When you say the word “tagilo,” a Kapampangan would think of a fermented rice “burong kanin.”
Never mind its Ilocano counterpart with an “a” between “g” and “i.”
But, for the Tagalogs, especially the old ones, what would come to their mind could be that “monumental structure with a square or triangular base and sloping sides that meet in a point at the top, especially one built of stone as a royal tomb in ancient Egypt.”
For the Maquiling Ballet of the Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA), the latter is closer.
What it is offering is more of a triangle with a common vertex.
Looking back, it can be divided into three sides too.
It was 7 December 2014 when Dr. Filomar Cortezano Tariao, the Senior Lecturer from the Dance Department of Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), emailed us to extend his gratitude for allowing him to have an audition at the PHSA’s ballet studio. During that time, after the NAFA’s search on 20 February 2015, which he described as “fruitful,” he was already asking for my letters of recommendation and the latest Transcript of Records of our students whom they are considering for the talent scholarship.
Most of them went to the University of the Philippines.
One of them opted out by considering The Hongkong Academy for Performing Arts.
Only one of them went to Singapore to study dance.
The next thing we knew was that the 17-year-old Filipino who bagged the top prize in a recent dance competition in Paris, France was our alumnus.
Yes, he is Klievert Jon Mendoza!
He won the gold medal at the pre-professional category of the Concours International De Danse Classique De Grasse held last Oct. 25. He is more identified now with NAFA since it was the institution that sent him to the Paris International Competition of Dance that originated in 1984.
To test if he is still that true blue (and yellow) Ibarang, we fetched him from the airport, with tarps and all, back to Makiling. And, all at once, we found out he is still that good old Klievert whom we discovered in Tacloban courtesy of mentor — Mrs. Lily Juliana Talagon-Dumas. She is the mom of the two of our dance majors, Emil and Eden, who was then his teacher at the Sto. Niño SPED Center.
We prepared a simple tribute that made him, shall we say, more human and humble.
And when he wrote on his facebook page this: “I am very thankful that I have you guys through my first tendus to my last grand jetes,” he was referring not only to his batchmates in Imaje.
But to Maquiling Ballet.
Such triumph reminds us that our dance program is on the right track.
It was summed up, in a way, by the presence of our surprise, and surprised, guests of honor that included such Ballet Masters as Robert Medina, Nonoy Froilan, and Rica Balagtas who all underlined the passion of Klievert.
And his professionalism is developed by recitals like this.
His last was last year’s production of Le Corsaire which was taken from the Paciano Rizal Park in Los Baños to the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Manila.
This time it is turn of La Bayadere.
First presented in 1877, this piece, The Temple Dancer in direct translation, was choreographed by Marius Petipa and the music was made by Ludwig Minkus.
But, it stands the test of time.
The forbidden love — of Nikiya, a Bayadere, and Solor, a noble warrior — is a classic.
It can take various forms from Romeo and Juliet to Lolita to Titanic to Brokeback Mountain to Belle!
Originally set in an Ancient Indian temple, La Bayadere can also happen here in La Presa, for instance, where Nikiya (Michaella Carreon) dances together with several other temple dancers around the sacred fire.
The very familiar high priest — Brahmin — falling in love with Nikiya and finding out her secret relationship with Solor (Rexter Nagaño) – is always the aggrieved party in any love triangle.
Drama’s plot is usually thickened by the character that is reminiscent of Solor who is arranged to be married to a noble princess, Gamzatti (Reneejo Lascano).
What sets it apart from the likes of Forevermore or any other telenobela is the Pas de Action of Solor and Gamzatti which is the symbol of their marriage.
Yes, it really breaks the heart of Nikiya (Julia Ocampo) who is bitten by a snake that will kill her in the end.
Act 3 that centers on the Kingdom of Shades transports us to the realm of ballet where the spirits of the deceased women appear in a snake-like pattern.
Chiles Maraña, Julia Ocampo, and Tiara Garma succeed as lead shades in bringing us to the world of symbols, beyond the spoon-feeding space allotted for the escapists!
The Pas de deux of Solor and Nikiya (Dania Galicia) sums up Maquiling Ballet training.
These kids may not live up to the expectation of any Ekaterina Vazem fan but, my God, as graduating junior high students, they are doing great!
And there is this dance drama which they created.
Here, Maquiling Ballet deals with the sins dominating each social class.
Too timely and timeless indeed.
From the bottom-most part of the pyramid, or Tagilo, where the so-called havenots dwell, it opens with sloth.
Moving up are the middle class – portrayed as gluttons hungry to raise their bar higher.
Then the topmost or the tip of the pyramid stands for the governing class filled with pride and greed.
At this point the story line goes down again to the middle class who are angrily searching for justice to take place.
All these mirror envy in between the First World and the Third World.
The finale boils down to lust or the overuse, or abuse, of the outsiders and the insiders as well.
They, in a way, re-live the “committed” or “relevant” literature on Philippine stage.
It may not bear any anti-Spanish feeling.
Or it may not be against the American oppression.
However, it reminds us of the hidden messages in the tradition of, say, Tanikalang Guinto or our honor personified in Hindi Aco Patay.
Now, that election period is once again alive and kicking, productions like this brings us back to the earlier 1900s when the first Philippine Assembly was born.
Or when the so-called seditious plays died.
Is the Maquiling Ballet refining or re-defining the political theater?
Hats off to these millennials in their attempt to take on or tackle such “uncool” issues as the Seven Deadly Sins.
We salute Reneejo Lascano as Sloth, Rexter Nagaño as Gluttony, Michaella Carreon as Pride, Julia Ocampo as Greed, Chiles Maraña as Anger, Dania Galicia as Envy 1 and Tiara Garma as Envy 2.
And the entire Batch Felizaro of Maquiling Ballet as Lust.
Gone are the days of “insidious” rebellion.
But, from the PHSA, who knows?
The Maquiling Ballet’s grand recitals entitled Tagilo was held on Jan.20, 2016 at the CCP Little Theater, or Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino, as well as on Valentine’s Day, 7pm, at the National Arts Center’s Tanghalang Mariang Makiling.