Only Lyrically

Month: May, 2009

Review: Rizal Is My President – singing and dancing the truth about the Filipino

There is a place in heaven where the noble gather, watch over us, and sometimes burst into song-and-dance to contemplate how they could alleviate us from our misery. They are called The Marangals. Sometimes they argue to send the noblest down to do something. The noblest, out of sheer love for the miserably unaware living lot, may actually come down, but not to play messiah – he may choose to simply chat with a common kid, ultimately testing how much the kid is able to risk to save the self, and ultimately, the land.


The fabulous heavenly chorus may include Andres Bonifacio, Tandang Sora, Ninoy Aquino, and Apolinario Mabini (yes, it is possible to dance while in a wheelchair, and quite fabulously, too). The noblest one who might come back down to earth, as if in a second coming, could be Jose Rizal. And the common kid could be you, irregardless of your age. You will find yourself tapping your feet and humming to the tune of the satirical fantasy while figuring out the answer to the question – what can you give to your country, really?


Rizal Is My President is that musical play which will let you explore such a fantasy and answer such a fundamental question. Presented by Organizational Change Consultants International (OCCI)’s Fullness of Life Foundation in cooperation with the Knights of Rizal, the show premiered last May 8 at the Henry Lee Irwin Theatre of the Ateneo de Manila University. By May 29 to 31, the play will be moving on to St. Scholastica’s College, then to other schools by June. It is based on Napoleon Almonte’s book Rizal Is My President, 40 Leadership Tips from Jose Rizal, adapted for the stage by Joshua So, directed by Raffy Tejada, set to music by Noel Cabangon, and performed by the De La Salle University’s Harlequin Theatre Guild. These players and creators, during production, may as well have echoed the passionate excitement of The Marangals, watching the Philippines from heaven. Then, upon the performance, the audience gets to look at said onlookers. We get to watch who watches us.


That can be taken to mean a lot of things. It may even be simply regarded as metaphor – a little writing acrobatics balanced by pop and folk music accessibility. In the context of leadership, though, which both book and play explore, the symbol of ‘watching over’ may be equated to accountability. The play could dare ask the audience what they are willing to give or risk for the country only as the play hints at the audience, “you are seeing this, you are now aware, you are responsible”. The Marangals in heaven, after all, felt the urge to do something in the play because of the Filipino lives they have been seeing. The weight of their awareness was responsibility. And if the noble dead can show responsibility, what more the living?


Rizal Is My President, staged just in time for the one year countdown to next year’s elections, aims to break the typical Filipino belief that the nation’s misfortunes and glories can be blamed or attributed only to the person in the highest seat. How? By showing that the simplest citizen, perhaps a book-beholding kid commoner, is equally a leader too. Sure, that is no breakthrough thought we hear for the first time. What sets Rizal Is My President apart, though, is it does not simply hint at our innate leadership skills. What Rizal Is My President actually says is that we are all noble – we are all marangal. Nobility is in our blood and the good life for us as a nation is inevitable. Sometimes, it is quite hard for us to accept how glorious we can be, especially when most of what we have shared as a nation are hardships.


So, first things first, we need to know. Seeing the play, we will know. Anyway, it would not at all be like the usual lesson – there’s dancing and singing, and humor – very Filipino.



(My thanks to Althea Lauren Ricardo who once again let me tag along to a musical with her, and our thanks too to Marisol Lopez, president of Organizational Change Consultants International, for inviting us. Ricardo’s own review of the musical may be read in the Asian Journal site: . Meanwhile, my review also appears in the website of Rizal Is My President Movement: .)

Perhaps A Little Bit Too Soon For June… Oh, But What The Hell




Last March, I was tasked to write an Ars Poetica piece. It has already been submitted to the powers that be, and I have been told that it had been good enough to at least grant me passage towards a heavier task. I am sharing the poem here, now. I altered a few lines.

This may be a first and a last. One-time-big-time. Or maybe it’s just about time.



I am a bride

who waited for you

from the moment I was wrought in the womb

of another bride who waited too.


I guess you can say I am not virtuous, refusing to

just wait. I had to do


Does that, then, make this


Less? Or low?

An excuse? A faulty proof?

This is mine.

This is a record


of how I wait.

