Monday, December 1, 2014


 26 November 2014

By JC Nigado

27th Aliw Awards before the announcement of winners at ResortsWorld.
Photograph by Mark Joseph Griswold
THIS year’s Aliw Awards, as usual, is easy to see.  Its curious mix of eclectic nominees invites speculation the kind of which has hounded the group, or any award-giving bodies for that matter, since God knows when.
            At any rate, one does not really need an expert to elicit the right choices for the awards, but some common sense and pragmatic practice will do. Even an amateur diviner can see through the so-called short list, which is quite long in its 40 or so categories.  So brace yourselves and, with further ado, here goes the lucky or unlucky ones. (By the way, in case you don’t know, an award is either a blessing or a curse, depending on its circumstances.)
            This is no love story, but where do I begin, as the song goes? Should I follow in order the nine-page 2014 Aliw Awards list of finalists or should I go random as the nominees seem to be? Of course, there are criterions and there are criterions. The Aliw Awards puts premium on good live entertainment, which are preferably enjoyed by many. For them a good show loses its meaning and relevance if it has a lean audience. But in a world of sin and sorrow, as W. Somerset Maugham would say, who cares about criterions amidst the blighted realities of here and now?
            PETA’s Rak of Aegis, despite its tacky title and hackneyed narrative, is the season’s best musical production.  With 10 nominations, Rak leads the pack with three other winners, namely: Maribel Legarda, best stage director (musical); Kakai Bautista, best actress in a featured role; and Jerald Napoles or OJ Mariano, best actor in a featured role. On another day in acting court, however, I would pick Joel Trinidad for Wait Until Dark, from Repertory Philippines, in the latter category.
Spanky Manikan receives his Aliw as fellow awardee, Liza Macuja-Elizalde, looks on.
Photograph by Mark Joseph Griswold
            The 72-year-old Spanky Manikan walks with the best actor (non-musical) trophy, for his dynamic delineation of “old age,” both in character and in condition, from Tanghalang Pilipino’s Mga Ama, Mga Anak.  Aliw has erred in ignoring Manikan’s alternate, Robert Arevalo, by depriving the latter a nomination, to say the least. Also conspicuously ignored was Der Kaufmann's Jonathan Tadioan, whose painstaking performance of the Jewish merchant Shylock in Rolando Tinio's translation of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice is almost at par with that of Manikan's.
               The best cultural group is definitely Aliw’s favorite, Tanghalang SLU of Baguio City, now winning two years in a row and a candidate to the hall of fame. St. Louis University may have a good campus theater, but in terms of cultural relevance and reach nothing beats the impressive and busy Sirang Theater Ensemble Of Leyte Normal University in Tacloban City. Under the leadership and tutelage of Jose N. Lianza, the STE-LNU, I dare say, has no equal in the theater cultural scene, especially in its recent Yolanda-inspired performances that toured the affected provinces.
                For best new artists, former X-Factor (Phils) contender Michael Pangilinan (male) and US-educated singer and songwriter Mica Javier (female) won’t be taking unawares by bagging their respective awards, considering their looks, talent and name recall vis-a-vis their peers or co-nominees.
               Ballet Manila stands out in the best dance company contest, as Acapella Manila sings softly to win the best choral group, with the Ateneo Chamber Singers providing stiff competition.
                As for the best instrumentalist, either Christine Coyuito should bang the piano to announce her win, or Brandley Bascon should fiddle with his violin once more, and raise the roof, as it were, to prove he deserves better.
                 The best female emcee award must go to Toni Gonzaga and Luis Manzano must be accorded the best male emcee honors. Otherwise, it’s a toss among the passables and the incompetents, as expected.
            To be sure, the best stand-up comedian is undoubtedly Ate Gay, the Nora Aunor impressionist who, kidding aside, is sometimes better than the original in certain respects.
            Liza Macuja-Elizalde, petite but great, towers above the rest as the best classical dancer, but any one of the three other nominees from Ballet Philippines could spring a cold surprise.
            Tenor Dondi Ong sounds familiar to hit the high note for the best classical male performer, even as I hesitate to crack the crystal ball for his female counterpart in the same classical category.
