Review: Buwan at Baril sa Eb Major

16174525_228912500901520_6292803876118760556_nTitle: Buwan at Baril sa Eb Major
Cast: Crispin Pineda, Reymund Domingo, Angeli Bayani, JC Santos, Jackie Lou Blanco, Cherry Pie Picache, Ross Pesigan, Joel Saracho
Writer: Chris Millado
Director: Andoy Ranay
Producer: SUGID Productions Inc.
Duration: 2.5 hours

Review In A Nutshell:
Buwan at Baril sa Eb Major was sublime. It was successful in its intent to deliver a poignant tale about Martial Law in five acts. It was worth every peso and it has definitely proven itself to be “necessary theater”, something rarely seen in this day and age.

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Earlier this year, I tweeted this…

I’m making good on this when I watched Buwan at Baril sa Eb (E-Flat) Major last February 3 (Saturday), during its 3:00 p.m. show. A re-staging of Chris Millado’s play which he wrote in 1984, the production featured some of the best and the brightest talents in the industry. This is also the first play staged by SUGID Productions Inc.

Directed by Andoy Ranay, Buwan at Baril sa Eb Major was branded “necessary theater” by some critics as it highlighted stories based on real-life individuals whose lives were affected, victimized and destroyed by Martial Law:

  • Act One featured two siblings, Magsasaka and Manggagawa, who crossed paths in the middle of Lakabayan in May 1984.
  • Act Two showcased the story of Babaeng Itawis, who found herself in an overcrowded seminary in Cagayan Valley after a military operation swept through Barrio Balitok, and a Pari who was attending to Manila-based reporters.
  • Act Three zeroed in on a Socialite, part of a negotiating panel for the Quezon Rotonda indignation rally, who was rehearsing as she prepares to meet a general to secure a permit.
  • Act Four brought an Asawa who was asked to identify and secure the body of her husband in the municipality of Santo Rosario, Nueva Ecija.
  • Act Five was staged in a detachment office, wherein a Pulis dragged an Estudyante who broke curfew and suspected that the latter was part of the movement to overthrow the government.

As I publish this post, Buwan at Baril sa Eb Major completed staging its 15th and 16th shows. Even if it’s been more than 24 hours since I’ve seen it, I still keep thinking about it.

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First play for 2017! Here we go.

The Past In Present Time

Before I entered the Yuchengo Auditorium, I knew that Buwan at Baril sa Eb Major would be a play about Martial Law. Coming in 30 minutes early, it made sense that the venue was at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Center. There was a small museum beside the auditorium which showcased a lot of pictures, milestones and memorabilia about that time in Philippine history. I like museums so this was a treat while waiting for the show to start. What I didn’t expect was the museum helped set the context for the play. It forced me to remember what it was like then (I was in grade school when the first People Power Revolution happened) and found myself connecting, mirroring these events with what’s happening lately.

While the venue would seem out of way and it’s not where plays are usually staged (it’s about two blocks from the MRT Quezon Avenue station, northbound side), it would’ve not been effective if it were done anywhere else. It felt like an off-Broadway production. The 100-seater auditorium had an intimate feel and one can sense the connection between the actors and its audience. It reminded me of that scene in La La Land, Mia’s one-man play. Sitting in that auditorium felt like home to me.

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A collage of images taken during the exclusive preview of the play to the press. Photos taken by Rome Jorge c/o Rappler. Read their review in this link.

The True Test Of An Actor

My first exposure to acting as an art form was in film and TV. The first film I have ever watched was The Sound of Music; the first TV show was Sesame Street. In the Philippine context, my first film and TV show were both of Dolphy’s: John and Marsha, and Facifica Falayfay. I always mused at how tough these actors were as it is not easy to inhibit a character, whether created or inspired by a real person. I knew that first hand when I played the role of a mother in a high school stage production of Sa Ngalan ng Ama, a play written by Palanca Awardee, Roberto Jose De Guzman. Imagine a 14-year old playing a mother whose rebel leader son was killed by a military operation led by her five-star general husband. Hard, isn’t it?

