Bangon Marawi Store, DTI Makati

tarpaulinThe Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has recently launched the Bangon Marawi Store at the Ground Floor of the DTI Building along Gil Puyat Ave., Makati City.

This initiative is the Department’s way of contributing to the recovery and reconstruction of Marawi City following the damage to infrastructure and private properties due to clashes in the area.

The Bangon Marawi Store features Maranao products such as brassware, wooden furniture, wearables,  woven products, jewelry, fashion accessories, and native delicacies.

Maranao entrepreneurs are among the internally displaced people (IDPs) in Marawi and this initiative is one way of helping these traders showcase their products and culture.

Some of the products on sale at the store:

marawi shirts

bangon mugsshawlbrassware1brasswarejewelry3

fruit of the loom

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palapa

Palapa is a condiment made of caramelized scallions, ginger, chilis, and toasted coconut. Real hot by itself, but great with bagoong!

 

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Lukot lukot or tinagtag is a traditional Maranao snack that looks like toasted pancit, but is actually a form of rice crispies.

In the video, Canadian Kyle Jennermann (aka Kulas) shows how the delicacy is prepared.

 

At the Bangon Marawi store, it sells for less than PhP100 per pack. Check out the many interesting products on sale. The store runs until December 30.

Go, buy!

 

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25 Years of Ibalong Festival

(This article written in September 2016 is in the April 2017 issue of Travel Plus magazine)

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National Heroes Day has a special meaning for the people of Legazpi City in Albay.  Around this day they relive the story of the three legendary heroes of Bicol, which was once known as Ibalong.

The Ibalong Festival, as conceptualized in 1992 by then Legazpi City Mayor Imelda Roces, was meant to break away from the usual themes of local festivals. Festivals in the Philippines are generally religious in nature, stemming from the centuries-long Spanish Christianization of the archipelago. Others are agriculture-inspired to celebrate bountiful harvests, while others are historical, as a throwback to important events in a town.

The Ibalong Festival was created to revive Ibalong, a 60-stanza epic poem transcribed by a Franciscan friar from tales sung by a bard named Kadunung.  The original Spanish text could no longer be found, but portions of it were said to have been copied by Fray Jose Castaño and were later compiled by Wenceslao Retana who included them in the book Archivo del Bibliofilo Filipino in 1895. The untitled and unfinished manuscript got its title Ibalong from the renowned propagandist and essayist Jose Ma. Panganiban.

The legend has it that a long time ago, a brave man named Baltog came upon a rich land called Ibalong. Back then, monsters lived in the dark forests, but Baltog chose to stay and cultivate the fields. The giant wild boar Tandayag saw the fields and destroyed the crops with its long fangs. In retaliation, Baltog patiently looked for the boar and broke its monstrous jawbones, killing it in combat.

The epic hero Baltog and the boar monster Tandayag in mortal combat

The epic hero Baltog and the boar monster Tandayag in mortal combat

Years later, another fearless warrior named Handyong came to Ibalong. Handyong and his men fought several menacing creatures including a three-headed monster and giant flying sharks. The toughest of them all was a she-serpent named Oriol. Endowed with a beautiful voice and the ability to change her appearance, Oriol was a difficult prey. In the end, she was captivated by Handyong’s bravery and chose to help him conquer the other monsters. Thus, peace came to Ibalong.

Tribesmen go down on their knees in the presence of a winged monster

Tribesmen go down on their knees in the presence of a winged monster

Under the leadership of Handyong, Ibalong saw a golden era where slaves and masters were treated equally. It was also a period of important inventions of tools used in farming, weaving, and writing.

But then a big flood, strong earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions hit Ibalong. A new monster, named Rabot, who had the power to turn his foes into rocks also appeared. Conquering this beast fell on the hands of Bantong, a friend of Handyong. Knowing that Rabot slept during the day and roamed about at night, he waited until the monster was sound asleep. At the right moment, he killed the beast with his sharp bolo.

With Rabot’s death, Ibalong regained peace and became the prosperous land it is now.

The tribesmen celebrate after their hero triumphs over their enemy

The tribesmen celebrate after their hero triumphs over their enemy

Ibalong Festival goes silver

On its 25th staging this year, the month-long festival culminated in a street parade and dance competition that attracted 11 schools from Albay, Sorsogon, and Camarines Sur. Only six schools, however, competed for the championship in this year’s streetdancing presentations. After regaling the spectators with its interpretation of the epic tale, Tiwi Central School was judged Grand Champion and went home with the cash prize of PhP300,000 plus trophy. Cash prizes were also awarded to the Best Epic Hero, Best in Costume and Props, Best in Dancing, and Best in Music and Sound.

