Missing Saigon.

Sep 17, 2012 by

I was in 6th grade when I was first introduced to Miss Saigon. My childhood friend, Mitch Velado, had relatives in the States who sent him a double-cassette of the musical. I didn’t know anything about musicals nor anything about Lea Salonga back then. Mitch had this weird way of insisting what he wants and at that time, he wanted me to like what he liked – Miss Saigon being one of them. So he lent me the cassette tapes and I spent about one year listening to Miss Saigon on a daily basis. I am not kidding.

I became a Miss Saigon fanatic. Sans the internet, I followed Miss Saigon through news clippings. I made a specially covered folder that contains Miss Saigon stories. Through the years, I have spoken to friends and mentors in the performing arts about Miss Saigon. I listened to the stories of friends and relatives who have watched Miss Saigon in West End and on Broadway. My dream of watching the show came true with the coming of Miss Saigon to CCP in 2000 with no less than Lea Salonga herself performing as Kim. It was a surreal experience for me. I internalized every single set change, every vocal dynamic, every moment of applause the hall roared with, every tear I dropped because of sheer – bliss. I left the theater a changed man. My memories of Miss Saigon in CCP are as fresh as the morning dew up to today.

In 2009, Colegio de San Jose invited our creative team to consider staging Miss Saigon as a follow up production after the sarzuela Walang Sugat. We were worried about the staging because the subject of the musical is for adults: prostitution, suicide, violence, etc. But the producers were keen on doing it, so we rehashed some parts of the script and have finished casting as well. Apparently, some members of the PTA called the attention of the producers about the sensitivity of the material and asked for a cleaner version of it. There were suggestions about removing the sensual elements of the show (no kissing, no skimpy clothes, and ultimately, no suicide). As rabid artists, we could not butcher a show like that. The story will have to remain as that, and to respect the creators of the show we need to be loyal to the material. Because neither of the parties was willing to compromise, we decided to shelf the project and moved on to other materials. So yeah. I was that close to doing Miss Saigon as a choreographer actually.

But I think nothing beats my Saigon romance when I had the chance to visit Saigon (formerly Ho Chi Minh City) in Vietnam in 2005. I know it has no direct relation to the musical, but it was more like a psychological gratification to be in a place where the musical’s backdrop is set. I was taken care of by a foster family who are just the gentlest bunch of people I know. Generally, I think the Vietnamese locals are gentle and kind. I had a great time visiting their museums and went shopping for fabric and Vietnamese handicraft products. It was in Saigon when I first became a multimillionaire. I converted a hundred dollars and they gave me 2 million dong! I had such great time spending my Vietnamese dong in hundreds of thousands and ultimately in millions. It was quite unique, really, and I like it. In Saigon, they also have a strong culture for coffee and for me, the coffee experience in Saigon was one of the best.

Nostalgia is basically the reason why I have written this blog. With the showing of Les Miserables on the big screen, I am praying that Miss Saigon will soon be made into a movie as well. This way, the tragic love story of Miss Saigon will be able to reach more people and not just the fortunate few who have seen it onstage. This way, the masses get to appreciate the intricate story of Miss Saigon that the soundtrack or youtube do not say – and there’s more to it than the synopsis, really. I am also praying that very soon, I get to revisit Saigon City and perhaps explore the less touristy but more exciting spots of Vietnam.

Prayers like this are more likely to happen, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. See you again soon, Saigon.

100_6615 - myiloilo

In one of the museums in Saigon with Ho Chi Minh's bust.

100_6606 - myiloilo

Relics of the tumultuous past in Saigon City.

100_6629 - myiloilo

Saigon's Parliament House.

100_6636 - myiloilo

Share This

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>