Tag Archives: Philippines

Best Philippine Theater Productions Gather for the 7th Gawad Buhay Awards

The recently concluded 7th PHILSTAGE (Philippine Legitimate Stage Artists Group) Awards for the Performing Arts or the Gawad Buhay Awards Night went from poignant to hilarious. From meaty punchlines and long, emotional acceptance speeches to graceful dance numbers and two bigwigs who have shaped Philippine theater, that night was of most importance for the theater community because, similar to the Tonys in the US, the Gawad Buhay is an annual event that gathers and recognizes the Philippines’ best theatrical performances throughout the season.

Let this entry walk you through the highlights of the 7th Gawad Buhay:

Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (19)
Topper Fabregas of Red Turnip Theater gives life to the 7th Gawad Buhay Awards Night as the host. Fabregas, who would later go on and on with his inside jokes, summoned powerhouse actors Joaquin Valdez, Kim Molina, and Red Concepcion to join him on stage.
Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (18)
What followed was an intense attempt to outshine one another in an all-out vocal showcase.
Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (20)
Red Concepcion representing Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Full House)
Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (21)
Nikki Gil and Steven Silva (9Works Theatrical) were the first pair of presenters.

Female Featured Performance in Classical Dance
Celina Dofitas, “Cinderella” (BP)
Edana Mae Labitoria, “Cinderella” (BP)
Rita Winder, “Cinderella” (BP)

Male Lead Performance in Classical Dance
Richardson Yadao, “Cinderella” (BP)
EARL JOHN ARISOLA, “Cinderella” (BP)

Female Lead Performance in Classical Dance
DENISE PARUNGAO, “Cinderella” (BP)
Monica Gana, “Cinderella” (BP)
Dawna Mangahas, “Nutkraker” (BM)

Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (25)
PHILSTAGE welcomes its newest member: The Philippine Ballet Theater
Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (24)
Philstage welcomes its newest member: The Philippine Ballet Theater
Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (23)
Is it possible that Topper is the new Tolits?
Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (70)
Margie Moran-Floriendo, President of Ballet Philippines, is the next presenter.
Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (26)
Liza Magtoto receives the award for Outstanding Original Libretto (Rak of Aegis, PETA). She dedicates the award to her dad who she describes as her “Original Tolits.”
Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (60)
Tanghalang Pilipino

Outstanding Translation or Adaptation
Virgilio Almario and José Lacaba, “Mga Ama, Mga Anak” (TP)
ROLANDO TINIO, “Pahimakas sa Isang Ahente” (TP)

Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (71)
Topper changes into Ebenezer Scrooge and jokes about how the costume hasn’t probably been washed since the show.

Female Featured Performance in a Play

Pinky Amador, “August: Osage County” (Rep)
LIESL BATUCAN, “August: Osage County” (Rep)
Sheila Francisco, “August: Osage County” (Rep)
TAMI MONSOD, “August: Osage County” (Rep)
Madeleine Nicolas, “Mga Ama, Mga Anak” (TP)

Male Featured Performance in a Play
Richard Cunanan, “August: Osage County” (Rep)
Hans Eckstein, “August: Osage County” (Rep)
YUL SERVO, “Pahimakas sa Isang Ahente” (TP)
Dido dela Paz, “Pahimakas sa Isang Ahente” (TP)
Marco Viaña, “Pahimakas sa Isang Ahente” (TP)

Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (72)
Bituin Escalante is 2014’s Outstanding Female Featured Performance in a Musical.

Female Featured Performance in a Musical
BITUIN ESCALANTE, “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” (Full House)
Kalila Aguilos, “Rak of Aegis” (Peta)
Antoinette Taus, “Grease” (9WT)

Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (28)

Pepe Herrera who stars as Tolits in Rak of Aegis dedicates his award to his mother, who once told him to follow his heart.

Male Featured Performance in a Musical
PEPE HERRERA, “Rak of Aegis” (PETA)
Jerald Napoles, “Rak of Aegis” (PETA)
Myke Salomon, “Rak of Aegis” (PETA)
Juliene Mendoza, “Rak of Aegis” (PETA)
Micko Laurente, “Kleptomaniacs” (TP)

Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (31)
A scene from “Sinta” by Dulaang Sibol
Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (32)
Onofre Pagsanghan receives the first of two Natatanging Gawad Buhay awards for his brainchild Dulaang Sibol. Photo shows Pagsi embracing Paul Dumol.
Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (33)
Onofre ‘Pagsi’ Pagsanghan
Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (34)
Tanghalang Pilipino‘s Kleptomaniacs, with Nicco Manalo and the group.
Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (36)
Fabregas came out in what seemed like a loin cloth, from the nominated costume collection from the Ballet Philippines’ La Revolucion Filipina.
Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (39)
Carissa Adea of Ballet Philippines

Female Lead Performance in Modern Dance
Dawna Mangahas, “Shutter” from “Heart2Heart: Ballet & Ballads” (BM)
Monica Gana, “Duet” from “Art of Dance” (BP)
Kris-Belle Paclibar-Mamangun, “Salome” from “The Blue Moon Series” (BP)
CARISSA ADEA, “Songs of the Wayfarer” from “The Blue Moon Series” (BP)
Jessa Balote, “Sari’t Bahag” from “Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika: An OPM Festival” (BM)

Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (40)
Richardson Yadao, Ballet Philippines

