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Alikabok: The more you hear it, the sweeter it gets |

Sunday Lifestyle

Alikabok: The more you hear it, the sweeter it gets

- Tingting Cojuangco -
Alikabok. Dust. Particles that enter the nose, tickling its membranes causing an allergy. I’ve realized that there are benefits derived from what my grandmother told me to avoid – dust.

is a musical production showing at the Music Museum in Greenhills from Thursday to Saturday, produced by Celeste Legaspi Gallardo and Girlie Rodis.

Juan Luna’s classic painting entitled "La Bulaqueña," hanging in Malacañang, was the inspiration for Alikabok. It is said that the young girl in baro’t saya so delicately depicted by Luna was in truth a Katipunera who lived in Bulacan. Alikabok relives her story, that of Bising Vallejo who lived with her widowed father in their ancestral home in San Rafael, Bulacan in 1895. She moved amid the splendor, gentility and political drama of the Philippines in the 1890s. Her story tells of her evolution into a brave and valiant revolutionary fighting for the country’s independence against her father’s wishes; of her love for Ignacio and their love child. All this is discovered by Greg, her great grandson, and his wife Anna who find her diary in the now rundown and dilapidated Vallejo house. Alikabok is an experience to enjoy with Bising throughout this one-and-half-hour love story.
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The play begins with the male encargado Kamor, played by Cyrus "Isay" Balingit, asleep on the silla perezosa where his master Señor Vallejo used to rest. All encargados I know like to stay asleep in spite of their nagging wives who can’t even wake them up. Anna and Greg arrive surprisingly for their honeymoon and a sales agent shortly after who wants to buy the house. In the process of indecision regarding the buying or selling and making ligpit to finally clean the house of soot and clouds of dust (powder actually on stage) the unexpected newlyweds grab from Kamor the diary of Bising Vallejo. What better way to know your roots than to go back in time to 1892, through Bising’s secret companion, her diary.

When someone asked what the play was all about, Jun Simon answered, "It has laughter and regret from some slapstick and sentimental memories. There’s a bit of everything for every type of viewer." Yes it does, and of everything fervent like the call of duty and allegiance to the country, of nationalism, of imaginary battlefields and injured Katipuneros, and women sewing our flag with powerful red, black and white lights dramatizing the scenes through the expertise of light designer Naomi Matsumato’s excellent eyes. Alikabok is also a story of prohibition and demanded good behavior for "old women" of 18 years old. In the 19th century, if a dalaga wasn’t married at 17, she was a spinster. Bising, the leading lady, goes through the motion of obeying her father, Don Simeon, and succumbs, so it seems, to his choice of a matrimonial partner.

Does she marry her lover Ignacio or her fiance Salvador? See the play.

Tony Espejo, the director of Alikabok, says this drama is supportive of women who carry the cudgels for others by encouraging them to make their own choice and this "precept remains true no matter what time we are in."
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Arerun of a plot seven years old, it was Rachel Alejandro who played the lead role. Alikabok still endures through Cris Villonco and her alternate Dianne de la Fuente playing Bising Vallejo. Since we’re on the subject of women, Jennifer Villegas, Sheila Noreen Lopez and China Cojuangco play the cousins of Bising, Vilma Lira Lince acts out Donya Librada, Celeste Pineda plays Nana Tere, the faithful and understanding yaya of Bising. Catherine Kakai Bautista – the tiny and boisterous Rosita, the female caretaker of the old Vallejo house – changes roles from a Filipina maiden in a Maria Clara to a sabungera to a modern wife and into a male dancer. She’s a little dynamo, this Kakai and so versatile. The newlyweds are Ana Guillen Feleo and Roy Rollada who became at first confused with their discovery but end up living happily ever after. The diary no longer casts doubts on Greg’s legitimacy. Bising and Ignacio would claim Greg as theirs, if they were alive. Ignacio was played by Jeffrey Hidalgo, one of the Smokey Mountain singers, a group which Ryan Cayabyab founded. Ryan, most importantly, wrote the musical score for Alikabok which gets sweeter and super meaningful the more one hears it.

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