Keeping in step with the Ibalong music

Keeping in step with the Ibalong music

A tribal muse clad in costume made of native materials

A tribal muse clad in costume made of native materials

High energy levels and bursts of colors marked each presentation

High energy levels and bursts of colors marked each presentation

Pretty maidens in whimsical costumes

Pretty maidens in whimsical costumes

A showdown of heroes. Competition for the best epic character

A showdown of heroes: Competition for the best epic character

Bicolandia: The myth versus reality

Reliving a legend that is more mythical than historical may seem incongruous for a bustling capital that brands itself as The City of Fun and Adventure. As the largest city in the Bicol region, Legazpi City blends modernity with old town charm, which is a rarity these days. Swanky malls stand close to each other in the central business district. Several colleges and universities here give the city that exuberant air. One gets that breezy feeling, too, while navigating the long stretch of Legazpi Boulevard with its numerous restos and many other fun places.

Yet, one does not have to go very far from the city to enjoy nature at its best. Those seeking adventure will find its many forms here. Sea, sand, hills, lakes, and caves. Forests and falls, too. And of course, anywhere you are in Albay, the majestic Mount Mayon is an awe-inspiring presence.

In a place and time where technology is both a major pursuit and conveyance, storytelling and folklore may be regarded as dying, if not lost arts. Despite this scenario, the epic story of Ibalong lives on, not only through characters in whimsical costumes and pulse-raising music, but more importantly through the hardy character of a people that have had to face storms, earthquakes, floods, and volcanic eruptions in recent times—and still have managed to be their own heroes. Legazpi City is officially recognized as one of the three most livable cities in the Philippines, where everyone is safe from both natural and man-made calamities.

That is a feat that would have made Baltog, Handyong, and Bantong very proud.

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CIA: “We Care about Catanduanes”

(An edited version of this article is in the March 13th issue of The Philippine Star (Good News section, page B9)

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First off, this is not about intelligence work and covert activities done in the interest of US national security.

CIA, Inc. is the Catanduanes International Association, a non-profit organization composed of former or current residents of an island province in the Bicol region, along with their relatives and friends. This umbrella organization encompasses different chapters all over the USA and Canada, each of which undertakes projects that benefit kababayans back home. CIA has adopted for its main project the conduct of medical missions once every three years to render free health services and relief distribution to underprivileged Catandunganons.

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The CIA banner hanging on storm-battered trees: “like a rainbow after the rain.”

The avowed objective to help medically deprived province mates traces its roots to a moving scene many years back on the island. Dr. Virgilia Guerrero was then practicing her profession in a rural area in Catanduanes and among her first patients were a mother and child. After consultation, the mother sheepishly admitted that she had no money to pay for her services. Instead she handed the doctor some eggs and bananas as token payments.

The encounter left such an impression on Dr. Guerrero and her husband, Engr. Jose Guerrero. The memory refused to go away and even went with them when they migrated to the US.

In Chicago where the Guerrero couple settled, Engr. Guerrero dreamed of having one organization that would bring together fellow Catandunganons on a bigger scale than the ones already existing in the ‘80s, and which have already adopted their own programs. The Catanduanes Association of America Illinois Chapter was launched in 1989, a bold first step towards the consolidation that was his end objective.

After years of networking — appealing to and convincing other groups on the merits of going international, which was no mean feat given the hectic pace in the US – Engr. Guerrero saw his dream scenario. CIA, Inc. was formally launched during the first grand reunion of Catandunganons held at Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Illinois, with Engr. Guerrero himself as its first president.

Lydia T. Mendez, CIA Chairman of the Board, recalls that the first medical mission in Catanduanes in 1993 had only eight members. Compared to the more than 200-strong contingent of medical practitioners and volunteers that came this year, it speaks not only of the dynamic growth of the association but also of its unquestionable impact on both the organizers and the beneficiaries of its programs.

The 9th Medical and Humanitarian Outreach Mission held recently in Catanduanes clearly shows that, indeed, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. To raise funds for the project, the charter member organizations put in their share, monetary or otherwise, to purchase the required medical supplies and equipment. An online fundraising campaign started by CIA Treasurer Franklin Enriquez underscored the need for more support in light of the devastation caused by super typhoon Nina on the island.

Much earlier, current CIA President Dr. Oscar Enriquez had been networking with family and friends and traveling all over the US to solicit financial assistance. One important family occasion, the 90th birthday of his mother, doubled as a fundraising event, with guests encouraged to support the mission in lieu of birthday gifts. Dr. Enriquez also parlayed his professional influence into purchasing tons of medicines and necessary supplies at great savings.

