The Rama, Hari I Wished I Could Watch Again and Again

It has been a year now since I started alloting time to watch performances, concerts and plays that showcase and brandish Philippine culture and talent.

In my first watching ballet, I was immensely lucky to behold Ballet Philippines (BP) galloping and doing en pointes as they restaged Rama, Hari the fourth time.

Rama, Hari was a collaboration between three big names–Alice Reyes for the choreography, Ryan Cayabyab for the music, and Bienvenido Lumbera for the libretto. Reyes is a co-founder of BP. Cayabyab is a prolific songwriter-composer, and Lumbera is now a National Artist for Literature.

The Rama, Hari restaging this year was part of the 43rd season (2012-2013) of BP.

The 05 December cast on curtain callSource: http://franco-laurel.blogspot.com/2012/12/rama-hari-2012.html

The 05 December cast on curtain call
Source: http://franco-laurel.blogspot.com/2012/12/rama-hari-2012.html

***

I entered the CCP Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo minutes before the start and found my seat on the front row on the side–so the stage was at my eye level with the Manila Symphony Orchestra (MSO) and the UP Concert Chorus concealed inside the orchestra pit.

Nevertheless from my vantage point, I could see parts of the offstage wing, which was interesting because I could glint what the other performers were doing after an exit or I could anticipate their entrance.

I quickly recognized the music when the MSO played the opening bars of the Rama, Hari theme. I first heard it on an “Awit ng Pagsinta” recording of the defunct San Miguel Master Chorale and San Miguel Philharmonic Orchestra, of which Cayabyab was the artistic director.

So that music was from Rama, Hari, I thought. I always thought that something was special with that song–the lyrics and the message–and I was right. It was for a pop ballet after all.

Tinging bumigkis sa dalawa
Na di sinasadya’y magkita
Pingabuhol, pinag-isa
Mga pusong noo’y magkaiba

Init ng hininga
Darang sa pandama
Tumatagos sa kaluluwa
Ang pansamantala’y naging walang hanggan

Bango ng tsampaka
Awit ng pagsinta
Nalimbag sa alaala

Ingatan mo sana
At nang magkabunga
Ingatan mo, ingatan mo sana

***

Now, the story.

Based on the Indian epic Ramayana, it tells the story of Rama meeting Sita, whom he had won the heart of while in Mithila (and after proving his worth on a test given by Sita’s king-father). Rama was soon to be crowned king of his father Dasaratha’s kingdom (Ayodhya) when, in a gnarling twist of fate, he was dismissed for the throne and instead was banished for 14 years following a sinister request by his Dasaratha’s third wife. However, he was loved by the people and by the new heir himself (his half-brother Baratha); and they bided for his return. Sita and Rama’s brother Lakshmana insisted on accompanying him on his exile and journey, and they set into the woodlands of Panchavati.

There, they met a hermit-in-diguise, Ravana, and his demoness sister Soorpanakha. Ravana lusted for Sita while Soorpanakha seduced Rama but to no effect. Lakshmana, meanwhile, drove Soorpanakha away by cutting her ears, nose, and breasts.

The maimed demoness turned to his brother to ask for revenge by seizing Sita. Ravana made her into a golden deer to enchant the unsuspecting Sita, who asked Rama to chase after it. But Ravana tricked Sita and Lakshmana to think that Rama was screaming in danger. Sita reproached Lakshmana to rescue and help Rama instead of protecting her. With them alone, Ravana took Sita away to Lanka.

Rama and Lakshmana searched for Sita afterwards, asking the aid of the monkey people of Kiskinda. Hanuman, the general tasked by the monkey-king, scoured the lands for Sita. Years later he reported that Sita was all the while waiting to be rescued from the grip of Ravana.

Not soon after a battle ensued–the monkey people with Rama against the demons of Ravana. The good triumphed over evil as Rama killed Ravana.

Rama, together with Sita and Lakshmana, returned to Ayodhya and was greeted with the auspicious crowning as king.

End of the story.

***

Rama, Hari was a combination of ballet and musical, like of that sort. The main characters were given a singer and a dancer representing them. Say, as Sita sings, a Sita (the danseuse) interprets the scene though movement.

