Arriving 2 hours late for the 8:00PM gala show of Gugmang Giatay last night, I was convinced that I’ll be having lots of questions inside my head as I watch the last segment of the Bisrock musical. Surprisingly, I was able to get the characters dilemma in only 15 minutes as I giggled at every hugot line delivered by the actors during the last section of the play. Gugmang Giatay or “GG” , as fondly ciphered by many, is well-written, convincing, relatable, engaging and extraordinarily entertaining. It very well encapsulated different kinds and scenarios of love in a 2.5 hour theater piece, with plots identifiable in today’s Cebu pop culture.
Very lucky to be able to get to chat with The Offbeats, the team behind the successful Bisaya musical, to tell us more about the play; plus, the amount of hardwork and effort the team and the cast put to perfect the first Bisrock jukebox musical.
What made you do a bisrock musical?
After the successful multiple runs of our maiden offering, “You’ve Facebooked, The Musical,” we (Offbeat Concepts Production House or simply, The Offbeats) thought of doing another musical – this time using Bisaya. The idea was discussed as early as 2013. It was initially presented to us by our book writer and musical director, Jude Gitamondoc as a one-act play. We presented an excerpt for Vispop 2.0 but not until we found a willing producer, Ms. Sarah Enclona-Henderson of 2TinCans Philippines, did the final version come into life. Jude was able to get Rowell Ucat aka Medyo Maldito (a popular social media personality) as a co-writer of the musical. He also asked songwriter friends (lPhillip Amores, Cattski Espina, Rommel Tuico, Insoy Niñal – to name a few) if they were willing to lend their music to the play and luckily, they enthusiastically agreed.
Is the musical based from real life experiences of the team’s writers?
No. We, The Offbeats (Jude, Jingle, Pamela Estallila – our resident set designer – and I) talked about love and all its different forms. That’s how the story came to be. In a setting so common in a city where people from different places and walks of life come to study, make a living, find and lose love. It’s a story of how it is to be human living in Cebu.
What are the musical inspirations that made you conceptualize Gugmang Giatay?
If you mean the songs, well, obviously it is the Bisrock and Vispop songs that helped create the whole musical. However, it was about the story first. It has always been about the story first. If you mean other musicals, we weren’t particularly pegging our story on one. We have conceptualized Gugmang Giatay long before we became aware of “Rak of Aegis”. We watched the show and fully enjoyed it but it was vastly different from what we had in mind. It was instructive though. Very much. Its success also reaffirmed our belief that a musical using a local language can be fully engaging and popular.
What are the challenges of doing a musical in Cebu?
Speaking as a choreographer, we do not have a lot of actors who have been formally trained in dance and it poses as a unique challenge to come up with movements that will render one’s vision pertinent to the play. But I love this challenge since it pushes me to become more creative and observant of people’s unique movements (I study them seriously!).
But as a whole: We do not have a theater industry to speak of really. That’s why we work hard in instilling professional behaviour into the actors we hire. We have to work from the very basics of theater since most of them have little experience or none at all in this art form. Luckily, our creative director, Edison “Jingle” Saynes, is more than capable of the doing the job. Then there’s our mission to change the way theater productions are being marketed locally – we used social media instead of marketing them to schools – relying on the quality of our productions to gain audiences (some are watching the play again, by the way!). Musicals are more expensive than movies to watch (since they have shorter runs and can’t be shown simultaneously in different theaters) and to get a sizable audience for our production is quite challenging – it has to be worth their time and money!
The choice of venue can be challenging, too. It has to be the right size for the type of production we are doing. We are fortunate that our producer, Sarah, was able to get SM Seaside’s Centerstage as a venue for this run of Gugmang Giatay. We are proud of the fact that we are the first production to be showcased there!
Regarding the technical requirements, the technology available in Cebu is still way off what’s being used in professional theaters in Manila. I’m talking about lights, sounds and microphones – especially the last one. Then there’s the difficulty of looking for good set and costume makers – as I’ve said, there’s no professional theater industry here to speak of. Luckily, what we have are a great number of talented and creative people who are able to produce what we require.
Lastly, putting up a musical is expensive and the ROI is not assured. We are blessed to have 2TinCans Philippines as our producer. Sarah loved the material enough to risk producing it. I guess it all boils down to this: a good material (Gugmang Giatay), a dedicated creative team, a cast of talented and committed actors, a hardworking crew, and a very supportive, transparent producer can create one good quality production.
How receptive are Cebuanos to theater and musical plays?
When we created The Offbeats and did the ambitious plan of doing “You’ve Been Facebooked, The Musical” we weren’t so sure. But based on the turn out, we came to believe that all that’s needed is really honest-to-goodness quality productions to make the audience patronize theater/musical here in Cebu. You just have to make the people realize your production is worth spending for and sitting for two hours at least. Gugmang Giatay reinforced that belief. We are after all on our second run in a very nice (as in!) venue.
Who among the cast members get the loudest scream from the audience?
Honestly, almost all of the leads got big reaction from the audience. I would say it was because of the material – the lines written and delivered, the director’s treatment, everything(!) made the actors worth applauding for/screaming (in glee) at! That’s what’s surprising about this – the audience thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the musical that they applauded everyone. The oft-quoted lines though are those of Lola Lucy, played by Shiella Pestaño Gemperoa. Von Saw who played Undo has his loyal screaming fans of course! Haha!
Why should people watch Gugmang Giatay?
First – It’s a story about love in its various forms – and everyone can relate to it. Those who are in love, bitter from past love, heartbroken over a lost love, dealing with the pain of unrequited love, dealing with a love that society might not accept – these are all human experiences that anyone and everyone can relate to.
Second – It is a celebration of Bisaya, the Visayan sensibilities, the Visayan language.
Third – It is a production of high quality.
Tickets and Reservations:
For tickets, contact Adelfa at 0933 188 0999 (Sun) or 032 512 3134. Showdates on February 12 (Friday, 8pm) and February 13 (Saturday, 2pm and 8pm) at SM Seaside Centerstage. Regular tickets are at P350 and P600 (free seating) and VIP tickets for two at P1,500 (reserved seating).
Cast of Gugmang Giatay:
Lourdes May Maglinte as Inday, Von Saw as Undo, Eyre Hyame Dumalagan and Joer Ivan Gallur (alternates) as Charing, Marc Stephen Cuizon as Ben, Paola Pia San Diego as Rihanna, Shane Reseroni and Therese Marie Villarente(alternates) as Helen, Shiella Pestano Gemperoa as Lola Lucy, Therese Marie Villarente and Shane Reseroni (alternates) as sexy nga tambay, Dionnex Seco Cecilio as kugihang traysikad drayber, Joer Ivan Gallur as Bagitong Barbero, Kristian Rey Malintad as Dakilang tanga, Aine Cima Abella as gwapa nga bugoy and Dave Nielsen Velez as lider lider sa tambay.
Photography by Kurt Fick Graphic design and artwork by Edge Javier Book by Rowell Ucat aka Medyo Maldito and Jude Gitamondoc Featuring songs from The Ambassadors, Missing Filemon, Rommel Tuico, Cattski, Aggressive Audio, Phylum, Wet Slipperz, among many others Musical direction by Jude Gitamondoc Dance direction by Vincent Paul Diez Gaton Artistic direction by JingLe Mirafuentes Saynes Produced by 2tincans Philippines, Inc.