While I managed to give that role justice (I think), it took a lot from me. I remembered not being able to eat well because I had to look tired, frustrated and scared. It was also the first time I said “putangina”. I never acted since then but it didn’t reduce my love for stage plays. It was nurtured further during college, when I would spend my days in UP Diliman’s halls, watching plays being staged by groups like Dulaang UP. With this, my appreciation and respect for theater actors grew, especially at a time where acting was muddled by manufactured talents who got in by looks and luck.

The actors that I watched in Buwan at Baril sa Eb Major were perhaps among the best I’ve seen to date. Each actor who took stage connected with the audience and owned their performance. However, there were a few who broke my heart:

15977157_224061104719993_5222921650186272371_nThe last time I’ve seen Cherry Pie Picache was a year ago, in On The Wings Of Love, as Tita Jack. In all of her TV and film appearances, I admire her innate sincerity when she connects with the character she is playing. Her eyes say it all; it is pure heart and expression. Within the first 10 seconds she came on stage, I knew I was going to cry my eyes out. And boy, I did.

15977621_224063651386405_1033183816080048776_nThe power that Jackie Lou Blanco wielded on the stage was a force to be reckoned with. One can easily say that her looks make her a shoo-in as the Socialite but the range of emotions she showed was unbelievable. The audience was amused and enamored but became broken in the end. While every act earned a thundering applause, hers, I believe, received the loudest.

15936463_221949591597811_8358579847779927075_oJC Santos makes a homecoming to his first love, theater, and it became no wonder to me why his star shined bright in Till I Met You. This is an actor who is absolutely passionate about his craft. He bared his heart and soul on that stage as a young priest who lost his joie de vivre and found it again through a woman who suffered a great loss. Having seen him in some of his other work — Forever Sucks, Basaan, Single/Single, Sakaling Hindi Makarating — he has proven his versatility and his range in this play. I’m happy to say that I look forward to seeing more of this talented, quadruple-threat (he can act, dance, sing, model) in the future.

15936599_221952931597477_2333829557277386832_oAngeli Bayani blew me away as Babaeng Itawis. The rest of the audience may be waiting on JC Santos’ Pari to translate the Itawis language but not for me. I heard Ilocano interspersed with another language, which I think was Ibanag. I cannot speak Ilocano but I can understand it; the maternal side of my family hails from Ilocos Sur. The moment she expressed her anguish at her father’s brutal death, I was gone. I could not stop my tears from falling. Here’s hoping that Iloilo is streamed somewhere (iFlix maybe) because she was amazing.

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The only picture I took before the play started because cellphones may distract the actors. This was understandable. Plus, I was seated in the front row.

The Proof Is In The Pudding

Staging a play requires a lot of hardwork, teamwork and patience. It leaves no room for mistakes — no repeats, no retakes — and theater enthusiasts can be brutal towards plays that are half-baked. Despite encountering some challenges in its re-staging, Buwan at Baril sa Eb Major is proof that minimal can be powerful. It only had eight actors, two musicians and a few yet utterly flexible set pieces, but it didn’t fall short of its impact.

Everything about Buwan at Baril sa Eb Major was sublime: from the direction of Andoy Ranay and the performance of the eight actors to the sounds of the guitar and cielo punctuating each act. It was successful in its intent to deliver a poignant tale about Martial Law. It was worth every peso, worth the trip to Bantayog ng mga Bayani Center, and it has definitely proven itself to be “necessary theater”, something rarely seen in this day and age.

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

My Two Cents:
For the love of all things holy, please watch Buwan at Baril sa Eb Major. The play will be staging its last eight (8) shows this week, February 9-12. Your support and generosity may help SUGID Productions Inc. to bring this to the provinces and expose more people to stage plays. For ticket inquiries, you may call Ticket World at 891-9999 or check their website (www.ticketworld.com.ph) or directly through SUGID Productions Inc. at (0917) 845-6200.