The audience was bound to keep an eye on both performers on stage, much more when the ensemble began to dominate the scenes. One had to see all of them and took awe at the amazing corps jumping and flying around–all surrounded by the upbeat and engaging music, often with an earworm effect.

The songs were a combination of celebratory tunes, ballad, rock, and Indian airs. Cayabyab was simply a genius, having done the music when he was 26.

The libretto by Lumbera was also a combination of pensive and profound meanings and vulgar language. Such examples were the soulful “Magbalik Ka Na, Mahal” and “Buktot, Ako’y Buktot”, respectively. “Ginoong Ermitanyo”, which had an Indian feel on the melody and music, had understated and risque words (of Ravana) betwixt the innocent lyrics (of Sita). Here is an audio recording of the song provided by BP on YouTube:

Ginoong Ermitanyo

SITA:
Di man dapat, Ginoong Ermitanyo,
Salinan ako ng dunong mo

RAVANA:
Di man dapat, Aling Ano
Pinupukaw mo ang ano ko
Dasal na nakahain sa labi mo
Lalasahan ng bibig ko

S: Talinghagang mataas na ermitanyo
Di kayang abutin ng abang talino

R: Dalawang santong namumundok sa dibdib mo
Aalalayan ng mga palad ko

S: Banal na salitang parang paruparo
Ayaw dumapo sa mundo

R: Langit na madilim sa bandang baywang mo
Aarukin ng titig ko

S: Mahiwagang mithi, santong Ermitanyo
Di kayang pagbigyan ng abang talino

Here is an audio recording of “Magbalik Ka Na, Mahal”:

Magbalik Ka Na, Mahal

Bawat patak man ng ulang masinsin
Ay lagyan ng talim ako ay sasayi
Di ko iindahin ang ulos at hiwa
Ng mumunting patalim

Ang iyong kalinga’y kanlungang matibay
Lilim nito ay langit na aking tanggulan
Pag ito’y natiklop, lalantahin ng araw
Lulunurin ng unos ang marupok kong buhay

Aking hihintayin ang iyong pasabing
Magbalik ka na, mahal

The opening song “Halina sa Mithila” reminded me of some bars from “Liman-Dipang Tao”. Well, to me parts of them sound pretty similar. But this is refutable, nevertheless.

Halina sa Mithila

Halina sa Mithila, halina sa Mithila
Siyudad na kaiga-igaya ang Mithila
Halina sa Mithila, halina sa Mithila
Siyudad na kaiga-igaya ang Mithila

Kung kuntento ka na sa konting ligaya
Huwag na huwag kang pupunta sa siyudad ng Mithila
Makalalag-panga, makaluluwang-mata
Ay nakakapasma ang ligaya sa Mithila

***

The dancers of Rama and Sita, Richardson Yadao and Katheline Trofeo, respectively, were exceptional, being principal dancers of BP. (The other Rama and Sita were the good tandem Jean Marc Cordero and Carissa Adea, whose performance schedule I failed to see.) Also Timothy Paul Cabrera (Ravana) and Rita Angela Winder (Soorpanakha) were evil and animated enough for their roles. While Rama and Sita’s movements were graceful and subdudes, those of Ravana and Soorpanakha’s were energetic and forceful.

Rama played by danseur Richardson Yadao (right) and singer OJ Mariano (left)Source: http://franco-laurel.blogspot.com/2012/12/rama-hari-2012.html

Rama played by danseur Richardson Yadao (right) and singer OJ Mariano (left)
Source: http://franco-laurel.blogspot.com/2012/12/rama-hari-2012.html

I have to admit that I was keen on following the character (and its danseur) Lakshmana, the faithful brother of Rama.

Luis Cabrera Jnr (right) played Lakshmana, together with Noel rayon (left) as the vocal counterpartSource: http://franco-laurel.blogspot.com/2012/12/rama-hari-2012.html

Luis Cabrera Jnr (right) played Lakshmana, together with Noel rayon (left) as the vocal counterpart
Source: http://franco-laurel.blogspot.com/2012/12/rama-hari-2012.html

The danseur Luis Cabrera Jnr had a young and comely look for the role. He was swift, brisk and sprightful. For me, he stood out with his rendition of the character.

