Halo-Halo Festival 2015

There was a palpable excitement in the air amidst the 190-seater Kaleide Theatre down Swanston St, RMIT’s premier theatre and home to their Children’s Theatre Group. But this time around on the 29th of August, it is the Melbourne-based Filipino stars who will grace the stage clad in character costumes and Katipunero outfits, all eagerly waiting in the wings. Audience and performers alike gathered for one main reason—to celebrate what it is to be Filipino through song and dance. And as the house lights dimmed to signal the start of the show, you are almost sure you’re in for one sweet treat.

Halo-halo Music Festival was the brainchild of the three founding friends of Sandok Production: Chito Javier, George Gregorio and Susan Rodriguez, all of whom found artistic balance and friendly compromise handy in keeping a tight production that aims to provide a platform for locals to showcase their talents. The success of last year’s Broadway-revue-patterned Halo-halo Musical built much hype for this year’s staging which focused more on promoting original Filipino music to the Melbourne audience.

This time they went for a more historical approach with Kalayaan The Musical, composed and arranged by Rolando Limun and performed by Harmonico Filipino. It was nothing short of the rich grandeur that is Philippine history, with its well-balanced harmonies performed with much fervor by the ensemble and straightforward themes encouraging the audience to be more hopeful Filipinos despite the bloodshed it had to endure in retrospect. The story revolved around the Katipunan uprising and the key events in the Philippine revolution, from the Cry of Pugad Lawin, to the sewing of the Philippine flag, to the death of Jose Rizal and the success of the armed revolution—all in response to the boy’s question in its opening scene: what does the word ‘kalayaan’ mean? What’s more, the youngsters in the ensemble delivered heartfelt renditions of their songs and gave life to the Katipuneros in a language, being Australia-born and raised, might have both been foreign and familiar to them.

Kalayaan—the main act of Halo-halo—served as the third part in the three-part program. The show opened with guest performer Miguel Castro, a pop-classical singer fresh from the Philippines currently touring Melbourne and Sydney to promote his album. He gave renditions of the APO Hiking Society Medley and a couple of Kundimans rarely heard nowadays. It was followed by an interesting mix of young, up-and-coming performers in Melbourne through a musical skit of original Filipino music set in your everyday palengke (market). The songs spanned from the folk “Balut”, to the politically charged “Mga Kanta ni Goryo”, towards the more contemporary OPM love songs, “Muli”, “Mabuti Pa Sila” and “Sana”. The dynamism of the diverse genres gave a more exciting touch to the whole performance.

Despite major technical glitches on the sound system, the show carried out to a success thanks to the fervent enthusiasm and commitment of the performers who did not let the technicals get in their way of providing entertainment and the clear message of oneness and nationalism. The show ended with an ode “Salamat, Australia” which reconciles and recognises the opportunities of living within these lands without forgoing one’s roots. The audience were not shy in expressing their appreciation, giving high hopes for next year’s round of mix and match performances which make the Halo-Halo Music Festival such a delectable experience.

All in all the show was a sweet, sentimental treat—very much like eating halo-halo: with just one scoop, you are bound to miss home.

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