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The life of Rosa Henson is not relegated as mere tragedy but is celebrated in the play Nana Rosa for her bravery. As a war victim, she suffered immense pain from foreign soldiers and persecution from people judgemental of her character and history. And most agonizing was the conflict within her self. Peewee O’Hara starred in the play written by Rody Vera and directed by José Estrella.

Photo by I.R. Arenas

Post 481

When epic poems take the form of modern-day musicals, the erstwhile  imagination limited to an individual listener brought by orality turns into something visually performative enjoyed collectively by an audience. Here in a scene of the musical version of the Ilocano epic Biag ni Lam-ang, the hero is swallowed to his death by a giant fish.

Photo by I.R. Arenas

Post 479

Fuente Ovejuna, written by Spanish playwright Lope de Vega, features the collective action of a whole town to murder their tyrant overlord. Here, the oppressed couple Frondoso (Tristan Bite) and Laurencia (Hariette Damole) listen to the tortured villagers as they withhold the names of the plotters of the murder. Instead, they unitedly testsify that “Fuente Ovejuna did it!”

This was staged by Dulaang UP, directed by Tony Mabesa.

Photo by I.R. Arenas

Post 476

For nearly five decades, the atrocities of Martial Law survive and evolve to new forms. The end of the Marcos regime has not sealed wounds of Martial Law as its scions and political enablers are now in power.

This is a scene from the musical version of the Lualhati Bautista’s novel Dekada 70, wonderfully adapted and directed by Pat Valera.

Photo by I.R. Arenas

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The Spanish setting of Federico Garcia Lorca’s La Casa de Bernarda Alba (The House of Bernarda Alba) easily fits the Philippine social environment because of the common conservative Catholic experience.

Bernarda Alba (Frances Makil-Ignacio) torments her all-female household with her controlling nature, which is influenced by the prevailing repression against women.

This was staged by Dulaang UP, directed by Alexander Cortez.

Photo by I.R. Arenas

Post 472

The dysfunctional political climate of the Philippines has its origins in the formation of the first republic, the obvious theme of the musical Mabining Mandirigma. Apolinario Mabini (Monique Wilson) counsels President Emilio Aguinaldo (David Ezra) who repeatedly falls for the schemes of the ilustrado elite.

Mabining Mandirigma was directed by Chris Millado from the libretto by Nicanor Tiongson and music by Joed Balsamo.

Photo by I.R. Arenas

Post 470

If He Doesn’t See Your Face by Suzue Toshiro is a domestic story set inside the strict Japanese prison visiting facility room. Here, the couple – the man being the prisoner – talk about family life and son, and reaffirm their love.

This was staged at the Areté arts hub of the Ateneo de Manila University, directed by Ricardo Abad, and starred by Brian Matthew Sy and Delphine Buencamino.

Photo by I.R. Arenas

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In this scene from Laro (literally Game), an adaptation of A. Schnitzler’s La Ronde, the Model (Jay Gonzaga) tells his tale of having to pursue perfection because of his beauty while the Philanthropist (Vince de Jesus) disdains hearing pitiful stories – he rather seeks flaws for he finds perfection boring. The play casts the spotlight on gay life in conservative Philippines. The play is written by Floy Quintos.

Photo by I.R. Arenas

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In The Kundiman Party, the three concerned titas of the Philippines – Helen (Stella Cañete-Mendoza), Mitch (Jenny Jamora), and Mayen (Franses Makil-Ignacio) – are stuck in social media for things politically viral. Despite their age, they still have the flare burning for the good sake of the country.

This is from the 2018 original run of Floy Quintos’s Kundiman Party, directed by Dexter Santos. (The play has its rerun in late May 2019.)

Photo by I.R. Arenas

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Former opera singer Maestra Adela (Shamaine Buencamino) with Ludwig (Farley Asuncion) giving the pitch vocalises Bobby (Kalil Almonte), a millennial out to fight the political system, in the 2018 original run of Floy Quintos’s The Kundiman Party, directed by Dexter Santos. The play is most relevant today in the midst of the populism trend and the long-standing citizen apathy towards good governance. (The play has its rerun in late May  2019.)

Photo by I.R. Arenas

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Both disturbing and emancipating, Nana Rosa is a play about the elderly Rosa Henson (1927–1997) coming out after four decades of silence regarding her ordeals as a comfort woman during the Pacific War.  The fight for acknowledgement of comfort women continues to this day in East and Southeast Asian countries. The play is written by Rody Vera and the premiere is directed by José Estrella for UP Playwrights’ Theatre.

Photo by I.R. Arenas

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One can only imagine the sheer pain that a desaparecido has gone through. Those who survived torture by government agents have narrated many tales, our only hint of what could have happened to the missing. Theatre performances could recreate such scenes but they are noway near to the real and palpable horrors of political persecution. Below is from the theatre adaptation of the novel Desaparesidos by Lualhati Bautista.

Photo by I.R. Arenas