Nakakaindak, Nakakabaliw, Nakakatinding balahibo—that’s exactly what the play “Ang Huling El Bimbo” was.
Directed by Dexter M. Santos and written by Dingdong Novenario, the eponymous musical, inspired by Eraserheads’ arguably most popular track, tells the story of college best friends Emman, Anthony, and Hector. After two decades, the three reunite for the first time because of a grisly event—the death of their friend, Joy. It’s important to note that there is a depiction of rape, prostitution, and selling of drugs.
Told in two timelines, the musical sought to explain to the audience the events that led to the tragedy. The three, who came from very different backgrounds, became roommates in college and quickly became friends. Like any young hopeful, they were optimistic and idealistic. Emman is a probinsyano who became an activist, Anthony is a closeted gay who’s majoring in business, and Hector is a film student who came from an affluent family. The roommates soon develop a special friendship with Joy, a vendor their age who lives with her aunt and helps her manage their carinderia. She considered Emman a kuya figure, Anthony her best friend, and Hector became her boyfriend.
First love, college shenanigans–all were expertly depicted within the first half of the musical. It would force you to revisit your own memories and friendships forged through college. The nostalgia brought by Eraserhead songs obviously was a big factor. Personally, it was a goosebumps moment when the three sang “Minsan.” The sequences and musical arrangement were superb. Within the limited time and setting (the amazing set design deserves a mention), they were able to convince audiences of the special bond between the four. You’ll laugh, experience kilig, and more importantly, root for their friendship and dare I say naive hopes for a better future. That’s why it’s the more heartbreaking when the events that led to the friends’ falling out was revealed. You already know it will be tragic, but you still yearn for things to be okay. Without saying too much, what happened to the four just before the curtains close for the first half of play will haunt you. Especially coming from the high of the three expecting to graduate and finally grasping their dreams, it was truly a gut-wrenching scene.
For the second half, the focus of the play shifts to Joy. The three men moved on, and though in a way, they achieved their dreams, they were never truly happy. The incident has had a profound effect on their adult lives. But without a doubt, the experience has had the most effect on Joy. When her friends graduated, she is left alone. Whereas she too dreamt of finishing her studies, inspired by her friends, she was faced with the grim reality of her situation with her aunt, and that forced her to forsake her own dreams. Moreover, in an attempt to forget what happened, Emman, Anthony, and Hector became reclusive towards her. Here, the musical delved into more serious issues: Drugs, prostitution, adulthood, and the loss of innocence.
By the end of the musical, my seatmates and I were practically sobbing. I don’t know about them, but it’s been a long time since something I’ve watched made me feel that kind of intense rollercoaster of emotions. The standing ovation the cast and crew received was truly well deserved. Aside from the director and writer, I would especially like to commend Gab Pangilinan, who plays the young Joy. Her performance was phenomenal. In the first part, she was bubbly and endearing, you can’t help but love her. And when she took on a more serious role in the latter half, it was just as convincing too.
I highly recommend that you catch one of their shows, which will run until April 7 at Newport Performing Arts Theater, Resorts World Manila. Don’t forget to bring tissues.
Photo by Myke Salomon, courtesy of Gab Pangilinan’s Instagram account
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