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Disclaimer:
This is not a sponsored blog post. Like my other reviews, I purchased a ticket and saw the play.

Some of the information (key facts about the stage play) were gleaned from the souvenir program, which I purchased for Php 100.00 from the registration booth.

Most of the images featured here can be found in SUGID Productions Inc.’s Facebook Page. Other images featured, unless credited, are my own.

Ali’s Beautiful, Selfless Love

First post of 2017 and it’s not a review, nor something news-like. Also, I’m about 102 episodes late in providing my reviews/reactions for Till I Met You, which bowed out from TV last January 20, 2017. While I may attempt to produce other blog posts related to the show in the future (throwback, maybe), I couldn’t resist this one. I needed to.

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What prompted this post is Basti’s voice over (seen above) towards the last 10 minutes of the finale. This was heard as Ali was leaving the country to pursue his dreams with Stephen. It was undeniably and achingly appropriate.

I have seen love portrayed in all art forms. In recent years, nothing has touched my heart more than the love Ali gave to every one he cared about. His love is so pure, beautiful and most of all, selfless. Ali’s depth and capacity to love surpasses his label in the show, especially with what he showed to Iris, Basti, Kelly, Agnes, Greggy and Stephen, which was reciprocated wonderfully.

  • Iris, despite getting her heart broken, accepted and continued to love Ali. Both bore witness to each other’s growth and happiness. They became each other’s rock when nobody else was there for them.
  • Basti accepted Ali unconditionally despite a shocking admission that could’ve destroyed a burgeoning friendship. Because of this, Ali became Basti’s moral compass. It helped Ali be brave enough to support Basti’s pursuit of Iris and point out his missteps too.
  • Kelly is Ali’s silent better half. Through her humor and wit, she helped Ali become truthful by taking him out of his comfort zone and by helping him to see things even he couldn’t believe or accept.
  • Agnes’ love for Ali is beyond limits, beyond words. She showed him the truest extent of a mother’s love; that she would go out on a limb for him. Her example became Ali’s touchstone.
  • Greggy’s reluctance nurtured Ali’s courage and resilience. A father’s love is often hard to articulate but when finally expressed, it flows rapidly and freely. Greggy’s expression of pride and love freed Ali from his self-imposed constraints.
  • Stephen is Ali’s gift from the universe. In his journey of “almosts” and “maybes”, Ali found his true purpose with Stephen. Stephen brought out the best in Ali and showed to him a world that defied the stereotypes and perceptions often perceived of the LGBT community. When they fell and expressed their love for each other, it was so organic. I didn’t see two gay men; I saw two people who were in love. Stephen is Ali’s “always” and with them, you truly believe: tayo, hanggang dulo.

As I use this post to say goodbye to Ali, I want to thank the following:

  • The creative team of Till I Met You for bringing Ali into mainstream media. His is a story that needed to be heard and it was brought to life successfully and sustained beautifully from start to finish.
  • JC Santos for his sensitive, top-notch portrayal of Ali. You are a gem of an actor, one that I look forward to seeing more in the future. I will pray for your continued success. You have my support as a fan.

Ali, you are forever scored in my heart. I will never forget you.

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Review: Till I Met You Episode 3 – Hello Greece

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First Aired: 31 August 2016

Running Time: 27 minutes

Review In A Nutshell:
Hello Greece is perhaps the most relatable and humorous episode to date and it has set up a future major conflict in the series by unwrapping a mystery.

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DISCLAIMER:

As this episode was aired prior to this review, I re-watched this thru YouTube and IWantTV. Currently, IWantTV subscribers on free plan can re-watch select Till I Met You episodes sans the 3-day limit, now on extended promotion, thanks to Ponds wherein Nadine Lustre is one of its latest endorsers.

Also, this episode was made available via ABS-CBN Entertainment’s YouTube channel. Click to watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VoLmLyZAKic

If you want to read why I wanted to pursue this episode review challenge, please click here. Also, if you haven’t started watching this series yet (and why not), be prepared for spoilers. A whole load of it.

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Hello Greece continues the journey with Ali and Iris’ relationship being out in the open with their respective families and friends, and was received positively. However, both have agreed to label their relationship as having a mutual understanding (MU) given their school priorities.  In the same vein, Ali develops a closer bond with Basti and both were seen to have regular voice calls/chats.  Through their conversations, Ali developed an interest in visiting Greece.  In the process, Ali learned that their school had partner based in Greece and was able to convince Iris to see it as an option for their OJT.

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Having set their sights on Greece, Ali and Iris performed well in school enough for them to be accepted in the international OJT stint after 3 years. Basti learned of the good news from Ali through a video conversation and assured the latter that he will help them during their stay in Greece. Iris doesn’t trust Basti though especially when the latter accidentally stripped naked in front of her during a video chat with Ali, which was presumably cut/frozen given internet access issues.

At some point in the episode, the mystery of Val’s absence was resolved. It was learned that she is now based in Greece and knows Basti well. Also, it was revealed that Basti is the son of Nestor Valderama, Cassandra’s ex, and that Val is engaged to him (the diamond solitaire on her left ring finger is so noticeable in its brightness). Basti seems to have a good relationship with Val, as she doted on him like a mother, giving him a care package which included pictures of Nestor. It was clear that she wanted the two to mend their relationship. How it was broken was showcased in a flashback as Basti returned to his apartment in Greece. In the flashback, an 8-year old Basti was seen to be living with Nestor after his mother died. Crippled with sadness, Basti didn’t know how to be with Nestor and the latter made things worse by focusing on his career rather than understanding the former by giving him love and care.

Towards the end of the episode, Ali and Iris were seen to be preparing for their trip to Greece.  Their respective families accompanied them to the airport. Ali and Iris stayed at the lounge, sharing their collective excitement for their OJT, before boarding their flight.  Basti then fetched the two at the airport, and their journey in Greece begins.

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If there were two words that I can use to describe Hello Greece, it would probably be relatable and humorous. First off, the relatability factor; there’s so much in this episode that I can relate to, allow me to break it down:

  • HRM and OJT Angle – Ali and Iris are studying to be a cook and a hotelier respectively. As a person who has previously worked in the industry and having managed an OJT program, I am well-aware how hard it is to secure internship slots and how expensive international OJTs can get.  I’m sure that both Ali and Iris were exceptional students in their school for them to be considered in an international OJT stint.  Despite this, it’s not a bed of roses for these two. The fact that Agnes shouldered the one-way tickets of Ali and Iris is proof positive that such international stints require some investment.  Iris is lucky to have a generous godmother in Agnes.

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  • Internet Access Issues – While it seemed like fate was playing a game on Iris as she is unable to properly meet Basti in the two attempts that Ali tried to introduce her, the frozen/disconnected screen is a shot at how terrible the internet access is in the Philippines, not to mention one of the most expensive rates at low band speeds in the whole of Southeast Asia. When I went to Singapore on a 3-week business trip, it was important that I connect and check with my family once in a while. In Singapore, I had no issues connecting to the internet (their band speeds are ridiculously fast and there was internet everywhere) but I didn’t escape the disconnected/frozen screen moments, all because of the intermittent connections experienced back home.  That was 4 years ago.  Fast-forward, nothing has changed; I think it has gotten worse.
  • Long Wait at the Airport – In all my international business trips, I would wait an average of 2-3 hours before I could board my flight (this is after checking in and passing through customs which is always such a delightful experience… *insert sarcasm*). Since I travel alone and I don’t like the idea of missing my flight because I passed out on the metal chairs due to lack of sleep, keeping myself awake is crucial. I wish Pokemon Go was invented then but I always had a book and my laptop to keep me company.  I wish there will be a time when I will be able to travel with a friend outside of the country.  That will be awesome.

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In addition to this, Hello Greece happens to be one of, if not, the funniest episodes in the series so far.  In all the times I have watched/re-watched this episode, it never fails to make me double over with laughter and here are my favorite bits:

  • Kelly’s spitfire commentary on the Ali’s forehead kiss and possible first kiss – I will admit that it was one of my kilig moments in Episode 2. However, a forehead kiss is often viewed as a sign of respect, not love, and done to the elderly.  This prompted Kelly, Iris’ girl best friend, to call her “Lola” or a grandma.  Iris didn’t mind it though as she knew where she stood in her relationship with Ali.  Despite that, she obviously looked smitten even at the thought of it. Furthermore, Kelly commenting on how Ali is possibly setting up Greece to be the place where Iris might experience her first kiss was also funny.
  • Greggy and the future Nicolas grandkids – Upon announcing their relationship status to the family, Greggy already envisioned Ali and Iris’ marriage and having grandchildren who will be soldiers in the future to compensate for his only son leaving the PMA. Ali clearing his throat was a subtle but funny moment.
  • Basti stripping in front of Iris via video call – This is the most hilarious bit of the entire episode. Presuming that the video call was disconnected, Basti started to strip off his clothes to prepare for work. On the other end, Ali left to answer his dad’s call.  Iris then asked permission to use his laptop to surf the internet when suddenly, the video chat was restored and she saw Basti remove his shorts and underwear.  She screamed at Basti and Ali rushed back to ask what happen.  Ali’s response to the situation was everything (meme below as seen on this tweet) :

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  • When Ali and Basti finally meet – Upon arriving in Greece, Basti searched for Ali in the crowd as the he offered to fetch them at the airport. When they saw each other, both ran towards and hugged each other.  Basti even kissed Ali on both cheeks, which seemed to be a Greek custom, since he almost did the same to Iris, who went all conservative and threatened to punch him.  Iris suddenly became the third wheel to Ali and Basti.  This, coupled with her first impression resulting from Basti’s accidental stripping, will heavily influence most of the conflict that will happen among the three lead characters.

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Aside from the relativity and humor, Hello Greece has set up what I foresee to be a major conflict that will happen in the series: Cassandra and Agnes finding out that Val and Nestor are engaged to be married, which I suspect would happen in Greece.

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Having seen how strongly Cassandra reacted to Iris’ research which led to Nestor Valderama, it was very clear that the three friends have not been in touch for ages.  This made me curious to find out how Val and Nestor ended up together, given their history, which I’m confident will be revealed in succeeding episodes.  A bombshell this big requires some time to nurture before it bursts, which I hope will happen soon enough.

So far, it seems like the direction of the next set of episodes will be the dynamic among Iris, Ali and Basti in Greece.  From what I’ve seen so far in this episode, it promises to be a riot.

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars (because there were so many hilarious moments in this episode)

Best Performance:
JC Santos (because even if it was heavily suggested that he will come out as gay in the series, I was convinced that Ali was indeed in love with Iris) and Nadine Lustre (because running in heels and falling off Ali’s bed shows her commitment to doing her own stunts)

Favorite Scene:

Favorite Line:

“Dapat kilalanin mo muna yung tao bago mo husgahan.” – Cassandra Duico

Fun Stuff: Episode 3 Outtakes (there is a moment where you can see how awesome the chemistry is between JC Santos and Nadine Lustre)

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THROWBACK: When I tweeted about #TIMYHelloGreece…

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COPYRIGHT NOTE:
All images featured in this blog post can be seen on Till I Met You’s official and show websites, and Facebook page. Some are screencaps from clips and outtakes uploaded in ABS-CBN Entertainment’s YouTube channel.