Story and photos by Alvin I. Dacanay
Rak of Aegis, the hit Philippine Educational Theater Association (Peta) musical that uses the songs of pop-rock band Aegis to tell the story of a young woman who dreams of achieving YouTube stardom, and the problems facing her perpetually flooded village, swept the Seventh Gawad Buhay! awards, earning 11 trophies at a three-hour-plus ceremony hosted by actor Topper Fabregas and held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino in Pasay City last Thursday night.
Enterting the ceremony with a leading 17 nominations, Rak of Aegis won Outstanding Original Musical; Outstanding Ensemble Performance in a Musical; Outstanding State Direction for a Musical for Maribel Legarda; and Outstanding Libretto for prize-winning playwright Liza C. Magtoto.
In her acceptance speech, Magtoto tweaked the lyrics of an Aegis tune in thanking her collaborators, esteemed playwrights’ group Writer’s Bloc, and Peta.
Kim Molina, one of three actresses who played Rak of Aegis’s stardom-dreaming Aileen, earned the Outstanding Female Lead Performance in a Musical prize. In her speech, a slightly dazed Molina thanked alternate and fellow nominee Aicelle Santos for bringing her into the production.
One of their co-stars, Pepe Herrera, who won plaudits as lovelorn ferryman Tolits, garnered the Outstanding Male Featured Performance in a Musical award, and used his speech to thank his mother for encouraging him to follow his passion—singing—instead of taking up advertising at the University of Santo Tomas. He also briefly promoted Rak of Aegis’ latest run, which will begin on Wednesday, while on stage.
Another Rak of Aegis performer, Myke Salamon, also won, but for Outstanding Lighting Design—shared with Happy Constatino—and Outstanding Musical Direction. Production designer Mio Infante, costume designer Carlo Pagunaling and choreographer Gio Gahol were also honored for their work in the musical.
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical (Full House Theater Co.), which was adapted from the 1994 Australian comedy of the same title and staged at Resorts World Manila, clinched prizes for Outstanding Production of Existing Material for a Musical; Outstanding Male Lead Performance in a Musical for Red Concepcion, who played drag queen Felicia; and Outstanding Female Featured Performance in a Musical for Bituin Escalante, who portrayed one of the Divas.
Another top winner was August: Osage County, Repertory Philippines’s production of Tracy Letts’s 2008 Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning play that was later turned into an 2013 Oscar-nominated film starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts.
The play collected five trophies in all: Outstanding Production of Existing Material for a Play; Outstanding Ensemble Performance in a Play; Outstanding Stage Direction of a Play for Chris Millado, who was also nominated for helming Pahimakas sa Isang Ahente, Tanghalang Pilipino’s (TP) production of Arthur Miller’s classic play Death of a Salesman; and Outstanding Female Featured Performance in a Play, shared by Liesl Batucan and Tami Monsod, who play sisters Karen and Ivy Weston, respectively.
Millado praised the actors of both August and Ahente upon accepting his award, crediting them for “definitely putting the ‘fun’ back in ‘dysfunction,’” while August actress Sheila Francisco, as she claimed the outstanding-production prize on her collaborators’ behalf, said, “Thank you, God! You rock…of Aegis!”—a witty remark that was greeted with laughter.
Ahente did not go empty-handed, though: The play won Outstanding Male Featured Performance in a Play for Yul Servo, who played the title character’s elder son Biff Loman; and Outstanding Translation or Adaptation for the late National Artist for Literature and Theater Rolando Tinio.
A pair of screen veterans triumped in the Outstanding Male and Female Lead Performance in a Play categories: Robert Arevalo, as domineering patriarch Zacarias Monzon in TP’s Mga Ama, Mga Anak, translated by National Artist for Literature Virgilio Armilio and Jose “Pete” Lacaba’s from the late National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin’s play Fathers and Sons; and Cherie Gil, who portrayed fashion icon Diana Vreeland in Actors Actors Inc.’s Full Gallop.
Gil’s award was accepted by Marian Gomez, who read the actress’ speech on her smartphone. Through her, Gil thanked her director Bart Guingona and pubic-relations guru Joselito “Toots” Tolentino, as well as Vreeland “for existing.”
In the dance categories, Ballet Philippines, the CCP’s resident ballet company, waltzed off with seven prizes, including Outstanding Modern Dance Production for La Revolucion Filipina; Outstanding Male and Female Lead Performance in Modern Dance for Richardson Yadao in La Revolucion Filipina and Carissa Adea in “Songs of the Wayfarer,” from The Blue Moon Series, respectively; Outstanding Male and Female Lead Performance in Classical Dance for Earl John Arisola and Denisa Parungao in Cinderella, respectively; and Outstanding Female Featured Performance in Classical Dance for Katherine Trofeo in Cinderella.
