In the late 1990s, Intramuros hosted a series of cultural shows produced and curated under the management of the Intramuros Administration. Dubbed Intramuros Evenings, the program featured the best of Philippine artists and performing groups. However, the program ceased for various reasons.
This year, the Intramuros Administration is reviving the program, kicking off with the re-staging of CCP Out-Of-The-Box (OTB) Series, Isang Gabi ng Sarsuwela on November 18, 6pm, at the Baluarte de San Diego, located inside the Walled City of Manila.
“We wanted to revive Intramuros Evenings because this is not just for the promotion of Intramuros as a tourist destination, but also for the promotion of our identity, culture, and heritage. The idea is to integrate historical preservation of heritage sites inside Intramuros with urban renewal and cultural tourism,” said Intramuros Administration head Atty. Joan Padilla.
Sharing the same goals to promote and preserve what is inherently Filipino and celebrate the best of the best in performing arts, the IA partnered with the Cultural Center of the Philippines for the revival of Intramuros Evenings.
First held in 1996, Intramuros Evenings shares a long history with the leading arts institution. It used to feature performances from CCP resident companies such as the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO), Ballet Philippines, and Tanghalang Pilipino.
With the revival of Intramuros Evenings, the CCP’s OTB series is a timely fit to showcase a similar revival of the sarsuwela. Owing its roots to the Spanish zarzuela originally brought to the Philippines in the late 1800s, the sarsuwela became the popular form of entertainment for many Filipinos, particularly in the early 1900s.
“When we planned the CCP Out-of-the-Box Series, we already have the eye towards bringing it to Intramuros. When we designed and programmed the series, it was intended to include productions that can travel. With modular set design and technical requirements, we can re-stage the different productions under the series anywhere, anytime,” shared CCP artistic director Dennis Marasigan.
The CCP Out-Of-The-Box Series features performances that audiences normally wouldn’t see in conventional programming. It aims to create a space for adventurous audiences, artists, and ideas.
Isang Gabi ng Sarsuwela, the opening salvo of Intramuros Evenings, features excerpts and songs from classic and contemporary sarsuwela productions. Marasigan and music director Joed Balsamo have put together top-notch performers who have all distinguished themselves in classical and musical theater, such as Nenen Espina, Franco Laurel, Ayen Munji-Laurel, Reuben Laurente, Lorenz Martinez, Shiela Valderrama Martinez, Jonathan Tadioan, and Karylle Tatlonghari.
Within the spirit of promoting our culture and heritage, the event will take place in Baluarte de San Diego, a historic bastion of Spanish colonial fortification in Intramuros.
“We are pushing Baluarte de San Diego as the initial site for Intramuros Evenings to reintroduce this historic site to the public. The consequent installments of Intramuros Evenings will feature other historic sites inside the Walled City of Manila,” said Atty. Padilla.
Completed between 1653 and 1663, Baluarte de San Diego is a bulwark shaped like an ace of spades. The bulwark includes the Fort Nuestra Senora de Guia, a circular tower designed by Jesuit priest and architect Antonio Sedeño and built from 1586-1587. In 1593, the upper portion of the tower was demolished after suffering from cracks. The rest of the structure was integrated into Baluarte de San Diego.
In 1762, the Baluarte was breached by the British forces with cannon fire, but was restored when the Spaniards returned years after. An earthquake destroyed the structure in 1863, leading to its abandonment. During the Battle of Manila in 1945, the circular fort was buried under layers of soil, saving it from total destruction.
The circular fort was excavated in 1979, while the baluarte was restored by 1992, with a garden added at its base. Since then, the first stone fort in Manila is now an archeological park.
“The partnership with the Intramuros Administration comes in perfect timing. Since the CCP Main Building is undergoing rehabilitation, we have been looking for new venues where we can bring our performances and productions,” concluded Marasigan.
The CCP continues to go beyond the corners of the complex and into the regions and other cities, bringing its various programs, shows, and projects to different venues and reaching out to more audiences.
Catch the revival of Intramuros Evenings, featuring the CCP Out-Of-The-Box Series: Isang Gabi ng Sarsuwela, on November 18, 2023, 6PM at Baluarte de San Diego, Intramuros. The show is free to the public. Entrance fee to Baluarte de San Diego is priced at Php 75, with discounted price of Php 50 for students, senior citizens, and PWDs.