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REVIEW: ‘Pingkian’ is a broad strokes look into Jacinto’s life

REVIEW: ‘Pingkian’ is a broad strokes look into Jacinto’s life

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Tanghalang Pilipino’s musical biopic of the Brains of the Katipunan, Emilio Jacinto, struggles with narrative leanness but triumphs in its music.

The Philippine Revolution is undoubtedly rife with stories of fantastic bravery and valor that deserve their own telling, so it’s no real surprise that Emilio Jacinto would one day get his story told. Following the trend of musical turn-of-the-20th-century biopics such as 2Bayani (about Andres Bonifacio) or Mabining Mandirigma (about Apolinario Mabini), Pingkian focuses on the young man who was the ‘Brains of the Katipunan,’ his story told in vignettes of memory when he was once imprisoned and injured after a battle.

Written by Juan Ekis, this adaptation of Jacinto’s life seems to have an interesting challenge in its hands. Where most biographical adaptations of heroes seem pressed for time with the sheer gamut of material to put into a set running time, Pingkian, sometimes feels as though it’s stretching itself through lengthy (though beautiful) musical numbers to make a full-length story. Even with the musical resorting to numbers depicting imagined futures, there’s a chasm in the narrative that may be pinned on the fact that Jacinto died at twenty-three or perhaps a lack of delving any deeper to show who Jacinto was and his unique and enduring contribution to the revolution. 

What we are shown about the man is quite broad, as though there are numbers and scenes that play into fast facts we might know about him from history books. He’s the brains behind Katipunan’s newsletter, there’s even a number where the katipuneros have a meeting about their finances because Jacinto also handled that. We’re reminded often that he would die young, and most unfortunately of malaria. We are shown that he had a wife, and that he wouldn’t live long enough to meet his child. Perhaps the most gripping the show gets is the arc with Florencio Reyes, a fellow Katipunero he killed after being proven a turncoat and later using his name to be spared from a worse fate after being captured by the Spaniards.

To add more texture and style to the musical (directed by Jenny Jamora), a few male roles were performed by females, most notably Gab Pangilinan playing the aforementioned Reyes (along with a couple of scenes as Jacinto’s wife, Catalina) and Kakki Teodoro playing Jose Rizal. The katipunero ensemble also adds females in the mix. While Pangilinan and Teodoro’s work certainly added variety and memorability to the show, and female ensemble members (most notably Paula Paguio) doing a lot of the heavy lifting for the musical’s gorgeous sound, it does feel like this gender bend element was done for reasons other than narrative necessity.

As for Emilio Jacinto’s portrayal, Vic Robinson, projected a sturdiness and seriousness that showed him to be a general, a classical hero-type figure, though not so much youthful or particularly complex. I found him at times rigid, and even swallowed up by big ensemble numbers or Pangilinan, Teodoro, and Bituin Escalante (playing Jacinto’s mother) in confrontation scenes.

What is most enthralling about Pingkian is the music (by Ejay Yatco, with lyrics by Juan Ekis). Packed with songs rousing to exquisite such as the dreamy love song “Ikaw ang Liwanag,” and even a rap number in “Ang Kartilya,” the music seems front and center in this show, so much so that the first act especially feels as though every other song is an eleven o’clock number. There’s also a Hamilton-esque quality about the show, felt in some of its songs, the staging of some of its ensemble numbers, and especially towards the end when the show laments Jacinto being gone too soon and reinforces his legacy and that he will be remembered by future generations. 

Pingkian, despite its narrative leanness, makes it clear that the freedoms we enjoy today were hard-won and died-for by historical figures like Jacinto, and that when times were desperate, young men stepped up to go to war for a future they never saw come to light.


Tickets: Php 1500
Show Dates: March 1 to March 24, 2024
Venue: CCP Black Box Theater
Running Time: approx. 2 hours (w/ 10 min intermission)
Credits: Jenny Jamora (director), Juan Ekis (playwright) Ejay Yatco (musical direction), Jomelle Era (choreography), Carlo Villafuerte Pagunaling (production design), D Cortezano (lighting design), GA Fallarme (projection design), TJ Ramos (sound design), Kat Batara (dramaturgy), Kiefer Sison (technical direction), Toni Go-Yadao (assistant direction)
Cast: Vic Robinson, Gab Pangilinan, Bituin Escalante, Kakki Teodoro, Paw Castillo, Almond Bolante, Joshua Cadeliña, Marco Viaña, Chan Rabutazo, VJ Cortel, Roby Malubay, Jude Hinumdum, Paula Paguio, Roxy Aldiosa, Jam Binay, Luau Guico, EJ Pepito, Jonathan Tadioan, Lhorvie Nuevo-Tadioan, Mark Lorenz, Sarah Monay, Edrick Alcontado
Company: Tanghalang Pilipino

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