During the ceremony, the Philippine Legitimate Stage Artists Group (Philstage), the 18-year-old organization of Philippine professional performing-arts companies that hands out of the Gawad Buhay!, honored this year’s recipients of the Natatanging Gawad Buhay!—Dr. Onofre “Pagsi” Pagsanghan, founder of what’s now Dulaang Sibol of the Ateneo High School, and puppet-theater pioneer Dr. Amelia “Amel” Lapeña-Bonifacio, who wrote the classic play Sepang Loca and who established Teatro Mulat ng Pilipinas at the University of the Philippines in Diliman—for their invaluable contributions to Philippine theater.
As a tribute to Pagsanghan and Bonifacio, excerpts from Dulaang Sibol’s Sinta and a Teatro Mulat puppet play were performed, while former students—playwright Paul Dumol for Pagsanghan; actor-writer-director Dennis Marasigan and actress-screenwriter Bibeth Orteza for Bonifacio—talked about their professors’ influence on them and Philippine theater in general.
On accepting his award, 88-year-old Pagsanghan was modest about his achievements, describing himself as “a high school teacher” and Dulaang Sibol as “a high school theater group,” and thanked Philstage for “the wonderful, wonderful honor.”
For her part, 85-year-old Bonifacio thanked her husband Manuel for what she called the “two ‘Ms’: moral support and monetary support” and, addressing those who dismiss her puppet-theater work as “puppets lang,” emphasizes the fact that a lot of serious work goes into puppetry.
Here is the complete list of winners:
Original Musical: Rak of Aegis (Peta)
Production of Existing Material for a Musical: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Full House Theater Co.)
Stage Direction of a Musical: Maribel Legarda, Rak of Aegis (Peta)
Ensemble Performance in a Musical: Rak of Aegis (Peta)
Male Lead Performance in a Musical: Red Concepcion, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Full House Theater Co.)
Female Lead Performance in a Musical: Kim Molina, Rak of Aegis (Peta)
Male Featured Performance in a Musical: Pepe Herrera, Rak of Aegis (Peta)
Female Featured Performance in a Musical: Bituin Escalante, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Full House Theater Co.)
Original Libretto: Liza C. Magtoto, Rak of Aegis (Peta)
Original Musical Composition: No nominee/winner
Original Play: No nominee/winner
Production of Existing Material for a Play: August: Osage County (Repertory Philippines)
Stage Direction of a Play: Chris Millado, August: Osage County (Repertory Philippines)
Ensemble Performance in a Play: August: Osage County (Repertory Philippines)
Male Lead Performance in a Play: Robert Arevalo, Mga Ama, Mga Anak (Tanghalang Pilipino)
Female Lead Performance in a Play: Cherie Gil, Full Gallop (My Own Mann/Actors Actors Inc.)
Male Featured Performance in a Play: Yul Servo, Pahimakas sa Isang Ahente (Tanghalang Pilipino)
Female Featured Performance in a Play: Liesl Batucan and Tami Monsod, August: Osage County (Repertory Philippines) (tie)
Original Script: No nominee/winner
Translation or Adaptation: Rolando Tinio, Pahimakas sa Isang Ahente (Tanghalang Pilipino)
Classical Dance Production: No nominee/winner
Modern Dance Production: La Revolucion Filipina (Ballet Philippines)
Ensemble Performance for Classical Dance: No nominee/winner
Ensemble Performance for Modern Dance: “Aramica,” Heart2Heart: Ballet & Ballds (Ballet Manila)
Male Lead Performance in Classical Dance: Earl John Arisola, Cinderella (Ballet Philippines)
Male Lead Performance in Modern Dance: Richardson Yadao, La Revolucion Filipina (Ballet Philippines)
Female Lead Performance in Classical Dance: Denise Parungao, Cinderella (Ballet Philippines)
Female Lead Performance in Modern Dance: Carissa Adea, “Songs of the Wayfarer,” The Blue Moon Series (Ballet Philippines)
Male Featured Performance in Classical Dance: No nominee/winner
Male Featured Performance in Modern Dance: No nominee/winner
Female Featured Performance in Classical Dance: Katherine Trofeo, Cinderella (Ballet Philippines)
Female Featured Performance in Moden Dance: No nominee/winner
Choreography for a Dance Production: Bam Damian, “Aramica,” Heart2Heart: Ballet & Ballads (Ballet Manila)
Production for Children: No nominee/winner
Set Design: Mio Infante, Rak of Aegis (Peta)
Costume Design: Carlo Pangunaling, Rak of Aegis (Peta)
Lighting Design: Katsch Catoy, La Revolucion Filipina (Ballet Philippines)
Sound Design: Myke Salomon and Happy Constantino, Rak of Aegis (Peta)
Musical Direction: Myke Salomon, Rak of Aegis (Peta)
Choreography for a Musical or Play: Gio Gahol, Rak of Aegis (Peta)
NATATANGING GAWAD BUHAY!
Dr. Onofre Pagsanghan
Dr. Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio