Oppression, Freedom, And Love: Philippine Theater Returns With 'Ibarra'

After a hiatus due to the pandemic, Philippine theater is coming back with “Ibarra,” a story of oppression, freedom, and love.

The story of Crisostomo Ibarra in Noli Mi Tangere will always be a cult classic for Filipinos. The book that launched the country’s independence from its colonizers, the story holds a special place in every Filipino’s heart. A mixture of historical nostalgia and Philippine nationalism, to have a chance to read and what more experience the story is a privilege.

This June 2023, the story of Crisostomo Ibarra will be once again relived in Philippine theater. Directed, and co-directed by Frannie Zamora and Paul Morales, the painful yet meaningful tale will come to life again. Headlined by Piolo Pascual as Crisostomo Ibarra and Myramae Meneses as Maria Clara, the new theatrical adaptation promises a fresh take on the classic story. 

Back to theater 

After 30 years of being out of the theater scene, Piolo Pascual returns to his musical theater roots for Ibarra. Known for his roles in several hit movies and TV shows, Pascual is no stranger to the limelight. Though he is accustomed to being in the spotlight, the musical theatre world is different. “According to Pascual, “Going back to [the] theater is something I always want to do again and a musical is something I haven’t done before so this is a first for me.”

Piolo Pascual Philippine Musical Theatre Ibarra
Piolo Pascual as Ibarra

Aside from Pascual returning to the theater, the story of Ibarra is also making a comeback after a sudden halt due to the pandemic. The show came about when the show’s librettist, Jomar Fleras, called Zamora and asked if they can mount Noli Mi Tangere again in the theater. “Yes sabi ko why not. Sabi ko, totoo ba ‘to? Kasi alam mo sabi ko nung pandemya kung babalik ang theater, at makapagdi-direct ako ulit, gusto ko lang si Piolo lumabas na Ibarra,” Zamora tearfully said. The overall-director wanted Pascual for the said role because he claims that all the qualities he sees in Crisostomo Ibarra can be seen in Pascual. 

Philippine theater for and by Filipinos 

The story Noli Mi Tangere revolves around the struggles of Filipinos during the colonial era. It revolves around the broken class system that led to a multitude of problems that is still relevant today. “It’s a constant reminder of our struggles, of our roots, of the revolution. So, everyone should watch it so we would be reminded of our roots and be proud of it,” Pascual reiterated. 

Philippine Musical Theatre Ibarra
The cast of Ibarra

“We’re also producing this in celebration of the 125th year of Philippine Independence…” Fleras said. Fleras further echoed the call that we should remember how the novel sparked and started the revolution for the Philippines. And through the musical and Philippine theater, it is through this art form that Noli Mi Tangere is remembered and honored. 

The show would be running from June 8 to June 18, 2023, in the GSIS Theater. 

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