In an era where nostalgia is the rage, history folding in on itself has become some sort of a fascination. We eagerly welcome reboots of our favorite Y2K animated shows, support the resurgence of vinyl records, and dance (in our newtro ’fits) to retro tunes at music festivals.
There’s a certain poetic beauty in life’s circularity—a sense of coming home to the familiar all while standing upon the threshold of the new. It’s the type of narrative symmetry that we tend to embrace with open arms, even if they merely come in the form of a memory or aesthetic.
But what happens if our trip down memory lane takes a dark detour? What if the past that resurfaces isn’t the comforting echo of our childhood but the dissonant clank of political turmoil?
Welcome to the disquieting world of “Halimaw.”
It’s an upcoming pop-rap musical production by the De La Salle University Harlequin Theater Guild (DLSU-HTG) that pays tribute and retells the 1971 zarzuela by Dr. Isagani R. Cruz—a playwright, a poet, and an educator.
Set in a fantastical Philippines, “Halimaw” follows a man tasked to save the tyrannical King’s daughters from the clutches of three monsters: Binibining Sirena, Ginang Purista, and Ginoong Dragon.
At face value, one can easily categorize it into the typical fantasy-adventure genre—but dig deeper and you’ll see that the monsters (a.k.a. “halimaws”) are living metaphors for the injustices that marred every layer of Philippine society during the 1970s. Yup, Dr. Cruz used his artistry to put a spotlight on the country’s dark underbelly, cloaked in the guise of fantasy.
Viñas Deluxe is Binibining Sirena
DLSU-HTG’s casting choice for the roles (on and behind the stage) speaks volumes about the profundity of this production. Drag Race PH alum Viñas Deluxe, acclaimed PETA actor Bene Manaois, and Cinemalaya 2017 Best Actor Noel Comia, Jr. lead the ensemble—with Raffy Tejada (“Hintayan ng Langit”) in the director’s chair.
Additionally, “Halimaw’s” behind-the-curtain cast includes: musical director Vince Lim (also in-charge of “Walang Aray’s” music), choreographer Carlon Josol Matobato, production designer Leeroy New, and costumes and makeup head Santi Obcena.
Staging from Oct. 4 to 7 at the DLSU Teresa Yuchengco Auditorium, the genius of “Halimaw” lies not only in its ability to transport audiences to a different period, but also in its eerie relevance to modern-day power dynamics. As alleged political vices continue to make headlines, this musical play can serve as a biting commentary on the cyclical nature of history.
It raises the uncomfortable question: Will our own era be remembered as a time when we finally slayed the nation’s “halimaws,” or will it just be another chapter in the never-ending zarzuela of Philippine politics? Only time will tell, but one thing is certain—this pop-rap musical retelling *demands* our attention and introspection.
Photos from “Halimaw” official poster (L) and Jo Capili via DLSU-HTG’s Facebook page (R)