Returning to Binondo

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ALTHOUGH recent events have made locals paranoid about the seemingly overwhelming presence of Chinese in certain areas of the metropolis, one needs to remember that Filipinos and Chinese have been working side by side even before local recorded history. For centuries now, Filipinos been trading with the Chinese, proven by archeological excavations over the last hundred years or so.

The country also has a sizeable population of Filipinos of Chinese descent, and a lot of our leaders — in business, government, even religion — are part Chinese. Many Pinoys have Chinese blood running through our veins.

In what might be considered a case of perfect timing, this weekend at The Theatre at Solaire, a rerun of Binondo, A Tsinoy Musical, will be staged.

The musical’s first staging last year bagged quite a number of honors — six Aliw Awards for Best Original Musical Production, Best Composer for Original Musical Theater (Von de Guzman), Best Ensemble Performance, Best Actress (Carla Guevara-Laforteza), Best Actor (David Ezra), and Best Stage Director (Joel Lamangan).

There will be a Gala performance on July 12, 8 p.m., and regular shows on July 13 at 3 and 8 p.m., and July 14 at 3 p.m.

Topbilling the musical are Shiela Valderrama-Martinez as Lily, Arman Ferrer (replacing David Ezra) as Ah Tiong, Noel Rayos as Carlos, and Mariella Laurel as Jasmine.




At a press conference at Solaire, original storyteller and line producer Rebecca Chuaunsu said, “This is God-given. It’s overwhelming (that) after we won six Aliw Awards, a Singporean producer picked this up to rerun it. It’s really a provision from God. I am so happy and overwhelmed that he is supporting Binondo, A Tsinoy Musical.”

She was referring to Micky Yong of the Maritess Alava-Yong Foundation, Inc. who said that he was producing the musical because his late wife Maritess “was very much into the arts.” The foundation was created to honor the compassionate Ms. Alava-Yong and “to continue her legacy of giving.” Mr. Yong has so far contributed over P130 million to carry out the mission of the goodwill non-profit foundation.

Director Joel Lamangan pointed out that the musical talks about love — “unrequited love, the love of a man, love of a friend, love for a mother, love for one’s motherland.”

To which co-playwright Eljay Castro Deldoc added (in a message via Facebook Messenger): “Apart from being a story on eternal love, this play demonstrates the importance of finding and going back to your roots.”

Mr. Deldoc co-wrote the libretto with screenwriter Ricky Lee and Gershom Chua.

“This project is a bridge between Filipino and Chinese cultures. You’ll see a lot of parallels. You’ll see interchange of cultures, marriages, tradition, and everything,” said Ms. Chuaunsu. “The Filipinos and the Chinese need to understand each other, especially (at) this time,” she said.

She pointed out that “It is the story of my uncle in real life. It’s painful to tell his story. As Mr. Ricky Lo says, this story is aching to be told.”

“This is the only musicale that tackles the life a Pinoy Tsinoy or Chinese in the 1970s,” said Mr. Lamangan. “They deserve to be heard. Through music, through plays, through (dramatization of their plight).”

The musical’s choreographer Douglas Nierras remarked, “It became a journey of rediscovery for me. It became a rediscovery of my lineage, (as) I have grandparents who are Chinese. Practically 70% of Filipino people have a drop of Chinese blood. That comparison and analogy of two cultures is better understood when it’s on theater — done in song and dance — in the staging. There are a lot of similarities; there are a lot of differences. But at the end of it all, there’s the same human experience and which is still relevant from the 1970s all the way down to the present.”

Mr. Nierras added that it also was “a rediscovery of what was the feel, the dynamics and the texture of the eras: the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.”

“The music of Binondo is two-fold: It’s Filipino music and Chinese music, but there is much emphasis on Filipino music; the likes of OPM, the Willie Cruz-type of songs,” said Mr. De Guzman. “Very pop. Heavy Pop. More dramatic pop. It is highly orchestral. We have an indigenous Chinese instrument, Chinese violin that provides transition music.”

Interestingly, Mr. De Guzman said that “the inspiration of music is not another musical form, but actually a picture of the Met production of Puccini’s Turandot.”

“So I asked myself, can I translate this image into music — for musical theater — and make it very Filipino? And can it still capture the grandness of it? That was my challenge for it.”

While there are rumors that the musical may be adapted into film, Mr. Lamangan said that they’re still on the lookout for a producer.

He said that for the rerun, “We’re changing the opening,” but refused to divulge more.

“You have to watch,” he said. — Susan Claire Agbayani