sweeping the front yard, the beachfront actually. Another places peach-colored hibiscus flowers on the tables. Two hammocks tied to dwarf coconut trees gently sway with the breeze. One by one, umbrellas are opened among the tables and lounge chairs, bright orange like giant exotic flowers. The sea is sapphire and gentle, kissing the shore with auburn sand. One goes out of the room and walks the sandy path, pass the lush bougainvillea, to have breakfast by the shore. The fried eggs, ham, whole-wheat toast, jam, butter and steaming coffee all taste fantastic—the best breakfast outdoor with hibiscus quiet on the table, umbrella filtering the sunlight, sand beneath the feet, sea breeze tickling the bougainvillea, the waves almost making whispering sounds.
            Later, one has a glimpse of the vacationers and excursionists, mostly from nearby White Beach, swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, riding the banana boat and para-sailing. One can join them as the resort offers these activities, or enjoy the quiet morning longer, lounging on a beach chair or hammock with a book or watching the vacationers get dislodged from the banana boat.
            Sunset at Aninuan Beach Resort is one of the best places to stay in the popular resort town of Puerto Galera, a favorite quick getaway of Metro Manilans being a short car and boat ride away and a popular diving site. One proof is a certificate of excellence, which hangs at the bar, awarded by TripAdvisor, a Web site where people rate accommodations, in 2010. The resort garnered a 4.5 rating out of 5.
            One important factor is its location—a beach area that affords one privacy and quietude but not too far from the happening area when one feels the itch to socialize or party. Most of guests commend it for its tranquility. In Puerto Galera, people and structures seem to concentrate in Sabang and White Beach in the barangay of San Isidro. Many divers and foreigners stay in Sabang, while locals stay at White Beach with its long stretch of shore. The density of houses, accommodations, bars, restaurants and stores along White Beach is staggering. The night life here is also bustling, especially during holidays and weekends. To the west of White Beach, separated by rock outcrops and boulders, is Aninuan Beach. The area is mostly owned by the Ayalas, a prominent Spanish-Filipino family and has only two resorts—Tamaraw Beach Resort and Sunset at Aninuan.
            "I'm so lucky to have this kind of place," says Lucila "Lexy" Niederer, who owns and manages Sunset at Aninuan, assisted by her nephew Lez Paul Funtanilla. "Because we are like in a secluded, semi-private island."

            "I never dreamed of owning and managing a resort before but I have some friends who own resorts and hotels," she confesses. "It used to be a very small resort with just two huts, very limited water and electricity."
            She bought the property and started to rebuild it.
            "That I have zero experience working in a resort didn't really make my life easy. That I want everything to be perfect made it worse. It's really hard to get everything that you wanted. Most of the things are not available," she relates.
            But her love for the place might have spurred her to go in building a beautiful place to stay for herself as well as for visitors.
            "I'm a dive master, and I dove quite a lot in Puerto Galera," Niederer says. "I visited more than sixty countries but Puerto Galera is so different that it has a very special place in my heart. I keep on going back here. I just feel good being in this town."
            After six years, Niederer managed to develop one of best resorts in town. Many accommodations here, especially in the White Beach area, can be spartan or inadequate, but Sunset at Aninuan is different­—decent and charming.
            The buildings are all painted clean white accented by grillwork and ironworks in black paint and with deep-orange sun motif—tasteful structures to compliment the beautiful surroundings. The original structure, with its sawali exterior, is kept, housing some rooms and the restaurant. Beside it is a newer building. Both have 17 rooms. The newest buildings, with 16 more rooms, stand by the swimming pool. The rooms are in several types—standard, standard family, deluxe, junior, superior, junior suite and superior suite—with de-riguere amenities.

            The restaurant, which merges with a recreation area, has a floor made of bamboo slats and marble, and serves delectable dishes, snacks and drinks—Filipino favorites such as sinigang, adobo, afritada, gambas and pancit; sandwiches and burgers; sausages; chicken and beef pies; salads; pasta, including their very own Pasta Aninuan (penne with bell pepper, tomato, onion and fish or chicken); pork dishes such as steak Marengo, pepper steak and schnitzel; beef, chicken, seafood and vegetarian dishes; and dessert. Outside, a grass-roofed round hut serves as the bar. The beachfront can also serve as a dining area if one prefers it al-fresco.
            "Most of our clientele are families and honeymooners from all over the world," Niederer reveals. "Most of them come from Europe and Australia. We had a few weddings also here, which is my most favorite job. Preparing and organizing for them makes me feel so great."
            For activities, Sunset at Aninuan can arrange for many water recreations. Divers can go to the dive center, managed by its concessionaire AB Wonderdive. Then, there are several attractions of the town one can visit and experience.
            "Puerto Galera has so many things to offer. Aside from the world-class diving that we have and our own house reef, we also have two beautiful waterfalls within one hour of hiking and a Mangyan village. We also have this golf course, which is 800 meters above sea level with a breathtaking view of the island. People are so great with their beautiful smiles and their honesty!" Niederer emphasizes.
            Of course, just staying and being cocooned in the resort can be the main activity, "sleeping and waking up with the sound of the sea," Niederer adds. The sunset is spectacular here, and the name of the resort is an ode to that.

