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Arts and Culture

A piece of Philippine history told in rock musical about Andres Bonifacio

Euden Valdez - Philstar.com
A piece of Philippine history told in rock musical about Andres Bonifacio
First staged in 1996 by Tanghalang Ateneo (TA), "2Bayani" was adapted from Butch Dalisay’s “Ambon sa Madaling Araw,” a play about Bonifacio’s last days, from his arrest in April 1987 to his assassination less than a month later.
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MANILA, Philippines — Andres Bonifacio founded the Katipunan (Kataas-taasan Kagalang-galang na Katipunan nang mga Anak ng Bayan or KKK), a secret revolutionary society that started the Philippine revolution on August 23, 1896 at the Cry of Pugad Lawin.

Despite being the Father of Revolution, Bonifacio is seen only second to Jose Rizal, and sometimes, is regarded as a footnote in Philippine history.

But for Zosimo Quibilan and Khavn de la Cruz, who co-wrote the music and libretto of “2Bayani: Isang Rock Operang Alay kay Andres Bonifacio,” the national hero is due recognition. It is what their rock musical hopes to achieve as it streams online via KTX.ph until April 23.

First staged in 1996 by Tanghalang Ateneo (TA), "2Bayani" was adapted from Butch Dalisay’s “Ambon sa Madaling Araw,” a play about Bonifacio’s last days, from his arrest in April 1987 to his assassination less than a month later.

“The meaning of the number 2 in the title is partly because of that — it was technically the second musical that Khavn and I have written over 20 years ago. It’s also because Bonifacio is always viewed as second only to Rizal, which is ironic because Bonifacio started the revolution,” Quibilan told Philstar.com in an email interview.

Quibilan and De la Cruz share equal billing, writing 11 songs each, and directly collaborating on three. The former focused on the libretto while the latter arranged the songs. Given a one-month deadline, the two divided the songs equally, thereby working more efficiently.

Completing the creative leads is Ricardo Abad as director — then and today. The three helm the production anew, together with TA and Areté, amid pandemic protocols.

“We really believed in what we were doing — to finally give Bonifacio his due, at least in Philippine musical theater,” Quibilan said.

The result is a rock musical that befits the Filipino revolutionary.

“One inspiration that really worked was the music and how it was very apt for Bonifacio’s life. He was, the rebel of all rebels, and what better genre of music was better to convey this than with rock music. As with rock music, Bonifacio was raw, feisty and loud. At least, that was how he was portrayed in history,” Quibilan, who is now based in Los Angeles, explained.

De la Cruz, on the other hand, has become a critically acclaimed filmmaker in the country, with a Gawad Urian under his belt.

Bullet as Bonifacio

Although a performer in his own right, his theatrical debut gave him a lot of doubts and fears, initially turning down de la Cruz’s offer to audition. That was until the composer himself, who is also a renowned filmmaker, “simply handed” him the titular role.
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Who better portray the raw, feisty and loud hero in modern times than singer-songwriter and indie folk artist Bullet Dumas?

Making waves in the alternative music scene since 2010, Dumas writes and performs powerful songs that evoke emotions, from anger to love to hope. His music is also known to tackle social and environmental issues.

Although a performer in his own right, his theatrical debut gave him a lot of doubts and fears, making him initially turn down De la Cruz’s offer to audition. That was until the composer himself, who is also a renowned filmmaker, “simply handed” him the titular role.

“A few days later, Khavn came back to me and simply handed me the role. I don’t know, but that trust just made me go for it,” Dumas told in an ABS-CBN report.

Everything became a learning curve for Dumas who relied on the whole production to guide him through the whole process. He also did his own research and memorization, and even had internal conversations with Andres.

“‘Di ko magagawa 'to kung hindi dahil sa gabay at inspiration at respeto nila sa teatro. Sobrang dami kong natutunan sa kanila mula acting approach, bato ng boses at teknik, paano isalba ang eksena, paano alagaan ang isa't isa, professionalism, laban kung laban, konting kaalaman sa kasaysayan, andami!!! At hindi sila madadamot! Mighty proud to have worked with every single one of them!” Dumas wrote in a Facebook post.

In a separate interview with Philstar.com, Abad shared how proud he is with what Dumas has accomplished and how he would get better with more plays under his belt.

“Bullet’s strengths are three: his raw energy, willingness to learn, and willingness to improvise. I did not teach him any specific techniques, only clarified Bonifacio's situation, his physical disposition at the moment, and underlying these, his reason for living,” the director said.

Musical theater in the time of COVID

First staged in 1996 by Tanghalang Ateneo (TA), "2Bayani" was adapted from Butch Dalisay’s “Ambon sa Madaling Araw,” a play about Bonifacio’s last days, from his arrest in April 1987 to his assassination less than a month later.
Photo Release

"2Bayani" was performed lived on stage and then filmed for online viewing. To achieve this, the production crew and cast was kept in a 10-day bubble in Ateneo de Manila University following health and safety protocols.

“It felt safe. Three times we were vaccinated, and three times no one got a positive result. That means we were all safe to sit next to each other for meals or touch each other during blockings. It was a relief to be working with people whose health you can rely on,” Abad recounted of the experience.

The rock musical also gave the director the chance to direct once again, only it was a whole new experience.

“It involved more learning. That is to say, I had to understand a little more about filming protocols and tech stuff because what I was directing would be shown as a film,” he shared. “The production is truly a collaborative effort. You do your part as best you can, and you let go, trusting that your colleagues share your dreams about the play strong enough to see it through the literal lens of film.”

When asked what viewers can expect from "2Bayani," Abad answered: "Dumas’raw power, the beautiful lyrics and melodies of the two composers, the beautiful voices of a whole cast, and the special participation of veteran actor Nanding Josef."

“I hope audiences will appreciate Bonifacio more than before and that he is not merely a footnote as the play’s title implies,” Abad ended.

ANDRES BONIFACIO

BULLET DUMAS

MUSICAL

MUSICAL THEATER

PHILIPPINE HISTORY

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