Dolly Dalusong, Chair and Overall Coordinator of this year’s medical mission took the same route. She organized and attended numerous social/fundraising events to touch base with fellow Catandunganons and channeled every possible group she is affiliated with – personal, professional, civic, academic, religious – to raise the wherewithal. All for the mission.

In what appears to be a case of good intentions attracting similar interests, CIA learned about the efforts of Global Caring Foundation (GCF), an Arizona-based philanthropic group, to fulfill the needs of underserved populations and healthcare providers from around the world. An earlier plan of the GCF to conduct a mission in another Asian country fell through but opened up an opportunity for a link-up with CIA. After a series of talks between officials from both sides facilitated by Catandunganon nurses Tess Baylon and Wendy Tee, a collaboration was worked out and the foreign delegation grew even bigger with over 30 volunteers from GCF.

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Some of the 200+ CIA volunteers who participated in the mission

Last February 6 to 10, CIA and GCF, along with their local counterparts from the Eastern Bicol Medical Center (EBMC) led by Hospital Chief Dr. Vietrez Abella, ministered to the needs of hundreds of beneficiaries coming from different municipalities. Volunteers assigned in the triage area went to work even before their appointed time as patients from remote towns had to travel as early as 3:00 am to reach the EBMC grounds. Depending on their health needs, the patients were referred to different sections, including dental, ophthalmology/optometry, lab screening, pediatrics, pharmacy, minor surgery, among others.

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Early birds waiting to be listed on the first day of the mission.

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At the triage area

Just as busy were volunteers assigned to the areas designated for the distribution of clothing, rice, canned goods, toys, school supplies, shoes and slippers, and eyeglasses. Drawing and coloring activities kept the children occupied; that is, if they were not lining up for either ice cream or hot meals. In the Soup Kitchen, they were reminded to practice proper hygiene by washing their hands before eating, and to say thank you after receiving their soup bowls.

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A scene at the soup kitchen

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At the relief goods distribution area

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Someone is happy with his new toy

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Ice cream treat from a volunteer

Each day started with a mass and ended with a critique meeting. Meals and snacks for the medical team and volunteers were sponsored by kind-hearted supporters from the local government and the private sector. Governor Joseph Cua, ARDCI, Virac Mayor Sammy Leynes, Congressman Cesar Sarmiento, and Mrs. Concepcion Co hosted dinners for the mission participants.

In recognition of the artistry of the Catandunganons, CIA, with the help of local culture advocates organized “Catanduanes Got Talent” on Day 3. Contestants were pitted against each other in a showdown that demonstrated their singing, dancing, and other innate or honed talents, for attractive prizes, of course. The mission was refreshingly not just for the sick and impaired.

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Volunteer doctors at work…

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… and having fun on the dance floor during the dinner hosted by Gov. Joseph Cua

During the Governor’s Night Dinner, Vice Governor Shirley Abundo likened the 9th Medical Mission to a “rainbow after the rain,” while Governor Joseph Cua considered it a “celebration of kindness and generosity.” In response, CIA President Oscar Enriquez quoted Mother Teresa (now Saint Teresa of Calcutta): “It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.”

In the pediatrics section where this writer pitched in as interpreter for the American doctors who could not understand Filipino or the local dialect, and for the patients who could not speak English, I witnessed this spirit of caring and empathy up close. Jamelah Tucker, a pediatrician from Florida tended to her young, sometimes agitated patients with utmost grace and compassion. She also shared this insight: “We spent so much time learning what we need to know about child care, so sharing our knowledge is not a bother at all. We will be there wherever children need help.”

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The pediatrics section had the longest lines each day

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Dr. Jamelah Tucker, a volunteer pediatrician

From what I’ve seen, it wasn’t a one-way street. I stood speechless at the sight of a young girl, about three years old, who came running with outstretched arms in the direction of a teen-aged American volunteer. As they embraced each other tightly, the smiles on their faces told a tacit tale of two sisters from different mothers connected by the spiritual act of giving and receiving – with both of them deeply enriched by the connection made possible by one humanitarian endeavor.

Dr. Oscar Enriquez, (center)  receiving the approved Sangguniang Panlalawigan Resolution commending the officers, members, and volunteers of CIA, Inc. for conducting its 9th Medical Mission in Catanduanes.jpg

Dr. Oscar Enriquez (center) receiving the approved Sangguniang Panlalawigan resolution commending the officers, members, and volunteers of CIA for holding the 9th medical and humanitarian mission in Catanduanes. (Photo by PIA Catanduanes)

Please click here to view more photos of the 9th CIA medical and humanitarian outreach mission.

