“Kamukha mo si Paraluman…”
My parents raised me as good Filipino parents should. They taught me to say opo to my elders, take my shoes off before entering a house, eat my meals with sawsawan like calamansi and toyo, and, of course, they made me listen to the songs of the Eraserheads.
For as long as I can remember, the music of the Philippines’ favorite 90s rock band has been in my life. With a Smile and Alapaap are always played during Sundays when our family would have our breakfast. Their Fruitcake album is played during Christmas. Tindahan ni Aling Nena, Huwag Kang Matakot, and Harana are on road trip playlists. And finally, when I got older, I figured out the tragic lyrics of Ang Huling El Bimbo and got both sad and amazed at how the Eraserheads was able to tell such a compelling story through a 7-minute and27-second song (I checked).
Then, one day, I found the headline of a lifetime: Ang Huling El Bimbo: The Musical Coming Soon!
So of course I couldn’t miss this! As soon as tickets were out and some friends had watched and enjoyed it, I made it my mission to get the best tickets for the best seats ever. And against all odds, I found myself sitting in my seat on September 1, 2018, having beaten the Manila traffic, ready to watch the production I waited one and a half months for.
The lights darken as the iconic melody of “Ang Huling El Bimbo” plays in the background. Ang Huling Bimbo: the Musical is starting. A single spotlight shines on something, no, someone in the middle of the stage, setting the tone of the entire production.
“Minsan sa may Kalayaan tayo’y nagkatagpuan, may mga sariling gimmick, at kanya–kanyang hangad sa buhay…” Hector, Emman, and AJ first meet when they find themselves sharing a room in Dorm 214. They start out asstrangers, but they are destined to become friends.
“Pare ko, meron akong problema,” the boys sing. “Huwag mong sabihin na naman.” Hector got busted again, Emman’s long distance girlfriend isn’t talking to him, and AJ isn’t ready to come out to his crush yet. It doesn’t matter, though, because they have each other to rely on anyway.
“Halika, tikman ang langit.” At their favorite canteen, the boys meet Joy, the sweet yet fiery waitress of Toyang’s and a fellow student. They form a bond, and with her as their new friend, their barkada is complete.
“Huwag kang matakot, di mo ba alam na nandito lang ako sa iyong tabi…” Through the ups and downs of life, Joy discovers that her boys will always be there for her, and she for them, too. As AJs’sconfidant, Emman’s little sister, and something special and unspoken to Hector, she and her boys look towards the future with hope in each other.
But in the end, “I knew all along, anything could go wrong.”
“Lift your head, baby don’t be scared of the things that could go wrong along the way. You’ll get by with a smile. You can’t win at everything but you can try.”
In the midst of tragedy, the four friends are truly tested on the strength of their friendship. But like in real life, things don’t always work out for the best.
“In a world where everybody hates a happy ending story, it’s a wonder love can make the world go round. But don’t let in bring you down, or turn your face into a frown, get along with a little prayer and a song. “
Lives are changed, friendships are shifted, and the tone of Act 2 is set up to the very last scene.
“Tinuruan mo ang puso ko na umibig na tunay.”
The lights go dark, the curtain closes, and the audience cheers. What a show! The cast come out on stage to take their bows, singing along as Alapaap plays. They call the entire audience to stand up and sing along, and we do.
“GUSTO MO BANG SUMAMA?”
The guitar riff ends, the crowd goes wild, and the actors, the orchestra, the dancers, and the entire crew are applauded. They thank the audience as they retreat back stage, another show well done.
I walked out the theatre with a program full of the cast’s signatures (Tanya Manalang, Reb Atadero, Topper Fabregas, Boo Gabunada, and Jamie Wilson are THE BEST), a phone full of the cast’s pictures (I GOT PICTURES TOO, GUYS), and my brain playing my favorite scenes over and over again.
What was my take away from this production?
Was it the way the talented actors portrayed their characters in such real ways? Was it the story, funny and uplifting, but also tragic, painful, and heart wrenching? Was it the lesson that happy moments may be fleeting, but that’s why they’re so precious? Or that life never turns out the way you want it, but you have to get through it “with a smile?” Or was it the fact that the cast responded to my Instagram post professing my love for them?
I think what I truly took away from this play was a newfound appreciation of the Filipino language, especially how the Eraserheads make it flourish in their songs. All this time, I never paid attention to the lyricsof their songs, except for Bimbo. But after the play, I started istening carefully, trying to decipher what each of their songs is saying. Suddenly, their songs aren’t just about the catchy hooks and riffs for me anymore; they’re about the stories and the feelings they choose to share. I now understand why my parents’ generation really identified with these songs. The words they chose and how they strung them together into verses made me realize how romantic, poetic, and malambing the Filipino language is. This made me want to listen to more classic OPM and read Filipino classics to enjoy my native language more often.
I’m never going to forget the great time I had at #AngHulingElBimbo2018. So don’t forget to keep an eye out for me next year at #AngHulingElBimbo2019, where I’ll be waiting to join the emotional rollercoaster ride again.
”Gusto mo bang sumama?”
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