- No comments

Watching Miss Saigon and Eating Too Much Ice Cream (Because Life is Like a Dream)

When I was in grade school, our Sibika at Kultura textbook had a section about Filipino achievers that we should be proud of, and in that section was Lea Salonga (along with Cecile Licad, Gabriel "Flash" Elorde, etc). It was at the end of the textbook so our class never really got to cover this. But since I read everything when I was a kid (understand that it was pre-Internet and my attention span was unadulterated), I caught the Lea Salonga part and it got me curious because she's the only young person in the list. 

I didn't know what Miss Saigon was. I thought Lea won a beauty contest abroad. The textbook description was very brief and broad and you can't really expect these books to publish photos of actresses playing bar girls. Also, unlike Wikipedia, you cannot click on words on textbooks to get context clues or dig deeper into the subject (excuses).

Fast forward to college, I encountered Miss Saigon again. It was early 2000s and I was tasked to cover a press conference by a theater group protesting the CCP-staging of the musical. Because it's journalism, I had to research all the facts and immerse myself in the subject (yes, they teach journalists that. Research). And this was when the madness began haha.

Last weekend, I had the chance to see Miss Saigon 25th Anniversary Performance - in the cinema. I never saw a real, live production of it (too poor and too intimidated to see the Manila staging). My friend Cy (who never saw it too) and I got to know Miss Saigon very well though, by listening to the Original London Cast Recording of it over and over. Yes, that soundtrack in double cassette. 

I knew the story by listening closely to the lyrics and imagining what was happening - aided by the pictures I saw in the booklet that comes with the cassette boxed set. Cy and I have a running joke that we're the most pretentious theater fans - no money for tickets, experiencing them only through soundtracks. (Redemption: we saw Les Miserables live - best seat in the house, the upper upper upper balcony house).

Seeing Miss Saigon in the cinema finally gave me the visuals I needed for the scenes that have long stayed only in head (Should I add a Movie In My Mind reference here? No? Ok.) But, having been reared by the soundtrack, I was quite taken aback that Kim no longer have a heart like the sea and that Gigi no longer dreams of her kids eating too much ice cream. But overall, having experienced this even in the movie house (but complete with intermissions and shots of our fellow audience at the Prince Edward Theater hahaha) is something I'd remember. Thank you SM Cinema for screening this!

I also love that we Pinoys have come to embrace this musical as our own. It has opened doors for a lot of Filipino theater professionals and it gave the country Olivier and Tony Awards bragging rights (yeah, we're like that. We celebrate wins collectively as a nation). 

Also, shout out to the Pinoys who injected the "You're nothing but a second hand trying hard..." line in one of The Engineer's numbers. (I'm only assuming this is Bituing Walang Ningning-influenced because the movie came out in 1985. Please confirm haha).