Recreating alamats and halimaw stories in a stage where you have to bring the audience to another world is definitely not an easy task. You don’t have the luxury of special effects or a fancy location to help you out. But when you have a talented costume designer, a director who knows how to present the story, and performers who can engage the audience with above average acting skills then I guess you have a good chance to pull it off. We have witnessed Director Rutaquio’s skills in his dark drama plays which include “Walang Kukurap” and “Tinarantadong Asintado” but can he deliver a fantasy musical which is a stretch from what he is used to? The challenge accepted by this talented director was a gamble that payed off. He now proves that he can do both and perhaps a myriad of genres if given the chance. Why should one be so different from the other? Why be boxed to the tried and tested when you can explore other ways of presenting a story? I guess talent is talent. You can o anything if you have an open mind and you want to go the next level.
You would think that with this kind of acting talent, the actors would have a smugness about them or an attitude but no, they don’t. Despite exposure to a number of plays, I observe these thespians to have the humbleness of a learning student. So you can’t help but like them personally and admire them professionally. Well there you go , wonderful costumes, great set designs, and engaging performance . . . I’ve said it all.
This version of the Ibalong fragment is told from the point of view of the perceived villain Oryol, a serpent creature, and daughter of Asuwang, the arch deity of the underworld. Oryol and the other primordial creatures emanating from Asuwang dominated the land of Ibalong. Asuwang is in perpetual conflict with Gugurang, the Goddess of the Upper world. And from her emanate the creatures such as diwatas and lesser deities.
This balance is shaken by the arrival of Baltog, the first hero of the Ibalong epic. Baltog is an aggressive colonizer in search of gold and establishes his kingdom founded on wealth and splendor. He kills the enormous boar Opon and eventually spread fear and trepidation among the creatures.
Oryol, however, at this point, young and inquisitive, watches Baltog squander his wealth and achievements, as most early heroes do. A thousand years pass and nature and her creatures slowly take Baltog’s kingdom back. Until Baltog dies without an heir.
The second act, announces the arrival of a second breed of hero, Handyong. A more entrepreneurial warrior, he aims to destroy all the wild creatures and subject them to domesticity to serve the human vision of progress.
However, the creatures, Oryol at the forefront, reject this call for subjugation. They begin the long fight against the warriors of Handyong, who, when he arrives, is but an arrogant boy.
Handyong subjugates the wild carabaos and introduces agriculture. He destroys the crocodiles and slowly imposes human order in this land once wild and fantastical.
Oryol is afraid of the future of her race. She confides in her father Asuwang who foretells the eventual dominion of humans. Their singular determination to move forward and upward, their obsession with progress and development shall eventually kill the quiet, cyclical rhythmic process of nature and the universe. Aggression will not just be for survival but for supremacy and hubris.
As Asuwang foresees this, he dies without giving Oryol fair warning. However Oryol, to save her kind, decides to enter into a traitorous pact with the human hero Handyong. She cuts off her monstrous serpent tail and agrees to marry Handyong. At the same time, she is shamed by the rest of her kind as she delivers Rabot, the monster who can turn into stone whoever who looks at his blind eye. Handyong has him killed at the very juncture of his wedding to Oryol.
Gugurang, the goddess of the upper world, who previously lauded the triumph over Asuwang’s domain, now begins to fear the fading of her own domain under the clutches of Handyong’s kingdom.
The final act shows the son of Handyong reaching the sky and hoping to tame lightning. This signals Gugurang’s apprehension. For now the human spirit, after shattering the world of the dark, is poised to destroy the world of the heavens. Belief is now reduced to flatness. The sacred shall be profaned.
Handyong however is hurled back to humility when lightning strikes his young son, Makusog. In his grief, he asks Gugurang what will resurrect his only son and offers to do anything just to let him live. Gugurang tells him that only when he dies, shall his son awaken.
Handyong then undertakes his true act of heroism, by killing himself so that his son may live. At this juncture, Oryol proclaims Makusog, as a half-breed: aware that he is monster and human, aware that his true aim to greatness is to achieve balance and respect, so that others may live.
Gugurang speaks a prophecy that Makusog shall reign and lord over Ibalong, now named Bicol, and that he shall be the father of the Daragang Magayon yet to come.