DR. PEDRO BERNALDEZ’ Review of “Daragang Magayon : An Istorya Ni Mayon’ : I sit in the sixth row of the orchestra of the CCP main theater to watch a grand production of a Bicol legend of the origin of Mt. Mayon, the pride of Albay, God-given and man-beholden. I’m expectant.
Haliya rises and stays suspended on the firmament, harking the beginning of the dance drama, “Daragang Magayon: An Istorya ni Mayon.” As the show progresses, I feel an astral-travel like separation of my soul and I blend with the stream of movements on the vast stage with a circular platform at the center. And, my being saunters in that celestial spread of multi-media story-telling of the legend of Mayon centering on Daragang Magayon, the epitome of womanhood, strong but submissive to the most powerful of emotions…love. The storyline is straightforward, simple but magical, a blending of politics and romance, ending in tragedy of two lovers caught in the cauldron of primitive power struggle between two tribes over an undelivered promise of marriage due to the intervention of true love destined.
As the ambitious rendering of the musical score penned by Ramon Santos, giving life to the poetry of Virgilio Almario, slowly unfolds but powerfully envelops my senses, I have to struggle against unwanted preoccupation. I have to focus since the multi-media presentation dishes out a new vantage and angle. I need to reorganize my differently evoked sensations and emotions due to the interspersion of music, dance, drama and technology. I release my being without constraints to ride on the flow of the show. Not much of cognition is needed since I know by soul the storyline but I have to be discriminating to savor the distinctiveness of costume, movements, shapes and sounds bordering between authenticity and innovation. Contemporary ballet is the main ingredient of the dance component with movements enhanced by action-emitting lighting effects accentuating each segment of the story. There’s a little drag and the stream of thought has to be captured momentarily to give way to the dance but as drama sets in, the storyline goes fast forward and I have to be sharp enough to maintain the stream of thought even if there is lighting-bolt shift from drama to visual medium on the giant screen at the backdrop. For example, the projection of the killing of the Usa by an arrow from the bow of a live actor portraying Ulap speedy shifting the visual sense to the projection of a deer on a white structure serving as the screen assailed the eyes. But sudden shift back to drama with Ulap taking stock of his capture never cuts the cognitive stream. Moments like this were aplenty in the entire show underscoring the experimental attempt at blending technology with live music, dance and drama. Success!
The component of the physical, takes advantage of the vast space of the main stage. The circular platform serves as the main venue for action but scenes can be artfully changed with additional props like coconut trees hanging from the ceiling, big lantern structures depicting the village, glittering strips portraying the stream, etc; they stand as evidences to the artistry of the stage architecture.
It’s not overemphasizing to say that musicality is superb. Santos’ libretto comes alive in the rendition of the rondalla coupled by the vocals of the singers. Music is like a hammock supporting the whole drama with a blanket of emotive tunes to which a Bicolano can relate to with gusto as in the Tagulaylay. It lulls me to a spiritual semi-conscious slumber. Dance is mesmerizing as the movements can be swift or suspended. I like the movements of the Usa, the love dance of Ulap and Magayon and the war dance. I particularly feel an adrenalin rush watching the love dance: a woman on top, with man as a willing bottom (a streak of feminisim—Merlinda Bobis’s poetic license!). When dancers occupy the low stage, I feel I’m almost one of them with my limbs “spasming” and skin pulsating; I even follow their motions to the circular platform and feel the earth shake under my feet. Dance and music is the aspect of the musical drama which captures my whole being. I sigh, moan and snort.
And… when the drama climaxes with the death of the lovers, my chest feels a mint-like sensation at the realization of the tragedy; but, I anticipate a resurrection of passion as the storyline provides. Thanks to the return of Hilaya and the Usa. Then there, up there on the silver screen flashes the evolutionary rising of the apex of grandiosity, the birth of Mayon: the epiphany of the great love between Ulap and Magayon. It now stands grand for the world to look up to as the emblem of the Kingdom of Rawis…now the Province of Albay.
Ah, this is a vernacular euphoria, a catharsis of sort: I’m proud to be an Albayano!
- Studio Rehearsal Photos of Daragang Magayon Cast (eamarietorrado.wordpress.com)
- Mayon Volcano Upclose (jackinetic.wordpress.com)