By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City — The house was full, and satisfied, with the Women of the Bible, a contemporary musical produced and directed by Miguel Braganza and his production company, MB2NYC.
A sequel should be done, or there has to be re-run, as some of those who saw it said. The Women of the Bible is Braganza’s Lenten offering and in celebration of March, international women’s month, shown at the Kalayaan Hall of the Philippine Center in Manhattan on March 27, 2015. Braganza is a seasoned singer and performer on Broadway and runs his own talent development school for the arts in Manhattan.
That night, in Braganza’s musical production, a star was born, as PIDCI’s Albert Diala declared joyously. He meant the star to be actress and community leader Lumen Castaneda (real name Maria Paraluman, who is the namesake of popular Philippine actress Paraluman), the most senior of the actresses who played the part of Namaah, wife of Noah.
“I am so glad that I was able to memorize my long monologue. People were wondering. Even my daughter Jennifer was impressed that I pulled it off,” Castaneda said.
In the bible, Naamah, whose name means pleasant, was called by God to save each plant on Earth as he instructed Noah to save each animal. She gathered seeds, bulbs, cuttings, spores, and roots and filled a room on the ark with every type of plant and took care of them: from amaryllis, soybeans, and wheat to lilies, moss, and even dandelions.
Based on an ancient text, Naamah’s wisdom and love for the natural harmony of the earth inspires contemporary women to have courage, creativity, and faith in carrying out Naamah’s work.
International fashion model and singer Gail Banawis did an astounding performance as Mary Magdalene. “I did my own research to better understand my character, and came across things that challenged my prior understanding of who Mary Magdalene really was. I think this different portrayal might surprise the audience.”
The audience loved Mary Magdalene.
Emie Panganiban found her role as Rebekah absolutely challenging, being a neophyte in acting. “The role of Rebekah is not a piece of cake. She is torn between two worlds: the love and happiness she gets from her husband, Isaac and the grief and disappointment that her twin sons gave her. I just hope that I can give justice to this role.”
She did remarkably so.
Community leader and registered nurse May Raagas Durano said it was brilliant for Braganza to mount a contemporary, entertaining musicale vis-a-vis the old biblical lines and convey the same message of independence, pureness of heart, and empowerment.
“I didn’t expect much from the show. I went there to watch my friends. But it was beautiful. When it ended, I said, that’s it? I wanted more,” Durano said. (Photos by Lumen Castaneda and May Raagas Durano)