'Janus Silang': From young adult novel to manga piece-and, now, stage play

Edgar Samar's folklore-infused work debuts as a Tanghalang Ateneo production this February
January 27, 2017
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Earvin Estioco plays Janus Silang.
Photo by Hikaru Murakami
Just like a video game character that comes to life in different versions across different consoles and devices, Edgar Samar's creation, "Si Janus Silang at ang Tiyanak ng Tabon," has been finding new lives in different adaptations.

The story of teenager Janus Silang, who encounters supernatural creatures as he tries to solve the mystery of why players of an online game have died simultaneously, was published as a young adult novel by Adarna House.

Adarna House's imprint Anino Comics then published a graphic novel adaptation illustrated manga-style by Inquirer's To Be You section contributing artist Natasha Ringor. Samar has also been in meetings with ABS-CBN for a television adaptation.

In February, Tanghalang Ateneo will stage Guelan Luarca's play adaptation, under Charles Yee's direction (He recently directed "Ang Sugilanon ni Epefania" for last year's Virgin Labfest).

Character study
"I'm excited. Nakakatuwa...that other people see how my stories have potential outside of their original form, the novel," says Samar.

Tanghalang Ateneo's artistic director Glenn Mas has asked permission to have the book adapted. He enjoyed the book and felt it would translate well into other mediums like film and theater.

"Janus is a great character study and very easy to root for," says Mas. "He has a painful coming-of-age story, a difficult rite of passage into adulthood."

He also praised the inclusion of Philippine folklore and legends in the story.

Samar has another book that's been adapted for stage. His children's story, "Uuwi na ang Nanay kong si Darna," was adapted into a play by Job Pagsibigan for the 2008 Virgin Labfest.

For "Janus Silang," he gave Tanghalang Ateneo free rein. "I only check the script to catch any possible contradictions to the canon."

Reimagined entities
Edgar Samar.
Photo by Roxanne Cuacoy
Samar's canon, which includes elements like online player-avatars and reimagined Filipino mythological entities, will be envisioned for the stage by Gwyn Guanzon (set design), Mitoy Sta. Ana (costume design), Toni Muñoz (music and sound design) and Meliton Roxas (lighting design).

Samar--who used to play "Command and Conquer: Red Alert" on a desktop when he was in high school, and these days plays "Clash Royale" on his smartphone--has produced a mythos for Janus Silang that already encompasses two other books (so far), "Si Janus Silang at ang Labanang Manananggal-Mambabarang" and "Si Janus Silang at ang Pitumpu't Pitong Pusong," which he's editing. (An excerpt from the third book was published in Inquirer's Super section last year.)

If he could be any of the creatures from the world of Janus Silang, he chooses the Manananggal.

"In the story, they're creations of the Tiyanak. But they don't remain subservient. They choose to do what they think is right. They are not blindly loyal.

"Kailangan natin ng mga manananggal ngayong panahong ito na kayang manindigan para sa makatarungan."

"Si Janus Silang at ang Tiyanak ng Tabon" runs Feb. 1-25, Rizal Mini Theater, Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City.  Tickets: 0916-314-5475 or Ticketworld.com.ph. Details: Fb.com/TanghalangAteneo.

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What helps Carla Guevara-Laforteza ease into sleep after a show

Jan. 14, 2016
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Carla Guevara-Laforteza
Ephesus Teatron is staging a one-weekend run of the Broadway musical comedy "Once Upon a Mattress," an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale "The Princess and the Pea."

Carla Guevara-Laforteza plays lead character Princess Winnifred the Woebegone, a role played by Sarah Jessica Parker in the Broadway revival in the '90s.

The musical, which originally starred Carol Burnett, has music by Mary Rodgers, lyrics by Marshall Barer, and book by Barer, Jay Thompson and Dean Fuller.

A 2005 TV adaptation starred "New Girl's" Zooey Deschanel and "Glee's" Matthew Morrison in featured roles.

While Guevara-Laforteza plays a character whose sensitivity is tested using a pea placed under many mattresses, her own sleeping kryptonite is music.

"It's either the TV is on or there should be silence, but no music because I tend to hum or sing along," she says.

Calming down
Yanah Laurel and Hans Eckstein
Most of her theater engagements end around 11 p.m., and the earliest she arrives home is half-past midnight, sometimes later.

"A large amount of energy is required when I do shows, so it takes a really long while before I can calm down and relax. Sleeping is usually out of the question until around 4 or 5 a.m."

Recently, Guevara-Laforteza has been been in Repertory Philippines' "Hansel and Gretel," Philippine Educational Theater Association's "Rak of Aegis" and "3 Stars and A Sun," and Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group's "The Bridges of Madison County."

During the schoolyear, this mother of three has to wake up at (or stay awake until) 5 a.m. to prepare her children for school.

"I go to bed (or back to bed) as soon as they're out the door at 6:30 a.m. Only then can I enjoy my bed until around 11 a.m. Unless I have a 10:30 a.m. show, which means my call time is at 8 a.m.!" she says, laughing.

Skin cleansing
From left: Carla Guevara-Laforteza,
Niño Alejandro (Prince Dauntless the Drab),
Emeline Guinid (Queen Aggravain) and
Raymund Concepcion (King Sextimus the Silent).
Makeup removal after a show is always done at the venue. "I use Shiseido's Senka Perfect Liquid. It's a super deep, nondrying cleanser that removes every trace of makeup on my face. It's only available in Malaysia, Singapore or Japan so I hoard them.

