Rare are instances when a school involves 225 students in an all-out production that highlights the trials and triumphs of child scavengers at the Umapad dumpsite in Mandaue and the colorful stories of Overseas Filipino workers as well.
Singapore School Cebu, an international school located at the North Reclamation Area made that unexpected, bold and rare instance this year when they staged “Heroes -We Can Be-” last February 11 at the Center Stage of SM City Seaside, to the delight of Parents and the school’s special guests: students and teachers from the Umapad Elementary School.
“While this is Singapore School Cebu’s first foray in theatre production, we didn’t hesitate to pull out all the stops, choosing to do an original musicale… creating the script, music and choreography from scratch,” said School President Trixie Suarez.
Miss Suarez herself wrote the script with the story of the child scavengers at the Umapad dumpsite in mind and their dreams to work as OFWs to earn money to support their families.
Directed by Eli Razo, the play took the audience to the dumpsite where children Emil, Jimboy, Maricel and Checaina were scavenging for whatever they can sell for a few pesos.
They stumble into a lamp and then a tablet where out came 2 Genies named Singga and Pore who granted the child scavengers 3 wishes. They then traveled the world on-board an extraordinary “Travelboard 2020” (for Singga is a modern Genie as opposed to Pore who still had his magic carpet) that flew them to Dubai, New York, London, New Zealand and Singapore. The children became witnesses to the challenges faced by OFWs (missing home, adapting to a new culture) and the many contributions they have likewise made to the countries where they chose to work (a Filipino did the special effects in movies like Fantastic Beasts, Transformers and yes, Star Wars)!
This is an original production that involved 225 children aged as young as 3 years old to 15! The production crew divided them into two groups to serve two shows. To say that this play was ambitious is an understatement of the century. Managing these children during preparation and rehearsals was definitely a high order task. Yet apparently, students in this school are used to it! Mentored by their Teachers, they perform to a caliber that is truly impressive as everyone executed their routine with both mastery and showmanship. Singapore School Cebu is, indeed, made of sterner and stronger stuff.
It was quite refreshing to hear the young student actors conversing in Bisaya – glazed with an accent which made it adorable and fun – and watch them portraying the roles of children whose lives are different from the ones they are living.
There were technical issues such as the annoying scratchy sound in the beginning but that was easily forgotten when the little chefs came in to prepare the food of the children, a fulfillment of the 1st wish.
Enter the medical team ensemble in London that had this writer cheering for the little girls and boys who were visibly having fun performing. Then there’s the kids in black who played with lights and sounds as they gave the audience a different take on theatre performance.
I watched the 10:30 a.m. show with my Mom, Maria Elena, and we could not help but be stage mothers to the lead cast of this production. But the character of Singga (played by Primary 5 student Eun Ji Noh) got our loudest claps and cheers. The little girl was in control, confident and charismatic. I bet director Eli Razo had a blast working with her.
Singapore School Cebu went all out in the production with original musical scoring by Oscar “Kokoi” Guinto of the School of Rock, choreography by Alfie Mosqueda, production design by Manila’s Martin Masadao and lighting by Jonjon Villareal, who also flew in from Manila and whose recent work included Annie the Musical at Resorts World.
To understand their roles better, the main cast visited the dumpsite and experienced for themselves the work done by child scavengers.
The visit was also meant to remind the children of the “purpose of the play when challenges arise in the course of production”.
What is notable is that the show is not for posterity but a call to action: to extend a helping hand to the children living and “working” at the Umapad Dumpsite and to the girls and boys of Umapad Elementary School who are direct beneficiaries of Singapore School Cebu’s commitment to be a good neighbor and assist them with school supplies and food provisions.
Public school teacher Mylene Selle said the show gave inspiration to students of Umapad Elementary School to DREAM BIG.
“It was also an educational play as it presented the works of OFWs in different countries… that their lives are not a bed of roses in foreign countries,” she said.
The real-life Jimboy, 13-year-old Jose Inocanda, whose real life story served as inspiration for one of the lead characters, watched the show together with fellow students.
He laughed when onstage Jimboy always said “I’m hungry” because that is true in real life. It was his first time to visit the mall and to also watch a play.
Jimboy said he still goes to the dumpsite to scavenge when there are no classes.
“Karon nakahibaw na gyud ang mga dato nga bata sa among mga giagian,” he said.
(Privileged children now know what we (poor) kids go through.)
All net proceeds of this school production will go to a fund that supports the nutrition and education of selected children.
Singapore School Cebu has truly set the bar for school productions and redefined the concept of outreach projects; the kind that develops children’s confidence while showing to them the essence of compassion and empathy to those who have less in society.