Gerald creates a powerful image of Pedro Calungsod
Gerald Santos as Pedro Calungsod and Kuya Manzano as Father Diego Luis de San Vitores at the end of the musical’s presentation in Music Museum…
Gerald creates a powerful image of Pedro Calungsod
FUNFARE - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - March 7, 2020 - 12:00am

It’s a pity that my friend Raoul Tidalgo and I didn’t see the Pedro Calungsod musical during its first staging on a two-year tour in 2014-2016 in Visayas and Mindanao, which was interrupted when Gerald Santos (in the titular role) joined the Miss Saigon UK tour as the antagonist Thuy (played by Robert Seña in the musical’s West End run). We could have a chance to compare Gerald’s performance pre-Saigon and post-Saigon.  

Nevertheless, Raoul and I didn’t just enjoy the musical (as did, we’re sure, Drs. Willie Ong and his wife Liza, John Nite, Suzette Ranillo and others in the audience at the Music Museum Tuesday last week, Feb. 25), we were astounded by the performances of the actors on an almost bare stage, with only two ramps and two beds as props — but thanks to the giant monitor on which were shown pictures as part of establishing scenes.

Admittedly, our close “encounter” with Calungsod was limited to a quick stop for a picture-taking beside his statue in front of a church in Guam. Our sketchy knowledge of Calungsod’s life was enriched by the musical that traced in songs the journey of the Catholic Filipino migrant who, at 17, was killed on the Ladrones Islands (part of it is now known as Guam) along with Father Diego Luis De San Vitores, the Spanish Jesuit missionary who founded the first Catholic church in Guam. Their bodies were thrown into the sea (shown at the Museum staging in a film shot in Anilao, Batangas, to the tune of P250,000 according to Antonino Rommel “Cocoy” Ramilo, Gerald’s manager who directed the musical).

On that small (nearly “claustrophobic”) stage, the cast admirably delineated the life of Calungsod from his childhood in Cebu to his and some friends joining Fr. Diego’s mission (against Calungsod’s mother's wishes) that brought them to Mexico on their way to Guam where he suffered religious persecution and martyrdom for their missionary work in 1672. Calungsod was born on July 21, 1654 (observed as his Feast Day) in Poblacion Molo, Iloilo City, and died on April 2, 1672. He was venerated by the Catholic Church, beatified by Pope John Paul II on March 5, 2000, at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, and canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 21, 2012.

It helped that Gerald has a striking resemblance to Calungsod, so pronounced especially in the final scene showing him on a frond-decorated float so much like how Calungsod looks in that statue in Guam.

 (from left) Antonino Rommel ‘Cocoy’ Ramilo (who wrote the libretto), Heidi Arima (as Calungsod’s mother), Vince Vicentuan (as Choco, the Chinese character) and Hutch Perales (as Matapang who hurls a spear at Father Diego).

In most of the scenes, Gerald was meek and mild (as called for by the role), so petite like Calungsod, and he turned into a gigantic presence when he started singing, his voice so powerful that it reverberated from the four corners of the Museum with a force that prompted the audience to give him a thundering applause at the end of every song. For sure, Gerald’s vocal prowess was honed and polished during his stint in Miss Saigon.

The rerun, tighter and much improved technically, featured 13 new songs, seven of which were composed by Gerald and the rest by Cocoy who did the libretto and lyrics, and collaborated with Gerald on the music. The musical was made memorable by the cast who stunned with equally inspired performances, including Kuya Manzano as Father Diego, Heidi Arima as Calungsod’s mother, Hutch Perales (a scene-stealer as Matapang who hurled the spear at Father Diego), Jhay-R Baccol (as Hirao) and Vince Vicentuan (who scored a delightful performance as Choco, the Chinese character).

The Museum staging was for one night only. However, it was oh-so-good that the musical should be enjoyed by more people, especially students (the scheduled two performances at St. Scholastica’s College Manila were cancelled presumably due to the COVID-19 outbreak).

Postscript: We left the Music Museum with a question ringing in our minds: Why isn’t Father Diego Luis de San Vitores still not canonized even if he was beatified by Pope John Paul II? Unless we are clueless and uneducated on the matter…)

(E-mail reactions at rickylophilstar@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos, visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on Instagram @therealrickylo.)

GERALD SANTOS HEIDI ARIMA PEDRO CALUNGSOD
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