MANILA -- The re-staging of Tanghalang Pilipino’s (TP)much-awarded play with music, “Anak Datu,” welcomes new and returning guest actors of the resident theater company of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
First time to join TP are Paul Jake Paule, who will play the young National Artist for Sculpture Abdulmari Imao Sr. and Tausug actor Ramli Abdurahim from Zamboanga City, who will play the Tausug warrior leader Jikiran.
There’s also Gie Onida, who will take over the role of old Jibin Arula, the lone survivor of the Jabidah Massacre. Unlike Paule and Abdurahim, Onida is no TP virgin anymore; "Anak Datu" is his fourth play with TP.
Paul Jake Paule
For the past 19 years, Paule has been a regular fixture of the Virgin Labfest,. having acted in 11 plays starting in 2009 with Rogelio Braga’s “So Sangibo A Ranon Na Piyatay O Satiman A Tadman.” It’s from a Maranao proverb which, according to VLF co-founder and playwright Rody Vera, means “a single misdeed can kill a thousand fond memories.”
It was the same year when Paule debuted in Gantimpala Theater Foundation’s “Kanser (Noli Me Tangere),” playing Lucas.
For VLF, he's been a favorite among directors and co-actors there were times he did two plays in one year. In 2010, he acted in Debbie Ann Tan’s “Balunbalunan, Bingibingihan” and J. Dennis Teodoso’s “Carmi Martin.”
In 2011, he went back for the Revisited “Balunbalunan.” In 2012, he was part of Guelan Luarca’s Palanca-winning play “Mga Kuneho.”
In 2013, he went back for the Revisited “Mga Kuneho” and Em Mendez’s “Ang Unang Regla Ni John.”
He took a three-year long break and returned in 2017, when he bagged one of the best roles in his acting life, playing ga host writer-editor in Eljay Castro Deldoc’s hilarious play on creators of fake news and disinformation titled “Pilipinas Kong Mahal With All The Overcoat.” He went back the following year for the Revisited “Pilipinas Kong Mahal”.
In 2019, he was part of J. Dennis Teodosio’s “Surrogare” about a gay couple who hired a mother to have their child. And just this year, he had a cameo role in Jules Pamisa’s satirical play on extra-judicial killings titled “Mga Halimaw Din Kami.”
“I feel privileged to have been cast in this latest and very timely production of ‘Anak Datu.’ Suffice to say I am enjoying my artistic adventure with Tanghalang Pilipino, and looking forward to many more collaborations,” Paule told ABS-CBN News.
This year, Tausug actor-performer Ramli Abdurahim joins the cast to play Jikiran, the Tausug leader who became the father figure of Karim (Carlos Dala) in Imao’s original short story.
“It helped a lot since I am a Tausug. I have the knowledge when it comes to our culture, traditions, Tausug terminologies and a lot more. The Tausug ‘kuntao’ martial arts is one of my skills that I want to showcase in this project,” Abdurahim told ABS-CBN News.
Abdurahim is no stranger to acting. He played lead roles in Sheron Dayoc’s much-awarded full-length feature film “Women of the Weeping River” in 2016 and Xeph Suarez’s short film “City of Flowers” in 2021.
“(‘Women of the Weeping River’) was my first acting experience. I played Khalil, one of the lead characters,” he told ABS-CBN News.
“Before I became an actor, I was a Bunga Lima (martial arts) enthusiast. I met my master, a halaw (deportee from Sabah), in year 2007. He was a magnificent ‘kuntao’ practitioner. It's sad to say that we've lost him. On that day I was no longer practicing ‘kuntao’. When I was in college, I became a member of Mein Dance troupe in Zamboanga City. We used to perform hip-hop too,” Abdurahim added.
Adjusting from film to theater, he noted he got a lot of help from Millado and his co-actors from TP, for whom he is very much thankful for.
“Masaya po na mapabilang sa ‘Anak Datu’ at super excited po ako na makasama sa entablado ang mga TP actors.”
New cast member for “Anak Datu” but a returning guest actor to TP Gie Onida told ABS-CBN News this will be his fourth production with TP. He was part of “Walang Sugat” and “Stageshow,” both staged in 2012 for TP’s 26th season and the Filipino version of a Japanese play retitled “Manila Notes” in 2018.
