I met the woman described in Eraserheads’ “Ang Huling El Bimbo”.
The song, popularized by the iconic rock band in the 90’s, tells a story of a girl from a guy’s perspective—from what seemed like his experience of young love with her, to her life’s tragic end.
My first concern was Paraluman: was she pretty or otherwise? Later learning that Paraluman was considered a TV screen goddess in the 1940s, I since assumed he was so in love with her he took her as a goddess.
Growing up, I became more aware of the tragedy interjected in the song but didn’t pay much attention to it.
Now a twenty-something lady who just kind of sings along whenever the familiar tune played, I must say that being able to watch the musical “Ang Huling El Bimbo” made me rethink the weight and meaning of its lyrics, and all the other music showcased in this musical produced by Resorts World Manila and Full House Theater Company.
Ang Huling El Bimbo 2019
“Ang Huling El Bimbo” is a Filipino musical woven through songs by the Eraserheads.
The play revolves around four friends who carried a promise of hope in their youth, only to grow up, and grow apart.
Its first run in 2018 saw great success, with all shows sold out. Now on its second run, the musical promises new scenes, dialogues, additional casts, and plot twists.
I was privileged to have watched the show recently through Seats for Two.
A few days after the play and I still couldn’t stop ‘LSS-ing‘ (a given), and thinking about how the woman named Joy must have felt if she were real. I am unable to wrap up such great concept in a few words, but I can give you takeaways from Joy’s life and character (warning: mini-spoilers ahead) :
- There is strength in allowing yourself to hope
The act started in the current. The audience were presented with a problem and a mystery—three friends who grew apart were now being phoned by an unknown number who turned out to be a police, informing them about Joy’s demise.
Flashbacks were interjected in the next scenes, revealing how Joy and the three became friends during college. The three were students, and Joy sold snacks made by her Aunt who she claimed to be great at cooking. She then invites the three to visit their small eatery and their friendship started from then on.
Joy was a simple probinsiyana who had hopes of being able to step in college and fulfill her dreams. Her innocence and lighthearted personality made me feel at ease, and I found myself easily growing fond of her. Despite her social status, Joy allowed herself to dream alongside her three friends.
In their youth was such freedom to dream—they were young, fearless, and innocent after all. This was best exemplified in one of the unforgettable and symbolic car scenes – with Gab Pangilinan (Joy), Boo Gabunada (Emman), Bibo Reyes (Hector), and Phil Palmos (Anthony).
Don’t we all pass through youth, and feel that we will be able to do anything? At this time in our life, everything seems possible. That’s simply what Joy believed. At the back of my mind I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to carry that same attitude as one grows up? Like many other things, it takes strength to allow yourself to hope.
- Love makes way for forgiveness
Right before her friends’ graduation, Joy’s life started going downhill. What seemed like a triumphant day for the three, was the opposite for her; and she tried to console herself by singing a hopeful song.
Joy had to go through tragedy upon tragedy alone—from being brushed off and forgotten by friends who did not know better, to the abuse she had to suffer through adulthood.
Joy’s character kept it clear that she did not blame any of the mishaps to her friends. All she remembered, as later will be told through the lens of another person, were good memories on how she found a best friend, a brother, and a beloved in the three.
Joy loved her friends. She fought to gain back the relationship they once had.
Mula Barangay Venezia hanggang Tindahan ni Aling Nena…
— Resorts World Manila (@rwmanila) February 28, 2019
- A mother’s heart for her child
As ‘Huling El Bimbo’ so narrates, Joy had a child.
At lumipas ang maraming taon
Hindi na tayo nagkita
Balita ko’y may anak ka na
Ngunit walang asawa
In her heartbreaking story, Joy found her ‘ligaya’; whom she reassures “Because of you, I forgot every pain I’ve ever felt.” How fierce and tender at the same time, is that?
On another perspective and in a similar way, Joy found help from her Aunt who also seemed like a mother figure to her.
A Whirlwind of Emotions
I met Joy expecting to find only beauty or tragedy, but I wasn’t ready to find hope, forgiveness, and love weaved within her character.
Sifting through the play, pain was a big part of her life, and so is it with ours. But as the song goes: “walang kamalay-malay na tinuruan mo ang puso ko na umibig ng tunay”.
Life still has a way of showing us that we can find hope, forgiveness, and love in the least likely of situations. Take it from Joy.
Go watch Ang Huling El Bimbo 2019 and find out for yourself that surely—surely you will be moved. Until then, I’ll be waiting to hear your thoughts.
Catch Ang Huling El Bimbo 2019 from March 1 to April 7. Staged at Newport Performing Arts Theater – Resorts World Manila, shows run every Thursday to Sunday at 8:00 PM, with matinees every Saturday and Sunday at 3:00 PM. Tickets are available at the RWM Box Office and all TicketWorld outlets.
Check out AHEB First Run here.
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Hats-off to all the cast, the production, and most specially to Dingdong Novenario (playwright), Myke Salomon (musical direction), and Dexter M. Santos (director) for bringing everything together.