1. “Pagkalipas ng maraming taon, di na tayo nagkita. Balita ko’y may anak ka na ngunit walang asawa. Taga-hugas ka lang ng pinggan sa may Ermita. At isang gabi nasagasaan sa isang madilim na eskinita.”
English Translation: “For many years, we didn’t see each other. I heard you have a child but still unmarried. I heard you were working as a dishwasher in Ermita (Manila). And one night, you got run over a car in a dimly alley.”
—Ang Huling El Bimbo by Eraserheads
2. Hello WordPress! I’m back! This is a Review of Ang Huling El Bimbo: The Musical. Be warned that this contains spoilers.
3. The musical began with a woman who is a victim of a hit-and-run, with the police getting her phone from the crime scene. Prior the accident, the woman, named Joy, called three men: Anthony, Hector, and Emman (Ang Huling El…Bimbo? A quick google search will give you that bimbo means “an attractive but unintelligent or frivolous young woman”). The three were then “invited” to a police station and this became their college reunion.
4. A Parallel Story? There was a falling out between the four when they were in college, giving the Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruku Murakami vibes. In the book, Tsukuru was cut out of his high school friends circle. His friends were keeping a secret from him and they decided to cut him off because he seems to be capable of bouncing back from it, an echo of Anthony’s comment to Joy after what happened to her in an incident during their college days. Tsukuru was banished because they were keeping a secret from him. The three ran away from Joy because they also wanted to keep a secret which all of them knew. I will go back to this later.
5. We then go back to the 90s where the three guys were still young college students living in a dormitory. On the other hand, Joy was not as fortunate as they were. But like them, she wanted to enter college and “graduate”. But for the meantime, she is stuck with working in an eatery. This is where she got to know these three.
6. Joy became good friends with them. Anthony became her best friend; Emman as her kuya (elder brother); and Hector her lover.
7. Like the Ang Huling El Bimbo, this musical has two parts: the flashback (Act One) and the tragic story (Act Two).
8. The Eraserheads’ song is about a Paraluman-look-a-like girl who loves to dance and the boys attraction towards her. The musical’s first act was a story of the three guys’ struggles in identity (Anthony), involvement in social issues (Emman), and pursuit of arts (Hector) during their college days. And in the case of Joy, she has yet to enter college first as we audiences do not even know yet what she really wanted to do achieve in the future except to graduate in college. But she’s adorable and very positive in her outlook despite her being underprivileged.
9. Just as the audience are already emotionally invested with the protagonists, hooligans will then rock the friendship of these four when they crash into their out-of-town joyride, point guns on the guys inside Hector’s car, and rape the helpless Joy. (How it pains me to type this line.)
10. Instead of bringing her to the police station to file a blottter or have Joy treated in a hospital, they agreed to just bring her home and just forget everything about the incident. This I cannot really comprehend. What were these three guys thinking?
11. My limitations: Probably you have seen other reviews on this musical about the LGBT rights (regarding Anthony), toxic masculinity, degrading views of women, rape culture, etc. I will not quote or discuss them here. While reading them, I realize there’s no way for me to be as nuanced and precise as them with their choice of words. For the love of our country, they even conected the musical to what is happening now in the Philippines. As for me, my views and limited vocabulary will fall short. Besides, I am not versed in political and social discourse. Also, I know nothing about the intricacies of acting, singing, technicalities of a musical. I leave it to the experts.
12. But one thing I know is being a friend. That’s what I will focus on later. Is the end of the musical a happy ending? Did “love” or friendship reigned in the end?
13. Male figures in Joy’s life: Notice that there are no male figures inside Joy’s family. She was adopted (is she? I might be wrong on this), we didn’t know anything about her father, and she doesn’t even know who is the father of her daughter. We saw the three guys’ parents. All of them alive! How about Joy? Where is her father? Uncles? Male cousins? Grandfather? Great grandfather?
14: After almost a year: I actually left this review as a draft for almost a year. Now, I decided to just finish the second half of this review. I cannot even remember the specific details like the name of the main antagonist so I’ll skip them and just write how the musical made an impression in me.
