From corporate gal to theater star

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When the highly successful musical “Ang Huling El Bimbo” takes its final bow for its second run this Sunday, April 14 audiences will remember how an original, all-Filipino theater production seamlessly stitched story and song.

Gab Pangilinan as Joy in “Ang Huling El Bimbo”

Cleverly using the hits of iconic Pinoy band, Eraserheads to tell a moving narrative about friendship, love and redemption, “Ang Huling El Bimbo”—produced by Resorts World Manila and Full House Theater Company—also placed the spotlight on an impressive lineup of Filipino theater performers.

Gab, Sheila Francisco (as Tiya Dely) and the rest of the cast perform “Tindahan ni Aling Nena”

Among the standouts is the winsome Gab Pangilinan who has the viewers in the palm of her hand—whether singing her heart out as the pained but hopeful, Joy or sharing light-hearted scenes with co-actors.

And yet, Gab confesses that she almost turned her back on performing after being discouraged from pursuing it as a profession. But the call of theater was such strong that she’d do one production a year. “Just so I won’t miss it so much,” she says.

After graduating from the Ateneo de Manila University, she took a job as spot broker.

Then came the auditions for the 2014’s breakthrough musical, “Rak of Aegis.” Gab jumped at the chance, got accepted as part of the ensemble, resigned from her job and has not looked back since.


Gab Pangilinan (second from left) with co-actors Bibo Reyes, Phi Palmos and Boo Gabunada and Eraserheads frontman, Ely Buendia.

In an email interview with Click Cebu, Gab talks about the challenges and joys of playing Joy, how the musical shaped her, and what her character taught her about life.

How has the experience of being part of “Ang Huling El Bimbo” been for you?

I knew the first run was a huge success but still, because of the major adjustments and rewrites, I didn’t know what to expect from people’s reactions. It has all been so overwhelming in the best way. I am so grateful for this journey, especially for the team I’ve been journeying with. I’ve said this before and I don’t think I will ever truly grasp how big of a deal being a part of this show is, and more so, being Joy. Joy has definitely taught and given me so much as an actor, and as a human being.

If you were to change any of Joy’s circumstances, what would you do differently and why?

There are too many what-ifs and what-could-have-beens in this story. What happened to Joy was not her fault, the odds were against her from that horrid moment forward and she had no choice but to play with the cards she was dealt. It would’ve been great to be able to see her get the life she worked for all her life, the life she truly deserved. She fought ’til the very end and she would’ve gotten it if not for the most unfortunate of circumstances. The musical might have to extend another hour or so if we wait to see that happen! Haha!

What’s your greatest takeaway about playing Joy?

The world will be cruel and life will throw the worst at you, but if you do lose your way, it is not impossible to find your way back. You can make that decision for yourself—not just to survive, but to fight and conquer your battles, to love with all of your heart and most of all, to forgive. Joy was about all of that.

What’s your most favorite scene?

My personal favorite scene is in the latter part of Act 2 when the two timelines of the young and old boys intertwine.

And the most difficult?

The end of Act 1 (in Antipolo) and beginning of Act 2 (graduation). What’s your favorite Eraserheads song? My favorite Eraserheads song prior to joining this musical was “With A Smile.” Now, I’ve added “Alapaap” and “Ligaya” to the list. I’m a fan of Ely Buendia’s lyrics.

Any audience or fan reaction that made the most impact on you?

There was an audience member who messaged me saying that what happened to Joy happened to her many years ago, and she thanked me for telling the story of Joy. Watching the show was healing for her, she said. Honestly, upon receiving that message, I lost it and cried. The character of Joy represents so many women and when people message me, it makes Joy all the more real. Yes, there are Joys and Ligayas in this world. Yes, people need to know their story. And yes, I sometimes fear that I might not be representing them well or I might fail to give them justice, but when audience members are generous enough to simply message me a “thank you,” that helps me breathe better and that brings me back to the whys—why we do what we do, why we tell stories like this. I won’t ever forget that.

Catch the last weekend of Resorts World Manila and Full House Theater Company’s “Ang Huling El Bimbo” at RWM’s Newport Performing Arts Theater. The schedule is as follows: April 11 (Thursday) 8 p.m. April 12 (Friday) 8 p.m. April 13 (Saturday) 3 p.m. & 8 p.m. April 14 (Sunday) 3 p.m. & 8 p.m.

Tickets are available at the RWM Box Office and TicketWorld outlets. For more information, download the RWM Mobile App.

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