Proceeds of the production will support Rise Against Hunger’s school feeding program whose 5,000 enrollees are served hot meals during school days.

The multi-awarded actor and singer has recently signed a contract to play the titular character of the musical IBARRA.

Guests gathered in Diamond Hotel Manila’s Ruby Room to witness Piolo Pascual sign his official contract for the musical “IBARRA.” The actor has been cast to play the titular character, Crisostimo Ibarra, the protagonist of Jose Rizal’s seminal work Noli Me Tangere

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Piolo Pascual signing the IBARRA contract. Photo by Mac Jayson Villaluna, courtesy of Rise Against Hunger Philippines.

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Rizal’s book expressed the struggles experienced by Filipinos under Spanish colonial rule. Its narrative mainly revolves around Ibarra, an idealistic youth who initially insists on reforming the Philippines with the help of the powerful Spanish friars and officials. He believed they could still provide valuable support despite their corruption. As those familiar with the work know, this approach ultimately failed. The young protagonist was branded as a heretical subversive and imprisoned, which spurred him to eventually become a revolutionary. 

Noli Me Tangere is a touchstone piece of Filipino culture, as it stoked the flame of nationalism that would eventually lead to the 1896 Philippine Revolution. It’s a work that’s inextricably linked to the country’s independence and fighting spirit. As such, it continues to be taught in schools, adapted, and retold over the years. 

Raising Social Awareness

IBARRA—a pop-classical musical—is actually a re-working of Jomar Fleras’ play Kanser, which won the 1979 Cultural Center of the Philippines’ playwriting competition. It has been staged since the 1980s, and is known to be the longest running play in Philippine history. IBARRA will mark the 40th year of staging the play, and aptly falls on the 125th year of Philippine independence from Spain. 

The musical’s songs are composed by Joed Balsamo, with direction by Franniel Zamora, and choreography by Paul Morales. Despite the use of pop songs, the creators say that the musical will remain faithful to the original script and novel—just more focused on the protagonist Ibarra’s point of view. Morales states that the more contemporary approach to the play aims to show the relevance of Noli Me Tangere and Ibarra for the new generation. 

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Director Franniel Zamora sharing his thoughts. Photo by Mac Jayson Villaluna, courtesy of Rise Against Hunger Philippines.

Passion Project

Director Franniel Zamora shares that he only ever had one actor in mind for IBARRA. “Kung hindi si Piolo, mahirapan ako maghanap. He [Piolo Pascual] has the silhouette, qualities, the intelligence in the eyes,” Zamora elaborates. 

As it turns out, Pascual had actually watched Kanser in FEU during his high school years. In fact, Rizal’s Noli holds a special place in his heart due to its significant social commentary, as he’s loved the novel since his third year of high school. Hence, when presented with the opportunity to play the role of Ibarra, the actor didn’t hesitate to say “yes” despite his busy schedule. 

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Photo by Mac Jayson Villaluna, courtesy of Rise Against Hunger Philippines.

A Great Performance for a Great Cause

Besides its mission to inspire deeper social awareness in the younger generation, the play and its creators also aim to make a tangible contribution to the lives of the Filipino youth. They intend to do this by supporting malnourished students from selected schools. 

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Piolo Pascual with play collaborators and volunteers from Rise Against Hunger Philippines. Photo by Mac Jayson Villaluna, courtesy of Rise Against Hunger Philippines.

Proceeds from the production will be used to fund the various feeding programs of Rise Against Hunger Philippines. The organization—which was formerly known as “Stop Hunger Now Inc.”— is dedicated to serving nutritionally at-risk individuals through sustainable access to safe, adequate, and nutritious food sources. Their programs include meal packaging events, dietary supplementation, disaster response, and the distribution of meal packs to pregnant and lactating women, among others. 

To learn more about Rise Against Hunger’s programs and advocacies, you may visit their official website at www.riseagainsthunger.org.ph. IBARRA is slated for staging starting Jun 6, 2023 until Jun 18, 2023, and will be held at the GSIS Theater in Pasay. 

Banner Photo via Instagram @piolopascual_ph.



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