15. The fallout: After the rape of Joy, I would understand if it was her who would withdraw from her peers but it was the other way around. What happened to the guys? They decided against the idea of reporting a blotter to the police station and made the decision for Joy to keep the incident a secret. They argued. Yes? And was it because they sided for the welfare of Joy? They don’t want to be responsible with what had happened. They would even cut their ties eventually once they graduate. What is happening? Are they guilty of what had happened? Are they guilty of not being able to protect their friend? Yes, they were not able to. They were powerless. Understandable. But to completely cut ties with Joy? I can’t understand this. Why? Aren’t you guys friends with her? Is being raped make you less of a person? Does carrying the baby out of non-consensual sex make you less of a person? I’m loss of words. These guys turned their backs from Joy when she just needed them to be there for her. Guys, she got violated and you just left her hanging as if you were the perpetrators and run away like you bumped into a stranger on the road and decided to hit-and-run. I don’t understand. They basically banished her. It’s not just the rapists who did a hit-and-run. Even these three guys did it to her when they decided to just forget about her after they separated ways once they got their diplomas and said goodbye to her.
16. Hit-and-run: We know that it was Joy who got killed by a car accident in the beginning. And before she was killed, she was able to kept the contacts of her old friends for some reasons. It was a downward spiral for her being a very bubbly and gentle woman into a slave to prostitution and drugs. After all these years, the wounds of the past should have healed for them. For Joy, I think she was able to accept and forgive what had happened between the four of them. But these three guys are still giving her a cold shoulder.
17. No moralizing: Don’t expect this play will give us a “slam dunk” or “icing in the cake” in making a bold statements such as championing rights such as women rights or LGBT or simply even what a good friend should be. It is not even trying to. It is up to us the viewers to do so. It is giving us an experience. For me, this musical should stir us to think and ponder about the unanswered questions. For me, the question is about how to be a friend.
18. You are responsible for what you have tamed forever: I remember a quote from my favorite book The Little Prince where the fox said that we are responsible for what we have tamed forever. That is what a friend is.
19. Is the musical a happy ending story? Of course it was a tragedy for Joy. But her daughter Ligaya is an almost exact copy of her, bubbly and full of zest. She is what Ligaya was when she was still young. Anthony, Hector, and Emman, though their lives look successful on the outside, are a total mess since they left Joy behind. Now she’s dead, there is something they can do right: take care of Ligaya. What struck me is that Ligaya only knows the good memories that Joy had with the three when they were still friends. Actually, for her they were still friends. For them, someone is still holding them back and cannot even talk straight to Joy. Maybe she felt abandoned but the musical made it clear that she still treats them as her good friends as evident to how Ligaya would react when this kid is able to face these three guys. I think this is also a story of forgiveness and reconciliation.
20. Choose your ending: The musical ended on a beautiful picture of the young Joy and the little Ligaya raising their hands outstretched and side-by-side on top of the car with the three guys while the last medley of songs are sung. This is my first time to watch a tragedy ending on a happy note. It ended with hope. While writing this, I can’t exactly remember the exact details but I’m supposing that these guys, Anthony, Hector, and Emman will take care of Ligaya, straighten up their shirking of responsibilities, and become a father to this beautiful girl. I think we can all relate to these three guys including Joy. We make mistakes and there are events in life we cannot control. But what do we do to move forward is what we can choose. We either cling to the pains of the past and be bitter in life. Or we can learn from them, live through the pain, start a brand new day and choose to be better. Choose to live day by day. That I believe is important.
21. Just enjoy the show: The story could have been better but that’s the way it is. Just enjoy the show. That is how you enjoy a musical play. You are the audience, let the story just unfold. I actually want to see it again for the second time even it’s just via online. But if there is a chance to see it live on stage, once these pandemic ends, why not? How about you guys? What do you think of the musical? I enjoyed it. I hope you did too.
P.S.: I first wrote this last May 11, 2020 and decided to add the part 14 to 21 today, May 5, 2021.