'Lapulapu' musical at the restored Metropolitan Theater set on Oct. 24

After more than two decades of closure, the Metropolitan Theater (MET) will now come back to life with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts' (NNCA) "Lapulapu, Ang Datu ng Mactan" musical—the first production to be staged in the newly-conserved playhouse.

Lapulapu at MET. (Photo from National Commission for Culture and the Arts)

The Lapulapu musical will be the first theatrical production to be mounted at the MET since it closed its doors in 1996, NCCA Chairperson and Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) President Arsenio "Nick" Lizaso said in a recent virtual press briefing.

"After 25 years of anticipation, we are finally opening the doors and raising the curtains of the iconic and newly restored Metropolitan Thater to the people," Lizaso said.

Lizaso, who headed the project as artistic director, said the public presentation will be part of the many arts and culture events in the country such as the Quincentennial Commemorations in the Philippines, the Year of Filipino Pre-Colonial Ancestors, and the National Indigenous Peoples’ Month.

According to Lizaso, Lapulapu was supposed to be presented last April as the opening production of the MET Theater but was canceled due to restrictions brought by the ongoing pandemic.

National Commission for Culture and the Arts Chairperson Nick Lizaso. (Photo from NCCA)

The premiere of the musical was moved to Oct. 24, and unlike previous plans to open the MET to the public, the show will now be streamed online.

"The Metropolitan Theater was ready . We were ready, but we were not allowed to have an audience. It's very sad," Lizaso said.

"This production was prepared for an audience. It was a beautiful production but the theater was empty. The performance was so good and I said to myself, 'This should be on Broadway'," he added.

With a libretto written by award-winning poet and lawyer Nicolas B. Pichay and set to music by Krina Cayabyab, the Lapulapu musical is directed by University of the Philippines Professor Dexter M. Santos, with choreography by Stephen Viñas and Kenneth Torres.

The play unpacks the many events commemorated this year which includes the Victory at Mactan in 1521 as told from the point of view of the mysterious Lapulapu, a symbol of Philippine resistance to all forms of oppression; the circumnavigation of the world, as told from the point of view of the trip’s chronicler Juan Sebastian Elcano; and the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines, as seen from the lens of Reyna 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 explained.

Santos, who was also the director for the musical "Ang Huling El Bimbo," hopes this new work will be a testament to the Filipinos’ undying commitment to history, culture, and the arts.

"The overflowing generosity and commitment of the whole company made this journey possible – every moment during the whole process was heartfelt and meaningful," he added.

(Photo from National Commission for Culture and the Arts)

Renowned tenor and theater actor Arman Ferrer will play the role of Lapulapu and Andre Tiangco as Spanish conqueror Ferdinand Magellan. They will be joined by Red Nuestro (Rajah Humabon), Cara Barredo (Reyna Juana), Natasha Cabrera (Babaylan), Paw Castillo (Enrique De Malacca), Robert Barbers (Juan Sebastian de Elcano), Al Gatmaitan (Antonio Pigafetta) and Ivan Niccolo Nery (Papa Alexander XI and Padre Pedro de Valderrama), among other performers.

The Lapulapu, Ang Datu ng Mactan will be streamed on the Facebook pages of NCCA, The Metropolitan Theater, Radio Television Malacañang, Presidential Communications Operations Office, National Historical Commission of the Philippines, National Quincentennial Commemoration, and other partner institutions on October 24, Sunday, at 6 p.m.

The government's pandemic task force has already allowed the reopening of cinemas and amusements in Metro Manila after the region was placed under Alert Level 3 from Oct. 16 to 31.

However, despite the downgrade in the alert level system, venues with live voice or wind-instrument performers and audiences such as in karaoke bars, clubs, concert halls, and theaters are still prohibited to operate.