              Stage and film actress Pinky Amador is a proud pick for the best crossover performer, even if the indefatigable Beverly Salviejo threatens to grasp the cap.
            The best production for children should fly to The Bluebird of Happiness, from Trumpets, or else Sandosenang Sapatos must be running the kids’ show.
             The correct choice between Ateneo Fine Arts’ Games People Play and Red Turnip Theater’s Rabbit Hole for the best non-musical production should put the stray issue of Wait Until Dark, from Repertory Philippines, to rest.
             For best stage director (non-musical), Ed Lacson Jr. of Games People Play and Topper Fabregas of Rabbit Hole should square it off, with the latter getting the upper hand in any view.
            Der Kaufmann’s Regina de Vera is the runaway winner in the best actress (non-musical) category, and no one dares come close, or else... I watched Der Kaufmann twice at the CCP's Tanghalang Pilipino, and every time I was pleasantly awed with De Vera's fresh approach to the "identity-changing"persona of Portia, thanks to her vision and the splendid direction of Rody Vera and Tux Rustaqio (sic). By the way, is the redoubtable Baby Barredo already a hall of famer in the same category that she seemed to have missed the nomination boat for her powerful turn in Cris Millado's August: Osage County, from Repertory Phillipines? 
            Youngish and energetic Red Concepcion of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, from Resorts World, is a popular choice for best actor in a musical, but Patrick Libao of Filipinas 1941, from the Philippine Stagers Foundation, looms large as a dark horse in the horizon.
            Likewise, Ana Fegi of Katipunan; Mga Anak ng Bayan, from Gantimpala Theater Foundation, is another popular choice for best actress in a musical, but Cindy Liper of Filipinas 1941 could pull the rug from under any old time.
            For best ensemble acting, the cast of Games People Play cannot hold a candle to the cast of August: Osage County, whose light shines brightest in every moment on stage.
            Johnny Manahan beats himself and two others for the best concert stage director award, for his wicked work in Jed Madela 10th Anniversary Concert.  The same Madela concert crowns Mel Villina as the best musical director without any trouble.
            For the best female performer in hotels, music lounges and bars, Judith Banal of Merks takes the cake, even though Juris of 19 East draws near to partake of the serving of the award.
            Noel Cabangon of Conspiracy Bar is always a wise decision for the best male performer in hotels, music lounges and bars, but Richard Merck of Merks could still stage an upset anytime.
            Jed Madela of All Request 2 at Music Museum wins the best male performer in a concert, leaving the competition way far behind.
             For her Pagcor series Dulce is certainly favored to win the best female performer in a concert, but, given the chance, I would rather settle for Jonalyn Viray of Dares to be Fearless at Music Museum or Sitti of Bossa Love, also at Music Museum.
            The Dawn mounts a resounding comeback in Landmarks at Music Museum to clinch the best group performers in a concert, although The CompanY of ValenTunes at Crown Plaza Hotel could provide the winning band some company or stand “alone’ on awards night.
            For best collaboration in a concert, the team of Jay R, Kris Lawrence, Salbakuta and Kley of Homeworkz Tour at the Giant Bar Antipolo blends well to a successful finish sans gimmicks or media hype.
            The eponymous The Minstrels/Circus Band Greatest Hits Reunion at the PICC perform their best major concert (group), and they should get the unanimous nod of Aliw, since Rivermaya at Marikina Riverbank and Parokya ni Edgar at CEU lack the luster of yesteryear.
            Again, Jed Madela’s 10th Anniversary Concert at the PICC wins the best major concert (male) and Lani Misalucha’s The Philippine Tour at Cebu Waterfront Hotel can claim the best major concert (female), no sweat.
            To top it all, who rules the roast with the singular Entertainer of the Year title? The federation’s bet is Jed Madela and the entire congregation must celebrate before it’s too late. But, wait, I mustn’t be spilling the beans as yet.
            The rest of the Aliw awards are either redundant or a recap of previous perks, given or missed.  A lifetime achievement award or a hall of fame is nothing if not well deserved or well chosen. I said it before, and I’ll say it again:  An award is only as good, or as bad, as its giver – no more, no less.


Tagurabong City, Philippines, 2014

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