Text and images by JULLIE Y. DAZA
In the wink of an eye, the Cultural Center of the Philippines turned 50 years old on Sept. 8, 2019. Days later, on Sept. 20 and Sept. 21, CCP staged a golden gathering of the Philippines’ most talented performers and artists in one show under one roof for a concert that lasted more than two hours.
With a cast of more than 600 stage talents— orchestra, two choral groups, singers, dancers, a concert pianist, actors, emcees, not counting the behind-the-scenes and backstage creatives—the show was a tribute to our own artists here and abroad who “have enthralled Filipinos onsite (at CCP venues), offsite (at regional venues), and online (through social media and the web).” Names familiar to their local as well as global audiences were the toast of the night, including theater participants past and present, resident companies, Broadway veterans, a bevy of performers spanning a rainbow of colorful costumes, and moving lights and sounds. The program showcased indigenous and Western cultural forms, arias from Philippine opera as well as Broadway hits, romantic piano works by Wagner and Canseco, thrillers danced by Ballet Philippines and by Candice Adea and Julio Blanes of West Australia Ballet and more, more, in a smorgasbord of entertainment that took a year to prepare.
The theater overflowed with talent, that much was obvious.
For starters, the playbill listed the following stage gems: Joanna Ampil, Poppert Bernadas, Nonie and Shamaine Buencamino as hosts with Celeste Legaspi, Audie Gemora, Rachelle Gerodias and Byeong In Park, Evin Lumauag, Gian Magdangal, Lara Maigue, Stefanie Quintin, Raul Sunico, Monique Wilson, Daloy Dance Company, Bayanihan, Radnel Ofalsa and NAMCYA, Madrigal Singers, Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group, Tanghalang Pilipino, UST Symphony Orchestra, Musikalinangan Gong and Bamboo Ensemble, and the 250-voice Madz Et Al.
Begun in 1966 and completed three years later as then first lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos’ pet project, CCP was Asia’s first cultural center. As recalled by Mrs. Marcos, when she met Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong in 1974, he congratulated her for building CCP because “culture reflects love.” But on the gala night of CCP’s golden anniversary concert, the box reserved for VIPs such as Mrs. Marcos was empty. Perhaps in the spirit of political correctness, she had chosen to stay away, not knowing that any space for her name in the evening’s program souvenir would also draw a blank.