Male Lead Performance in Modern Dance
Elpidio Magat, “Shutter” from “Heart2Heart: Ballet & Ballads” (BM)
Earl John Arisola, “Duet” from “Art of Dance” (BP)
Rudy de Dios, “Aramica” from “Heart2Heart: Ballet & Ballads” (BM)
Jean Marc Cordero, “La Revolucion Filipina” (BP)
RICHARDSON YADAO, “La Revolucion Filipina” (BP)

Outstanding Choreography for a Dance Production
BAM DAMIAN, “Aramica” from “Heart2Heart: Ballet & Ballads” (BM)
Denisa Reyes, “Muybridge Frames” from “Art of Dance” (BP)
Bam Damian, “After Whom” from “The Blue Moon Series” (BP)
Alice Reyes, “Bungkos Suite” from “The Blue Moon Series” (BP)
Agnes Locsin, “La Revolucion Filipina” (BP)

Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (41)
The cast of Gantimpala Theater Foundation‘s Kanser@35: The Musical features members of Viva Voce.
Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (42)
The cast of Gantimpala Theater Foundation’s Kanser@35: The Musical features members of Viva Voce.
Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (43)
The cast of Gantimpala Theater Foundation’s Kanser@35: The Musical features members of Viva Voce.

Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (44)
Topper in Full Gallop! The production’s costumes were designed by Rajo Laurel.
Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (45)
Philippine Opera Company’s Karla Gutierrez belts out You’ll Never Walk Alone as accompaniment to the “In Memoriam” segment.
Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (46)
The PR gurus of Theater: Toots Tolentino and Leloi Arcete.
Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (47)
Winning Outstanding Sound Design are PETA’s Happy Constantino and Myke Salomon

Outstanding Sound Design
Jethro Joaquin, “Noises Off” (Rep)
Jethro Joaquin, “Wait Until Dark” (Rep)
Bart Guingona, “Venus in Fur” (AAI/The Necessary Theatre)
Ryan Cayabyab (remastered by David Theo), “La Revolucion Filipina” (BP)

Outstanding Lighting Design
John Batalla, “Wait Until Dark” (Rep)
Katsch Catoy, “August: Osage County” (Rep)
Martin Esteva, “The Last 5 Years” (9WT)
Bart Guingona, “Venus in Fur” (AAI/The Necessary Theatre)
KATSCH CATOY, “La Revolucion Filipina” (BP)

Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (48)
Ballet Philippines perform a dance excerpt from “After Whom.”
Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (49)
Topper’s next costume represents Full House’s Priscilla, Queen of the Desert!
Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (50)
Presenters Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo and partner Robie Zialcita.
Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (56)
Red Concepcion probably had the most costume change that night. Apart from winning Male Lead Performance in a Musical, he also appears in excerpts from Priscilla Queen of the Desert and, in this photo, alongside Team Kayumanggilas in Kung Paano Ka Naging Leading Lady!

Male Lead Performance in a Musical
RED CONCEPCION, “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” (Full House)
Joaquin Valdes, “The Last 5 Years” (9WT)
Nicco Manalo, “Kleptomaniacs” (TP)
Michael Williams, “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” (Full House)

Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (16)
Kim Molina wins Outstanding Female Lead Performance in a Musical!

Female Lead Performance in a Musical
Aicelle Santos, “Rak of Aegis” (PETA)
Joan Bugcat, “Rak of Aegis” (PETA)
KIM MOLINA, “Rak of Aegis” (PETA)
Nikki Gil, “The Last 5 Years” (9WT)
Tippy Dos Santos, “Grease” (9WT)

Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (51)
Director Maribel Legarda for PETA.

Outstanding Stage Direction for a Musical
Jaime del Mundo, “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” (Full House)
Robbie Guevara, “The Last 5 Years” (9WT)

Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (53)
Mio Infante, the man behind the infamous flooded set of Villa Venizia.

Outstanding Set Design

MIO INFANTE, “Rak of Aegis” (PETA)
Miguel Faustmann, “August: Osage County” (Rep)
Miguel Faustmann, “Noises Off” (Rep)
Mio Infante, “The Last 5 Years” (9WT)
Mio Infante, “La Revolucion Filipina” (BP)

Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (54)
Carlo Pagunaling (PETA)

Outstanding Costume Design
Edgar San Diego, “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” (PETA)
Rajo Laurel, “Full Gallop” (My Own Mann Productions/AAI and The Necessary Theatre)
Victor Ursabia, “La Revolucion Filipina” (BP)
Valeen Vicente, “Scrooge” (Rep)

Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (59)
Fuersa Filipinas and Team Kayumanggilas showcase an exciting, must-see excerpt from Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady
Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (65)
Teatrong Mulat in a puppetry number.
Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (58)
Second Natatanging Gawad Buhay recipient was founder of Teatro Mulat, Amelia Lapeña Bonifacio. Joined by her former students Bibeth Orteza and Dennis Marasigan.
Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (69)
Joaquin Valdes and Nikki Gil deliver a moving excerpt from The Last Five Years.

Outstanding Stage Direction for a Play
CHRIS MILLADO, “August: Osage County” (Rep)
Miguel Faustmann, “Wait Until Dark” (Rep)
Bart Guingona, “Full Gallop” (My Own Mann/AAI)
Chris Millado, “Pahimakas sa Isang Ahente” (TP)
Bart Guingona, “Venus in Fur” (AAI/The Necessary Theatre)

Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (66)
Gio Gahol (PETA) wins Outstanding Choreography for a Play or Musical.

