Is Aguinaldo a true hero? REP brings back ‘Miong’ for a glimpse at his life

No doubt that Emilio Aguinaldo is the first president of the Republic of the Philippines, but is he deserving to be called a hero?

This question has been circulating on social media after movies like Heneral Luna opened up Aguinaldo’s role in Luna’s death. It’s also timely that a letter about the first president’s confession has been put on display at Leon Gallery in Makati City. However, like any other high-ranking official in the government today, it seems that Aguinaldo wasn’t able to escape from the dirty works behind the scenes and it’s about time to see how, why, and what brought him to where he has been.

The cast of REP’s ‘Miong’

In celebration of Aguinaldo’s 150th birth anniversary, Repertory Philippines is bringing back one of its most acclaimed original plays, Miong, to the stage. Opening REP’s 2019 season last Friday (February 15, 2019) at the Onstage Theater in Greenbelt 1, the production follows Emilio “Miong” Aguinaldo life from his childhood until he embarked on a mission to unite his people during a time of social division.

A young Miong (Sean Kevin Inocencio) with Don Carlos (Elver Esquivel) and Kapitana Teneng (Lani Ligot).

When Spanish colonizers asserted their power over Filipinos by turning them against each other (Divide Et Impera), a young Miong understood that the key to freedom lies in unity. Though he wants his countrymen to be liberated from oppression, it’s evident how he was a conflicted leader who was unsure of what course of action to take, giving audiences a fuller idea of his origins, traits, and psyche. It’s hard to hate someone who was able to contribute much to Filipinos’ freedom at a time when we most needed it. Rep’s musical was able to show how ordinary his life was before taking on the responsibility of being the country’s leader. 2 hours wasn’t enough for someone like me who values history so much, but it’s definitely a perfect length for anyone who wants to watch for the sake of entertainment.

The colonizers

Written and directed by REP Artistic Director and theater legend Joy Virata, Miong is a compelling drama-musical that brings Philippine history to startling life. Featuring songs by Ian Monsod and additional lyrics by Freddie Santos, this show-stopping musical is an ideal choice for anyone seeking world-class live entertainment and a piece of Philippine history. It was first staged in 1998 as a 3-hour musical.

Scene from ‘Under the Bells’ – one of our favorites!

For millennials who became dubious of Aguinaldo’s standing as a hero after seeing movies and reading bookswhich seemed to shed a bad light on Aguinaldo’s character, Virata shares what she thinks would still entice them to see Miong:

The movies, including this – a dramatic performance, is partly fiction. For example, basic love story is correct [and] historical, but the details of the love song, of course that was purely created. When you’re doing something, you can create something on your own, however you wish. It just so happened that in this case, I am creating the life of Aguinaldo from birth up to when he declared [Philippine] Independence, so I think if they would like an enjoyable, entertaining musical to watch, so come and watch,” she invites. “They’ll learn something else besides what they learn from the movies or wherever they saw it, they can learn something else here. But as I said, it’s also entertaining and enjoyable. Nice way to learn a bit about history. Easy way to learn a bit about history… I cut it down [to 2 hours], you know?

San Bartolome – another part we cannot forget!

It was indeed enjoyable. We’ve spent the past 24 hours humming and trying to remember the words to songs like Divide Et Impera and Under the Bells, which sent chills down our spine. San Bartolome, on the other hand, left us wanting to see more of the Philippine Seas. Every word and scene in the musical seemed to leave a mark in our hearts. Who wouldn’t be moved when you can see events in the past look very similar to what is currently happening to our Mother Land? Except now, it’s mostly brother against brother while the outside forces closely watch their puppets.

Divide Et Impera. To conquer, you must divide!

Trivia: Judgment By The Knife is a frequent punishment wherein Spanish soldiers fire into a crowd indiscriminately. Sounds familiar? I think we have a local term for that. It pays to know our country’s history.

If they’re interested in history, I think they would like to come and watch this because it is history. And by the way, every single word that is here is really taken from history books, except for the love songs but every word – that’s why I was so particular about words, about dialogue, about clarity, I drilled them in diction, every rehearsal because the words – each word is important, and nothing should be lost, but all those words came from history books,” Virata added.

Treat yourself this weekend by watching REP’s ‘Miong’!

Miong stars rising actor-musician Tim Pavino, Noel Rayos as Berong, Cara Barredo as Yayang, Meynard Peñalosa as Father Blas, Elver Esquivel as Don Carlos, and Lani Ligot as Kapitana Teneng. Watch out for great choreography by Dexter Santos, and musical direction by Ejay Yatco! It will run from February 15 to March 10 at the OnStage Theater in Greenbelt 1, with both evening shows and matinees.

So, is Aguinaldo a true hero? For what he did to free our countrymen during the rule of Spain, perhaps yes. But perhaps we also need more research and a weigh-in of what a “real hero” means in the current time, now that things have changed.

A Season Pass to all REP’s 2019 productions (Father’s Day, The Dresser, The Quest for Adarna) are available via

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