You might have caught me here

just swinging my legs, or whistling –

just so you know,


this is a work in progress.

And the song

might just spill out

during consummation.


Could be for you –

another dedication.

Could be for me –

for my perfection.



– Jennifer Balboa


  [March 25/May 28, 2009]

Recollections From The Baptist Sessions – no. 1



In my continuing search for and sorting of notes that might be useful in the writing of the thesis proposal, I came across the memoirs and the journals that I wrote for Non-Fiction class under The Baptist. I am sharing here the first entry from the journals – I have chosen it because, well, it is the first entry, for whatever special significance that may have – and second, because it is one proof that before I went through ages of being bullied through high school and college, there was actually a phase, at least a very short phase in my two years at Padre Gomez, that it was me who did the ‘bullying’. Yeah, well, occassionally. I paid for it all I guess, eventually.

I am not editing the entry – I am retyping it here as I wrote it in 2005. The only change would be on the names of people. In cases where I originally wrote their full names for the journal, I have decided to reduce everything to first names here, or to write only the first letter for the surnames.


January 9, 2005

12:55 pm


It’s been a while, girl.

The last time you did this, formally, with an actual notebook, dated and timed, was all the way back in grade school, when you wrote about Emmanuel P. and where you kept his pen with the long fat thick string, remember? It got in vogue, those necklace type, fat kiddie pens. And he had one, in cream, and it had that cream string. Was it cream? Must be, I think everybody had it in cream, on account that everybody bought theirs from the school store, I heard. I did not have one. That was not the reason why I would take Emmanuel’s, though, no.

Emmanuel with his cream pen with the cream string. And how he would cry every time he finds it gone after leaving it just on top of his desk, after I snatch it away whenever he turned his back. Well, boy, that is precisely why it had that fat thick string with it, so you could hang it around your neck, so you don’t lose it.

Emmanuel crying is always a sight. Since he is so fair, his face turns into a deep red everytime he weeps, like all the blood in his little body had just risen up into his little head. He got a pretty head alright, you could imagine him growing up to be a fine, handsome man. And he was smart, too.  A mathematician. They always sent him to those district and regional quiz bees. He always gave the school trophies; the medals he kept. He sure did make old Father Gomez real proud, I bet. Everybody liked Emmanuel.

When I saw his name two years ago on the newspaper, listed as a bar examinee, I knew right away that he will pass. Take one, no doubt, and I was right. The next year his name was on the paper again, as one of the fortunate few who made it. Take one. Emmanuel the mathematician, the crybaby. Haha.

You know what’s so remarkable about him? He never went running to the teacher. And though he cried every time I hid that pen, he never cried scandalously, only loud enough for me and his seatmate Josie, to hear. He never called for attention, kept his misery pretty much to himself. He could have easily told Mrs. Valentin about it all, but he never did, not once. So I never got pinched.

Perhaps that was why I kept doing it. I was always certain he would never put me in harm’s way, aside from the fact that I actually did like making him weep. His soft-looking baby cream skin turning blood red just like that, just because of a lousy pen we all knew he would find right back where it was, soon as he turns around again, just long enough for me to take it out of my secret hiding place without him seeing…

Perhaps that was why he never bothered to tell the teacher: he knew I would give it up anyway, in exchange of him shedding a few tears, for my pleasure.

Well, counsel, in case you were wondering where the hell your pen went everytime it disappeared, it didn’t go anywhere far, really. No, I never kept it in my bag, and never in my locker, nor in my desk; all of those hiding places are too obvious, of course, you’re too smart for that. No, neither did I have anybody else keep it for me. Nobody would have kept it for me. Not Josie, not Jonell, nobody conspired. Everybody liked you too much they could not bear making you weep, dear.

With the exception of yours truly; I could bear it, hell, I lived for it!

You know where I kept it, every time?

Right beneath my ass, boy, right beneath my pink skirt stiff with Grandma’s almirol. I sat on it as I watched you weep all those tears that warmed me so.

Oh, boy, if you could see me now, now, it is I who weep the tears for the boys…

That should do, girl. I guess we have picked up from where we left.


Now if I could just muster some of that attitude from 2005, be that good or bad – both, the attitude and the mustering – maybe I could get on with the proposal.