             "The sunset is different every day," she sighs. "You don't get tired watching it with a sunset drink in your hand. The quietness of the place makes our guests keep on coming back, and also the service that we offer."
            Despite the difficulties she went through developing the resort, Niederer finds fulfilment in running Sunset at Aninuan.
            "My grand vision for Sunset at Aninuan is to keep my clientele so I can help improve the image of Puerto Galera. I want to create a very special, friendly atmosphere that guests will always remember, and maybe this will put us on the map," she says.
            She continues: "I love most of the guests that I'm having! So nice and interesting people. I even have a lot of friends now, which were guests of mine before. I want to see their beautiful smiles every time they come back! It makes me feel proud if they keep on coming back and multiplying, bringing in their friends and families. And I welcome them with open arms again and again and again."

Getting There
To go to Puerto Galera, there is a one-and-half to two-hour bus or car trip from Manila to Batangas using Southern Luzon Expressway and Star Toll. From the Batangas Port, one can ride a ferry for one to two hours to the resort town. Sikat Ferry offers air-conditioned bus and connecting boat (Manila-Batangas-Puerto Galera). Bus leaves Manila at 8 a.m. at the CityState Tower Hotel, 1314 A. Mabini Street, Ermita. Reservation can be made at (+63 2) 521-3344.
Buses ply the Manila-Batangas (Pier) route regularly. There are stations in Buendia Avenue, Plaza Lawton, Kamuning, Cubao and Pasay City-Edsa. At the Batangas Pier, there are ferries and outrigger boats going to Puerto Galera. They usually leave Batangas Pier every thirty minutes or hour. Boats arrive in Puerto Galera in different points—Sabang, Muelle, White Beach, Minolo and Balatero Port (ro-ro). If you bring your own vehicle, the regular roll on-roll off (ro-ro) ferry direct to Puerto Galera is the Montenegro Shipping Line at Terminal 3, leaving Batangas Pier at noon and departs Puerto Galera (Balatero Port) at 5:30 p.m. daily.  The ferry can hold only six to ten vehicles.
The other option to reach Puerto Galera from Batangas is going to Calapan City. Its distance from Puerto Galera is about 51 kilometers, and it takes about one-hour drive.
        Environmental Users’ Fee (EUF) for tourists is Php50 each. Main collection site is at Batangas Port beside the shipping lines’ ticket booths.

Contact Information
Contact Sunset at Aninuan Beach Resort through mobile numbers +63920-9318924 and +63920-9318946, and e-mail address Visit

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Opening Up Old Wounds

Cast of Walang Sugat: (from left) Lou Veloso, Remus Villanueva, Jelson Bay, Noel Rayos, Cris Vilonco and Noemi Manikan-Gomez

Recently, local stages have been graced by foreign grand theatrical productions, which are not only spectacular, but well-known and beloved as well. And there are more coming, attracting more people to appreciate theater. While this is a very welcome development, we must not neglect our local productions, which are just as worthy of the attention and appreciation, nor forget the local dramatic forms.
Tanghalang Pilipino, the resident theater company of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), the premiere artistic and cultural institution in the country, continues to provide cultural nourishment as it opens its 26th season with a sarsuwela. This should not be missed as the old theater form, which became popular in the country in the late 19th century to the early 20th century, is rarely seen these days, and this is an opportunity to get acquainted with it.
Eminent theater and film scholar Nicanor Tiongson defines sarsuwela in the Philippines as “a play with songs and dances usually written in prose, containing from one to five acts, depicting the vagaries of romantic love among idealized Filipino characters, and often incorporating contemporary social, political, economic or cultural issues for relevance and interest.”
The sarsuwela, Tiongson says, is not indigenous though, but came from the Spanish zarzuela. The zarzuela, a form of musical theater first presented to the court, originated in Spain and spread to its colonies, including the Philippines, which developed their own traditions. It was introduced to the Philippines in the late 19th century and became popular, performed in different regions and languages in the country. Contrary to the komedya, also introduced by the Spaniards, which is didactic, the zarzuela is primarily for entertainment, usually a love story and has formulas.

