by Neil Arkhe Azcuna, OPI

MSU-IIT’s resident theater company, the Integrated Performing Arts Guild (IPAG), once again staged its widely-acclaimed production called “Tales From Mindanao” for two days at the Institute Gymnasium.

IPAG’s landmark production ran from Sept 16-17, 2019 and wowed an eager crowd composed mostly of high school and freshmen college students who packed the venue, especially during its last full show.

Tales from Mindanao, a well-curated medley of dances derived from the traditional cultures of the region, has been staged in over 100 cities in Europe, Asia, North America, and the Hawaiian Islands.

It is arguably the Philippines’ most toured show. In fact, just in August, the production was taken north and staged in Quezon City at the SM North Skydome and in Calamba, Laguna. 

Tales from Mindanao encapsulates – in fluid movements and music – the lives of the tri-people of Mindanao – the Lumad, Moro, and Settler groups, providing them with a platform, albeit in theater form, to expose their plight and the richness of their culture and heritage.

During the last full show at the Institute Gymnasium, IPAG Director Steven Patrick P.C. Fernandez opened it by addressing the millennial-dominated audience, introducing the show to them and letting them know what’s in store. 

However, Fernandez pulled a surprise when what followed was a skit of a company call that featured a boom box-playing, Harvard varsity jacket-wearing dancer in Ken Velazquez who looks helplessly out of place when he shows up in front of a stage full of serious ethnic dancers.

The show proper then followed, starting off with the vignette, “Earth, Wind, Water and Fire”, a  series of rhythmic dances that mirror the cosmic elements that pervade the creation of Man. 

The ethereal Legend of the Maria Cristina Falls comes after. It is the enchanting tale of unrequited desire of a Rajah for a fair maiden, played by Leilani Fernandez, the wife of the IPAG Director. Leilani moved the crowd with her poignant depiction of the maiden’s tragic fate.

The Pangalay, which followed, saw a group of dancers entering the stage with such majestic grace. Their flamboyant display of bold colors and mask-like expressions kept the audience watching with bated breath, following every slow, fluid movement after fluid movement that evokes images of a seafaring community and a close connection to the sea.    

Added to this year’s roster is the “Subanen Suite”, a composite of well-choreographed dances and music offering a glimpse of the proud Subanen Peninsula that culminated into a heart-stopping harvest dance on bamboo poles that enthralled the entire Gymnasium.

The crowd’s interest was piqued by the Pigagawan, a play adapted from the Talaandig, where a group of women competes with each other for the attention of a man. This caught the audience’s attention mainly because it shattered notions of courtship being solely a man’s enterprise.

When the Unggoyan took center stage, the crowd became ecstatic. The Unggoyan depicts a jungle book-like tale of a mischievous monkey in Philippine Folklore. Unggoyan kept the crowd entertained with its comic wit and acting.

And for the finale, the production showcased the familiar Kalilang, a montage of Maranao tradition where dancers wear colorful traditional costumes and bantings.

The Gymnasium was filled with applause at the end, and many stayed after and took pictures with the dancers and musicians on stage. The show ended on such a high note that it took a while for the crowd that went up the stage to dissipate.

This staging of Tales from Mindanao marks IPAG’s 42nd year of delivering exquisite performances.

Photos by: OPI