Outstanding Choreography for a Play or Musical
Nancy Crowe, “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” (Full House)
Gio Gahol, “Rak of Aegis” (PETA)
Nestee Mamaril Gamilla, “Kleptomaniacs” (TP)

Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (67)
Myke Salomon receives another win for PETA.

Outstanding Musical Direction
MYKE SALOMON, “Rak of Aegis” (PETA)
Inday Echevarria, “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” (Full House)
Joseph Tolentino, “The Last Five Years” (9WT)

Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (63)
Jon Santos, Michael Williams and Red Concepcion sing “True Colors.”

Jon Santos, Michael Williams and Red Concepcion sing Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors.”

Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (62)
Sandino Martin, Regina de Vera, and Bart Guingona
Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (1)
Representing Cherie Gil, who won Outstanding Female Lead Performance in a Play

Female Lead Performance in a Play
Baby Barredo, “August: Osage County” (Rep)
CHERIE GIL, “Full Gallop”
Liesl Batucan, “Wait Until Dark” (Rep)
Jennifer Blair-Bianco, “Venus in Fur” (AAI/The Necessary Theatre)
Gina Pareño, “Pahimakas sa Isang Ahente” (TP)

Male Lead Performance in a Play
Spanky Manikan, “Mga Ama, Mga Anak” (TP)
ROBERT AREVALO, “Mga Ama, Mga Anak” (TP)
Jonathan Tadioan, “Pahimakas sa Isang Ahente” (TP)
David Bianco, “Venus in Fur” (AAI/The Necessary Theatre)

Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (3)
Champions Kim Molina and Pepe Herrera sing Mahal na Mahal Kita.
Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (2)
Aicelle Santos and Jerald Napoles
Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (4)
Kalila Aguilos of Rak of Aegis.
Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (5)
Lorenz Martinez of Rak of Aegis.

Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (7)
Antoinette Taus and Guji Lorenzana

Outstanding Ensemble Performance for Modern Dance

“ARAMICA” from “Heart2Heart: Ballet & Ballads” (BM)
“Muybridge Frames” from “Art of Dance” (BP)
“After Whom” from “The Blue Moon Series” (BP)
“Bungkos Suite” from “The Blue Moon Series” (BP)
“La Revolucion Filipina” (BP)

Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (8)
The ensemble of August Osage County, composed of Pinky Amador, Sheila Francisco, Richard Cunanan, director Chris Millado, Tami Monsod.

Outstanding Ensemble Performance for a Play
“Venus in Fur” (AAI/The Necessary Theatre)
“Pahimakas sa Isang Ahente” (TP)

Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (9)
The winning ensemble of RAK OF AEGIS jumps for joy!

Outstanding Ensemble Performance for a Musical
“The Last 5 Years” (9WT)

Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (10)
Chris Millado and Audie Gemora thank the audience.
Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (11)
Bibeth Orteza, Rafa Siguion Reyna and…
Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (12)
Jon Santos as Armida Siguion-Reyna

Outstanding Modern Dance Production
“Aramica” from “Heart2Heart: Ballet & Ballads” (BM)
“Muybridge Frames” from “Art of Dance” (BP)

Outstanding Production of Existing Material for a Play
“Full Gallop” (My Own Mann/AAI)
“Pahimakas sa Isang Ahente” (TP)
“Venus in Fur” (AAI/The Necessary Theatre)

Gawad Buhay 2014 x Reverb Manila (63)

Outstanding Production of Existing Material for a Musical
“The Last 5 Years” (9WT)

Outstanding Original Musical

Congratulations to all the winners! ‘Til the next Gawad Buhay!

Philstage is an organization of professional performing arts companies in the Philippines, namely: Ballet Manila, Ballet Philippines, Gantimpala Theater Foundation, Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit, PETA, Repertory Philippines, Tanghalang Pilipino, Trumpets, Actor’s Actors, 9 Works Theatrical and Philippine Opera Company. New among the roster of members are: Resorts World Manila’s Full House Theater Productions, Red Turnip Theater, and Philippine Ballet Theater.


KALAT By Basti Artadi: Revisiting the Icons of His Youth

To many of us, Sebastian ‘Basti’ Artadi is the frontman of the iconic Filipino rock band Wolfgang. Since last year, we would see him do a few collaborations with other musicians here and there. Later on that year, he would go on to launch his first solo music project online.

The album entitled Everybody Knows that the Dice Are Loaded is a compilation of songs he wrote himself from way back, with the help of some really, really nice guys called the Nice Ones. Now there is Basti and the Nice Ones who regularly plays around the metro.


Earlier this year, Reverb Manila spotted him perform live at OPM’s 12-hour music festival in a notable Collab Session with balladeer Christian Bautista.

He really seems to be all over the place.

Then last May 20, he makes another solo debut, this time, as a painter during the launch of his solo art exhibit entitled KALAT.

It’s been over a week since we witnessed the launch of his collection of paintings at A Space _Gallery. It was barely six in the evening, and everyone else was just about on their way out of the office or the usual traffic jam in Makati. The night was beginning to wear on real quick while there I was, busy getting lost in Makati. It could’ve been an ordinary Wednesday night; instead, I chose to pay A Space Manila a visit and catch a glimpse of Basti Artadi’s opening night. What I saw upon entering the fifth floor of the building was a cozy, minimalist space that’s undeniably inviting that I’d almost forgotten what I was there for. Artadi’s exhibit was a few steps away to the left from the entrance. And within those walls was yet another world.

