Words by Frances Leones and Justin Francia
Photos by Joshua Go
When your whole town, flooded for two months straight as the rain continues to pour, is down on its luck, what can you do? Do you seek new ways to bring yourself out of the situation while sacrificing what’s truly important? Or do you try and seek comfort in the old ways and stubbornly refuse to innovate?
These are the questions being put forward at Rak of Aegis‘s 7th season, currently being staged at The PETA Theater Center. Set in the perpetually flooded Barangay Venizia, the play is a mix of comedy, romance, and drama with hits from the iconic Filipino pop-rock band, Aegis. Hits such as “Basang Basa Sa Ulan” highlight the flooding situation in Barangay Venizia while other songs have been modified to fit the story while retaining the amazing OPM flavor of Aegis. All the characters are fun, full of life, and relatable due to the struggles they face with poverty, failed loves, and family issues.
I found Rak of Aegis to be very enjoyable, from set design, music choice, and overall storytelling. It’s not every day that you get to see a stage with a large pool of water and rain falling down and this production nailed it when it comes to set design and special effects. Since Barangay Venizia is flooded and aptly named after the Italian waterway city of Venice, the design of the stage was fitting to the play’s story and theme.
The play’s music, for me, served as a reintroduction to OPM. I haven’t really listened to any local artists in a long time so watching this play was a great way to get me listening to music that is proudly Pinoy. Some songs from the play had been songs I’d heard on the radio during my daily commute to and from school, and I didn’t really pay attention to who the artist was. The song “Halik” is a particular Aegis song I’ve heard several times before but I never made the connection between it and the band until I watched this production. Some of the lyrics had been tweaked to better serve the story, but I enjoyed the fresh take on this classic OPM hit.
Story-wise, Rak of Aegis is resonant with our time. The theme of disillusionment is a focal point in this musical, especially when applied to the main protagonist, Aileen. She thinks that the only way to get herself and her family out of poverty is to become a famous YouTube star. In chasing her dreams of fleeting fame, she begins to ignore the real problems plaguing her impoverished barangay as well as the values her hardworking father, Kiel, had tried to instill in her.
When you apply this to our country’s current issues with poverty, you can see how disillusioned we Filipinos have become. We feel like the government has let us down and that the traditional way of working hard gets us nowhere. The poor stay poor and the rich become richer—same old, same old. In this fast-paced world constantly bombarded with trends that come and go, it seems that the only way to make something of yourself is to ride the wave of influencers and hope that we catch it in time to benefit from it. The problem is that, in looking for ways to cash in on what’s considered new and trending, we tend to forget to look at the bigger picture and actually work to find a way to change our country’s situation.
For the young generation, and even some from the older generation, embracing the new is the only way to keep up and earn at the expense of forgetting some important things in life like family and love. This definitely applies to Aileen and her aspirations, as well as Mary Jane, Barangay Venizia’s overworked barangay captain. But for those like Kiel, the old ways can still work. The challenge is how to use them in a new style that resonates with the young while retaining the age-old values of hard work and perseverance that are still needed in our time today.
Rak of Aegis, ultimately, is about finding the middle ground between both old and new. It also reminds us, through the family dynamics of both Aileen and Mary Jane, that there are some things that fame and money can’t get you. Whatever the weather, the key to surviving and thriving despite any storm is staying together with the ones you love and finding a way to smile, dance in the rain, and rise up together.
Rak of Aegis’s 7th season ran from July 5 to September 29, 2019 at The PETA Theater, New Manila, Quezon City.
Already watched Rak of Aegis? What did you think of it? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!