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When Piolo Pascual met Crisostomo Ibarra

Piolo Pascual’s upcoming musical theater debut in Ibarra is a dream come true. 

Piolo Pascual shares that back in high school, he got assigned by his teacher back to give a class lecture about Noli me Tangere for Filipino Week. 

“I was in my third year then, instantly fell in love with Crisostomo Ibarra. He was a character who always went for what is right,” the actor said during our exclusive interview. “Seeing him ignited something in me—to stand up for what you believe in, regardless of circumstances.”

This encounter with Jose Rizal’s protagonist stayed in Piolo’s mind as he progressed in his artistic career, from doing theater in college to his rise to stardom. Now, decades after Piolo met Crisostomo for the first time, the actor is set to bring the character to life in Tanghalang Una Obra’s Ibarra. 

Piolo Pascual alongside soprano Myramae Meneses, who will star as Maria Clara in the musical.
Photo by Mac Jayson Villaluna c/o Rise Against Hunger Philippines.

History reimagined

Noli Me Tangere was considered to be one of the instruments that initiated Filipino nationalism leading to the 1896 Philippine Revolution. The novel established the grounds for aspiring toward independence.

Rizal used Ibarra to voice his ideas regarding colonialism and the nature of power in the Philippines during Spanish colonial rule. Ibarra believed that, although the Catholic friars and the Spanish government were corrupt, they provided the Philippines with valuable support.

Ibarra insisted upon reforming the Philippines from the inside out, working with the friars and Spanish officials to bring about positive change without dismantling the system entirely. However, Ibarra was branded a heretical subversive and was imprisoned. In the end, he became a revolutionary.  

This year’s staging of Ibarra coincides with the 125th year of Philippine independence from Spain.

A remastered classic

Ibarra is a re-working of Jomar Fleras’ prize-winning play Kanser, which won the 1979 Cultural Center of the Philippines’ playwriting competition. It has been staged since 1980 and holds the distinction of being the longest running play in Philippine history. 

The 2023 production of Ibarra will be the 40th year of the staging of Kanser. It has won

several artistic awards and has been performed across the globe. 

Ibarra’s songs are composed by Joed Balsamo. The musical is directed by Franniel Zamora and choreographed by Paul Morales. 

Passion for a cause

The press conference for Ibarra also highlighted the musical’s partnership with Rise Against Hunger.
Photo by Mac Jayson Villaluna c/o Rise Against Hunger Philippines.

“Doing something as significant as this musical gives me a sense of pride knowing that I’m doing this not just for myself, but also for a cause,” adds Piolo. More than checking a dream role off his bucket list, he is proud to use his platform to educate viewers, especially the youth, about Philippine history and culture. 

Moreover, it fills Piolo’s heart to know that the proceeds of the play will help feed children through the feeding programs of Rise Against Hunger. The organization distributes food and assistance to vulnerable communities, utilizing its resources to end hunger by 2030. 

“At the end of the day, I can accept other projects, but I always ask myself: is it worth it? With Ibarra, I know that I can use my platform to educate, inspire, and help others. Ibarra is new territory for me, but that’s what makes it exciting,” he ends. 

Tanghalang Una Obra will stage the musical Ibarra from June 8 to 18, 2023 at the GSIS Theater in Pasay City.