Let’s call it #KalatbyBasti.

The view from the moment I entered the gallery was a masterpiece in itself. Picture this: there Basti Artadi was, the rock star that we know, only he wasn’t singing. Instead, it was a scene of Artadi constantly conversing with some familiar and new faces. There he was, sharing a part of himself that’s beyond his being a musician. A splash of colours and film and music and comic book icons that were reminiscent of different eras, surrounded him and the guests during the opening night.

I’ve easily found favorites from his collection, listing Nicdao, Blue Boy, and Newman Taylor as my Top 3 favorites. There were 16 paintings to his collection, and I had quite a lot of questions going on in my head as I took a closer look at each one. I needed answers. I had to approach him.

So here’s Reverb Manila’s short interview with the main man behind all this mess. #KalatByBasti

So. Why Kalat?


Basti: It’s a mess, so it’s kind of all over the place. I didn’t paint these with one idea in mind. You have musicians, actors, then all of a sudden you have comic book characters. Hence, the title Kalat. And it kind of goes with the style. Kalat.

How would you describe yourself as a painter?


Basti: I don’t really consider myself one (a painter). I paint because I lose myself in it when I do it.

How would you compare your art with your music?

Basti: It’s just weird. It’s just the way it came out. I’m really, really into color, and it just happened naturally. When you listen to my music though, the imagery in my lyrics are usually negative and dark.


When did you start drawing?

Basti: I’ve been drawing since I was seven or eight. I started with watercolor, and then maybe around 2006, I started with oil. The paintings are of icons that I grew up watching or listening to. The earliest one was that (pointing to Elvis). It was my first creation.


What finally pushed you to pursue this exhibit? 


Basti: Honestly, it was A Space Manila. I had all of these stuff at home, and a friend of mine came and saw these and said, ‘Man, what are you doing?’…Then he happened to know some people from A Space (Manila) and told them about it. So A Space Manila approached me and asked me if I was interested. I showed them my works and they said, ‘Oh, let’s do it’. Okay then. But you know, if they hadn’t approached me, this wouldn’t have been possible.

Among your paintings, which one is your favorite? Kalat-by-Basti-Reverb-Manila-36

Basti: I don’t have a favorite. Although that Clint Eastwood over there, I really love.


Basti: Captain America, too.

What is the story behind Blue Boy? Kalat-by-Basti-Reverb-Manila-37

Basti: I saw a picture online – a painting from Picasso’s Blue Period. I was looking at a couple of paintings of his from that time. I wanted to try doing that, so I ended up with this.


Blue Boy is the only painting out of all this that’s different, wherein I actually wanted to emulate something from someone else’s.

What about Nicdao (reference to photographer Mark Nicdao)? That to me is the most unique out of all your artworks. Kalat-by-Basti-Reverb-Manila-16

Basti: That’s my first time working with sculpture. It’s basically made of paint and plaster. I did it that way. I was talking to him (Mark Nicdao), and I asked him how many people he photographed…


Basti: The skulls are supposed to represent all the people that Nicdao photographed.

Let’s talk about your other solo projects. What’s the story behind We All Know That the Dice Are Loaded? Basti

Basti: These are songs that I had over eight years. When I was in the US, I just kept writing. I came up with 26 songs, and I chose to record ten with The Nice Ones. It’s like Americana; it’s different. It’s not Wolfgang. It’s got a Blues art to it.

What’s next for Basti as a solo artist?

Basti: The thing is that I’m an artist. I just have to do what I gotta do and be open to new things. I had those original songs then I found the guys to play them with…Basti and the Nice Ones.

I guess this year, I’m gonna dance.

Basti was kidding. Although some part of me wished he wasn’t. Basti, dancing? That’s something to watch for.

What’s next for Basti as a painter? Kalat-by-Basti-Reverb-Manila-30

Basti: Since Kalat is more of a retrospective collection that did not have a central theme, I’d like to do one with a theme next time. Hopefully, through this medium, it will make people realize something about our music scene.


Our short chat with Basti Artadi concluded with him inviting us to listen to Everybody Knows that the Dice are Loaded on Spotify! Follow Basti Artadi on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!


#KalatByBasti is a collection of art within another art form. His is a collection that transports us back to the heydays of these personalities and icons who have significantly influenced the art and entertainment industry over the past decades. When you say Hollywood, Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, or Clint Eastwood come to mind, just as you would equate Picasso and his “Blue Period” with painting, Elvis Presley with music, or Stan Lee with comic books. They are just as relevant today as they were during their time. These paintings allow us to explore Basti Artadi’s exposure to these icons’ craft in his youth. In the local scene, Basti also paid homage to rock icon Pepe Smith and accomplished photographer Mark Nicdao.


Although Kalat would be described as one that didn’t come with a theme, to me, this collection has created a retrospective unison. Artadi has also shown us a different side to him. His chosen medium expresses his love for colour, which is in stark contrast with his music.

He’s given his fans more reason to expect new things ahead of him as an artist. And we are just as thrilled as everyone else is for what he’s going to do next!