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Anilag Festival: Celebrating the Bountiful Harvests of Laguna

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I made a quick trip to Laguna on March 8 in line with my determined search for sources of a specific type of woven native bags. When a side trip to Legazpi City and  messages to possible sources from different places didn’t yield positive results, I decided to check out Anilag Festival, a week-long harvest festival in Laguna province. I read that one of the towns in the province takes pride in being the essential source of woven products made of pandan, including bags, hats, mats, and various other crafts.

Some factoids about the festival:

  • Anilag is short for “Ani ng Laguna,” meaning harvests of Laguna. It is a week-long celebration that features the bountiful agricultural produce of the province.
  • It is held in March every year in Sta. Cruz, the capital town of Laguna.
  • It was first held in 2004 and was initially called “La Laguna Festival” in celebration of Laguna’s Foundation Day and to promote its products, delicacies, and cultural/historical/tourist attractions.

The road trip proved to be a wonderful way of discovering that there is more to Laguna than just its famous puto biñan, buco pie, and Pagsanjan Falls.

This year’s trade fair booths unveiled some interesting discoveries.

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Bay (pronounced bah-eh) is a town known for its gardens and ornamental plants. Its name was said to come either from the word baybay, a reference to the shore of the lake, or babaylan, a reference to a priestess. The town is situated along the shores of Laguna de Bay.

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Biñan is the trading and center of commerce of the South. The name of the place originated from the word “binyagan” (christened), which eventually evolved into Biñan.

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Calauan is touted as the Home of the Sweetest Pineapple, which can be tasted and tested during its Pinya Festival. The town got its name from the word kalawang, which means rust.

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The town of Cavinti got its name from the old tradition where the groom tries to catch the bride by her legs and the people shout the phrase “kabit sa binti,” later shortened to “Kabinti.”

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Liliw is the go-to place for locally made shoes and slippers. The town’s origin was said to have come from a bird chirping “liw, liw, liw.”

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Luisiana is a town famous for its tradition of weaving products made of pandan leaves. The town’s name was adopted in honor of the “father of the town,” Don Luis Bernardo and his wife, Doña Ana (Luis y Ana). The high elevation of the town generates a cooler climate than the other neighboring towns, which earned for it the monicker as The Little Baguio of Laguna.

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The Embroidery Capital of the Philippines, Lumban, is a town in Laguna where the finest traditional Filipino wear such as barong and Filipiniana ternos are made. The town’s name is believed to have come from the Lumbang tree.

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Paete is the Woodcarving Capital of the Philippines. The town got its name from “paet,” which means chisel and continues to practice its old tradition of carving statues, murals, and furniture.

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The Sampaguita Capital of the Philippines, San Pedro, is the first city you’ll encounter on your trip to Laguna coming from Manila.

Please click here to view an old post on The Sampaguita Festival.

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Victoria is a municipality that offers some of the most exotic yet delicious dishes including goats’ and ducks’ meat, which earned for it the nickname the Duck Raising Capital of the Philippines. The town was named after President Quirino’s daughter, Victoria Quirino. Its Itik Festival is celebrated, along with the town’s founding anniversary, to give honor and to know more about the products that come from itik (duck).

View more photos of the trade fair here.

[Most of the information regarding the different towns of Laguna were taken from the biyaheng laguna page at http://www.biyahenglaguna.com/laguna-towns-and-cities/]

SGV: Celebrating 70 Years of Strength, Growth, Vision

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It had to be the Mall of Asia Arena, no less.

SGV’s 70th anniversary celebration, after all, wasn’t just an  alumni homecoming but a gathering of the company’s clients, alumni, and friends over the past seven decades.

As expected, the large venue did not allow for much interaction among colleagues. The hall was just too big, making it difficult to look for familiar faces. As early as 4:30 pm, guests were already queueing for their tickets for admission to the concert featuring Lea Salonga, Gerard Salonga, and the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra. The show was set to start at 7:30.

 

Cocktails had to be kept short. But oh, the spread orchestrated by Bizu Catering Studio made me wish I could stay a little longer before finding a seat at the concert hall. Fat chance.

