ABS-CBN Foundation's "Youth" Show
by Perla Aragon-Choudhury (The Philippine Star) - January 8, 2000 - 12:00am

Remember how sophomore high school students had to plod through the verses of Francisco BaltazarÕs Florante at Laura? Remember how even juniors and seniors would resort to the comics version of Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo to shortcut their way to understanding what is still deemed as the greatest Filipino novel?

Well, reading literary works need not be a bore nor a tedious undertaking, stress the creative spirits behind Pahina, ABS-CBN FoundationÕs latest foray into educational programming after the award-winning childrenÕs television programs SineÕskwela, Mathtinik, Hirayamanawari, Bayani, and Epol/Apple.

ÒThere is so much potential for drama in the works of our own writers,Ó remarked Gina Lopez, managing director of the Foundation, during the Dec. 8 launch of the first educational television program for youth in the Philippines.

ÒIt is important to put the spirit of literature in media to deepen lives and to expose youth to the flower of Philippine culture and history,Ó adds Lopez who is also producer of the one-hour feature show on Philippine literature.

But as shown in the skit which was the centerpiece program of the Dec. 8 launch, high school students will just have to be enticed by introducing fresh and innovative ways of tackling Filipino literature.

Interspersed with the skit were excerpts of the episodes of Pahina and an audiovisual presentation which broadly introduced the showÕs format, content and cast in its bid to entice DECS officials, superintendents and teachers to utilize the program to enhance the classroom instruction of Filipino.

Pahina features Carlo Aquino as Balt, nickname for Baltazar. A journalist grandfather, Lolo Lope (played by Joonee Gamboa), encourages the young Balt to read and appreciate literary works.

The audiovisual presentation ran glimpses of dramatizations of the forthcoming episodes. Most notable was Kwento ni Mabuti, Geneveva Edroza MatuteÕs most anthologized story. MatuteÕs story featured actors and actresses dressed and coiffured in the style of the period in which it had been written.

And the surprise of the day Ñ the author herself gracing the launch. Now silver-haired but serene as teachers, superintendents, principals, students and artists as she stood up to acknowledge the applause and veneration of the audience. No, she cannot leave Studio 1, the launchingÕs venue, without acknowledging well-wishers and yes, signing autographs.

And so it went, the intercuts between the skit and the AVP on the giant screen stage right. Production numbers segued fluidly into the singing of the memorandum of agreement between the ABS-CBN Foundation and the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS).

DECS, represented by Assistant Secretary Fe Hidalgo, read a message from Bro. Andrew Gonzales. In part it translates: ÒPahina is a gift for the youth, the leaders of the 21st century who must learn of the beauty of literature. Through relevant teaching methods, we believe we can help them develop an intelligent society.Ó

Next came a production number by students from three high schools in Metro Manila. Immortal verses from Francisco Balagtas, Andres Bonifacio, and Jose Corazon de Jesus were rendered in the sabayang bigkas tradition.

A voice-over announcement introduced the cast led by Carlo Aquino. Carlo segued into singing the Pahina theme song with his teen band JCS, which also includes Stefano Mori and John Pratts, in lead guitar and drums respectively.

Pahina, akoÕy iyong dalhin, sa magagandaÕt malalayong lupain, sang Carlo, from the lyrics of Pahina headwriter Jovy Zarate and the music of Noel Cabangon.

Rose petals of various hues rained onstage as the students and cast gyrated to the live band.

In one episode, Balt and his cousin Teddy, a dude to the verse and metaphor, wend their way to understanding Ildefonso SantosÕ poem, Sa Tabi ng Dagat. Once canÕt wait how Pahina will blend their high jinks with the classical pieces of Balagtas and other venerable writers.

So weÕre all eyes and ears as the production team works with consultants led by Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera, the PhilippinesÕ foremost literary scholar and recipient of the 1993 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication.

A new program for the Filipino youth of the new millennium, Pahina will air on Jan. 8, 9:30-10:30 a.m. and every Saturday thereafter. Pahina is directed by Jon Red with Jovy Zarate as headwriter.

Strictly for high school students? We were all teenagers once. As high school students see themselves in the lives of Balt and other teenage characters, we adults may as well sit with them and experience how our own wellsprings of memory brim with fond reminiscence, while drooling with delight over the poetry and prose of Philippine literatureÕs most venerable writers.

ANDRES BONIFACIO ANDREW GONZALES ASSISTANT SECRETARY FE HIDALGO BALT CARLO AQUINO CULTURE AND SPORTS JOVY ZARATE OACUTE OGRAVE OTILDE PAHINA
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