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A Look Back At Our Own History: A Review Of Repertory Philippines' "Miong"

First staged in 1998 by Repertory, and now opening Rep’s 2019 season at Onstage Greenbelt, Miong predates Broadway’s Hamilton by more than a decade. But in terms of making a historical figure more accessible via music, in Miong’s case, Emilio Aguinaldo, there is much shared between the two musicals. Joy Virata wrote the book and lyrics for Miong and directs as well this time out, while Ian Monsod handled the music. And off the bat, let me say that this is entertaining fare that elucidates, and worth catching before it ends its run on March 10.

 


Chronicling the life of Aguinaldo from a young boy (born in 1869) living under Spanish rule, to his adolescence and entry into political life as a cabeza de barangay, onto his marriage to Yayang, his quietly heading the Magdalo in Cavite, and onto the armed struggle in Tejeros against the colonial yoke of Spain—there is an episodic quality to the drama that unfolds. And while we acknowledge the entry of Uncle Sam via Admiral Dewey and the Spanish-American War extending to the Philippines, the musical ends on the "false" high note of our National Anthem and the Philippine flag we know being unfurled in Kawit on June 12, 1898, and I say false because as we know, both Spain and the United States never recognized our Declaration of Independence, and after a brief war against the American forces stationed here, Aguinaldo surrendered and we became an American territory.

If Hamilton was all about rap as the musical medium, Miong stays more traditional, and the music owes much to big musicals such as Les Miserables, and love songs that echo Miss Saigon, Evita, and Aladdin. But there is a bubbly, playful quality to the music that works wonders when the book recounts the early life of Miong and his seafaring escapades. There is constant movement and motion adding to the delightful aspect of this production; take a bow Dexter Santos for the choreography. Even the battle scenes stay dynamic and fluid, thanks to the deceptively simple but effective choreography employed. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Hilaria Aguinaldo, also known as Yayang, was the first wife of MIONG and the founder of Hijas de la Revolución (Daughters of the Revolution), now the Philippine Red Cross. The association provided assistance, food, and medicines to wounded Filipino soldiers and civilians during the Philippine revolution. Catch Cara Barredo as she breathes new life into this brave Filipino heroine in MIONG, REP’s historical musical, which runs from February 15 to March 10. Enjoy up to 30% discount on MIONG and other 2019 shows when you buy the season pass now! For ticket inquiries, call us at 451-1474 or Ticketworld at 891-9999, or log on to www.ticketworld.com.ph. #RepertoryPhilippines #REPMiong

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The controversial role Aguinaldo may or may not have played in the deaths of Luna and Bonifacio are addressed via a song involving gossiping womenfolk. And while it’s a delightful manner to handle the topic, it speaks of the elusive nature of truth, and how, if we stick to the documented facts, there isn’t much to connect Aguinaldo to their deaths.

Of course, it’s not lost on us that Joy Virata is the wife of Cesar, a direct descendant of Aguinaldo; and that this re-staging of Miong commemorates the 150th birthday of the man. And to be fair, Hamilton itself has been skewered for historical inaccuracies, or glossing over of such facts as how he had slaves. In the end, you take the musicals for how they are presented, and know that even facts can be subject to interpretation.
 

 

 

The cast is a wonder, and I’d have to pick Tim Pavino as most impressive in his Rep debut as he takes on the title role. Meynard Penalosa is the other delight, using his colossal stature to great effect as the head friar during Spanish times, and as an American diplomat during the Spanish-American War. Kudos to Meynard for changing accents in mid-play. And Noel Ramos as the brother of Emilio, and the narrator is effective as our guide to the fast-paced action that ensues as we encapsulate a major portion of Aguinaldo’s life and exploits in under two hours.

Far from being a dry husk of a historical story, this is engaging living theater that does dramatize the life and times of Aguinaldo and our nation, while entertaining us and having us tap our feet or break into smiles. You can’t go wrong catching this musical.

 

Photos from @repertoryphilippines