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The Restaging of Himala

Ricky Lee encourages the youth to invest in watching theatrical plays

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By Jessica Pag-iwayan

Every now and then we hear or read the term “classic,” whether in films, novels, or as a fashion statement. But what is a classic really and what makes something as such?

THE MYSTERY OF FAITH HEALERS

As defined by Merriam Webster, classic means “serving as a standard of excellence,” meanwhile Oxford dictionary says it’s “judged over a period of time to be on the highest quality and outstanding of its kind.” When it comes to film, classic movies are defined as works that transcend their era.

Locally, we have numerous classic films but among the most celebrated is the 1982 award-winning motion picture Himala. Written by Ricky Lee and starring one of the most sought after actresses of her generation, Nora Aunor, Himala or “Miracle” follows the story of a young woman named Elsa who becomes the savior in the eyes of the residents of a fictional bucolic barrio named Cupang. This film is meant to mirror the Philippines’ mystery of faith healers and religious crusaders.

Himala is a timeless masterpiece that every generation can relate to. In fact, its theatrical adaptation in 2018 titled Himala: Isang Musikal had a sold-out run. It even earned a total of eight Philstage Gawad Buhay Awards, including the Outstanding Production Existing Material for a Musical. This year, this critically acclaimed show will return to the stage to shake people’s views about faith and mortality, as its famous line says—“walang himala!”

THE RELEVANCE OF MIRACLES

The film was released more than 30 years ago, but according to Ricky and Himala: Isang Musikal director Ed Lacson, Jr., its story and message are as timely and relevant in today’s society.

Ed tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle that just like the people of Cupang, some people in today’s generation are desperately looking for someone to solve all of their problems.  “Because of desperation a lot of the people in Cupang latch on to this information without knowing if it’s the truth or [a] lie,” he says. “Because they are so desperate, they just believe in this one entity who is saying that this is the way to it, without questioning and without thinking more deeply about what this person is preaching.”

He also says that some people even used that entity as an opportunity to take advantage of others. “I think that’s still happening now. Believing in one entity to solve all of our problems in many ways, not just in the most obvious answer to the question. The belief that there’s this Messiah who will solve all of our problems when in fact, I think, there is no easy solution to problems,” Ed continues.

For the Para Kay B author, history repeats itself, as the basis for this film that premiered more than 30 years ago is still happening today. “Unang-una, nakita ko naman kung paano nag-survive yung Himala mula sa panahon ni Marcos nung 1982 through the years ngayong panahon ni Duterte. (I’ve witnessed how Himala survived from the time of President Marcos to this day in the time of Duterte),” says Ricky. “It’s the same problems, it’s the same love stories, it’s the same stories of believing and not believing.”

He also says whenever they show the restored version of the 1982 film in various schools, he sees that students react as if the story is happening right now. “I see how it is still relevant for the new audience. Fake news, crime, prostitution, it’s all the same,” he explains.

THE POWER OF IMMERSIVE THEATER

But unlike the restored version that one can easily access online, Himala: Isang Musikal is not accessible to every student, given that a ticket to a theatrical play is much more expensive than a movie ticket. This is a reality Ricky acknowledges.

“I understand that tickets to this kind of plays are quite expensive. For Himala, the venue is smaller, it’s limited to just 290 seats. But it is needed for the play to become immersive. The audience is part of the play. Artists won’t use microphones or lapels,” says the award-winning author.

Ricky encourages the youth to invest in watching live shows, as this kind of entertainment offers a new level of experience different from watching on the big screen. “The youth also spends money on watching through IMAX and 3D that are also pricy. Movies are real, but it’s different from the realities of theater. Here, you’ll see the actors live, breathe, and sing, and things are happening continuously,” Ricky ends.

Himala: Isang Musikal will run from Sept. 20 to Oct. 20 at the Powermac Center Spotlight in Circuit Makati.

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