Story and photos by Alvin I. Dacanay
The Philippine Educational Theater Association (Peta) is celebrating the power of storytelling and revisiting the memorable productions it mounted under its children’s theater program on its golden anniversary in its newest children’s musical, J-mee Katanyag’s Tagu-taguan Nasaan ang Buwan, which opened at the Peta Theater Center in Quezon City on Friday.
Tagu-taguan Nasaan ang Buwan focuses on Popoy (Noel Comia Jr., Albert Silos, and Omar Uddin), a young boy with a busy father (John Moran, Vien Alen King, and Eric dela Cruz) who tries to save his ailing grandmother, Luna (Joann Co, Marichu Belarmino, and Upeng Galang-Fernandez), whose memory is failing. He does so by looking for her stories in Saysay Lupalop, a land of creativity and imagination that has been turned into a realm full of fear and restrictions, called Dilim-Dilim Land, by the evil monster Papaw Halimaw.
There, Popoy meets and befriends characters from Peta’s earlier children’s productions who help him in his mission and fight Papaw Halimaw. They are Ngo (Roi Calilong and Phil Noble), from Nonoy Marcelo’s Ngo: Ang Dagang Patay; Princesa Mina (Joan Bugcat and Gab Pangilinan), from Elmer Gatchalian’s Ang Tiririt ng Ibong Adarna; the Little Match Girl (Yeyin dela Cruz and Teetin Villanueva), from Rene O. Villanueva’s Hans Christian Andersen Must be Filipino; Ismail (Angelo Lantaco) and Isabel (Raven Relavo and Julia Enriquez), from Rody Vera’s Ismail at Isabel; and Pepe (Lemuel Silvestre and Gerhard Krysstopher) and Pepito (Vic Robinson and Norbs Portales), from Christine Bellen’s Batang Rizal.
With Tagu-taguan Nasaan ang Buwan, Peta aims to highlight the value of stories and their telling in enhancing children’s innate creativity and enriching their understanding of the world.
“Kahit saan mang kultura, lugar, o panahon, ang mga kuwento at ang pagkukuwento ay isang makapangyarihang sandata para mag-ugnay, mangaral, at magpabago ng kamalayan ng mga tao,” said Katanyag, an actress who debuted as a dramatist with her 2014 Virgin Labfest one-act play Betang, in her playwright’s notes.
“Ang pagkukuwento ay pag-alala ng hiwaga ng nakaraan, patunay sa kasalukuyan, at gabay sa pinapangarap. Tao lang ang may taglay na kakayahan na gawin ang lahat ng ito,” she added.
For director-choreographer Dudz Teraña, who helmed Batang Rizal a decade ago, incorporating characters from Peta’s previous children’s productions and the values they championed posed a huge challenge to him. He said he met that challenge by treating Tagu-taguan Nasaan ang Buwan as a totally new work.
According to him, this treatment involves excluding audience participation, which has been a distinguishing feature in many children’s productions.
“We (are going) against the normal formula (for) children’s plays,” Teraña said. “I personally decided (against using audience participation because) I really want the audience to focus on the play, on the storytelling (itself).”
The actor-director admitted that handling Tagu-taguan Nasaan ang Buwan was quite easy, noting that each cast member offered a different take on his or her character. As a result, audiences will see something different and fresh in each show.
Both Katanyag and Teraña dedicate Tagu-taguan Nasaan ang Buwan to Ernesto “Ernie” N. Cloma, who led Peta’s children’s theater program for many years and who died a day after Christmas last year. They also present it as the program’s contribution to the 50th-year celebration of the company, which is one of this year’s recipients of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Awards, considered the Asian Nobel Prize.
Helping the playwright and director bring Tagu-taguan Nasaan ang Buwan to colorful life are associate director Ian Segarra, composer and musical director Jeff Hernandez, set designer Charles Yee, costume designer Leeroy New, lighting designer Loren Rivera, and shadow and video designer Sig Pecho.
Tagu-taguan Nasaan ang Buwan runs at the Peta Theater Center until August 27, 2017, and will be staged at Star Theater in Pasay City from September 1 to 3. It will be available for tour bookings after that. For ticket reservations, bookings, and other inquiries, call the Peta Marketing and Public Relations office at (632) 725-6244 or TicketWorld at 891-9999, or visit www.ticketworld.com.ph.