Theater Review : Philippine Stagers Foundation' Bonifacio : Isang Sarsuwela


I understand now why Filipinos are always craving for that big change in our country. It’s because the history keeps on repeating and we are so tired of dealing with the same corrupted government. Yes, corruption and the greediness over the power and authority has been the country’s biggest dilemma even before the very first Philippine government was established! Flying voters?  Bribery?  Treason?

We are not new to these matters anymore. Our parents grew up with the same old dirty politics and we are sharing the same fate with them and if we are not going to make any action to correct it today, the younger generations will be heading the same path.   In the midst of this seemingly endless crisis, we still have hopes and we still have those heroes who are willing to fight for our freedom and to pull us up from this dark corrupted government that always drag us down.

Blood compact scene of Bonifacio : Isang Sarsuwela
The fate of Andres Bonifacio for an instance is one great example of how someone who has clear clean intention for the country can be victimized by those who are greedy for power and wealth. Andres Bonifacio is admired by many Filipinos not just because of his bravery and his willingness to die for our country but also because of the unconditional love that he offered for his nation.

With all his contribution to our country and how he ignite our sense of nationalism much like how Jose Rizal did for us, Andres Bonifacio truly deserves to be credited as one of our National heroes. Interestingly, in the upcoming celebration of Bonifacio Day, Philippine Stagers Foundation brings back their highly acclaimed “Bonifacio : Isang Sarsuwela” in special limited run on theater this month of November.

Ready for the battle scene in Bonifacio : Isang Sarsuwela
Bonifacio : Isang Sarsuwela is another masterpiece written and directed by Atty Vince Tañada who apparently also played the titular role. The sarsuwela (a play that involves music and dance) will tell the story of Andres Bonifacio (Vince Tañada) during the time that he was just establishing the Katipunan, his effort to build his brotherhood, his leadership and how he was betrayed by his comrades. It is merely a biographical play that involves historical facts about Bonifacio incorporated with a touch of fictional elements and of course a pinch of comical delight which is seemingly a trademark of PSF. The aim of the play is show the audience the tragic fate of Bonifacio and to prove how the history repeats itself.

One of the intense scene of Bonifacio : Isang Sarsuwela
It was overall a heartwarming and a very timely musical which is good enough to ignite your sense of nationalism. It is a perfect tribute for a hero who really deserves more recognition than what he is having today. As far as the performances are concerned, I personally think that the sarswela managed to give the kind of justice it wants to offer. The message is very strong and so as the vocal power offered by the artists. It offers set of powerful songs (kudos to Mr Pipo Cifra) but unfortunately matched with seemingly repetitive choreography. Although this is just a rerun and absolutely not a new play for PSF, I have to admit that I am still overwhelmed by their newer (and currently running) musical ~ Katips: Ang Mga Bagong Katipunero. At some point, I cannot help myself but to compare the two plays and surprisingly found a lot of similarities. The stage production, the choreography, the climax scenes, the love story sequences, they all seem to follow a certain format but I am not really against it and in fact, they are cleverly and impressively executed. It just so happened that Katips overpowered my expectations for Bonifacio : Isang Sarsuwela and I was looking for a much bigger impact visually and emotionally.



You know what I love about Bonifacio : Isang Sarsuwela? First of all, it is very educational and a very timely rerun which allows younger generations to learn more about Bonifacio and his contribution to Philippine history. It provides deeper understanding about this hero and his tragic fate which remains controversial today. The actors managed to give justice to their respective characters too including Patrick Lumibao as Emilio Jacinto, Keneth Sadsad as Emilio Aguinaldo, Cindy Liperas Aling Oriang, Adel Ibarrientos as Hilaria Del Rosario-Aguinaldo, Jerie Clarice Sanchez as Tandang Sora, Rotsen Etolle as Macario Sakay, Cris Lim  as Baldomero Aguinaldo, JP Lopez as Mariano Noriel and a whole lot more.

 Hilaria to support Aguinaldo

Another thing I love about the play is how they cleverly inputted those fictional elements. The addition of Hilaria to support Aguinaldo’s character is an interesting approach. I also find that scene where the late Bonifacio showed up and Aguinaldo gave him the Philippine flag to wave a thought provoking scene.The play concluded remarkably by taking an excerpt from "Lupang Hinirang" , a perfect way to end the show that aims to ignite the audience's sense of nationalism!

I guess Vince Tañada really knows how to play with audience’s emotion. You actually don’t know what to expect from the scenes. Some of them will give you a great laugh while others will just tear you apart. Bonifacio : Isang Sarsuwela is currently on a limited run. The musical play is currently being staged at AFP Theater inside Camp Aguinaldo (Ironic isn’t?). They are also scheduled to perform in Baguio on the 30th (Bonifacio Day).

Written : Milton Coyne
Photos : Axl Guinto & Milton Coyne
Edited : Axl Guinto

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