Earlier this month, the Bonifacio Art Foundation, Inc. (BAFI) launched the BGC Arts Center, the new centerpiece of BGC’s cultural district that will support the thriving art scene. And on its opening day, I got to experience the first half of the BGC Arts Center Festival, a two-day festival filled with performances and events that showcase the Filipino creativity.
For its inaugural run, the BGC Arts Center hosted a cluster of original Filipino creations and local adaptations of foreign works. This year featured works from Artist Playground and Kids Act Philippines, dance performances by STEPS, staged readings by The Egg Theatre Co., performances by SPIT Manila, an acclaimed production from Twin Bill Theater, and award-winning original musical from Philippine Stagers, an opera piece from MusicArtes, Inc., and a book signing from Ricky Lee.
Artist Playground’s Happiness is a Pearl
Artist Playground’s Happiness is a Pearl is a love triangle between Japanese man Kenji, Japanese woman Mari, and Filipina woman Maria. Both women are enamored of his penis, which has a pearl implant.
The production is notable for its complex choreography, a mix of tango and simulated sex set amidst a limited stage. The actors deftly balanced their dancing and their acting, baring their souls with abandon. Cath Go as Mari and Ira Ruzz as Maria were entertaining, and Tomas Miranda as Kenji was believably Japanese, chinito features aside.
Don Carlos Palanca Hall of Famer Rody Vera revealed that he was inspired by a story he read about a similar issue. Ah, the Japanese. Always coming up with the weirdest things. Paul Jake Paule’s direction of Happiness is a Pearl is at times elegant, sensual, and entertaining.
Ricky Lee’s Kung Alam N’yo Lang
Famed scriptwriter and novelist Ricky Lee is back with new material, and he wrote something he’s never written before: a children’s book. Kung Alam N’yo Lang is an anthology of four children’s stories not meant for children, and they tackle heavy issues like finding God and dealing with death. I was actually sent an advanced copy a few weeks ago (I finished the book in one night and found it incredibly heavy), but I attended the talk to hear the stories behind the stories. Book designer Karl Castro gave a fascinating look into how he designed the covers, the illustrations inside, and the fonts. Three of the four artists were there, too, to share their insights.
Since I was already here, I picked up copies of Lee’s novels Para Kay B and Si Amapola sa 65 na Kabanata, and his scriptwriting manual Trip to Quiapo. He took the time to write personal notes in each, and they were touching yet heartbreaking. I’ll share them with you in the coming days.
MusicArtes’ La Voix Humaine
MusicArtes’ La Voix Humaine (The Human Voice) is my entry to opera, and what a revelation. The one woman act featuring soprano Kay Balajadia Liggayu was impressive, with her soaring vocals taking the audience on an emotional journey as she has her final conversation with her ex-lover who is in love with someone else. The entire piece is in French, and four years of French education couldn’t help me understand what was going on. Fortunately, supertitles were projected and concert pianist Rudolf Golez guided us through with his masterful performance. International artist Dr. Anton Juan directed the piece.
Philippine Stagers’ Katips: Ang Mga Bagong Katipunero
Philippine Stagers’ Katips: Ang Mg Bagong Katipunero sweetly capped off my day at the BGC Arts Center Festival. The spirited musical told the story of a group of student activists who stand up to the Marcos regime even if they are bullied and tortured into oppression. The strong (and timely) social message was amplified by the powerful lyrics and vocals from the cast, who alternately charmed, terrified, and entertained us. Multiple Aliw, Broadway World, and Outstanding Manilan Vincent M. Tanada directed Katips and starred as Panyong, the lovable writer. The girls did a great job, too: Vean Olmedo as the promdi Susie, Rospel Gonzales as the oddball Lally, and the graceful Maya Encila as the balikbayan Lara, who gets a harsh wake-up call when she returns to the Philippines. Philippine Stagers showed a stripped-back version of the musical without the set, but they still delivered.
The BGC Arts Center is located on the corner of 26th Street and 9th Avenue in Bonifacio Global City. For more information, visit the website at www.bgcartscenter.org or its social media pages on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.