How else could they have set a musical that features the songs of the ’90s Pinoy rock band Aegis other than in a typhoon-ravaged slum area during Christmastime?
Well, it would not have been an Aegis spectacle without their hit songs such as “Luha,” “Halik,” “Sundot,” “Christmas Bonus,” and “Basang-basa sa Ulan.”
That’s the story right there.
It is the trope Filipino viewers probably now know by heart: An impoverished girl with immense talent tries to rise above poverty, and along the way meets the man who understands her predicament, despite the lack of support she gets from her family and friends. And everything else is Disneyfied.
This is basically what happens with Philippine Educational Theater Association’s latest production, Rak of Aegis.
Directed by Maribel Legarda, and written by Palanca Award-winning playwright Liza Magtoto, the musical revolves around a young woman named Aileen (Aicelle Santos alternating with Joan Bugcat) whose desire to become a YouTube sensation for her incredible singing talent exasperates her parents. They are badly hit by a storm which leaves their village — aptly named Venizia — in deep waters.
Despite everything, the whole town comes together to face the challenge and rebuild their town. Eventually, Aicelle becomes a singing sensation on the Internet, for which she gets snide comments over the assumption that she was only using their predicament to boost her popularity. Seeking opportunity over the situation, the town decides to throw a concert with the flood as the backdrop in order for them to gain sympathy. But as things seem to go according to plan, the water subsides.
The cast members include Isay Alvarez, who plays the barangay captain and the source of livelihood of Aileen’s parents; Kakai Bautista and Robert Seña as Aileen’s parents; Jerald Napoles and Pepe Herrera who alternate as Tolits, a rugged-looking man who moonlights as a boatman to transport people in their town, and is secretly in love with Aileen.
However limited the space was, the set design, which uses rickety boards and ramshackle houses to recreate the slums, was highly impressive, all thanks to Mio Infante. What was even more incredible was that the production crew put real water and piles of garbage on what seemed like estuaries to complete the whole feel of a deluge.
There was also much room to move in, and the “dilapidated” set was sturdy enough to withstand all the actors dancing together. They even had a boat mobilized during the play.
It was the type of play intended to be sung along with and danced to. But the audience was given a caveat not to do any of those lest they disrupt the whole production. Well nothing of those happened as the audience kept to themselves and just mouthed the lyrics to the songs.
Aicelle Santos was playing the lead when we saw the play. Although she was able to deliver the goods, her performance was not spectacular enough to merit a YouTube sensation stature. Her voice was quite plain but is able to reach the high notes and the difficult falsettos.
Although the actors tried a different take on how the songs were sung by Aegis, nothing definitely beats the original. Of course you could not compare: it was not the intention of the play to mimic or imitate the voice of the band.
The play was a little bit self-conscious in using deluge as the central theme, perhaps in light of the recent disasters. It was conscious enough to note that people beset in such a terrible situation would probably have a hard time taking the story in, so in turn it just made fun of the exploitative tendencies of the people. As they were able to turn the situation around them by using the tragedy to their advantage, another misfortune happens — but by now they do not realize that such misfortune was what they had been hoping for all along.
The story went well to exploit the dolorous and harrowing situation of people in areas hit by typhoons, but made a light of it. It was a commentary on itself, sort of a meta-play that seeks to answer its own questions: the propensity of Filipino stories.
Rak of Aegis also consists of the artistic team which includes Gio Gahol (choreography), Jonjon Villareal (lighting design), Carlo Pagunaling (costume design), Maco Custodio (shoe design), and Joan Pamintuan (accessory design).
Aegis, who gained popularity in the late ’90s, is known for their chart-topping songs such as “Halik,” “Mahal na Mahal Kita,” “Awit at Pag-Ibig,” “Paskong-Pasko” and “Ating Balikan.”
Sisters Juliet and Mercy Sunot were among the original members of the group which they have named AG’s Soundtrippers — the letters A and G being their manager’s initials. But later on they changed it to Aegis.
You can still catch Rak of Aegis on Mar 14, 3pm. For tickets, go to Ticketworld.com.ph.