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: http://www.asianjournal.com/aj-magazine/something-filipino/1885-rizal-is-my-president-the-hero-is-in-the-heart.html?showall=1 . Meanwhile, my review also appears in the website of Rizal Is My President Movement: http://www.rizalismypresident.com/ .)