Gantimpala Theater tours "Ang Pagong at Ang Matsing" starting September 19

by Alwyn Ignacio
Sep 18, 2007
Matsing (Francis Ong, left) tries to outwit Pagong (Michael King Urieta) in this classic children's story. Gantimpala Theater will stage the musical extravaganza Ang Pagong at Ang Matsing in Pampanga and Manila.

Gantimpala Theater presents a special heaping of pearls as it celebrates its 30th season with Jose Rizal's children's story Ang Pagong at Ang Matsing, as told to him by his mother Doña Teodora Alonzo. When Pepe [Rizal] was a little boy, this tale inspired him to do the famous comic strip.

Ang Pagong at Ang Matsing is now retold as a charming, engaging, and fun-filled musical extravaganza for children and for the youthful alike. Pagong and Matsing will see a floating banana tree on the river. They eagerly get and divide it into two. Wanting to outsmart Pagong, Matsing insists on getting the part with leaves while Pagong is content with the part containing the roots. What follows is a series of clever tricks and amusing antics, pushing Pagong and Matsing to outwit each other.

There is more. This popular animal-story gets wackier this time with the appearance of Suso and Tarsier as zany, irreverent sidekicks of the lead characters. Three balding trees play as chorus, adding humor and punch to the retelling of the tale. And of course, the dancing squad of forest animals and insects, plus the talking halves of the banana tree animate and perk up the story to the hilt.

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Ang Pagong at Ang Matsing is a modern take on friendship, environmental concern, Filipino virtues, and features loads of sweet, sweet, sweet bananas.

Playing the role of Pagong is Michael King Urieta, opposite Francis Ong who does Matsing.

"This is my biggest role to date and when I found [that] I will portray the role of Pagong, I was shocked," says Urieta. "I am not a singer, you know. As an actor, I took it as challenge. The fact that my director Sir Tony [Espejo, Gantimpala Theaters Artistic Director] trusted me to do the role means I can perform the part. After our first four performances in Subic, I can say so far, so good."

Michael King started as a member of the cast that performed during the Independence Day Parade produced by Gantimpala Theater. At 22, he is now a senior apprentice of the Actors Company. His other significant roles in the past include the narrator in Florante at Laura, Antonio in The Queens Jewel and Ernesting in Forever.

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For his part, Francis Ong of Star in a Million fame has decided to concentrate on his career in the theater, although he has been tapped to be one of the hosts of the ABS-CBN show Math Tinik.

"It is a fun role to do. When I first read the script, I saw Matsing as an arrogant, childish character. I like the fact that I am doing a role that is different from my personality. I have never been a bully and I was never wily," shares Francis. "I know that we will be performing for kids and I love performing for them as it gives me a different kind of high. Theater is a wonderful medium to entertain and learn and I know that these kids will not only enjoy the play, they will also acquire so many lessons."

Francis was last seen on the Gantimpala stage as the love-struck Basilio in El Filibusterismo. He is a familiar face to most people after becoming a finalist in Star in a Million Season 2 (along with Frenchie Dy).

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Other cast members are Meldea Flor Formacil (Suso); Anthony Cruz (Tarsier); Leo Ponseca (Punong Manga); Ronald Concepcion (Punong Acacia); John Paolo Garcia (Punong Bakawan); Rene Nisperos and Rommel Aratan (as the Kaputol ng Saging).

Providing artistic support to director Espejo are J. Dennis Teodosio, playwright; Alain De Leon, assistant director; Dwight Gaston, production designer; Jesse Lucas, musical director; Joey Nombres, light designer; Anthony Cruz, choreographer; Jorge Cabullo, production manager, and Jay-r Inocencio, stage manager.

Ang Pagong at Ang Matsing goes on tour this September 19-21 (Bren Guiao Gym, Pampanga). Manila shows are on October 18 (AFP Theater, Quezon City); 24-26 (SM Southmall Cinema 6, Las Piñas City) and December 2 (Concert at the Park Open Air Auditorium).

For inquiries, call the Gantimpala Theater Marketing Office, 899-5745/896-3503; or write to

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Matsing (Francis Ong, left) tries to outwit Pagong (Michael King Urieta) in this classic children's story. Gantimpala Theater will stage the musical extravaganza Ang Pagong at Ang Matsing in Pampanga and Manila.
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