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Monday, April 22, 2024

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Feature: ‘Lapulapu’ takes center stage at Metropolitan Theater

CAGAYAN DE ORO (PIA)–The iconic and newly-restored Metropolitan Theater will finally open its doors for productions, 25 years after its closure in 1996.

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) is streaming the musical “Lapulapu, ang Datu ng Mactan,” October 24, at the newly-conserved Metropolitan Theater (MET).

The musical will be the newly-restored MET’s first theatrical production and will be part of the Quincentennial Commemorations in the Philippines, the Year of Filipino Pre-Colonial Ancestors, and the National Indigenous Peoples’ Month.

NCCA Chairperson and Cultural Center of the Philippines President Arsenio “Nick” Lizaso spearheaded the project as Artistic Director.

During the virtual launch of “Lapulapu,” October 12, Lizaso said, “Finally, after 25 years of anticipation, we are finally opening the doors and raising the curtains of the iconic and newly-restored MET to the people.”

The musical was supposed to be presented in April of this year and was supposedly the opening production of the MET but due to COVID-19 restrictions, “the MET was ready, we were ready, but we were not allowed to have an audience,” said Lizaso.

He also said he was sad when he first watched the production as the MET was empty and praised the production as world-class and that “this production should be on broadway.”

The MET journey

“Sinusubukan namin na bago matapos ang kasalukuyang administrasyon ay matapos ‘yung buong restoration works at maging sentro ulit ito ng mga kultural na presentasyon,” said Dr. Rene R. Escalante, Chairperson of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) and concurrent Vice-Chairperson of the National Quincentennial Committee (NQC).

(We are trying to complete the whole restoration and make the facility the center of cultural presentation again before the current administration ends)

Escalante said the restoration is really meant for the Filipino people – for the students, and for the people who could not afford to pay thousands of pesos for tickets for theater productions run in big commercial theater houses.

The interior view of the iconic and newly-restored Metropolitan Theater (MET) during the “Lapulapu, ang Datu ng Mactan” musical media launch, October 12. (NCCA)

The restoration and rehabilitation of the Metropolitan Theater has really been long and challenging as narrated by NCCA OIC-Executive Director Marichu G. Tellano.

The NCCA was able to purchase the MET from the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) in 2015 and is expected to reset into full operation in 2022.

Tellano said, “The concern of the NCCA was to conserve the MET, there was no better way at that time than to acquire it, as they say, the rest is history.”

He added that the MET today is standing ready again to continue with its vision as a structure that will bring together artists and cultural workers and the people to share and experience Philippine culture and the arts.

The musical

“Lapulapu, ang Datu ng Mactan” is written by award-winning poet and lawyer Nicolas B. Pichay, with Krina Cayabyab providing the music.

Pichay said, “Sa dulang ito magbabalik tanaw tayo at bibigyan natin ng linaw kung paano naging mohon si Lapulapu sa ating kasarinlan. Gayong hango sa kasaysayan, may kinalaman din ang dulang ito sa atin ngayon bilang mga Pilipino na namumuhay sa ilalim ng pandemya.”

(In this musical, we look back and will give clarity on how Lapulapu became a cornerstone for our independence. As with history, the play is relevant today for us as Filipinos who are living through this pandemic.)

The musical is directed by UP Professor Dexter M. Santos, who is known for directing many plays such as the musical “Ang Huling El Bimbo” and the classic “Orosman at Zafira,” with choreography by Stephen Viñas and Kenneth Torres.

NCCA Chairperson and Cultural Center of the Philippines president Arsenio “Nick” Lizaso spearheaded the project, “Lapulapu, ang Datu ng Mactan” musical, as Artistic Director. Arsenio poses at the newly-restored Metropolitan Theater. (NCCA)

Santos said, “I think one of the most important works of a director is to find a specific perspective, the translation from page to stage, and I think what’s most important is to find a team who could actually tell the story, and of course create a show that is relevant, lalo na ngayon (especially now).”

“Lapulapu” unravels events commemorated this year in the Philippines including the Victory at Mactan in 1521, as told from the point of view of the mysterious Lapulapu, 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.

Playing the titular character is tenor Arman Ferrer, a classically trained singer and a musical theater actor. He said playing Lapulapu is “special in all aspects.”

Other cast members include Andre Tiangco as Ferdinand Magellan; Red Nuestroas 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.

NCCA Arts Ambassador and Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray and public historian Xiao Chua are also participating in the production.

“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, October 24, Sunday at 6:00 p.m. (SAYU/PIA-10)