Onida was a VLF pioneer athough he didn’t act during the festival’s inaugural year in 2005. He was tech director for Debbie Ann Tan’s “Fate’s Line.”
He was also part of a stage reading of Kanakan Balintagos landmark play “Mga Buhay Na Apoy” in 2012. He played Kuya Benj, a supporting role.
Over the following years with VLF, Onida has played various roles in Rick Patriarca’s “Birdcage,” Anthony Kim Vergara’s “A Family Reunion” and Bibeth Orteza’s “Bituing Marikit.”
For “Anak Datu,” Onida will play the old Jibin Arula, the lone survivor of the Jabidah Massacre. Last year, TP artistic director Fernando Josef essayed the role for three weeks.
Arula also acts as narrator and the role has long monologues. On the third weekend, it took a toll on Josef’s health. Good thing, the versatile actor Nor Domingo was available and was able to memorize the text on short notice to fill in for the usual five-show weekend staging. Josef returned on the fourth and final weekend.
First post-pandemic work
“Anak Datu” is the first original work of TP staged after the three-year long series of lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Playwright Rody Vera brilliantly adapted the short story of the same title written and published in 1968 by future National Artist for Sculpture Abdulmari Imao.
Vera wove into it the life story of the Imao family until Martial Law and crucial events in the modern history of Mindanao, specifically the Jabidah Massacre, Palimbang Massacre and the founding of the Moro National Liberation Front.
Directed by Chris Millado, “Anak Datu” was initially staged from September 16 to October 9, 2022, at the newly opened CCP Black Box Theater or Tanghalang Ignacio Gimenez with Imao’s son, Abdulmari Jr or Toym, doing the set design himself.
Millado revealed some new highlights in the artistic aspect.
“[There’s] a renewed exploration with regards the intersections of myth, history and memory yielded a sharper dramatic tension between Abdulmari’s imaginarium and the imagined Bangsa Moro nation—the argument which forms the beating heart of the play,” Millado said.
“Visually, we’ve raised the traverse playing area by a foot so the projections on the floor — the blues, the pinks and oranges of Abdulmari’s projected canvasses — are now visible all the way to the last row.”
Millado is referring to the outstanding work last year by projection designer GA Fallarme, who was able to recreate Imao’s work as moving images on the stage, walls and floor area of Tanghalang Ignacio Gimenez or the CCP Black Box Theater. The closest experience one can think of is the immersive museum on Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent Van Gogh and Juan Luna in BGC, Taguig City.
Katsch Katoy’s magnificently balanced lighting design remains a major factor in creating the mood in the whole storytelling.
The much-awarded veteran Chino Toledo was musical director with the magnificent trio from the Philippine Women’s University Indayog Gong Ensemble executing Toledo’s composition. The gong ensemble will return in this second staging using the same indigenous musical instruments from Mindanao.
Playing the kulintang is the magnificent master percussionist Jan Andre Garcia with Kent Bryan Capistrano for agung and Vennies Labaupa for the dabakan.
Costume designer Carlo Villafuerte Pagunaling and TP regular music arranger and sound designer TJ Ramos also return to add to the magic on stage.
Also returning to TP is choreographer and actor Hassanain Magarang, who got a Gawad Buhay Award for outstanding choreography in “Anak Datu” last year. Magarang is a Meranaw based in Marawi City.
Suffice it to say, it has always been a dream team for TP that made them won six major awards in the annual PhilStage Gawad Buhay, including Outstanding Play, and five from Aliw Awards that include Best Director and Best Play.
For this year, assisting Millado as director is Antonette Go-Yadao, who also reprises her role from the debut run as Imao’s wife, Grace de Leon. The same with Lhorvie Nuevo-Tadioan, who played Putli Luling (movement) with Tex Ordoñez-De Leon (singing and narration), now also functions offstage as assistant choreographer to Magarang.
As for Paule, Onida and Abdurahim, Millado said, “The three actors are definitely etching their own characterizations. Jake's Abdulmari basks in childlike reverie. Ramli's (Abdurahim) Jikiran evokes the muscular yet graceful Tausog warrior of myth. Gie's Jibin Arula, in his quiet and simple way, belies the irony of becoming the symbol of the war and the political storm.”
“Anak Datu” is the opening salvo for TP’s 37th Theater Season with the theme “Unfilter.” It will run from September 29 to October 15 at the CCP Black Box Theater.