It’s Friday! If you haven’t visited the gallery to check out #KalatbyBasti just yet, catch it while you still can. Artadi’s exhibit will be up ’til June 22, 2015. Open from Mondays to Fridays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., visit A SPACE _Gallery and hang out with the cool guys behind the awesome co-working space that is A Space Manila.


For more information, please contact Coco Torre at (63) 917 848 9943 or gallery@aspacemanila.com.

Ten Reasons Why ‘Sabel, Love and Passion’ is Not Your Average Musical

Sabel-ReverbManila-(6) Sabel, Love and Passion: A Musical Production is an original Filipino musical inspired by the life of National Artist for Visual Arts Benedicto ‘BenCab’ Cabrera‘s long-time muse, the crazy dancing lady named Sabel. Throughout his artistry, BenCab created numerous variations of Sabel. And the thought of a Sabel variation as a musical constantly challenged BBC journalist, art collector, BenCab’s friend, and brainchild of this project Rico Hizon since 2003.


Hizon, who graced the audience with a short introduction prior to the much-awaited showcase, candidly shared that everything started over a decade ago, when they saw in a coffee-table book a feature on dancers interpreting Sabel at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Sabel, a musical, he asked himself. He then turned to musical director and composer Louie Ocampo, who then went to Director Freddie Santos. The challenge was, indeed, accepted. However, amidst several talks of a production, the musical had not seen light until April of this year. Finally, last Thursday (April 30), thanks to the collaborative work pursued by Ocampo and Santos, and everyone behind BenCab’s 50 Creative Years, a sea of guests flocked to the Theater at Solaire to witness the successful World Premier Gala of Sabel, albeit the heavy traffic caused by the coinciding concert that evening.

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So this just happened.. ❤️ #Sabel #BenCab

A post shared by Iza Calzado (@missizacalzado) on

Reverb Manila first found out about the production when Ms. Iza Calzado started posting tidbits about Sabel via her Instagram account over a month ago. And although only a few articles surfaced in the weeks that followed, we had to rely on the cast members to spoil us with updates regarding the progress via social media.

We knew instantly that Sabel, Love and Passion: A Musical Production was relevant.

For those who missed out, Reverb Manila gives you ten reasons why Sabel is not your average musical production.

10 | In a world where even visual art has gone digital, it’s quite hard to find avenues that strike a balance between modern and traditional visual art forms. However, the production had allowed its viewers to experience the best of both worlds, in fact even marrying other art forms imaginable – song, ballet, poem – which all came together as one grand production that is Sabel.


The stage employed a rather minimalist design, consisting of asymmetrical canvasses that were assembled to frame and add dimension to the stage. It was beautiful enough being simple. But wait until it drastically transforms through the help of strong imageries projected via LCDs, transporting us to different eras, unraveling the deepest emotions in the story. There was even a scene where the paintings projected on the panel would follow the young character Miguelin‘s hand as he painted on the canvass. It was refreshing to have witnessed such visual effects.

9 | It’s the only time you get to see all of BenCab’s works since most, if not all, of them now belong to somebody else.

Sabel-ReverbManila (3)
Lo and behold! The stage drastically transforms into a BenCab masterpiece. From simple asymmetrical shaped panels, these instantly turn into a collection that depicts the national artist’s numerous interpretations of Sabel.

8 | Iza Calzado makes a grand theater debut. In her Instagram account, Calzado said: “I am over the moon with joy because I’m finally doing my first theater/stage production! Though it is not exactly a straight play I think it’s a great start to doing stage work. Yes, I am still nervous but I hope my angels guide me so I can give a heartfelt performance on Thursday. Here with me in the photo is Bianca Trocino from the Philippine Ballet Theatre dancing as Sabel. She is amazing on stage. And so are Antoinette Taus and Aicelle Santos who will be the voice(s) of Sabel. Brilliant Women! Together I hope we get to bring Sabel to life! See you at Solaire at 8pm on Thursday.”

Iza Calzado clad in a flowy cape by Rajo Laurel.

She’s a mainstream success as a TV/Film actress, but the beautiful Calzado was such a delight even onstage. She delivered deeply moving narrations that made us shed a few tears here and then, and we’re pretty sure the audience, too, felt her joy, her pain, her longing through every word and movement. Iza’s angels had, indeed, guided her well throughout the night.

7 | The Power of Dance. It’s one of those few musicals that put the spotlight on dancers. 

The Philippine Ballet Theatre as amazon warriors during war.

We seldom get to see a musical that gives an amazing amount of credit to dancing since productions tend to focus more on the singing aspect to judge if a musical is good over all. It was great to see these ballet dancers dominate the stage. They were composed of very young and talented individuals who are part of the Philippine Ballet Theatre, by the way. They stood out on their own, without being overshadowed by the stellar voices behind each of the main characters.

Audie Gemora sings Look at Her for the first time.

6 | You’ve got a Triple A powering all-original compositions plus two balladeers to complete an outstanding vocal showcase.

Former child star Antoinette Taus lends her voice to the Young Sabel.

TRIPLE A. Theater veteran and Audie Gemora, Former child star Antoinette Taus, and Rak of Aegis’ Aicelle Santos exceeded expectations in their moving solo performances of Look at Her, In Love, and Smoke and Mirrors.  Balladeers theater veteran Bo Cerrudo and The Voice of the Philippines Season 1 contestant Timmy Pavino excellently lent their voices to the characters of Luis and Miguelin respectively, alongside Philippine Ballet Theatre’s Ian Ocampo and Matthew Davo.

