Panay natives’ journey to SouthCot to be portrayed in zarzuela

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/27 January) – A zarzuela depicting the journey of Panay Island natives to the fertile valleys of South Cotabato province will take centerstage later this year through a landmark theater production being organized by a culture and arts group in the area.

Juanito Butch Ferrer Jr., South Cotabato Culture and Arts Foundation Inc. (SCCAFI) president, said the three-act musical play, which is tentatively entitled “Kung Ikaw Hidlawon,” will embark on a nine-month production starting Feb. 4, highlighting the opening of the National Arts Month celebration in the province.

“This is our first major production so we deemed it proper to dig into our historical and cultural roots and bring it to life for our elder folks to reminisce and for the younger generation to embrace,” he said at the Kapehan sa Kapitolyo in Koronadal City.

Ferrer said the zarzuela is in Kinaray-a, a dialect spoken mainly in the province of Antique, parts of Iloilo, the south of Capiz and certain villages in Mindanao that trace their roots to the Kinaray-a speaking areas in the Panay Island in Western Visayas.

It was written by composer Fortunata Magsipoc-Ledesma, who originally hails from Culasi, Antique but settled in Koronadal City.

Magsipoc-Ledesma was hailed as the original composer of popular Hiligaynon (Ilonggo) folk song “Dandansoy” but the song’s authorship and origin remained the subject of several other claims, among them by a poet in Iloilo and some residents in Leyte.

“The story line centers on the exodus of settlers from (Western) Visayas to the Koronadal Valley area. The drama surrounding that experience is described in its running title ‘Kung Ikaw Hidlawon,’ which is part of the lyrics of Dandansoy,” Ferrer said.

The zarzuela will be staged sometime in October in a planned grand showcase, which will gather balikbayans or returning South Cotabato residents that are now based abroad, he said.

Ferrer said that on Feb. 4, they will formally launch the production and hold a public audition for its 30-person cast.

“It (audition) will be opened to the public. All cast members that will be chosen will have to come from South Cotabato,” he said.

Ferrer said they were not looking for experienced actors, actresses and singers to take part in the production but prefer raw talents who have the passion for theater arts and willing to be trained in the process.

After the auditions, he said they will be holding a series of trainings and workshops that would be facilitated by a local pool of theater talents.

Jim Raborar, chair of SCCAFI’s theater committee, said they are currently seeking funding for the production, which has a base budget of P100,000.

He said the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) initially signified its support for the project.

“NCCA wants us to pursue this project and also revive our previous community theater group here,” Raborar said.

Cesar Sulit Jr., South Cotabato senior tourism officer, said the provincial government is fully supporting the production and will provide for its initial funding.

He said the local government has set aside some funds for SCCAFI through its annual budget.

“We’ll back them up all the way and especially help them out in terms of logistics and in marketing the production for sponsorships,” he added. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)