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Sintang Dalisay Takes Best Production and Best Direction Trophies at 2012 Aliw Awards

Ricky with the two awards in tow.
Sintang Dalisay, the highly inventive Filipino rendition of the classic Romeo and Juliet tale, bested four other productions to win the coveted Best Non-Musical Production in this year’s edition of the Aliw Awards.    Ricardo Abad, who directed the play and co-authored the performance text with Guelan Varela-Luarca, also won as Best Director.  The marathon-length awarding rites took place Monday, November 25, at the Fiesta Pavilion of the Manila Hotel.

It was the second time for Abad and Tanghalang Ateneo to bring home the trophies. In 2008, the Aliw Awards Foundation gave Tanghalang Ateneo’s production of Glenn Sevilla Mas’ The Death of Memory as Best Production and Abad as best Director. According to sources, it is a rare feat in the Aliw’s history for one person or group to win both the Best Production and Best Director awards in a single year.  Ateneo has accomplished the rare feat twice.  One more victory means entry into the Aliw Hall of Fame.

Throughout the evening ceremonies, emphasis was given on the greatness of Filipino artists.  Spokespersons from Ballet Manila, this year’s Best Dance Company, and Resorts World, producer of The King and I, this year’s Best Musical Production, exhorted the audience to believe in Filipino talent whom they rate as world-class. Both representatives also joined other winners in congratulating the Aliw Awards Foundation for being the only body that recognizes live performances from different genres – dance, theater, concerts, events, even stand-up comedy – on a national scale.  That the Aliw Awards Foundation celebrates their 25th Anniversary this year made the congratulatory words more apt.

Ricky giving an acceptance speech as Best Director
Keeping an eye on outstanding displays of Filipino artistry and awarding what the Foundation sees as the crème de la crème of live performances is the annual task of Foundation members. The brunt of the work goes to the Screening Committee whose members roam around the country as their time, resources, and contacts permit.  These members then prepare a short list of shows for inclusion in  a short list of nominees.  A separate set of jurors then selects the winners in each category. 

This year, Sintang Dalisay reaped five nominations: other than those for Best Production and Best Director were citations for Best Musical Design (Edru Abraham), Best Actor (Kalil Almonte), and Best Featured Actor (Brian Sy). The nominations represent an honor in themselves considering the large number of performances and performers that the committee members watch and sift through each year.

Sintang Dalisay, wowed screening committee members at shows held for the National Theater Festival (NTF) early in November 2012 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.  Frank Rivera, head of the Screening Committee, said he was deluged with email and texts from committee members who raved about the show.  These committee members lauded the ensemble quality of the performance, the precise execution of movement and music, the seamless transitions, the lush costumes, the superb light design and the moving performances of the main actors.  Frequently cited was the unique love scene between the lovers Rashiddin and Jamila—truly different and exciting! 

The cast of Sintang Dalisay in the prologue scene
After these comments were presented to the judges, Rivera added, the votes for Best Production and Direction were unanimous.  One of the committee members waxed joyfully about the play and the final choice that he wore a Sintang Dalisay t-shirt under his barong Tagalog during the Aliw Awards night!

In his acceptance speeches, Ricardo Abad remarked that a director is only as good as his or her cast and crew and cited the marvelous work of actors and production staff (most of whom were students), the the artistic team, and the Ateneo de Manila for providing him the resources and space to create.  “This award strongly suggests,” he added, “that the Ateneo has made the right choice.”

Later, speaking in behalf of Tanghalang Ateneo for the Best Production Award, Abad noted the contributions made by, the local chapters of the International Theater Institute and the International University Theater
Ricky with Frank Rivera, Head of the ALIW Screening Committee with Philp Panganiban, a committee member
Association for bringing the production abroad; the Ateneo’s Office of Student Activities, the School of Humanities, and the Office of the Vice-President of Loyola Schools for their encouragement and support; and the many audiences, both here and abroad, that showed their delight (and sometimes delirium) after each performance. 

The Aliw Awards give a show’s entertainment value a high rating in their choices.  For this reason, the Entertainer of the Year is the pièce de résistance of all awards. What constitutes entertainment, however, is a contentious topic – and especially so this year.  In the past, the Entertainer of the Year award is given to a singer (like Pilita Corrales) or a stand up comedian (lie Tessie Tomas).  This year, after much discussion, the Aliw Awards broke ground and named the ballet dancer Liza Macuja as Entertainer of the Year.  To those who have seen her shows, there’s no doubt that Liza Macuja can truly delight crowds. But the entertainment she provides is of another quality. 

So it is with Sintang Dalisay. As one veteran theater-goer observed after the NTF shows, “the production has an intelligent and creative design but that design is worn lightly so that all you see is wonder and magic.”  Sintang Dalisay thus entertains like a Liza Macuja performance but on another level of artistry.

Ricky with Entertainer of the Year, Lisa Macuja
After the matinee performance of Sintang Dalisay at the CCP, Ricardo Abad hinted that Tanghalang Ateneo will soon end the run of Sintang Dalisay. A journalist from the Kyogen News Agency suggested otherwise, stating that Sintang Dalisay be brought to Japan so that audiences there can again be regaled with a Filipino performance as it did in the late 1990s when a musical version of the Noli was shown there. 

After the CCP shows, it was hard to imagine that Sintang Dalisay will finally end its run.  Inquiries about mounting Sintang Dalisay in other provinces came one after the other.  Another journalist, Babeth Lolarga says that Sintang Dalisay “deserves a nationwide audience.”  And even our own Fr. Jett Villarin, S.J. who watched a show at the UP Asian Center, asked if we wanted to take the show to Davao or Zamboanga.  Game ang Tanghalang Ateneo at Ateneo Fine Arts, Fr. Jett!

Fr. Jett Villarin, S.J., University President, pose with Dr. Abad and the cast after a matinee performance of Sintang Dalisay at the UP Asian Center last November 24. Also in the photo are Jose Mario Francisco, S.J. and choreographer Dr. Matthew Santamaria.

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