The promising Timmy Pavino and Matthew Davo as Miguelin.

5 | Put two bigwigs in the live performance industry Mr. Freddie Santos and Mr. Louie Ocampo together as director and musical director and you get a production that’s no less than world-class.

Standing ovation. The cast with the Direk Freddie Santos, Musical Director Louie Ocampo, and BenCab.

Kudos to a masterfully written narrative poetry by Direk Freddie Santos and musical direction by lyricist and composer Mr. Louie Ocampo.

4 | The storyline screams Pinoy. It’s pretty simple yet it works.

Miguel and Consolacion

The plot is simple and realistic for anyone to understand and relate with. The audience didn’t need to rack their brains to understand what the story was about. The story has a certain teleserye twist to it. It would reveal how the motherless protagonist would lose her father in his sickness, fall in love and get her heart broken by a man who abandoned her. Her misfortune drives her mad, causing her to abandon her son. It would then take years for them to find each other. Oftentimes a family memento would help, which in this case, was in the form of a necklace. See, these elements make the material unmistakably and genuinely Pinoy. The values demonstrated by these characters are very much reflective of the Filipino culture, with emphasis on often abstracted concepts, such as: family, love, hope, and resilience.

3 | So we just mentioned that the story was simple; and yet, Sabel had to be portrayed by five characters.

It’s now all Smoke and Mirrors. Philippine Ballet Theatre’s Bianca Trocino and Rak of AegisAicelle Santos offered a harrowing performance of Sabel gradually losing her mind.

The material somewhat reminds you of Katy the Musical. If you would recall, Katy’s character was divided into three in order to define a particular stage in the character’s life. The intricate dimensions of Sabel’s character inevitably required that she be played by not just three but five characters (as narrating, dancing, and singing Sabels) to walk the audience through Sabel’s colorful journey from being a motherless child, losing her father, falling victim to war, to falling madly in love, and becoming a mother.

2 | The songs used in the production have the makings of a classic. The lyrics to each song was poetically written yet easily understandable. The songs had a lot of recall, thanks to their beautiful melodies. The emotions created were ripe; and the songs, undeniably heartfelt. Our personal favorites are Look at Her and Smoke and Mirrors.

The Finale. Pavino, Taus, Gemora, Santos and Cerrudo belting out the Reprise of Look At Her.

Sabel is born and raised by her father Miguel played by Philippine Ballet Theatre’s Lemuel Capa.

1 | We finally answer the question, Who is Sabel? Long before she became the crazy bag lady slash taong grasa, and the muse behind BenCab’s artistry, she was a woman who loved to dance. The story introduces a beautiful love story between Miguel and Consolacion, who would then give birth to Sabel. Since she was born at a critical time of Philippine history, we would experience with her the unfolding of several historical events. It was a difficult time for a lot of Filipinos, and Sabel was no exception.

The Dancing Sabel was played by two soloists, mainly by Philippine Ballet Theatre’s Bianca Trocino.

As Consolacion abandoned her and her father, Miguel was left to raise the helpless Sabel on his own. But the misfortune did not end there. Still very young and unaware of the dangers of the world, Sabel would lose her father after he suffered from a serious health condition, leaving poor Sabel to figure out her life through the next few decades, alone.

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The world stopped. Young Sabel and Luis fell in love.

She would live through the World War II as a warrior, a comfort woman to the enemy soldiers, a nightclub headliner in the cabaret era, and a lover…

Darkness ensues. Sabel lets us into a world created by her despair.

We also  learn that even love can destroy you through and through. When Luis left her, both unaware that she was bearing his child – their child, her life began to fall apart. She had lost herself. A deranged woman would now take to the streets in search of scraps of plastic she finds and piece them together into something she could wrap around her body. It was a beautiful symbolism; Sabel wanders off to pick up the missing pieces of herself that was wasted away.

BenCab saw through her. She had many dimensions to her life. No wonder she’s come to be a recurring image in his works as a visual artist. Sabel-ReverbManila-(13)

We saw through her, too. We can no longer perceive Sabel as the deranged lady who wandered off to nowhere. Sabel was a courageous woman whose spirit may have been crushed due to several unfortunate, heartbreaking moments in her life, but what we need to remember is that, Sabel had loved passionately – even foolishly – with all her heart. Only, she’s lost so much in her life that she in turn lost herself. The story offers stark insights on the dangers of loving selflessly. We can lose ourselves. But life also teaches us that hope abounds – that anything lost can be found.


That’s why Sabel is a story of hopeSabel had the happy ending her heart truly deserved, as she reunited with a father she thought she had lost, and her son whom she had long abandoned.

And that, my fellow theater fans, is why Sabel, Love and Passion is not your average musical.

Tessa Prieto-Valdez joins the crazy-talented bunch.
National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose
Congratulations! Hizon, Ocampo, Santos and BenCab with the cast.

Sabel, Love and Passion: A Musical Production will hold its rerun at the Music Museum on June 26 and 27. And we dare all brave souls who have loved and lost to witness a compelling story you’ll forever remember. Get to know Sabel, and join Mr. Cabrera as he continues celebrating 50 remarkable years as visual artist.

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Catch it while you can! We can’t wait for you to share with us what you think.


Stay tuned for updates via http://www.reverbmanila.com!

