This Month in BM History: December 2008
In what would count as one of its most ambitious endeavors, Ballet Manila embarked on “Project Lola Basyang” in late 2007. It was to be a first – a retelling in dance of stories by the iconic Filipino literary grandmother, Lola Basyang, created by Severino Reyes.
As BM artistic director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde would recount in her the program notes, inspiration struck while she was browsing in a book fair in her children’s school. Seeing the display of Anvil Publishing, featuring Lola Basyang children’s books – with stories retold by Christine Bellen and illustrated by Frances Alcaraz – she immediately thought that these could be the basis for a new ballet.
Thus would begin work for what would eventually be dubbed as Tatlong Kuwento ni Lola Basyang, from choosing the stories to finding creative collaborators to make it all happen. The process would take more than a year.
The finished product showcased: Ang Prinsipe ng Mga Ibon, a love story about the search for true love, choreographed by Osias Barroso with music arranged by Mon Faustino from selected National Artists; Ang Kapatid ng Tatlong Marya, a fantasy set to contemporary neo-ethnic music which follows a hero’s journey to different kingdoms in search of his bewitched sisters, choreographed by Lisa Macuja-Elizalde to the music of Joey Ayala; and Ang Mahiwagang Biyulin, a local Pied Piper tale with the hero, through his enchanted violin, showing how good ultimately triumphs over evil, choreographed by Tony Fabella with music by now National Artist Ryan Cayabyab.
Tatlong Kuwento ni Lola Basyang premiered in December 2008, drawing an astounding 25,000 viewers in 13 sold-out performances. The groundbreaking trilogy’s successful premiere run led to an immediate restaging – as a three-day Christmas presentation for Star City visitors just a few weeks later.
The production has since been brought back numerous times, in full or with the vignettes danced separately. Moreover, it led to a sequel dubbed Tatlo Pang Kuwento ni Lola Basyang which would similarly catch the fancy of audiences.
As Macuja-Elizalde had proclaimed just before the first trilogy debuted, “We have a winner. The stories of Lola Basyang are here to stay.”