By Evo Joel Contrivida
Photos by Jayson Pascua

Auraeus Solito, A.K.A. Kanakan Balintagos

Original Filipino plays still dominate the local theater scene. This time, in celebration of the National Indigenous month, another culturally rich play  entitled “Mga Buhay Na Apoy” ,  will open the 30th Theater Season of Tanghalang Pilipino (TP) on October 2, at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino, Cultural Center of the Philippines. This year’s Palanca award-winning full-length play, it is written and directed by Auraeus Solito, or popularly know as Kanakan Balintagos.

At the presscon yesterday held at the Silangan Hall of CCP, Balintagos admitted that it’s a very personal play that he wrote way back in 1994,. “Many believe that it is the story of my family,” he said.  But he declined to go further on that. The play will showcase mostly the rituals, dances and songs of Palaw’an, an indigenous tribe in Palawan where Balintagos’ mother is a princess.

But Balintagos emphasized that it’s more on the story of a family, their struggles and how they unite after all they have been through. It is Solito’s return in the theater scene after his college days at the University of the Philippines, where he founded the  UP Tropa Experimental Theater Company.  This is his comeback piece after making numerous award-winning indie films in the pas,t like “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros,” “Tuli,”  “Busong,” “Baybayin,” and others. These films happened to be exhbited in different Film festivals, here and abroad.

Leading the cast for “Mga Buhay na Apoy” is another come backing theater actress, Irma Adlawan. She said that for the past two years, she never had any offer to do theater until TP offered her the role of Leda Santos. “I find the story beautiful,” she said. “There are many things that can happen, so I accepted the role immediately.” Irma, like Solito, is also known in the indie films circuit.

Apoy or fire, according to Balintagos is how the people and universe was made according to Palaw’an myth. And that’s the basis of the play which will use authentic Palaw’an language and chants, as well.  Other cast includes Malou Crisologo, Russel Legaspi, Karen Gaerlan, Carol Bello, Peewee O’Hara, Raymond Dimayuga, Jonathan Tadioan, Kyrie Samodio, Doray Dayao and Lhorvie Nuevo.

Balintagos with the cast
Balintagos with the cast

The artistic staff is headed by Paolo Alcazaren as the set designer, while Diwa De Leon is the music director. Dramaturg by Ericka Estacio and Dennis Marasigan provides the light, while James Reyes handles the costumes.

“Mga Buhay na Apoy” have the following schedules, Oct 2, 9, 16 and 23 (Fridays, at 8:00 p.m.).  Oct 3, 10, 17, 24 (Saturdays, at 3 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.), and Oct 4, 11, 18 and 25 (Sundays, at 3 p.m.).  For show buying and tickets, contact Tanghalang Pilipino at 832-1125 loc.1620 or mobile 0917-8763678.

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