Araw ng Kagitingan 2015: Remembering Our Fallen Heroes of Bataan and Corregidor

On this ground, gallant men chose to die rather than surrender.

-Mount Samat Memorial Shrine Colonnade Wall

April 9, 1942. Prisoners of War (POW). World War 2. Death March. Bataan and Corregidor – These are just some important notes I remember having to memorize for our graded recitation in my Araling Panlipunan highschool class.

But for many of our fellowmen, April 9, 1942 was a traumatic detail in our history that not even a lifetime could forget. Memories of the World War 2 were tarnished with too much blood and tears. This week, we commemorate the gallantry our soldiers when they fought against the Japanese invaders, 73 years ago.

History tells us that, among the neighboring Southeast Asian countries that were part of the Japanese invasion, the Philippines was the last to surrender to the Japanese – Bataan and Corregidor surrendered on April 9 and May 6, 1942 respectively.

A few months prior to the historical fall of Bataan, the troops retreated to Pilar, a town within the province. The soldiers were steadfast in fighting the Japanese ’til the very end. But after three months of fighting, the 75,000 starving, exhausted soldiers surrendered to the Japanese, and it was the single largest surrender ever recorded in US history.

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The lateral walls of the Colonnade narrate the story of the Battle of Bataan, which was engraved on the marble wall.

On 9 April 1942, at high noon, Major General Edward P. King, Jr., Senior American Officer on the battle-torn peninsula surrendered the Bataan forces. The infamous Death March began an ordeal which annealed the Filipino Spirit.

-Mount Samat Memorial Shrine Colonnade Wall

The Bataan Death March began in Mariveles, Bataan, where the POWs were forced to take an 80-mile march to Capas, Tarlac. Many of the soldiers who suffered to keep up were beat up, bayoneted, or shot. Others died of extreme exhaustion, starvation and/or disease. For the rest of the survivors, their horrific experiences felt much worse than death.

Today, we know Mount Samat National Shrine or the Dambana ng Kagitingan in Pilar, Bataan to be a tourist destination among locals and foreigners, especially during the summer. Back then, I knew very little about its historical importance. In fact, despite several pictures being uploaded via social media for the past four years, I’d believed Mount Samat was a local church because of the monumental cross built near its summit. I’d never really bothered to learn anything more about it until my friends and I randomly decided to visit it early last year.

From the foot of Mount Samat leading up to the entrance of the shrine, we carpooled via a pickup truck, which took us about 15 minutes. When we arrived, we were greeted by a grand staircase leading up to the flagpoles. I was surprised and felt that I was under-dressed for what was ahead. Since we came from a swimming party, most of us were only wearing slippers. It was dangerous, but it didn’t stop us from taking the foot path. Good thing I packed some H2O, a change of clothes and a towel because it was especially hot. About 75% of the Mount Samat experience instantly became a cardio workout for me.

Here are some shots captured by my phone camera:

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Ang Dambana ng Kagitingan, also called the Mount Samat National Shrine. In the US, Illinois also commemorates the American troops who participated in the Battle of Bataan, although they commemorate it by holding ceremonies and parades every September.
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This chandelier piece within the war museum was the only photo I took while I was inside (since the place was offlimits to shutterbugs like me). It houses various paintings of our heroes and armaments the soldiers used during the battle.
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The view of the towering Bataan Memorial Cross taken from the foot path. The cross measures 92 meters from its base. An elevator leads you up to the arms of the cross. Each arm, measuring 15 meters, offers beautiful panoramic view of Bataan.
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The details of the Memorial Shrine was a design of Lorenzo del Castillo and landscaped by Dolly Quimbo-Perez. National Artist Napoleon Abueva and Cenon Rivera also contributed to its architecture.
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The windows from up above. This window is placed at the edge of one arm within the Memorial Cross (although I forget which side). The arms of the cross are about 72 feet above its base. Thousands of selfies and groufies have been snapped beside this window.

The entire experience atop Mount Samat offered me some moments to meditate and learn more about its historical importance to me as a Filipino, and it seemed that the winds up there were gently persuading me to do so. Reflect. This shrine complex was built as a reminder of a very critical moment in our history – at a time our fellowmen had nothing left but resilience, courage, and willingness to sacrifice their lives for the country. It was their destiny, and they embraced it in all hopelessness. While my friends and I constantly whined about the flights of stairs we had to climb, I also realized that our petty complaints were nothing compared to the 130-kilometer march our soldiers endured. So many lives were lost. Souls were crushed. The footprints and blood trails may be gone, but their collective selflessness will forever be marked in every Filipino calendar.

Speaking of Filipino calendars, it was only in 1961 when April 9 was officially made a holiday. The Congress at the time used to refer to it as Bataan Day. In 1987, it was renamed Araw ng Kagitingan to commemorate the fall of Bataan and Corregidor. Two years later, Proclamation 466 was declared to honor the World War 2 and Philippine veterans. The nation is called to observe Veterans Week from April 5 to 11 every year.

During his time, Former President Ferdinand Marcos commissioned the establishment of the Dambana ng Kagitingan on Mount Samat to honor the gallantry of our Philippine and American soldiers who fought during the war. Although it took some time to finish, the monument was completed just in time for the 25th Araw ng Kagitingan anniversary.

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Our mission is to remember. Remember.

Let friend and foe recognize the martial spirit that defeat could not break. To the memory of these brave warriors whose blood soaked every rock of this land so that this nation might endure, this humble shrine is consecrated.

-Mount Samat Memorial Shrine Colonnade Wall

So while you take a break this weekend, instead of going to a mall, why not consider spending some time to visit the Dambana for an opportunity to learn about and remember our history?

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I hope this experience will educate and inspire you the way it has renewed and uplifted the Filipino in me.

Care to share your journey to Mount Samat with us? Leave a comment below.

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Your April Guide to Great Gigs Around the Metro

Happy Easter, everyone!


April has just begun, and your favorite bars and artists are back to regular programming.

Don’t miss out! Check posters below for more deets!

12 Monkeys Music Hall and Pub

5th Floor, Century City Mall, Kalayaan Ave., Makati

12 Monkeys

Route196 Bar

196-A Katipunan Avenue Extension, Blue Ridge AQuezon City, Philippines

Route 196 Bar

The 70’s Bistro

#46 Anonas Street, Project 2, Quezon City, Philippines

70s Bistro


Unit C-1 The Fort Entertainment Center, BGC, Taguig, Philippines


19East Bar

Km. 19, East Service Road, Sucat, Muntinlupa City


Saguijo Bar and Cafe

7612 Guijo Street, San Antonio Village, Makati


Good night!


11 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Have Missed Up Dharma Down’s Concert (Part 1 of 2)

“Favors in reverse. Songs are unrehearsed. When I get through this. I hope I get through you.”

11 | Eleven years of Up Dharma Down and counting.

Practically today’s most relevant and current OPM group that rose to the top of the Philippine music industry as an independent band (with a natural flair for experimental, pop, and electronic rock) since they started in 2003, Up Dharma Down (UDD) [@uddofficial] has always been about pushing the boundaries when it comes to their craft. And after so many years, the much-awaited finally surfaced last March 21, 2015 on this very stage, in a surreal kind of way.

Reverb Manila UDD Minutes before the Show
Dharma Lights x Music Museum. Beautiful stage taken minutes before the concert.

UDD’s concert titled Dharma Lights: The Illumination of Up Dharma Down’s Music at the Music Museum celebrates 11 years of their beautiful journey as Up Dharma Down. UDD is thankful for all these years they’ve stuck together, and to the Dharmalites who have supported them through and through.

10 | It’s the best eargasmic OPM concert experience ever. Ever.

Up Dharma Down's Armi Millare (Vocalist, Keyboard), Carlos Tanada (Lead Guitar). Paul Yap (Bass), and Ean ()
Up Dharma Down. Armi Millare (Vocalist, Keyboards), Carlos Tanada (Lead Guitar, Synths, Samples). Paul Yap (Bass, Synth, Backup Vocals), and Ean Mayor (Drums, Synths, Samples)

I myself had never seen UDD live until that night, so my expectations prior to the show were based on how I’ve seen them on YouTube. The first note in Turn it Well got me instantly. I knew from there on the show was going to be amazing. I don’t know how they do it, but there’s just a lot of things going on with each song, and all these elements sound so delicious altogether. I can’t fully describe what I felt about the whole UDD experience. Perhaps it’s like I’ve fallen in love again; only this time, there is no heartbreak.

9 | Armi’s sexy #LittleSortofBacklessBlackDress #OOTD.

Armi Millare and her fashion statement.
OOTD. Armi Millare rocks in a little, sort of backless, black dress, her Nord keyboard, and her cute, awkward smile.

Clad in her version of a little, sort of backless, black dress, accentuating her dope Nord keyboard even further, Armi was (and I don’t mean to sound like a perv) just so darn hot and beautiful. That night, she became my ultimate #girlcrush.

8 | So, Oo was in their set list.

“Di mo lang alam, naiisip kita. Baka sakali lang maisip mo ako.”

Everyone can relate to Oo. UDD has gained a massive, organic following ever since the single took off and became the Philippines’ national anthem for the brokenhearted #PambansangAwitngMgaSawi.

7 |  And Tadhana, too!

March 21, 2015. Up Dharma Down's first concert at the Music Museum.
Feel the Love. Dharmalites sing along to Tadhana!

“Ba’t ‘di pa sabihin ang hindi mo maamin. Ipa-uubaya na lang ba ‘to sa hangin.”

You’ve heard Tadhana featured as OST to some mainstream TV series and, very recently, that CinemaOne Originals indie movie That Thing Called Tadhana; once again proving countless times that UDD’s got hugot resonating all over the mainstream airwaves, spreading like wildfire.

Here’s an 90%-ish complete footage of Tadhana:

To be continued. Stay tuned for photos and video updates soon here and on Tumblr. Search and hashtag Reverb Manila | #ReverbManila via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Meanwhile, for more of Up Dharma Down, their music, and their day-to-day musings, visit updharmadown.com and armimillare.com. Search @uddofficial @armimillare @carlostanada7 @eanmayor @polyap on social media.

Reverb Manila is Here!

Reverb /noun/ re·verb \ri-ˈvərb, ˈrē-ˌ\ is an electronically produced echo effect in recorded music. It is a device for producing reverb.

Reverb Manila dives into the wonderful world of music, arts, and lifestyle in the Philippines. From here on, we’ll be echoing to you events that you enjoy, as they happen.

Creative collaborations of any kind are highly encouraged!  Let’s start a new reverb!

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