Tanghalang Pilipino Please Keep Ibalong in Your List of Plays Every Season

I felt all different sort of emotions in one moment. I think that’s too much for just a moment but I’m happy that I felt them. On a very rainy Sunday, I went to CCP to watch the last show of Ibalong. Before entering the theatre I thought to myself “Do I really have the time to be watching right now? Do I have a right to enjoy a play knowing that I have a gazillion other things to do?


Our schedules here at home are so hectic my family has to be in three different locations at the same time. I worry about my husband though who is also the automatic designated chauffer on this very damp weather. However, I said I will support Ibalong and that was a promise I made weeks ago.


I arrived early in the theatre so I passed the time reading about Critical & Creative Thinking by Dr. Richard Paul & Dr. Linda Elder.


“A product of intellectual work that makes no sense, that cannot be rationally analyzed and assessed, that cannot be incorporated into other intellectual work, or used – and hence that cannot play a role in any academic tradition or discipline – is unintelligible”


By that definition, I concur that a theater play is an intelligible creative product because it meets the requirements of what is NOT an unintelligible product is.


And so I wondered, “Why would our students, teachers or any Juan for that matter watch an intelligible creative product on a very rainy Sunday? Why value this education?”


These are my reasons…


Hindi pala lahat ng umaga ay maliwanag…

Ibalong Theater Play Musical Tanghalang Pilipino Special Education Philippines

…Ngunit hindi pala lahat ng gabi ay madilim. (Quote from 


Ms. Jenine Desiderio opened the play with her powerhouse voice from the top of the stage. Her voice reminds me of a slithering snake which is true to the character she plays as Oryol. The opening act tells you that the story will be told from the standpoint of Oryol. The story progresses with Oryol born as a young snake (to which when I asked my zoologist husband what do you call a baby snake, he sneered and said its called a baby snake still). Oryol, being the cherished daughter of Aswang, spends her carefree life with other monsters (halimaw) in the dark forest of Ibalong. Then, a human warrior called Baltog enters the deep dark forest and claims it to protect humanity from the monsters. This goes for a thousand years but Baltog dies without an heir. The monsters thought that they can now live in peace. Based on monsters’ POV of peace, of course, peace is not really peaceful. One of the songs explain that to a monster killing and plundering is neither good nor bad, it’s just monstrous which is in fact their nature and therefore neutral. However, for the growing population and widening knowledge of humans, we consider this monstrous act, as too “monstrous” and unforgivable. Hence, the battle ensues.


Another young warrior is born, Handyong, and we get to see him in his awkward youth. Oryol first appears to him in human form to convince him to leave his quest. The monsters are having a field day teasing him. However, as one by one the monsters fall under Handyong’s sword, they soon realize that he is not joking. As time passes, the warrior grows to be a strong, handsome young man. He faces Oryol again. For me, this is where the story really begins…


I will not share the rest of the story because, like anyone who has watched or read or studied Ibalong in their school days, what I shared above will be something that you have learned before. And so I feel like telling you that part of the plot is not taking away the suspense from you.


However, there are changes in the epic that you can only see if you watch TP’s Ibalong of course. One member of audience from Bicol asked during the talk back, “What revisions did you make in the epic? And why do you think those revisions were necessary?” To which Ibalong Director, Tuxqs Rutaquio, answered that the revisions were done to somehow “complete” the epic as the original one handed to us is in parts and parcel which can be difficult to appreciate, in our time, as a full story. I guess it’s the same thing with the remakes of Beowulf. However, if you remember what epics are then you should know also that epics are really long stories. In ancient times, epic narration can even go for days. Also, it is the town’s elders who pass these stories to the community and only orally. There’s really no one at that time who thought of documenting it for you to watch in Youtube or download as mp3 or mp4.


Ibalong Musical Talk Back Tanghalang Pilipino Special Education Philippines


As a teacher and parent I am so happy that this question was asked because for me I can use it as a springboard to help my students realize why they need to watch and support cultural shows like Ibalong.


During the play, we, the audience, are the students and the play is our teacher. After watching, what are we going to do with the knowledge imparted to us?


Some will take it as great experience but never watch again.


Some will be bored and not learn anything.


Some, like the family beside me, will be inspired and watch the next play Der Kauffmann by Tanghalang Pilipino.


Some, like me, will be motivated to take a more active role in promoting TP’s plays for our readers at Special Education Philippines.


Some will have something to say in their reaction paper due today.


Some might even be inspired to act.


The possibilities are endless.


There is one truth though that nobody can deny. After you’ve seen Ibalong that seed of knowledge is now within you. What you can do about it – ignore it, grow it, nurture it, it’s up to you. And just like any seed that can grow as a tree, its branches will grow and will somehow influence you. I guess that is the exciting part in education. You really don’t know how much extent a learning experience can influence you. Some people are just more aware on others on its effects.


After watching the play and seeing how our ancestors valued their territory, family, parents, friends, children and even special someone, can you really believe that our conquerors think that they introduced culture to us? At this point I felt amazed again on the intricacies and dynamics of relationships we had as a community before the conquerors came. I realized again how beautiful and exquisite our culture is. And why TP is so passionate in producing plays like this that they made Ibalong part of their 26th and 27th season. The costumes (and I know I am biased here but I have to be honest) is as marvellous, if not more than, as Cirque du Soleil given the budget and resources we have.


At the time of this Tanghalang Pilipino play, there is a Cosplay Expo happening at the same time. Some of us marvel at the costumes made by our Filipino youth to copy foreign characters. I wonder, “When will be the expo for our own epic heroes and mythological creatures happen?”


And then I felt regret that this is the last day of Ibalong’s run at CCP for this season. Yet, somehow I am relieved that I can still promote it this year because according to Ms. Cherry of CCP, they will be offering Ibalong as a touring production. In that way, this amazing play can still go to different schools and universities around the country and continue its mission of sharing to the public our beautiful Philippine epic.



‘So many thoughts and emotions at the same time but I’m happy I had them because that is proof that I am living this moment.


I’m wondering, what was the last play you watched? Why did you watch it?


Sa uulitin!

6 Commentsto Tanghalang Pilipino Please Keep Ibalong in Your List of Plays Every Season

  1. One great play! We should love our own culture!

  2. Andreea Leau says:

    Wow. I love your article! You have so much right. We really should support more any kind of culture (theater, movies, opera, ballet etc) I remember when I was in 5th grade at school and our music teacher “force” us to go to the theater every week. Now I really understand why. As you said some people will get bored, but I think most of them will get inspire, like me and you. Unfortunatelly, I wasn’t to theather from 6 months when I saw “The Barber of Seville”, but last week I went to see a romanian movie, “Love building”, and I was really impressed about their work and also inspired by them.

  3. Franc Ramon says:

    I think the story of Ibalong can even go mainstream as we need to focus on some folklore to show the culture of the Bicolanos.

  4. As much as I wanted to bring my child more often to CCP but at times it’s way too complicated – the location is just too far from us. That’s why I tried to look for local plays nearby like the one from UP Film Theater. I even allow my child to take Performing Arts as her elective 🙂 Who knows we might try PETA summer program! #Wishes and #Dreams 🙂

  5. Fred Hawson says:

    You already read what I thought about this play. The amazing costumes and production design are the main attraction. I imagine it would be hard to tour that set around! But they are right that this indigenous story should be shared to all Filipinos. Kudos to TP!

    • Teacher ia says:

      I can imagine the challenge for Tanghalang Pilipino. I think the Filipino saying “Kapag may tiyaga, may nilaga” will be apt for their effort.

      And I think it will be worth it. 🙂

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