Also captivating was the shimmering dance of the Golden Deer (Gintong Usa), which was clad in a gilded “unitard”.

The Gintong Usa (rightmost) played by Denise Parungao was enchantingly sparkling that even Sita (leftmost) was captivated by its charm.Source: Photo by Jojo Mamangun, taken from the Facebook account of Denise Parungao

The Gintong Usa (rightmost) played by Denise Parungao was enchantingly sparkling that even Sita (leftmost) was captivated by its charm.
Source: Photo by Jojo Mamangun, taken from the Facebook account of Denise Parungao

The production used hand props liberally–to indicate a forest scene, a palace court, a demonic lair, among others. The battle scene used shadow play and it did wonderfully with a battle music, of course. The use of shadow play saved more production time and dance but it was only fitting for it hastened the story flow.

The battle scene of Rama and Ravana was done though shadow playSource: http://franco-laurel.blogspot.com/2012/12/rama-hari-2012.html

The battle scene of Rama and Ravana was done though shadow play
Source: http://franco-laurel.blogspot.com/2012/12/rama-hari-2012.html

The “Monkey Dance” was especially delightful to see, when the corps were out mimicking the playfully mischievous monkeys.

I cried when Rama and Lakshmana returrned to the forest with Sita nowhere to be found. It was so sad especially with the dimmed light effect. (I just want to tell that.)

Ever since I’ve seen this ballet-musical, I wanted to watch it again (and again). Too bad I was short of financial resource and constrained for time. But as soon as I hear of another Rama, Hari performance, I will be there to behold the charm. This is an Indian story told in Filipino fashion and performed in Filipino talent and art.

The cast of the 05 December show that I saw were the following:

Character: Dancer / Singer
Rama: Richardson Yadao / OJ Mariano
Sita: Katherine Trofeo / Kalila Aguilos
Ravana: Timothy Paul Cabrera / Robert Sena
Soorpanakha: Rita Angela Winder / Amparo Sietereales
Lakshmana: Luis Cabrera Jnr / Noel Rayos
Kooni: Anna Margarita Reyes / Amparo Sietereales
Kaikeyi: Charmaine Bianca Perez / Melani Ligot
Barathra: Cyril Fallar
Hanuman: Emmanuelle Guillermo / Brezhnev Larlar
Gintong Usa: Denise Parungao
Dasaratha: Marvin Arizo / Noel Rayos

The other principal cast of the alternate production were the following:
Rama: Jean Marc Cordero / Christian Bautista
Sita: Carissa Adea / Karylle
Ravana: Richardson Yadao / Christian Rey Marbella
Soorpanakha: Ma. Celina Dofitas / Amparo Sietereales
Lakshmana: Earl John Arisola / Noel Rayos

***

Here’s a bit of history.

The premiere staging of Rama, Hari was on February 1980 with the following singers:
Basil Valdez as Rama
Kuh Ledesma as Sita
Leo Valdez as Ravana

The dancers that time were the following:

Rama: Nonoy Froilan and Robert Medina
Sita: Effie Nañas and Ester Rimpos
Ravana: Butch Espeanza and Nonoy Froilan
Soorpanakha: Edna Vida
Lakshmana: Robert Medina and Butch Esperanza

(It is interesting to note that the danseurs then alternated for each other’s roles.)

The next staging was on February 1983 with the following main cast:
Ric Segreto as Rama
Jacqui Magno as Sita
Eugene Vilalluz as Ravana

The third staging was on February 1990 with the following main cast:
Miguel Vera and Bimbo Cerrudo as Rama
Isay Alvarez and Ayen Munji as Sita
Bodgie Pascua as Ravana

I would have wanted to write the dancer’s names but I have to retrain my self lest I plagiarize the souvenir programme that I got. : p

Here is another YouTube video where Kuh Ledesma, Leo Valdez and Basil Valdez sang a medley of Rama, Hari songs in celebration of Ryan Cayabyab’s 50 years.

By the way, artist Franco Laurel (I remember him from Keep on Dancing) posted wonderful photos from the show. Click on this link.

Also, you can visit Jojo Mamangun’s site for more exquisitely photographed Rama, Hari moments.

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