The making of ‘Ageless Passion’

It started with a modest attempt to stitch together my favorite songs—classical, Broadway and popular—to celebrate my 75th birthday. It was to be held at home with a string band and the choirs of the Supreme Court and the Asean Law Association singing before 120 relatives and close friends.

Libretto of life. However, during the planning meeting organized by my former Supreme Court staff led by Ismael Khan Jr., Jennifer Manalili and Joel Gregorio last August, Jeff Agustin, who used to prepare my PowerPoints, surprised everyone by submitting, without being asked, a libretto of poems and lyrics. The libretto romanticized my life’s cycle of ups and downs as a former newsboy, shoeshine boy, student leader, practicing lawyer, law professor, Catholic lay leader, Supreme Court jurist and presently independent director/adviser of some listed corporations. Jeff is now a scholar at the University of Westminster in London studying for his master’s degree in visual culture.

Our family friend Eduardo Yap, who has produced memorable musicales, was so impressed with the libretto that he showed it to Ryan Cayabyab, probably the best music composer of our time. The famous maestro liked it too and created in just seven weeks seven original Broadway-type musical compositions for the Agustin lyrics.

Then, Donna May Lina Flavier (our vibrant producer) enticed her parents, Alberto and Sylvia Lina, to sponsor the Manila Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Arturo Molina to play the Cayabyab compositions and to accompany the full cast led by Al Gatmaitan, Jun Eufracio, Red Nuestro, Ruiz Sison, Cris Villonco and Ruben Uy. Donna also asked multi-awarded Bart Guingona to direct the show.

Good news, bad news. Thus was born “Ageless Passion” which was staged last Dec. 20 at the Meralco Theater. President Aquino skipped it to visit and tend to the flood victims in Mindanao. However, Vice President Jejomar Binay, former Presidents Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada, Archbishop Chito Tagle, Cabinet secretaries, members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, the ombudsman, Comelec commissioners and business titans stayed with 800 others at the huge theater.

“Ageless Passion” began with a narration of one of my favorite stories (also the late Jaime Cardinal Sin’s favorite):

Long ago, in the Middle Ages, there lived in a small European village, a farmer, his wife and their 20-year-old son. Using their horse, the farmer and his son tilled the fields.

One day, the horse ran away to the mountains. The villagers went to the farmer and said, “Bad news for you. Your only means of livelihood is gone. You have no more horse to help you till your fields.” The farmer answered, “Good news, bad news, I will just keep on doing my best and God will do the rest.”

A few days later, the horse came back with 10 other wild horses. The villagers again visited the farmer and exclaimed, “Good news for you. You have now 11 horses, the most number in our village.” The farmer responded, “Good news, bad news. Who knows? I will just keep on doing my best and God will do the rest.”

Three days later, the farmer’s son mounted one of the wild horses. Unfortunately, he was thrown off and broke a leg. Again the villagers went to the farmer, “Bad news for you, your only son is now lame; he cannot help you till your farm.” Again the farmer replied, “Good news, bad news, who knows? I will just keep on doing my best and God will do the rest.”

Then the kingdom went to war and the king conscripted all the able-bodied men in the village, except of course the lame son of the farmer. Unfortunately, the kingdom lost the war and all the young men in the village were killed. The villagers again went to our hero. “Good news for you. You are the only one in our village with a son to succeed you. Bad news for all of us. No son will succeed us in our farms.” The farmer responded “Good news, bad news who knows? I will just keep on doing my best and God will do the rest.”

Kapuso to air musicale. This good-news-bad-news story, which happens in everyone’s life, was the musicale’s underlying theme. It depicted my life-long transformations, and I quote, “from the poor newsboy in the backstreets of Sampaloc, Manila to the presidency of the Philippine Daily Inquirer; from an ignorant Catholic to an adviser to the Holy Father in the Vatican; from frustrated applicant for graduate studies to father of five wonderful children who each achieved his impossible dream of graduating in a pedigreed US university; from a shoeshine boy to the board rooms of the largest blue chips in our part of Planet Earth; and from a frustrated chemical engineer to a reluctant lawyer to the highest magistrate of the land…”

Permit me, at the risk of immodesty, to acknowledge during this Christmas Day of goodwill our five children, Len, Archie, Celine, Tet and Mabel, and our 10 grandchildren who all participated in the show. I could not believe their hidden acting and dancing talent.

Especially impressive was Miguel Panganiban Sandejas, our eldest grandchild, who played the major role of the narrator. And so were Rafa P. Yaptangco, the four Hannett girls, Patricia, Katrina, Victoria and Alexandra, and the two Mañalacs, Andrea and Nicole. Even my two youngest grandchildren, Joey and Matt Reagan, sent in their antics on video clips because they could not leave their home in New York.

The Kapuso network fully covered the musicale and will soon air it in a special telecast over Channels 7 and 11. Abangan!

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