Bayang Barrios finds doing 'Rak of Aegis' challenging but ultimately rewarding

Edwin P. Sallan

Posted at Aug 31 2019 11:20 AM

Bayang Barrios finds doing 'Rak of Aegis' challenging but ultimately rewarding 1
Bayang Barrios in 'Rak of Aegis.' Photo courtesy of PETA

MANILA -- Now on its 7th season, "Rak of Aegis" remains one of the most talked about shows in town. 

Based on the hit songs of the pop-rock band Aegis, the acclaimed jukebox musical by the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) is set at the fictional community of the flood-submerged Barangay Venezia and its lovable townsfolk led by an aspiring singer who hopes to become a YouTube sensation. 

A big reason why "Rak of Aegis" continues to be a hit with audiences, many of whom have watched the show several times is the introduction of new cast members with every staging. Director Maribel Legarda says this is PETA’s way of keeping the show fresh as, in addition to seasoned theater actors, the theater company has also invited singers with little to no theater experience to join the cast.

Among this season’s new cast members is singer and alternative musician Bayang Barrios who plays Barangay Captain Mary Jane, a character that has been portrayed by among others, Isay Alvarez, Sweet Plantado, Sheila Valderrama, Carla Guevarra-Laforteza and also this season, Jenine Desiderio. 

No stranger to musical theater, Barrios was in the cast of the original staging of "Lean The Musical" based on the life of fallen activist Leandro Alejandro with music by Gary Granada. 

“I was also in 'Engkantada' with Joey Ayala at ang Bagong Lumad, 'Hudhud,' 'Marawi Musicale' and 'Balag at Angud,' all staged at the CCP,” she added.

Recalling how she got involved with "Rak of Aegis," Barrios said she was invited by a PETA representative to audition. “There was still some hesitation on my part when I auditioned last June,” she narrated. “Myke Salomon the musical director and director Maribel Legarda said they wanted to get my pitch and asked me to sing Aegis’ 'Sayang na Sayang.' I was not familiar with the song and I just followed the playback and I thought I was not able to reach the right pitch. They then asked me to be part of the cast, I still had some reservations but eventually said yes.” 

Bayang Barrios finds doing 'Rak of Aegis' challenging but ultimately rewarding 2
Bayang Barrios in 'Rak of Aegis.' Photo courtesy of PETA

Having seen "Rak of Aegis" twice since 2014, Barrios said the challenge for her is to give new meaning to the songs of Aegis. “The songs should not be just about being hurt after a painful breakup, they can also be about facing everyday trials — the flood, unemployment, making ends meet. That even though life is hard, we can all still laugh and sing amidst all this poverty,” she pointed out. 

So how was her "Rak" experience so far? Speaking in mostly Filipino, Barrios said that while she felt fortunate to be part of the show, she knew coming in that it was anything but a walk in the park. 

“Almost all of the cast members know their lines and songs by heart. It was hard for me to memorize my lines that’s why I was very focused during rehearsals. When it came to the music, this is my first time to sing songs that while already familiar are more mainstream and pop which is not my style and not within my comfort zone,” she admitted. 

Fortunately, Barrios’ good friend and fellow Tres Maria Cooky Chua remained very supportive and never lost faith in her.

“Cooky was the one I would always turn to whenever I wondered if I could really do this. She was the one who pushed me to be at my best here at 'Rak,'” she further shared. 

Barrios also gives credit to her fellow cast members particularly Poppert Bernadas, Isay Alvarez, Jenine Desiderio and Ron Alfonso for being supportive and taking her under their wings. “I can’t say enough about the support I got from PETA and the cast. They never lost faith in me even when I myself wanted to quit,” she confessed. 

Vocal coach Norbs Portales, which Legarda assigned to help her with her dialogue’s proper enunciation and given the birit nature of Aegis’ music, also made sure she conserves her singing voice and make the most out of it. 

“Imagine, in my 40 years of singing, it’s only now that I learned that my technique is actually wrong. Although that’s hard to change at this point, I’m at least aware how to carry it, thanks to Norbs.”

Bayang Barrios finds doing 'Rak of Aegis' challenging but ultimately rewarding 3
Bayang Barrios in 'Rak of Aegis.' Photo courtesy of PETA

As to her own personal interpretation of Kapitana Mary Jane, Barrios said that the take-charge leader of Venezia has a disposition that is similar to her own. 

“Like MJ, I also want people’s lives to get better. No one should be left behind. I also get inspiration from my ka-barangays and kababayans in the provinces. I’m still learning so everytime I do a scene, I discover how to do it better. I feel blessed that I’m working with a wonderful cast of very talented theater actors and they also inspire me a lot.”

Asked if she considers herself a fan of Aegis, Barrios said she has always admired the group. “Because they have such big hits, you can’t help but hum them while taking a shower or while inside a cab. LSS (last song syndrome) does not begin to define their music. And now that these songs are associated with the story of 'Rak of Aegis,' the songs are even given new interpretations,” she noted. 

So will she now include “Halik,” “Luha” or “Basang-Basa sa Ulan” in her own live concerts? Barrios just laughed and quipped, “Not yet but that’s a good idea. I will perform a medley of their songs and sing them Bayang style.”