Piolo Pascual Unveils His Passion for Patriotism in ‘Ibarra, The Musical’: What Playing Jose Rizal’s Alter Ego Means to the Filipino Heartthrob

Piolo Pascual Ibarra The Musical
Join Philippine film and TV heartthrob, Piolo Pascual, as he embarks on a new journey in the musical theater stage with ‘Ibarra, The Musical.’ Read about his insights on embodying an iconic Filipino character and how it resonates with his own ideals. Screengrabs from The Final Word.

“Don’t wait for change to happen; be the initiative for that change,” says the Philippine film and television heartthrob, Piolo Pascual, best known for his leading roles in high-grossing films and popular TV shows. Now at 46, Pascual is demonstrating his versatility as he transitions to the musical theatre stage. He debuts in ‘Ibarra, The Musical’ as Crisostomo Ibarra, a character from Jose Rizal’s famous novel ‘Noli Me Tangere’.

This role presents an interesting shift in Pascual’s illustrious career. Previously, he starred as Simoun in Lav Diaz’s 2016 film, ‘Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis’ (A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery), Ibarra’s alter ego in Rizal’s follow-up novel ‘El Filibusterismo’. Pascual also acted in Diaz’s Cannes Festival selected film, ‘Hupa’. But this time, he doesn’t just act; he sings, dances, and captivates the audience with his on-stage charisma.

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Resonating with Crisostomo Ibarra

In a recent interview on The Final Word with Rico Hizon on CNN Philippines, Pascual opened up about the significance of Crisostomo Ibarra’s character, its resonance with his personal values, and his hopes for the younger generation. “The significance of Crisostomo Ibarra for me is, he is a representation of every Filipino that wants to do something for the country. That wants change, revolution in a good way,” says Pascual, expressing the deep connection he felt with the character. He goes on to express how Ibarra mirrors his own love for the Philippines and his aspiration for freedom of speech and independence.

A Message to the Younger Generation

Pascual, however, doesn’t stop at the parallels between himself and Ibarra. His vision for ‘Ibarra, The Musical’ is profound, as he wants viewers, particularly Gen Z, to resonate with the timeless values of the play. Pascual explains, “I want people to be aware of our present situation and do something about it. Make a change. Have their voices be heard.”

Transitioning to Musical Theater: A Personal Journey

From films and TV shows to musical theater, Pascual continues to awe the entertainment industry and his fans. He reveals his journey of transitioning to the musical stage as both challenging and rewarding. Pascual confessed, “There’s so much discipline, commitment, and a lot of just really focusing on the material.” He further stressed that every show offers new discoveries and unique experiences.

Preparing for the Role: The Intensity Behind the Scenes

Preparing for the role was an intense process for Pascual, who is used to the fast-paced world of television and film. The actor spent countless hours delving deep into the source material, reading about Rizal and the Spanish colonial period, and rehearsing his lines and songs until they flowed naturally. “You know, there’s always something to be learned every day, every show,” Pascual said, highlighting his commitment to portraying Ibarra as accurately as possible.

A Favorite Part of ‘Ibarra, The Musical’

Talking about his favorite part of ‘Ibarra, The Musical,’ Pascual mentions the song ‘Reporma or Revolution,’ stating, “It has to be the hardest, which is reform or revolution. Those two choices. What are you going to do? Change or fight. Exactly. And that was my conflict. And of course, the love for the country.”

A Love Affair with Rizal’s Work: Pascual’s Early Fascination

For fans of Piolo Pascual, the transition from screen to stage opens a new and exciting chapter. This journey not only marks Pascual’s theatrical debut but also a return to the roots of his passion for acting. Pascual’s passion for Rizal’s work began in high school, a love affair that continued into his adult years and influenced his career trajectory. He once taught “Noli Me Tangere” during teacher-student’s week due to his fascination with the novel. Fast forward to more than two decades later, the star is finally realizing his dream on the musical theater stage.

The Challenges and Rewards of the Musical Theatre Stage

Pascual’s journey from the camera to the stage wasn’t without challenges. Performing in a musical required a different kind of discipline and focus compared to acting in film and teleseryes. But it also brought its own unique rewards, such as the excitement of discovering new aspects of his character with every show. The musical theatre stage, with its lack of room for errors, also pushed Pascual to tap into the depth of his acting skills. Despite this, he found the process incredibly fulfilling and rewarding, describing it as a constant growth process where he was able to see his co-actors and interact with them in new ways.

Inspiring a New Generation with Filipino Culture and Heritage

With his debut on the musical theater stage, Pascual is not just fulfilling a personal dream. He also hopes to inspire a new generation to appreciate Filipino culture and heritage. His performance in “Ibarra, The Musical” is a call to action, a reminder to fellow Filipinos of the importance of taking an active role in shaping their country’s future.

An Invitation to Experience ‘Ibarra, The Musical’

So, step into the world of Ibarra and discover the transformative power of musical theater with the Philippines’ beloved heartthrob, Piolo Pascual. As he embarks on this new journey, you won’t want to miss a beat. “I invite you to please come and watch the last leg of our first run of Ibarra, The Musical,” Pascual extends his invitation to viewers. “If you want to know more about our culture, about our history, about our heritage. Come celebrate with us, our independence and the Philippines.”

Notes about the Book, the Play, and the Benefit Show

Jose Rizal’s book, “Noli Me Tangere (Latin: touch me not)”, written in Spanish and published in 1887, revealed the brutality and corruption of three centuries of Spanish rule in the Philippines. The story follows Crisostomo Ibarra as he returned home after studying in Europe, his romance with childhood sweetheart Maria Clara, his encounters with the Spanish friar Padre Damaso, and his realization of colonial oppression not only in his town but in the country.

The musical is a re-imagination of the 2015 play, Kanser, the Musical, also written by Jomar Fleras (libretto) and Joed Balsamo (music), under the direction of Frannie Zamora. But the story is now told from the point of view of Crisostomo Ibarra himself and has a live 13-piece ensemble from the Manila Symphony Orchestra instead of the previous musical’s minus one music accompaniment.

The musical is also giving back to the community for the benefit of Rise Against Hunger Philippines with sales from its run from June 9 to 15 going to feeding children. Piolo’s performance in the musical is also pro bono, something that the Filipino heartthrob has been known to do. Piolo Pascual previously also acted for free in a film project to benefit the people of Marawi, the war-ravaged city in Mindanao. He also provided humanitarian aid to typhoon victims.

Tanghalang Una Obra’s maiden production of Ibarra, The Musical, with Piolo Pascual in the title role on stage with Jeffrey Hidalgo (Elias), Floyd Tena (Padre Damaso), Carlo Manalac (Padre Salvi), Sisa (Nicole Laurel Asensio), Maria Clara (Myramae Menses), Basilio (JD Tena), and Crispin (Elian Santos), will end its debut run on Sunday, June 18, 2023, 3 pm at the GSIS Theater in Roxas Blvs., Pasay City, marking the even of the 162nd birth anniversary of Jose Rizal on June 19. Tickets are available at Ticketworld and Ticket2me.

WATCH Piolo Pascual’s interview on The Final Word with Rico Hizon here:

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The Good News Pilipinas Team is a group of Filipino journalists who advocate putting more good news stories about the Philippines and Filipinos on the media.