‘Ampalaya’ Sweetens Up Stage at CCP

‘Ampalaya’ Sweetens Up Stage at CCP

Silliman University successfully staged a musical for the first time at the Cultural Center of the Philippines on July 15.

“Ampalaya the Musical” drew in a rich mix of audiences in two shows at CCP’s main theater. Students from different schools in Manila occupied most seats in the matinee performance. In the evening, the gala show quickly became a reunion among Silliman alumni and friends and theater enthusiasts.

Far from the taste that the name of the musical conjures, “Ampalaya” was a sweet treat to both the young and not-so-young. Its musical pieces were original compositions of internationally acclaimed Filipino guitarist Maestro Michael Dadap and played live by Silliman’s Orkestra Sin Arco (orchestra without bows) with Maestro Dadap as a conductor. Maestro Dadap, who is based in New York, is a visiting professor in Silliman. He was instrumental in establishing the University’s Orkestra Sin Arco, the first in the Philippines. 

The storyline resonated with the common struggle for friendship, genuine care and belonging. “Ampalaya’s” parralelism of what the vegetables went through with real-life experiences brought mixed emotions, with some in the audience reduced to tears towards the ending. From a vegetable longing for her mother’s love and care, to one that was consumed by greed and bitterness, Ampalaya, the main character, became repentant and realized the value of contentment and being sensitive to others. This came about after she received a punishment for stealing the distinctive characteristics of the other vegetables and making them her own. What the ampalaya is today – its rough exterior and bitter taste – the musical tells to have resulted from the punishment given to Ampalaya.

Through singing and dancing, the musical also sprinkled tips on the nutritional value of vegetables throughout the scenes that ran for around an hour and 30 minutes. This was a practical lesson that the musical offered, along with a creative reinforcement of moral values.

CCP writes about the musical on its website:

Ampalaya is a musical theatrical performance which celebrates Philippine culture through music, dances, games and values. It explores issues like the ugliness of envy and greed and what it does to people, and embracing and nurturing one’s gifts and strengths. This is achieved through catchy melodies, colorful costumes and animation, which are sure to delight all audiences and take them back to a happy journey revisiting their childhood days. It is based on the award winning children’s story Alamat ng Ampalaya (The Legend of Ampalaya) written by Augie Rivera, Jr. with original music by renowned New York-based guitar virtuoso Maestro Michael Dadap. The Orchestra Sin Arco (Orchestra of Plucked Instruments) performs under the baton of Michael Dadap. The play is directed by Dessa Quesada-Palm of the Philippine Educational Theater Association, with musical direction by Dr. Elizabeth Susan Vista-Suarez and choreography by Angelo Sayson. The musical features many of Dumaguete’s local thespians and singers. 

The musical began as a short play, which debuted in 2000 in Boston. The full-length version debuted on September 19, 2014 at the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium in Silliman University. Ampalaya had its recent Dumaguete run at the Luce Auditorium last July 3 to 6, 2015.