Filipinos in Vietnam?



If we could read your mind now we reckon you’re probably thinking this is another one of those articles Filipinos living in some other country like Vietnam. But that’s not what this post is really about and we don’t blame you either. It’s something more lyrical and also more serious in part, so do read on our dear readers. The musical ‘Miss Saigon’ is based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera ‘Madame Butterfly’ which in part takes from a short story “Ma dame Butterfly” (1898) written by John Luth er Long in 1898. It relates the tragic tale of a doomed romance involving an Asian woman abandoned by her American lover.


In this revised version of Puccini’s work Frenchmen Claude-Michel Schönberg (a musical theater composer) and Alain Boublil (lyrics) with Richard Maltby, Jr. (an American theatre director and producer), reset the plot’s location forward to April 1975 in Saigon during the Vietnam War in a sleazy Vietnamese club called “Dreamland” just weeks before Saigon City’s fall to the advancing forces of the Viet Cong. Madame Butterfly’s leading roles – the American Lieutenant and his Japanese geisha paramour are replaced by a romance between an American GI sergeant (Chris), and a Vietnamese bar girl (Kim).


Miss Saigon premiered at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in London on 20 September 1989, closing 11-years later after over 4,000 performances, on 30 October 1999. It opened on Broadway (New York USA) at the Broad way Theatre in 1991 and subsequently played in many other cities and embarked on tours across the United States and other cities in the U.K.


The original role of Kim was played by Lea Salonga – a young and talented but up and coming Filipina actress and singer, who just at the young age of 18-years became famous because of this role. For her live performan ces on stage in the musical she won the prestigious Laurence Olivier Award and Tony Award. The original role of the American GI engineer was portrayed by Jonathan Pryce who also won a Tony Award for the role.


Highlights of the show include the evacuation of the last Americans in Saigon from the Embassy roof by helicopter while a crowd of abandoned Vietnamese scream in despair, the victory parade of the new communist regime and the frenzied night club scene at the time of defeat.


Miss Saigon represents Schönberg and Boublil’s second major success, following Les Misérables in 1985 and as of September 2011, it is still the eleventh longest-running Broadway musical in musical theatre history.


Watch The Video


This video provided by Lobeline Communications which captures the Miss Saigon scene where Kim (Lea Salonga) and Chris (Simon Bowman) perform the duet love song ‘Sun & Moon’ as the two pledge their love for each other.




Since its opening in London Miss Saigon has been produced in many cities around the world that include Canada (1993, 2010), Germany (1994), Hungary (1994, 2011), the Philippines (2000), Brazil (2007), Norway (2009) and the Netherlands (2011). According to the Miss Saigon Official Site, Miss Saigon has been performed by twenty-seven companies in 25 countries and 246 cities. It has also been translated into 12 different languages.


Between 2009 and 2010 Miss Saigon toured various cities in New Zealand that included Christchurch, Dunedin, Wellington, Palmerston North, New Plymouth, Napier, Tauranga, Hamilton and Auckland.


Following the footsteps of Lea Salonga in the original production, another two Filipino-Kiwis auditioned and won the role of Kim – Ivy Rose Padilla for the Wellington season of the show and Tina Bergantinos following Ivy’s lead for the season shows performed in Hamilton (April 2010) and Dunedin ((September 2010).


The Auckland season of Miss Saigon commenced in May this year at the Civic Theater with a cast of 60 talented individuals; the largest team ever recruited for a musical in the City of Sails. In this most recent production of the musical there were 29 Asian cast members – 17 of whom were Filipino-Kiwis who landed some plum roles.


Of the 9 male roles in the musical, 7 went to Filipinos and of the 16 female roles, 6 were Filipinas.


Watch The Video


This video provided by Amici Productions Ltd. takes a peak behind the scenes at rehearsals, publicity and media shoots for the production of Miss Saigon which was eventually performed live on stage for the first time in Auckland, New Zealand from 20 May 2011.


The up and coming Filipino-Kiwi contingent of the Miss Saigon productions in New Zealand included: O’Neal Mendoza who plays ‘Thuy’ the North Vietnamese Army officer, Dwayne Mallo, Erwin Cifra, Leilani Guillen, Ena Rico, Reynald Ricafrente, Samantha Batchelor, Janel Surtida, Catherine Ombao, Abby Mara sigan, Percy La Madrid, Russell Siayngco and Romel Gonzales. The four Filipino-Kiwi kids in the show are Kenzo Santayana, Abbey Martinez, Isabella Caballero and Johann Guadalupe who took turns play the role of ‘Tam’, son of ill-fated lovers Kim and Chris in the musical.




After the final season closed this year, these young and talented Filipino-Kiwis formed themselves into group called ‘Pinoy Saigon’, an apt throwback perhaps to their participa tion and collective experiences in Miss Saigon New Zealand.


With the help and guidance of Ms. Maricar Siayngco – who has successfully established herself as writer-reporter for a good number of news-oriented websites and is an active personality in supporting certain charities established by Filipino-Kiwis, the group is now moving on towards a more worthy cause by producing a CD music album (see jacket cover, image at right) for the SCOT Trust – a nonprofit charitable organisation operating from Auckland spearheaded by Nanette Carillo and Mike de Boer.


The SCOT Trust was established by West Auckland Filipinos and Kiwi families in July 2009. It was founded principally to empower Asian migrant children in New Zealand and Philippine-based street children and orphans to live a life more abundantly.


These are the ones that as children, societies put into institutions. They are the ones that end up being ostracized from family and faith. They are the ones that grow up to fill up our prisons. And then, we wonder why they turn out the way they do.


The Trust’s approach towards more positive outcomes deal with breaking the cycle of poverty; becoming a catalyst of positive change for the next generation and growing them to their full potential; providing a platform for a life of significance; and, employing other holistic programmes towards empowering the next generation. 


Nanette and Mike have both just recently returned to Auckland from the Philippines after spending some productive months there supervising the launching of and expansion of programmes and initiatives that benefit Filipino street children and orphans. After a time of respite, they plan to update their Social Media-oriented community website, which is still under development, with a number of stories about these children and the work that SCOT Trust continues to pursue indefatigably for them.


If you wish to support the work that Nanette and Mike do these days for dis advantaged children in both New Zealand and the Philippines, please visit this page on that website.

By: Karl Quirino


NOTE: If you’re looking for the article written about The Philippine Ati-atihan Cul tural Dance performances for the Rugby World Cup 2011 Festival of Carnival that was previously posted in this homepage, it has been moved to another section titled ‘Ati-atihan sa Wellington‘.



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Filed under Arts and Culture, Community News, Filipinos in Christchurch, Filipinos in New Zealand, Special Events, Special Feature

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