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After getting my souvenirs (commemorative magazine and glass paper weight) I quickly joined Mitzi Villespin at the photo booth for some souvenir shots. She said Dittas Formoso and Fe Ferriols were there earlier, but had to leave soon. No ops for a group photo, so I just grabbed what were posted on the Project Smile FB page and turned them into a collage. BFFs Jo Cariaga and Arcel Joven were there, too, but there are no pics of them to show.

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For those who didn’t make it to the event last August 24, here are some video clips I grabbed from YouTube. Happy viewing!

The SGV Story; Welcome Message by Cirilo P. Noel, SGV Chairman and Managing Partner; Opening numbers of the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra and Lea Salonga.

 

Lea Salonga’s opening songs took us on a nostalgic trip to the ‘70s through the Carpenters’ hit tunes.

 

Gerard Salonga and the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra did some numbers that required audience participation. The catch: they were songs from 2013 onwards. Sorry, but Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Sia and their tribe are just out of our league.

 

What was supposed to be Lea’s finale number drew not a few sniffles because of its soulful lyrics. Indeed for many SGVeans, it has been a meaningful journey.

She had to heed the call for an encore. When she came back to do Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” and the Donna Summer/Barbra Streisand hit “Enough is Enough,” the audience (including this senior) just went wild.

 

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The evening ended with a burst of colors.

 

Thank you and congratulations, SGV. Till next year’s homecoming.

 

 

Rak is for all Ages

RakofAegis2016_cover_02.jpgI’m trying to be a punster here, with Rak of Aegis, a hit comedy musical inspired by the songs of Aegis, a Filipino rock band, as my object. Admittedly, my husband and I weren’t too keen on the prospect of sitting it out for two hours to listen to their pipes-busting songs—the reasons we are not too fond of neighborhood videokes. That, plus the feeling of unease that we would stick out like wrinkled thumbs among the young crowd expected to fill PETA Theater last Sunday evening.

The fear was unfounded, it turned out. There were quite a number of oldies present that night, confirming that having danced and loved along the music of Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Richie Valens, and many latter-day pop stars, seniors have earned the right to be there. Rock is in our soul.

This Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) production is now on its fifth run since it started in January 2014.  Since then it has garnered over 20 awards and citations, including Outstanding Original Musical, Outstanding Musical Direction, Outstanding Stage Direction, and Outstanding Original Libretto.

But PETA being what it is, one gets a lot more than what is expected of a record-breaking musical. Through songs, Rak of Aegis weaves a social commentary on poverty and struggle, commercial greed, and modern values, using the  flood-submerged Barangay Venezia as the backdrop.

Aileen (Alisah Bonaobra), a young resident, dreams of instant success via YouTube and ultimately meeting Ellen DeGeneres. She sees it as her way of helping out her parents, Mercy (Kakai Bautista) and Kiel (OJ Mariano), whose source of livelihood is threatened when the shoemaking business in the barangay suffers as a result of the floods and tough competition. Kiel blames the flooding on the tree-cutting practice of a neighboring subdivision headed by developer Fernan (Gie Onida). Thus, he is constantly at odds with Barangay Kapitana Mary Jane (Sweet Tiongson).

There to help out Aileen pursue her dreams are her friend Jewel (Phi Palmos), suitor no. 1 Kenny (Vince Lim), and suitor no. 2 Tolits (Jerald Napoles). One day, when she loses her job as a promodizer, she sings her heart out in the rain. Tolits catches her outburst on video and posts it on YouTube. It goes viral and Aileen becomes popular.

Through the prodding of Fernan, Mary Jane convinces Aileen to stage a concert set at Barangay Venezia. But just as everything is ready for the commercial intent, the floods subside. The proposed concert is called off. A twist of fate makes the people of Barangay Venezia realize what really matters and leads them to a more viable solution to their plight. The result is a fitting finale that allows them to show their moves and put their best foot(wear) forward.

Rak of Aegis is a collective genius:  Maribel Legarda (Director), Liza Magtoto (Writer), the PETA artistic and production staff, technical crew, and the cast. Worth every minute of your time, up to the end of the play when a voice-over asks the audience to “look under your seats.” Whatever for?

You have until August 28, 2016 to find out.

In the play bill, Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit (OPM) President Ogie Alcasid writes: “A show like Rak of Aegis is an embodiment of what we have to do as Filipinos—suportahan, tangkilikin at ipagbunyi po natin ang OPM!”

 

From Tuesdays to Fridays, shows are at 8 pm, and with 3 pm and 8 pm shows on Saturdays and Sundays. PETA Theater is at No.5 Eymard Drive, New Manila Quezon City.

 For tickets, go to http://www.ticketworld.com.ph or call 891-9999 or contact PETA at 725-6244.