Villonco and Manikan-Gomez play mother and daughter

The Filipinized sarsuwela is also influenced by the saynete, a one-act comic skit, which according to Tiongson, “featured ordinary characters, colloquial dialogue, early humor, and lively songs and dances—all of which later to reappear as characteristics of the native sarswela.”
By the turn of the 20th century, the form was infused  with nationalism and used as a vehicle for subversion against American rule. With the advent of other forms of entertainment and technology, it died down. Now and then, the sarsuwela is being performed by contemporary theater groups, and there is sporadic interest in its revival and study.
The most popular and significant of them is Walang Sugat (Without wound).
Tiongson related: “The rise of the sarswela as the newest form of entertainment, however, was not uncontested. In practically all the regions where the sarswela rose, komedya actors, directors, and playwrights banded together to defend the theatrical supremacy they had enjoyed for centuries. In Manila, the conflict came to a head when Severino Reyes, considered the father of the Tagalog sarswela, presented a play entitled R.I.P. (1902) which attacked the komedya for its escapism. Believing that the sarswela was the more ‘artistic’ and ‘truthful’ form of theater, Reyes wrote and staged the Tagalog sarswela, Walang Sugat (Not wounded) in 1902.The latter’s success established the sarswela as the premiere theater form in Manila from 1902 to the 1930s.”
Walang Sugat saw production again in the late 1960s by the Zarzuela Foundation of the Philippines. The Bulacan-based community theater group Barasoain Kalinangan Foundation staged Walang Sugat for the University of the Philippines’ Sarsuwela Festival in February 2009. In 2010, Tanghalang Ateneo of the Ateneo de Manila University staged Walang Sugat. Now, Tanghalang Pilipino is staging this classic from August 9 to 26, 2011, at the CCP’s Tanghalang Aurelio V. Tolentino.

Carlitos Siguion-Reyna directs the classis sarsuwela

What further makes this production interesting is it is the theater directorial debut of film director Carlitos Siguion-Reyna, who is currently teaching film in Singapore.     
“I’ve long wanted to direct an opera or a book musical, that is, narrative with dialogue and integrated production numbers, onstage. In fact, I’ve had talks with several people, but plans didn’t materialize for one reason or another. As often the case, production funding has been an issue,” Siguion-Reyna revealed. “Earlier this year, a concrete offer and opportunity came when Nanding Josef (Tanghalang Pilipino’s artistic director) approached me to do Walang Sugat for Tanghalang Pilipino. He knows my film work and had heard good things about ‘Aawitan Kita sa Makati,’ a concert event that has evolved into a sung-through musical narrative, which I have been directing when I can and when I am in Manila, almost every month since 2005.”
The material being a musical did not pose any difficulty for Siguion-Reyna, having grown up in a musical family. His mother is singer and actress Armida Siguion-Reyna, who spearheaded the long-running musical television program Aawitan Kita, and his niece is singer-actress Cris Villonco, who is incidentally playing the lead female role of Walang Sugat.
Aside from working with a large cast, Siguion-Reyna said there was just little adjustment directing for the stage, which he commented is not at all different from film directing. Moreover, he got to appreciate more the directorial process and had the opportunity to work “with a great artistic team.”
“I’m also excited by collaborating with the accomplished artistic staff and a highly talented cast, by working with longer dramatic arcs, and finally by exploring the continuing struggle between change and tradition that lies at the heart of Walang Sugat,” he said.
Siguion-Reyna admitted having not seen past productions of Walang Sugat and is relying on his own research and consultation with Tiongson, who looked over the libretto and added some lines.
For this production, Siguion-Reyna said he wants to “explore the darker side of the material, especially in getting freedom and independence and how to stay in power.” He will also be exploring “the divisions in society not along class lines but by self-interest lines” and try to show “the deceptions we do to get what we want” and “the manipulations and fabrications which still happens today especially in politics.” These, he said, are what make Walang Sugat contemporary, aside from the story of love and the sense of nationalism the play wants to foment.
“Whether I succeed or not, the exploration of that challenge has been a rewarding journey for me,” commented Siguion-Reyna.
Walang Sugat stars Cris Villonco as Julia, Noel Rayos as Tenyong, Antonio Ferrer (who was also in the Ateneo de Manila University production of Walang Sugat) as Rayos’s alternate, Noemi Manikan-Gomez as Julia’s mother, Bodjie Pascua and Lou Veloso as Tadeo, Jennifer Villegas and Jean Judith Javier as Monica, Red Nuestro and Jonathan Tadioan as Lucas, Gino Ramirez as Miguel, and Jelson Bay as Padre Teban. They will be accompanied by an ensemble from the Tanghalang Pilipino’s Actors Company.
Walang Sugat opens the season, which has the theme “Truth and Consequence.” Three more productions complete the season. Layeta Bucoy’s Walang Kukurap, about corruption in Philippine society, is slated for September and October at Tanghalang Huseng Batute, with Tuxqs Rutaquio directing. On October, Chris Millado will direct Stageshow, written by the late TV, film and theater actor, director and playwright Mario O’Hara, at the Tanghalang Aurelio V. Tolentino, which will be an official entry to the National Theater Festival in November. Closing the season is Rody Vera’s adaption of the Bikol epic Ibalong into a dance and musical production, with direction by Rutaquio, music by Carol Bello, choreography by Agnes Locsin and Alden Lugnasin, and production design by Leeroy New.

Noel Rayos and Jonathan Tadioan

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