The newly-conserved theater’s maiden show will premiere on Oct. 24, 2021
A piece of Philippine history is set to unfold at the recently restored Metropolitan Theater (The MET) in Manila with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts’ (NCCA) “Lapulapu, Ang Datu ng Mactan,” the first production to take place on its stage after the 25-year closure of the theater.
The year 2021 is such a symbolic year for the Philippines as it observes the 500th-year anniversary of it being part of the first circumnavigation of the world. Among the many events dedicated to celebrating the Quincentennial Commemorations in the Philippines is this maiden musical of the MET. “Lapulapu” was supposed to be presented in April of this year but with the ongoing global pandemic, its premiere was moved to Oct. 24, 2021. And unlike the previous plan, which involves welcoming back theatergoers inside its refurbished halls, the musical will be streamed online.
“The MET was ready, we were ready, but we weren’t allowed to have an audience,” NCCA chairperson and Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) president Arsenio “Nick” Lizaso, who spearheaded the project as artistic director, says. “This production was prepared for an audience… The performance was so good, I said to myself, and I have seen a lot of productions not only in the Philippines but abroad, ‘My God! This production should be on Broadway…’ Tears came down my eyes because anything that can come upon the stage of the MET must be presented to an audience.”
Depicted from the point of view of its vibrant characters, the musical takes viewers back to 1521 at the victorious Battle of Mactan, a symbol of Philippine resistance to all forms of oppression, this time from Lapulapu’s vantage point. Spanish chronicler Juan Sebastian Elcano shares a glimpse of what happened during Ferdinand Magellan’s circumnavigation. While the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines is seen through the eyes of Reina Juana.
“This meta tale explores how history—and what people choose to be the lessons from it—contribute to the cultural identity and to the strength of any nation,” the NCCA says.
Together with Rene R. Escalante, chairperson of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) and concurrent vice-chairperson of the National Quincentennial Committee (NQC), the “Lapulapu” musical is brought to life with the help of Filipino artists. Writing its libretto is award-winning poet Nicolas B. Pichay with music set by Krina Cayabyab. Leading the production is UP professor and director of “Ang Huling El Bimbo” musical Dexter M. Santos.
Breathing life to historical icons are and thespians Arman Ferrer and Andre Tiangco, as Lapulapu and Ferdinand Magellan, respectively. Also included in the cast are Red Nuestro as Rajah Humabon, Cara Barredo as Reyna Juana, Natasha Cabrera as Babaylan, Paw Castillo as Enrique de Malacca, Robert Barbers as Juan Sebastian de Elcano, Al Gatmaitan as Antonio Pigafetta, and Ivan Niccolo Nery as Papa Alexander XI and Padre Pedro de Valderrama. Helping them are Aaron Veloso as acting theater director and Adriana Agcaoili as creative director.
Mounting the production during a pandemic is such a daunting task. Months of online preparation took place before the cast could come together for physical rehearsals. According to Dexter, “the overflowing generosity and commitment of the whole company will make this journey possible.”
A true showcase of the Filipino talent, the “Lapulapu” musical also features the choreography of Stephen Viñas and Kenneth Torres, the production design of Gino Gonzales, Dennis Marasigan’s lights design, and GA Fallarme as video designer.
“Lapulapu, Ang Datu ng Mactan” will be streamed on the Facebook page of The Metropolitan Theater, and will be cross-posted on the pages of the NCCA, Radio Television Malacañang (RTVM), Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), the NHCP, the NQC, and other partner institutions’ official Facebook pages on Oct. 24, 2021, Sunday at 6 p.m.