After several postponements due to the erratic nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, NCCA’s new musical, Lapulapu, Ang Datu ng Mactan, is finally set to stream this October 24, 2021. The full stage production was mounted and shot in only 10 days at the newly-conserved Metropolitan Theater (MET), a gargantuan feat as local productions usually take at least 2-3 months to stage.
Initially slated to stream last April 27, 2021 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Lapulapu’s triumph in the Battle of Mactan, the production has been moved two other times, on June 12, on August 30, and now finally on October 24. There have also been at least 3 sets of casting changes since.
Al Gatmaitan, who plays Antonio Pigafetta, shares, “Iyung buong proseso, sobrang memorable for everybody, since we would wake up in the morning from 7am, to be here [at the MET] ng 9[am], dere-deretso na iyun hanggang ma-cut kami sometimes at 6[pm], or 8[pm] kapag may kailangan tapusin, and then back to the hotel again to rest and to be ready for the following day. Everyday na namin iyun for 10-11 days.”
“Iyung energy ng bawat isa, since lahat kami gutom na maka-perform… kaya sobrang overwhelming dahil punung-puno ng energy bawat isa, hanggang to the last minute ng performance namin. Talagang maiiyak ka na lang sa sobrang… how you’d wish na sana lahat ng artista nandito sa moment na ito. Iyun iyung pakiramdam namin.”
In a Facebook post, Lapulapu director Dexter M. Santos says, “For an hour and twenty minute Original Filipino Musical, we had 4 days of staging, blocking and choreo[graphy], 1 day of polishing and run-throughs, 2 days of TDR, and 1 day of shoot. It was the most anxious and jam-packed 8 days of my theatrical life. But it happened.”
Arman Ferrer, who plays the titular role, also shares in a Facebook post, “Mounting an original musical in less than two weeks during a pandemic was not an easy task. Anxiety was high, and everyone was visibly concerned with safety as well as the responsibility and pressure to put on a show that was as clean and special as possible. But faith kept us going — faith in the protocols and in each other.”
“I’m so proud of everyone for their patience, generosity, hard work, endurance, and strength. Every single person in the team tirelessly worked to make sure that we deliver the best show we can.”
Lapulapu is the first theatrical production in 25 years after it closed its doors in 1996. The musical unpacks the many events commemorated this year, which includes the Victory at Mactan in 1521, as told from the point of view of the mysterious Lapulapu, symbol of Philippine resistance to all forms of oppression; the circumnavigation of the world, as told from the point of view of the trip’s chronicler Juan Sebastian Elcano; and the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines, as seen from the lens of Reyna Juana. The meta tale explores how history—and what people choose to be the lessons from it—contribute to the cultural identity and to the strength of any nation.
Spearheading the production as Artistic Director is NCCA chairperson and CCP president Arsenio “Nick” Lizaso. Joining Lizaso and Santos in the creative team are Nicolas B. Pichay (librettist), Aaron Veloso (theater director), Krina Cayabyab (musical director and arranger), Stephen Viñas and Kenneth Torres (choreographers), Adriana Agcaoili (creative director), Gino Gonzales (production designer), Dennis Marasigan (lighting director), Rars Corpus (sound engineer), GA Fallarme (video designer), Dong Calingacion (technical director), CJ Andaluz (TV broadcast director), and Norman Penaflorida (hair, make-up, and tattoo design), with special participation by Catriona Gray (NCCA Arts Ambassador) and historical annotation by Xiao Chua.
According to Pichay, the production has themes of bravery and unity, as well as colonization and globalization. “Binibigkis tayo ng kuwento ni Lapulapu para magkaisa at maigpawan ang ating mga problema. Naway makatulong ang dula sa pagbubuklod natin bilang matatag na bayan. Ito ang aking nais na sa dulang ito mabuhay ang dugo ni Lapulapu są ating lahat.”
The cast features Arman Ferrer as Lapulapu, Andre Tiangco as Ferdinand Magellan, Red Nuestro as Rajah Humabon, Cara Barredo as Reyna Juana, Natasha Cabrera as Babaylan, Paw Castillo as Enrique de Malacca, Matthew Barbers as Juan Sebastian de Elcano, Al Gatmaitan as Antonio Pigafetta, and Ivan Niccolo Nery as Papa Alexander XI and Padre Pedro de Valderrama.
Joining them as members of the ensemble are Joshua Bajado, Jan Lloyd Celecio, MC Dela Cruz, Kirby Dunnzell, Jiny Jane Ferrer, Liway Gabo, Francis Gatmaytan, Mark Anthony Grantos, Maila Habagat, Mary Joy Herosa, John Neil Licuanan, Marynor Madamesila, Louise Meneses, and Brian Moreno.
Lapulapu, Ang Datu ng Mactan will be streamed on the Facebook page of The Metropolitan Theater, and will be cross-posted on the pages of the NCCA, Radio Television Malacañang (RTVM), Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO),the NHCP, the NQC, and other partner institutions’ official Facebook pages on October 24, 2021 at 6PM.