San Andres B: A revolutionary’s opera

Dina Sta. Maria (The Philippine Star) - December 1, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - For the celebration of the 150th birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio, many performances about the Supremo’s life are being mounted, exploring different aspects of the multi-faceted hero. Tanghalang Pilipino presents its own take on Bonifacio with San Andres B, a new Filipino opera based on the libretto of National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario, with music by composer Josefino “Chino” Toledo.


The opera, which is not purely a historical account of Bonifacio’s life, is meant to put the audience’s senses on overdrive. The libretto is thought-provoking and uncompromising, complemented by Toledo’s energetic musical score. Directed by Floy Quintos, the opera is a monumental work – a groundbreaking undertaking in Philippine classical music that fittingly embodies Bonifacio’s revolutionary spirit.

The music is sometimes comical, sometimes harsh, other times comfortable, and aims to engage the audience personally. It is the kind of work that you will either love or hate, but one thing is sure – you will not leave the theater without an opinion, and a strong one at that.

The text is written in metaphors – radical, intriguing, constantly challenging one’s sense of love for country. It dares the audience to look inwardly and then begin the process of outward transformation.

The cast features some of the most outstanding contemporary classical singers in the country, led by Dondi Ong as Andres Bonifacio, and Margarita Roco as Gregoria de Jesus. Completing the main ensemble is Antonio Ferrer as Emilio Jacinto and Marvin Gayramon as Jose Rizal.

The supporting chorus is composed of AUIT chamber ensemble members as well as actors from Tanghalang Pilipino and dancers from Ballet Philippines, with Kris Belle Paclibar-Mamangun as choreographer.

Accompanying the stellar cast is GRUPO 20/21, a newly formed modular chamber music ensemble dedicated primarily to the performance of varied 20th and 21st century music of Filipino and Asian music artists and composers. San Andres B is GRUPO 20/21’s initial project.

With Quintos at the helm, this production will be unlike no other as it breaks new territory in the realm of contemporary Filipino operas.

San Andres B is not for the weak in spirit. It is, after all, inspired by Bonifacio, one of the country’s greatest and perhaps most controversial heroes.

It is for the brave Filipino who is ready to confront the harsh realities of life and stare into the face of danger without fear of getting knocked down.

It is uncomfortable at times, emotionally exhausting, mentally draining, forcing us to look at the dark side of our beings, confronting the evils of society and emerging triumphant despite the numerous challenges.

“In this pioneering work, we give importance to his contributions toward nationhood, a process not exclusive to the Philippine Revolution of 1896,” says Tanghalang Pilipino. “It is re-imagining Andres Bonifacio as a true hero of equal or even greater stature than Jose Rizal, a daunting task given the cultural conditioning we have all been accustomed to.”

The opera is about awakenings; a coming of age in the quest for a collective national consciousness. Andres Bonifacio as the embodiment and representation of this Filipino consciousness became the driving force behind this quest to free the nation from all sorts of bondage – colonial rule, abject poverty and ignorance.


San Andres B runs until Dec. 8 at Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino, Cultural Center of the Philippines. For full schedule and tickets, call TicketWorld at 891-9999 or Tanghalang Pilipino at 832-1125 local 1620-1621.

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