Tabing Ilog: The Musical is Gen Z’s ‘old time’s sake’ friendship

Tabing Ilog: The Musical, an ode to Gen Z’s ‘old time’s sake’ friendship

/ 10:16 AM December 03, 2023

The cast of "Tabing Ilog: The Musical 2023" with original cast of ABS-CBN's teen drama series, Patrick Garcia, Kaye Abad, and Baron Geisler | Image: Jessica Ann Evangelista,

The cast of “Tabing Ilog: The Musical 2023” with original cast of ABS-CBN’s teen drama series, Patrick Garcia, Kaye Abad, and Baron Geisler | Image: Jessica Ann Evangelista,

Currently on its fourth week, Tabing Ilog: The Musical is a show that pays homage to the original ‘90s teen drama series. It follows a group of friends from San Juan E — Eds, George, Corrine, Badong, James, Rovic, and Fonzy—as they reunite for the funeral of their favorite homeroom teacher, Ma’am Ciriaca, and navigate the changes, complications, and lessons of what comes after high school graduation.

Rovic (Akira Morishita) and Eds (Vivoree Esclito) are friends-turned-lovers. As Eds grapples with following her passion vs. following her parents’ dreams for her, Rovic is distracted by a pursuit of being a womanizer. Badong (Earvin Estioco), who seems to serve as the circle’s clown, is aiming for a career in local politics.


James (Jordan Andrews), who struggles with having rich parents, tries to learn to stand up for himself. Fonzy (Vino Mabalot), who deals with his demons, is entangled with the struggles of having a bisexual sister, Corrinne (Miah Canton) and recovering from a breakup with George (Kiara Takahashi).


Aside from the main characters, the supporting actors or minor roles also make the musical a worthwhile sight. Eds’ father Panyong (Red Nuestro), wife Azon (Neomi Gonzales), and Rovic’s grandmother Juling (Joann Co) undeniably give the impression of being tenured in the theater.

A new addition to the group in the form of Andoy (Omar Uddin), James’ LGBT college classmate, is also a treat to the story. And of course, the three owners of the neighborhood cafe called “Coffee-ratiba,” collectively called “Maritres,” are Anchang (Teetin Villanueva), Toots (Vyen Villanueva), and Meow (Lance Reblando).

Reblando’s character Meow carries the weight of the production’s heavy themes by giving it a hilarious whim. Their natural talent to act and entertain is one of the things that will leave an imprint on the viewers. 

The play’s production and message

Vincent de Jesus’ music became the centerpiece of the story, making it more appealing and unforgettable. Delighted over a new script by Eljay Castro Deldoc, the cast made the most of the opportunity to embody their respective characters. Despite the focus on their friendship and romance, the musical sheds light on topics of mental health, embracing one’s sexuality, political participation, civic duty, and the like.

Regardless of the subtopics, the play’s heart dives into the narrative of how friendship sometimes takes the fall when individuals delve into the demands of adulthood. It depicts the struggles of going separate ways to pursue different dreams and developing contrasting visions that could lead to falling out or outgrowing the entire friendship at once.

Combining drama with comedic elements makes the show more immersive. Gen Z’s tone in the dialogue complements Phil Noble’s stage direction. It’s noticeable how sometimes the lines tend to overlap as they try to convey different points of view at once but separately from each other. It shows the way the characters’ lives converge and diverge.


The musical may not be an overall visual spectacle, considering it’s not enjoying a generous production budget, but Ohm David’s set design represents the nostalgia of being a provincial high school student. The sentimentality of the trademark wheel swing, a huge tree with a makeshift ladder, and the effect of flowing water through lighting effects are all enough to make you feel like you are in the actual setting.

The riverside plays a significant role in the story, emphasizing that tales and moments of the character may change, but the myths of their youth and friendship will remain stagnant and exist as the body of water continues to flow in San Juan E. The production also utilizes technology by introducing an interactive element where the audience can scan a QR code to join the chat group of the gang and feel like they are part of the crew.

Set design of Tabing Ilog: The Musical 2023 | Image: Jessica Ann Evangelista,

Set design of Tabing Ilog: The Musical 2023 | Image: Jessica Ann Evangelista,

Before the final bow, the group reconciled and is seen enjoying each other’s company before they go back to their different lives in and outside of San Juan E. As the crew mingles, James suddenly says, “Ito ‘yung winish ko nung birthday ko, na maging okay na ulit tayong lahat.” (This is what I wished for on my birthday, for us to be okay again.) His friends just smiled.

However, when James adds a statement, “Next year, ulit ha?” His friends looked at each other, not knowing what to say. “How about the year after next?” he asked again. Eventually, Fonzy responds, “James, let’s just enjoy this now. Ito muna.” 

No one knows what the future holds, but almost everyone hopes that the friendship and the love will always be there, although these may not be visible at times, but will endure the test of time. “Old time’s sake” is both a beautiful and heartbreaking sentiment that the play perfectly encapsulates.

Despite the Gen Z approach to the musical, every generation, especially the fans of the ABS-CBN series, could relate to wanting to have that moment of “old time’s sake” with their friends, may it be a chat over a coffee or a walk in the park, because everyone deserves to have time to remember a happy moment that we had with some significant people in our past, despite the unpredictable future that lies ahead of us.

So let’s linger near the riverside, shall we? Let’s do it for old-time’s sake, my friend. Let’s do it for the love that once was there.

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Tabing Ilog: The Musical 2023, a partnership between ABS-CBN and PETA, will run from November 10 to December 17 at the PETA Theater.

TAGS: ABS-CBN, Musical, Peta Theater Center, Tabing Ilog

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