The University of the Philippines (UP) Symphony Orchestra takes the young and young at heart on a journey with nature in “Kathang Likas,” an original animated production by renowned author-director and UP alumna Charley Magalit.
Set to air this October, “Kathang Likas” tells the story of its three protagonists, Lupa the Carabao, Dagat the Turtle, and Langit the Eagle.
The production uncovers the worsening state of the habitats of the country’s endangered species. It touches on the resonating effects of such destruction, not only to animals but also to children and people altogether.
Ultimately, the concert offers an uplifting theme of hope to restore and save animals at risk, as well as their natural habitats.
The vast array of music performed by the UP Symphony Orchestra encompasses the likes of “Ang Maya” by Jose Estella, “Carnival of the Animals” by Camille Saint-Saëns, “Manong Pawikan” by Joey Ayala, “Peter and the Wolf” by Sergei Prokofiev, “Swan Lake Suite” by Peter Tchaikovsky, and “The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant” by Francis Poulenc.
Conducting each one of these musical pieces is Prof. Josefino Chino Toledo, with illustrations by Nina Martinez and animations by Neal Andrew Lim.
Behind the tale
The UP Symphony Orchestra gave DZUP a brief preview of what to expect in “Kathang Likas.”
“The story talks about how humans are changing and affecting the natural habitats of these animals, leaving them shocked and confused as to what happened to their homes [and] where their families are. The solution offered isn’t so much about tearing down our cities to make room for them again, but respectful coexistence.
“Respecting the animals, not treating them as trophies to show off at home, doing our part to keep nature clean, and being kind in general to the animals. It’s about sharing the world and its resources with them, and not keeping it purely to ourselves,” they said.
In a message exchange with DZUP, Magalit laid down how the production vividly magnifies the perspective of animals in the world of humans.
“If there’s anything the lockdown has shown us, it is how the lack of human interference allowed different creatures from all over the planet to thrive again and simply live without fear.
“To them, we, humans, are the biggest threats to the delicate balance of their natural environment, and so in a way, it made sense to create stories in the perspective of the animals, whose habitats and safety are being compromised,” she explained.
Living her vision
As the production’s writer, director, and narrator, Magalit established a fabled and formidable career in the arts.
She is an esteemed singer-actress who has taken her talents in both opera and musical theatre, graduating with a degree in vocal performance and pedagogy at the UP College of Music.
Her master’s degree in Music Theatre was taken at the University of London’s Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, where she graduated with distinction.
Magalit emerged as one of the most captivating actresses in the United Kingdom as she featured in musicals like “Cat in The Hat” and covered the title role in “Amélie the Musical.”
Her vast experience in the field of arts includes working for the Walt Disney Company Cruise Line and becoming a lead vocalist in Hong Kong Disneyland. Moreover, she became a soloist at the Hong Kong Opera Society.
For the upcoming production, Magalit shared some of her earnest inspirations behind writing “Kathang Likas” to DZUP.
“Kathang Likas is more of a call for action. When the concert was being conceptualized, Maestro Chino Toledo emphasized how he wanted something to be entertaining, informative, and eye-opening, especially for the younger audiences.
“Once we decided upon a theme: animal-inspired compositions, the short stories were then written focusing on Philippine endangered species because these are the creatures our audiences would most likely encounter and thus may have more empathy for,” she said.
Into the unknown
According to the UP Symphony Orchestra, “Kathang Likas” is a special production of many firsts.
“It’s the first time we’re doing a story-based animated concert geared to children. Up to this point our concerts have purely just been the orchestra and featured soloists, we’ve never done something with illustrations on screen also.”
“Our story is also an original story written by our author and director Charley Magalit, and focuses on [animals and habitats in the] Philippine setting, so it’s also very educational for our viewers, we hope,” the orchestra said.
Moreover, Magalit highlighted how the interwoven musical pieces, animations, and narrations harmoniously blended together in the end.
“Kathang Likas is special because it’s UP Symphony Orchestra’s first time to combine animation with classical orchestral music. The orchestral pieces were carefully chosen to fit in the storyline in mind. Once the pieces were finalized, the narrations were completed and adapted to the music so everything fits together like a glove,” she said.
In the buildup to the premiere, the young and young at heart are enjoined to take on the Kathang Likas Coloring Pages.
Viewers are encouraged to post their selfies using the official hashtag #KathangLikas to be showcased on the orchestra’s social media pages.
Children with queries on the world of music and the orchestra can also send in their video questions by following the guidelines here. DZUP