"For stubborn eyeliner and mascara, I use good old baby oil or Pond's Cold Cream on a  cotton bud. At home, after showering, I use Nora Dela Rosa liquid cleanser, toner and a couple of medicated creams and moisturizers to keep acne and other blemishes at bay."

When she performs in countries where the climate is dry, she uses Creme de la Mer to lock moisture in.

Her rituals before bed include saying nightly prayers with her youngest child, setting the alarm on her iPhone, then having a Facetime session with her husband, Godfrey Laforteza (who's based in Cebu as executive chef of Crimson Resort in Mactan).

For the occasional midnight snack, she indulges in toasted bread smeared with Marby peanut butter. "It's the best! It tastes like Chocnut! Downed with a glass of iced fresh milk."

Cast also includes Niño Alejandro as Prince Dauntless the Drab, Yanah Laurel and Jill Ita-as as Lady Larken, Hans Eckstein and Chino Veguillas as Sir Harry. Cara Barredo alternates as Princess Winnifred.

Directed by Steven Conde with musical direction by Teatron's founding artistic director Sweet Samaniego-Buchanan. Choreography by Stephen Viñas, set and costume design by Kayla Teodoro, lighting design by Joseph Matheu.

"Once Upon a Mattress" Jan. 20-22, Tanghalang Yaman Lahi, 7th floor, Emilio Aguinaldo College Sports and Cultural Center, Gen. Luna St., Paco, Manila. Tickets: Ticketworld.com.ph. Details: Fb.com/EphesusTeatron.

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Who is the goody-two-shoes, tattletale and troublemaker among Cherie Gil, Roselyn Perez, Michael Williams?

They play squabbling siblings in Rep's 80th season opener, 'Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike'
Jan. 7, 2016
Philippine Daily Inquirer

(Published under title: What childhood was like for Cherie Gil, Roselyn Perez, Michael Williams)

Note: The print version of this story mentions that this production is Rep's 50th-season opener. It's the 50th year of Rep, and its 80th season. The online version reflects this correction.

Top, from left: Cherie Gil, Michael Williams, Roselyn Perez.
Below: Joaquin Valdes
Repertory Philippines' first production for its 80th season is the comedy "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," about three siblings who deal with the possibility of their house being sold off.

Written by Christopher Durang, it won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play.

It will be directed by Bart Guingona, whose recent credits include "Almost, Maine" and "The Normal Heart," for which he won the 2015 Philstage Gawad Buhay for Outstanding Direction.

Playing the siblings are Cherie Gil (Masha, the dramatic sibling), Roselyn Perez (Sonia, the resentful sister) and Michael Williams (Vanya, the peacekeeper brother).

Joaquin Valdes, Naths Everett and Mica Pineda round out the cast.

Set design is by Miguel Faustman, lighting design by John Batalia, costume design by Zenaida Celdran-Dalao, and sound design by Carlos Pacheco.

Gil, who returns to the Rep stage after playing the Baroness in "The Sound of Music" in 2006, is the youngest of three siblings.

"If we include the rest of halfs and steps, we are six all in all, which makes me fall right in the middle somewhat," she says.

Asked if they were the sibling who got into trouble, the one who would lead the others into trouble or the goody two shoes while growing up, here are their responses:

Gil, whose recent credits include "Full Gallop," and "Arbol de Fuego," says, "All of the above? (Laughs.) I could also be the tattletale sometimes."

Perez: "I am in the middle of two brothers. I don't remember getting my siblings into trouble but I'd get myself into trouble!"

Williams: "I am the youngest of seven kids, five boys and two sisters. I got into my fair share of trouble although I believe that I was the good one!" (Laughs.)

Young and free
Gil's fond memories of her siblings include visiting their mother's ancestral home in Pampanga during Holy Week.

"We were adventurers, running in the sugar fields, riding carabaos and horses, swimming in the river, climbing trees, watching the penitensya procession, running to other people's homes to play pool.

"We would sit on the old tall window ledge of our house and sing songs to the Aetas and children-holding a mini-concert just for them.

"I always tagged along with my brothers. Being the youngest, I was called saling pusa. Those were the days when we were young and free with no qualms and worries in the world. Best days of my life!" she says.

Huge playground
Perez, who was recently in "33 Variations" and "The Normal Heart," spent summers with her siblings exploring Baguio.

"My grandfather was a Supreme Court justice and my mother worked for him. We all loved the Supreme Court compound, it was like a huge playground for us. We were always climbing or running, we loved to slide down the hill on discarded plywood.

"There's no place in Baguio we didn't conquer because my father's hobby was photography and he took us everywhere to get his fabulous photos."

Williams, whose recent credits include "Bituing Walang Ningning" and "Dirty Old Musical," recalls, "My brother and I would replace the telephone handset with that of the toy phone. Then we'd hide from our minder. She'd panic if she couldn't find us and would call the police. But she ended up using the toy phone.

"We would be dying of laughter. Of course, we got punished for it. And it wasn't my idea! (Laughs.)"

All three in trouble
Which one is most likely to get all three into trouble if you were siblings in real life?

Perez: "I would have to say Michael. His troubles would become mine."

Williams: "Clearly, it would be Cherie."

Gil: "This is hard to admit, but yeah, I guess I'd have to agree with Michael. (Laughs.)" -

"Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" runs Jan. 20-Feb. 12, Onstage Theater, Greenbelt 1 Mall, Makati City. Tickets: Ticketworld.com.ph. Details: Fb.com/RepertoryPhilippines.

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