A decade after its first staging, the University of Santo Tomas-Legazpi restages Abdon Balde’s Sayaw kan Tulong Bulod (Dance of the Three Mountains) on May 10, 2023 at the Peñaranda Park in Legazpi City, which forms part of the UST-Legazpi Night at the ongoing 2023 Magayon Festival in the province of Albay. This is in partnership with the Provincial Government of Albay, Magayon Festival Executive Committee, and the Provincial Tourism, Culture, and the Arts (PTCAO).

The Sayaw kan Tulong Bulod (Dance of the Three Mountains) tells the legend of the three maidens namely Masaraga, Malinao, and Mayon, which are currently mountains and/or volcanoes in the province of Albay. The production was supervised by the Center for Sports, Wellness, Culture and the Arts (CSWCA) under the leadership of Marie Veronique D. Berdin, MAEd, and the artistic direction of Mr. Uno Armeña. This latest installment was choreographed by Ms. Ghynelle Joy B. Baronia with musical direction by Mr. Roger C. Fernandez.

Looking back, the UST-Legazpi first staged the said play in 2013 at the Daragang Magayon Theatrical Competition followed by a restaging in May 2014 at the Dominican Youth Network Conference and in February 2015 at the Pasinaya Open House Festival at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). It was also in the same month and year that the said piece was restaged at the Bahandi – the recital program of the university’s Special Program in the Arts (SPA).

Meet the cast
Most of the lead members of the cast this year newbies. Nikaella Mae B. Reyes, a first-year BS Tourism student played the role of Magayon; Leria Lomenario as Masaraga, first-year BS Entrepreneurship; Lian Lominario as Malinao, third-year BS Tourism; and Panganoron played by Clarence Cartoneros, a graduating BS Industrial Engineering student.

A mix of pressure (as first timers to perform on a big stage) and overwhelming feelings (as lead players) were experienced by the main cast.

What’s new
Modified scenes were incorporated for this year’s staging. Uno Armeña, the artistic director, tells how each act this year was different from the previous installments such as the “sandugo” scene, a blood compact agreement, which was added to further justify the preference of the entire story.

Some scenes were also edited in terms of their background music while still observing the Suanoy Bikol or known as the old Bikol language.

In terms of the production design, the creative team made sure to conduct intense research to anchor the story mainly on the history of Bicol specifically on donning long hairs, rituals such as the Hale’a (a chant conducted to drive away the Bakunawa – a serpent-like dragon in the Philippine mythology that eats the full moon), and costumes to distinct each tribe.

From cast to head choreographer
Ghynelle Joy B. Baronia, an alumna of the university from the Special Program in the Arts (SPA) and a graduate of Bachelor in Elementary Education (BEEd), also a former member and president of f the university dance troupe, and currently a teacher in the Preschool and Elementary (PSE) Department was one of the pioneer casts of the university’s Sayaw kan Tulong Bulod, who now served as the choreographer of its installment this year.

“This is my first year as adviser of the UST-Legazpi Dance Troupe and I was given the opportunity to choreograph my first major production,” Baronia said.

“It (being the choreographer) was overwhelming as I started as one of the Uripons (servants, background dancers) and now, after a decade, I am one of the creative directors as a choreographer,” she added.

Ghynelle also added that she felt pressured as her former co-members of the said play also watched their production.

Not just a story of UST-Legazpi
According to Marie Veronique D. Berdin, MAEd, Director of the Center for Sports, Wellness, Culture and the Arts (CSWCA), their staging of the Sayaw kang Tulong Bulod was the Center for Culture and the Arts (former name of CSWCA during that time) highlight production in 2013.

“Since this is a great Bikol-culture piece, we decided to showcase or restage it to give another variant of shows apart from the usual cultural shows”, said Berdin.

As for the Artistic Director Noel Armeña, he hopes that this production can be toured around the Bicol region to aid the teachers in teaching their learners to understand the culture of the region.

“Because this is not just the story of us, not just of UST-Legazpi, but it’s the story of the Bikolanos,” Armeña said.

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