Club Mwah introduces Filipiniana touch with flourish

LIVE FEED - Bibsy M. Carballo - The Philippine Star

We have been watching the shows at Club Mwah for five of the 10 years it has been in existence. And all the time, we have been impressed by the talent and dedication the owners of the club, namely Cris Nicolas and Pocholo Malillin, have put into it. By dint of hard work, they have made possible the impossible, throwing caution to the winds in following the dictates of their artistic nature.

Known as the creator of the Bedazzled sex and comedy, dance and musical show that combined New York’s Studio24 with that of the opulent Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Club Mwah’s presentations are nonetheless very much their own invention. In a short space of time, it has been noticed and given the Asia-Pacific Excellence Award as well as an accreditation from the Department of Tourism in the midst of so many other entertainment venues. This time around, when Pocholo called to invite us to watch a new twist to its presentations in a Filipino section, we had no doubt it would once again be a welcome surprise.

We ask Cris how the Pinoy portion came about. He replies, “So many balikbayan, fellow kababayan, expats and foreign guests had been requesting for Filipino Folk Dances as presented by Club Mwah. Tumawag din po ang Department of Tourism for us to add a Filipino portion. Since Club Mwah became recognized for its Vegas, Moulin Rouge and Broadway type of show, we took up these requests as a challenge to come out with what we call Folliespiniana.” The news spread quickly. When the first show was shown to friends from the Bayanihan Dance Company, Ramon Ubusan, Kayumanggi Dance Company and Barangay Dance Troupe, they were all amazed and happy that our dance culture was being recognized.

With three friends in tow, we watched the new baby of Club Mwah which came as Part 2 of the presentation for the night. A first-time visitor will immediately be made aware of the huge stage, an equally huge dancefloor, and the existence of lights and sound equipment everywhere upon entry that could only spell expense. This sets the tone and the comparison with Las Vegas and Moulin Rouge.

We had been told that Pocholo and Cris had made certain they got the best people on their team in all aspects. As beauty consultant, there is James Cooper of Cooper Cuts Salon; as entertainment and dance consultant, there is Douglas Nierras of Power Dance. Cris takes care of the creative side of the business, and Pocholo manages the day-to-day operations and the public relations aspect.

We try to imagine how it was in the beginning when the couple were putting things together at The Venue Tower at 652 Boni Ave. in Mandaluyong City. To begin with, the location was a new one, far from the madding crowd of Makati’s business district where one could have his pick of the best shows in town. It certainly was not the best location for the audience they were out to attract. We have heard comments like, where is Boni? Near what restaurant? How is the parking? Is it safe? Not all these questions have been answered nor its problems solved. And yet, Club Mwah has been operating for 10 years and the audience has been coming from Monday to Saturday on a steady stream.

Why then, you may ask yourself. The only answer we can give is the existence of the amazing shows they churn out that can’t be found elsewhere in the country. Why else would such famous people like Maricel Soriano, Korina Sanchez, Ces Drilon and Phoemela Baranda take time off, or for that matter even Gemma Cruz-Araneta.

On the night we watched, the Folliespiniana segment presented three suites of dances from the islands — the Igorots of the northern highlands wearing distinctive costuming with clay pots on their heads filled with water; the Pandango sa Ilaw requiring difficult balancing act with lit candles; and the Singkil of the Muslims of Lanao del Sur in Mindanao to the rhythmic clapping of criss-crossed bamboo poles.

The audience gave the Singkil the most applause, possibly also because of its colorful costuming for both men and women and the use of a kerchief for the men and large similarly colorful fans for the women. Before bidding goodbye, we ask Pocholo if there would be any more Filipino dances and he says three more are in the works. From the standing ovation given the show that night, we have no doubt that reaction of those who watched will result in numerous viewers belonging to those who patronize Filipino music and dance.

(E-mail your comments to [email protected] or text us at 0917-8991835.)


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