Apolinario Mabini is a Woman in Tanghalang Pilipino's 33rd Season Kickoff
by Jace Amodo, August 23, 2019 9:30am
Art by Dani Elevazo
Cultural programs, community gatherings, extraordinary celebrations—the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) is giving it all for their 50th Anniversary. Its resident theater company, Tanghalang Pilipino (TP), is no exception. Because an iconic time calls for a grand event, TP restages their award-winning play about Apolinario Mabini called the Mabining Mandirigma.
Mabining Mandirigma's distinctiveness relies heavily on the idea of gender-bending the titular role, which, for its fourth run, is played by theater veteran Monique Wilson. TP explains that Mabini was an "others" during his time because of his infantile paralysis, aka polio. He somehow "shared the same status as women." Though this concept could lead to debates, TP faced it head-on. Now, it has held three successful runs and has earned 12 Gawad Buhay Awards.
Much like how its genre—steampunk, like Final Fantasy or Hellboy—asks what the past would look like if the future had happened sooner, the play's music marries the historical and the contemporary. Because it's a musical, the songs play a huge role in delivering the message Mabining Mandirigma wants to cascade. And it manages, thanks to the geniuses Joed Balsamo as composer and Ejay Yatco as musical director.
It's a wake-up call that we're no strangers to the current political climate. The national issues we're currently facing exhibit semblance with what occurred during the Philippine Revolution—embedded in our blood, normalized and persisting.
"The war waging inside minds and hearts, as well as in the streets, inside Congress, and in the countrysides are still going on today; and we need radical, [transformative], provocative art in all its forms, to keep fighting for dignity and freedom," Monique Wilson on her motivation to play the lead role in Mabining Mandirigma.
Though now on its fourth run, Mabining Mandirigma has a myriad of updates to look forward to, including a refreshed script, a set of brand-new faces in the cast, a rap number, a drag queen exposure, and the probability of making the play "mobile" to reach more audience. For TP, this run is also a tribute to fashion and costume designer James Reyes, who passed away at age 48 on March 16, 2019.
It's a political protest first, and a musical second. Mabining Mandirigma is directed by CCP Vice President and Artistic Director Chris Millado and is written by prolific critic Nicanor Tiongson. The show runs from August 16 to September 1 at the CCP Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (Little Theater).
For tickets and more information, call Tanghalang Pilipino at (02) 832-1125 local 1621 or visit @tanghalangpilipino on Facebook.