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Sunday Lifestyle

Five reasons to watch 'Rivalry'

MANO-A-MANO - Adel Tamano -

As I get older, I’m morphing into the stereotype of the middle-aged husband. I’ve become the oversimplification of the modern Filipino male: I find nothing is better than spending my weekends as a couch potato (bed potato actually), watching Kobe and the Lakers struggle through a tough, shortened NBA season. However, last week, I had to be dragged out of my bed to watch a musical. Yes, a musical! I wasn’t this way in my youth, as a member of the high school singing group — now they call it a “show choir” — I thoroughly enjoyed all sorts of musicals, Broadway or otherwise. But after high school, and seeing that generally people do not spontaneously break into song and dance, my love of musical theater started to wane. Add to that an increasing interest in hip-hop, urban and neo-soul — yes, believe it or not, I’m a fan of Snoop Dog, Maxwell and Eminem (in my best poser voice: “Wazzup, dog!”) — music that has a grittiness antithetical to the somewhat naive worldview of some musicals. So going off to watch my second musical in the span of a month (I was “coerced” into watching Mamma Mia! three weeks ago) was highly unusual for me.    

But this wasn’t just any musical since I could relate to it on a personal level in many ways. First, the music was written by the father of my best friend in college. Secondly, the musical was about the Ateneo and LaSalle rivalry and I’m a both a Blue Eagle (college) and an Archer (high school). Thirdly, our law office did the legal work for the company involved in staging Rivalry. So on many levels, I felt I had to go. And despite my anti-musical theater views, I actually ended up liking it. So here are five reasons why you should watch Rivalry.

1. Great singing. Let me state an indisputable and self-evident fact: Filipinos are the world’s best singers. Full stop. There is something about the Filipino soul and psyche that makes singing beautifully second nature to many Filipinos. While there are many contrary Filipino examples, as shown by the high death rate involved in singing My Way at karaoke joints, for the most part, Filipinos are naturally gifted singers. And the singers in Rivalry did not disappoint. Particularly, the lead female protagonist whose vocal timbre reminded me of a younger Lea Salonga. If you just want to watch a bunch of good vocalists sing beautiful songs, then Rivalry definitely fulfills that.

2. Noel Trinidad. This might be a generational thing, but I grew up on the variety show Champoy. Trinidad, who was the foil to Subas Herrero, entertained us, from our childhood to our teen years, with his singing and corny jokes. Simply put, he was something of a cultural icon to the so-called martial law babies and to see him onstage, still funny, comedic timing still impeccable, was a treat. I don’t want to spoil the joke, but he does make a reference to a great public school in the Diliman area whose icon is a man asking the heavens where he left his clothes; it’s absolutely hilarious and demonstrates the higher status — to the minds of many great men and women, particularly my spouse — of that educational institution.    

3. Nostalgia. Rivalry is set in 1968, two years before my birth but its world and social milieu reminds me of childhood in the ‘70s. Manila, during that time, was a much simpler, less complicated place and the people more genteel. It was a time before Facebook, mobile phones and social networking. One of the things I enjoyed about the play was seeing people having conversations without cell phones. Remember when we used to have real, continuous conversations with one another? When we weren’t constantly texting or being interrupted by phone calls. When we had time to discuss and converse? When friends were real friends — flesh-and-blood people that we spent time with instead of virtual ones? Just going back to this simpler world that seemed more real and more genteel — by which I mean genuinely respectful and not the distasteful gentility of false affection for aristocratic values — was worth the price of admission.

4. Support Local Artists! Again, I’m not a big fan of musicals but I am a big fan of Filipino artistry. If Filipinos are willing to plunk down their hard-earned pesos to watch foreign singers, actors and other artists, some well past the prime of their careers, then why not spend the same amount supporting Filipino theater, musicals, concerts, etc.? Our artists should embody and exemplify the very best of the Filipino soul. And they simply cannot do that and be that without financial support. The stereotype of the starving artist is both a cliché and antithetical to the very growth of the arts. While I’m not against foreign acts coming to the Philippines because I believe that competition is always good and will bring out the best in our local artists, maybe we should have a preference for Filipino performers and performances.

5. Original Pilipino Musical. Remember the great OPM days of the ‘80s and ‘90s? When our own Filipino music competed — and often bested — foreign songs and singers? Well, what makes Rivalry special is that it is all original music, based on a uniquely Filipino story, and historically predicated on the Filipino experience. Some might scoff at the play and say it holds interest only for graduates of the Blue school or the Green school. That would be a mistake because the creators of the show have taken pains to make this an inclusive story, meaning both non-Ateneans and non-LaSallians can relate to it. Who can’t identify with issues of love, brotherhood and family? In fact, my wife and our friend who accompanied me, a theater buff, enjoyed the show although they both went to the public school in Diliman.  

So even if you aren’t a musical theater kind of guy — or girl — and if you have free time during the weekends, consider watching Rivalry. You can watch NBA and the big Hollywood movies any time. But watching something truly Filipino, born of the creativity and experience of Filipinos, is something that doesn’t come along very often. Actually, I should say that it doesn’t happen often enough. Finally, if even I, the emerging middle-aged, male, musical-theater-hating stereotype, can enjoy it, then I’m pretty sure that you can, too.

AS I BLUE EAGLE DILIMAN FILIPINO IF FILIPINOS KOBE AND THE LAKERS MDASH MUSICAL RIVALRY
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