By Totel V. de Jesus
Just imagine proud Philippine cocks, with their flapping wings of red and black feathers, crowing on the same neighborhood streets where the likes of John Lennon, JD Salinger, Tielhard de Chardin and other world icons had once in their lives breathed the morning air without a care in the world.
It’s possible, if only their spirits remain on those busy avenues.
Something To Crow About, the modern-day zarzuela written by National Artist for Literature Alejandro “Anding” Roces Jr. that won in the recent Aliw Awards for Best Musical and its director, theater icon Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, as Best Director for Musical Production, will be staged in New York and other key cities in the US next year.
“We were invited and booked to perform at La Mama Theater in New York City by no less than Off-Broadway doyenne Ellen Stewart in June 2007, which is also a fitting observance of Philippine Independence Day,” said Guidote-Alvarez, who is also the executive director of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and presidential assistant on culture.
Other invitations, she added, came from theater groups in Buffalo, Los Angeles and in Hawaii, also targeted for the month of June.
The zarzuela had its world premiere at the Tanghalang Yaman Lahi Auditorium of the Emilio Aguinaldo College, as opening play of the 31st Unesco-International Theater Institute-World Congress held in the last two weeks of May this year.
It earned positive remarks from distinguished members of the audience like Unesco director general Koichiro Matsuura, ITI executive director Jeniffer Walpole, writer Rosalinda Orosa, critic Isagani Cruz and actor Cesar Montano.
“Theater is a social art and meeting of all disciplines. Its success lies in the full cooperation of its varied components like music, lights, set, costume, actors. The awards we got from Aliw are shared with the brilliant cast and the almost volunteer staff, including the head of the Emilio Aguinaldo College theater that made the show possible,” said Guidote-Alvarez,
Something To Crow About was adapted by Roces from his anthology of short stories titled “My Brother’s Peculiar Chicken,” which won the SEA WRITE award. The theme is cockfighting and the lead characters are two brothers: one involved in cockfighting and the other is a writer.
The plot has the older brother Kiko (played by Lionel Guico) earning a living as a sabungero though his wife is against this kind of livelihood. The fighting cocks tend to gain more of his attention. Younger brother Leandro (Joel Trinidad) falls for Luningning (Liezl Batucan), the most beautiful lass in the town.
The conflict arises when Leandro gets into trouble when Golem (Nazer Salcedo) also falls for Luningning. Golem is the bratty son of Don Facundo (Bong Embile), the town’s wealthiest and powerful man. Everything was eventually settled in a cockfight between Don Facundo’s best game cock and Kiko’s peculiar chicken.
“The material of Something To Crow About reveals much about the Filipino psyche and our culture,” added Guidote-Alvarez, who was also the founder of the seminal group of radical theater artists called the Philippine Educational Theater Association or Peta.
She admitted that it took a lot of resources to bring Something To Crow About to life. The NCCA decided to produce it through the National Artist Grant Award along with the UST Conservatory of Music. Other theater groups like the Peta, Tanghalang Pilipino, and Repertory Philippines, among others, were tapped to help out in the production through the lending of talents and other resources. Besides the UST Liturgikon choir, the Earthsavers Dreams Ensemble (Unesco Artists for Peace) was also in the cast. Fashion design guru Ben Farrales coordinated the colorful sagala attire done by the Fashion Designers Association of the Philippines featured in the Flores de Mayo procession in the fiesta finale.
On the other hand, the Aliw Award is an addition to Guidote-Alvarez’s string of awards. She has been honored by the Ramon Magsaysay Awards in 1972 for public service, the youngest Filipino to receive at age 28. She also received the TOWNS award, Benigno Aquino Foundation award, Aliw lifetime achievement award in 2003 and a special award in 2002.
Roces was honored National Artist in 2003. He is also concurrent chairman of Philippine PEN (Poets, Essayists, Novelists) as well as the Philipine Center of Unesco-International Theater Institute.
If everything materializes as planned, Something To Crow About will be the first zarzuela to be staged in Broadway. And to borrow a line from a classic Lennon song, “All we are sayin’ is, give Philippine cocks a chance.”