Juan Dela Cruz is the prototype of the Filipino. If rich, he’s Juan Bacnang (Ilocano term for affluent). If indolent, he’s Juan Tamad.
In the musical stage play, Filipinas 1941, though, the Filipino is represented either by Felipe or Nestor.
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Set during the Japanese occupation, the almost three-hour production centers on the love-hate-love relationship of two brothers and their inamoratas – Sofia and Emilia, respectively.
“It’s actually inspired by my relationship with my only (and younger) brother, whom I haven’t seen and talked to after a long time until the birth of my son,” intimated lawyer-actor Vince Tanada.
Vince Tanada as Felipe
Tanada said the idea had been playing in his head during the run of Bonifacio, Isang Sarsuwela which he also penned, directed and starred in. To put things together, he secluded himself in the paradisiacal island of Boracay and finished the script and libretto all in just four days.
It took another month-and-a-half to put in the music, choreography and other aspects of the production – and the outcome is impressive, awesome, jaw-breaking one hell of a show!
Patrick Libao as Nestor
Against a static three-layer backdrop, but with videos playing in the background at times, the strength of Filipinas 1941 lies on the lines, the music (by Pipo Cifra), the superb acting of everyone in the 42-member ensemble.
Adelle Ibarrientos-Lim as Sofia
In fact, it is by far superior than the highly acclaimed Miss Saigon (which catapulted Lea Salonga and other Filipino artists to international recognition) in terms of hitting the very core of the soul.
Cindy Liper as Emilia
Filipinas 1941 starts with younger Nestor catching up with older Felipe in the American-run school who flunks again for being so poor in understanding the lessons, which made him downtrodden with inferiority complex.
Jomar Bautista as Manuel L. Quezon
The younger sibling, who finishes at the top of the class, offers his medal to the older one. Nestor becomes successful in business and Felipe is left to tend the land.
The conflict starts to build up when their mother dies, then comes the war. When Nestor is hit by shrapnel from Japanese bombardment, Felipe comes to the rescue, carries his brother on his back then in his arms for hundreds of thousands of steps to the hospital.
Chris Lim as Gen. Douglas McArthur
Nestor submits his fate to the pronouncement of the experts – the doctors and nurses – that he could no longer walk. Felipe, however, believes in willpower and forces Nestor to try walking again and never give up, to which the younger brother slumps to the floor instead then curses his older brother who saved his life.
JP Lopez as Jose P. Laurel
When Japanese forces bomb the surroundings hitting the hospital, Nestor is left with no one except himself, so by willpower, as what Felipe taught him, he stands, walks and escapes. Thru his in-laws, Nestor does business with the Japanese, making shoes for the enemies of the state.
Driven out by his brother’s hatred, Felipe gets to meet guerillas and Hukbalahap members, meeting Tata Edong and young Pancho along the way, making his adventures more colorful and comedic in some instances. He becomes leader of the revolutionaries.
Gabby Bautista as Pancho
History then unfolds – some of it Filipinos already know, some of it majority never cared to know: like Jose P. Laurel accepted the presidency given to him by the Japanese Imperial Army because for him, the Philippines is still better led by a Filipino than a foreigner; that President Manuel L. Quezon paid Gen. Douglas McArthur US$500,000 to come to defend the country from Japanese invasion.
(Vince, who himself is an avid historian, asserts that there is evidence to this as shown in the contract signed between Quezon and McArthur.)
Missing in this piece of work, though, is Quezon’s famous declaration: “I would rather have a country run like hell by Filipinos than a country run like heaven by the Americans (because however bad a Filipino government might be, we can always change it).”
Vince explains that this line is not needed in the historical facet of the play.
Chin Ortega as Tata Edong
Filipinas 1941 aims to educate and entertain, not just students or stage production aficionados, but every Juan, practically every Filipino – to feel patriotism in every fiber of their being and look back at the sacrifices of their forefathers who paved the way for the freedom they are enjoying right now.
“The missing links of our history needs to be filled out and this play will try to fill the gaps. The misrepresentation of our history regarding our efforts in the Second World War needs to be corrected. Our war against the Japanese was made successful because of the Filipino spirits. The country is already winning when McArthur returned, as such as 12 out of 40 provinces was left to the Japanese forces and was bound to fall in coming months.
“The Philippines is the apex of the Second World War and the end of it is the turning point that would spell success or failure between the ruling powers. The battle of Leyte Gulf is arguably the biggest naval battle in history. Our character will join us in tragic battle. Lives will be lost, tragedy will be told, but at the end of the day, Filipinas 1941 will give you a spectacular musical experience that would show our history through the eyes of our countrymen and how the resilience of the Filipino won the day for the Philippines.”
Thus says the conclusion of the synopsis of this extravaganza.
‘Filipinas 1941’ Ensemble
Presented by Philippine Stagers Foundation, Filipinas 1941 runs from July 2014 until March 2015. It had its initial run at SM North EDSA last July 12, 13 & 14, then on July 19 & 20 at St. Scholastica’s College Manila.
Playdates for the rest of this month are July 23 (Wednesday) 8am, 11am, 2pm Tanghalang Pasigueno, Pasig City; July 26-27 (Saturday, Sunday) 8am, 11am, 2pm St. Scholastica’s College Manila; July 28 (Monday) 10am, 1pm Laguna State Polytechnic University, Sta. Cruz, Laguna.
Vince Tanada essays the role of Felipe (with Kevin Posadas as alternate), Patrick Adrian Libao as Nestor (with Kenneth Sadsad as alternate), Adelle Ibarrientos-Lim as Sofia (with Nikki Joy Villaviray as alternate) and Cindy Liper as Emilia (with Cherry Bagtas and Alence Villanueva as alternates).
Other important roles are played by Jomar Bautista as Manuel L. Quezon (with JV Cruz as alternate), Chin Ortega as Tata Edong, Chris Lim as Gen. Douglas McArthur, JP Lopez as Jose P. Laurel and Gabby Bautista as Pancho (with John Rey Rivas as alternate).
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Photos by [vino] vinoriartephotography