In 1531 at the Hill of Tepeyac in Mexico, the Blessed Virgin Mary was said to have appeared to Juan Diego, a newly converted Aztec and mat weaver, whom she instructed to build a church in her name. With no experience in carpentry, Juan Diego visited Archbishop Juan De Zumárraga and Governor Nuño Beltran De Guzman to tell them about the apparition and ask for their help. Despite not believing the native, Archibishop Zumárraga saw the miracle as a way of uniting the Spaniards and the Aztecs, while Governor Guzman rejected Juan Diego’s testimony. A series of supernatural occurrences — an old man was healed, sacred images appeared on fabrics, and flowers bloomed in arid soil — slowly convinced people that this was not superstition or coincidence.
Today, the basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico is the world’s most visited Catholic pilgrimage site.
It is that story that is told in the new English theatrical production by the Julie Borromeo Performing Arts Foundation called Guadalupe: The Musical. The musical features music by Ejay Yatco and is directed by theater stalwart Baby Barredo.
“As a lifelong devotee of Our lady [of Guadalupe], I have long dreamed of creating a musical based on this wonderous story,” said the founder of the performing arts school and choreographer (along with Rose Borromeo) of the musical, Julie Borromeo, at the launch on June 26 in Makati city.
Ms. Borromeo said that the idea for the production began years ago when she was approached by a theater backer from Singapore who requested a way to introduce the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe (patroness of the unborn) in the city state. It was aimed “to be able to get the youth to listen” in a place where abortions are legal and there is a strict family planning program. However, it did not push through due to financial constraints.
After years of conceptualization and raising the needed funds (with the help of her relatives) for the show, Ms. Borromeo is glad to launch the production in the Philippines this year.
Ms. Borromeo also hopes to educate those who are not familiar with the the Lady of Guadalupe, who is the second patroness of the Philippines. “You will be so surprised that most millennials don’t even know who she is. Our own students also have to be educated to have a devotion to Our Lady. That’s a big gap we want to fill.”
The musical, starring Cocoy Laurel as Juan Diego, is based on accounts of the miracles. “This is not a historical retelling of the facts. However, just like when you adapt any historical piece, [you] have to add creative elements,” scriptwriter and lyricist Joel Trinidad said.
“It will educate people and those who want to learn about the miracle[s], but we designed it as a piece of entertainment. You don’t have to be a devotee to enjoy the show,” Mr. Trinidad added.
He believes that the events in the story will resonate with the audience. “Many of the things that happenned in that time are still happening now,” Mr. Trinidad told BusinessWorld, citing oppression, the brutality of people in power, and hunger.
“Times are very hard now, and people trust each other less now. There’s a lot of strife and a lot of violence. I think now, more than ever, we need a story to remind us that there is good in the world and that people can make a change,” he said.
“We want [the audience] to be inspired, entertained, and uplifted,” he said. “If it happens to make them reassess their faith, then great. We want them to leave the theater feeling hopeful for the future, [and] that the world is not such a bad place. Maybe [there] can be paradise on earth. We just have to make it happen.”
Guadalupe: The Musical will go onstage from Sept. 28 to Oct. 14 at the Meralco Theater. E-mail Ria Pangilinan at firstname.lastname@example.org for fundraising opportunities. For tickets and schedules, visit TicketWorld (www.ticketworld.com.ph, 891-9999). — Michelle Anne P. Soliman