Posts Tagged ‘dulaang up’

pop goes the world: the relevance of rizal

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 11 November 2010, Thursday

The Relevance of Rizal

I’ve always been a fan of Dulaang UP, which puts on entertaining and thought-provoking productions at the University of the Philippines’ Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater. Their latest offering, Isang Panaginip na Fili, promises to be another visual and intellectual feast.

This production is Dulaang UP’s prelude to the 150th birth anniversary of Dr. Jose Rizal, who was born 19 June 1861.

Says UP professor Amella Bersalona, “Isang Panaginip na Fili is a radical reworking of Rizal’s El Filibusterismo. For one, Jose Rizal himself is a central character in the musical.” The play is set in 1891, and revolves around the concept of Rizal “writing El Filibusterismo in a seedy hotel room in Paris.”

“The play is about the idea of transformation,” says Bersalona, a concept linked to the theme of “Ibarra’s transformation from reformist to filibuster” which constitutes “the very crux of the novel.”

The idea of taking a work familiar to all educated Filipinos and remixing its themes and narratives to create something different will have the effect of making viewers become more attentive to the unfolding of the play. Of course, an assessment of the production values would be an integral part of the experience. These are the first things people notice – the quality of the actors’ performances; music; lighting, sound, and direction; and so on.

Yet there are other levels of analysis that would enable viewers to have a deeper enjoyment of the work. The first level would involve comparison, spotting the differences between what is in the novel and what is in the play, a tracking of the latter’s narrative structure and how far it departs from the original.

The second level requires a revisitation of themes on a conceptual dimension. What are they – transformation? The political environment and social change? Communication, and the success or failure thereof? What are the parallels of these ideas in the present time, and how would these concepts be relevant to us now?

Spectacles like plays can be viewed on a surface level, but there is more useful takeaway if one asks questions and challenges what one is seeing and experiencing.

Another question that the prospect of seeing this play raises is, is Rizal still relevant? Are his works dated, helpful only to high school and college students who are required to study his novels? Or do his ideas as embedded in his works still hold validity, his works being historical records of the social and political issues of his time?

A large part of Fili and Rizal’s first novel, Noli Me Tangere, deals with the social injustices suffered by Filipinos in circa 1880s Philippines, principally Manila.  With Filipinos of the time crushed under the colonial Spanish regime, laboring under the abuses of the Roman Catholic friars who controlled much of politics and society, Rizal was consumed with exposing these societal ills to find a cure for them. In Fili and Noli, he explored different methods for achieving social justice and equality of political status with the colonists.

While the details of the situation back then may be radically different from today, the themes in Rizal’s novels and other works are universal and timeless. Present-day Philippines is still suffering from abuses – not from a colonial master (though the vestiges of that trauma still pervade the Filipino psyche), but from corrupt government officials. The Roman Catholic Church still holds an inordinate amount of power and influence – look at how some prelates recently advocated civil disobedience should the Reproductive Health bill be passed.

It has been over a hundred years since Rizal died, yet no answers have been found to the questions he posed. Will we as a nation ever learn from the past? When will we rectify mistakes that are still being perpetuated?

Rizal is such an iconic figure that he is a stock character in popular culture. Image from here.

There is so much of value in Rizal. Whatever you feel about him being named as “national hero” by the American colonial regime, it is undeniable that his works were influential during his time and made significant contributions to the Philippine revolutionary effort.

But why do we continue to disregard the more significant and profound aspects of Rizal’s legacy, focusing instead on imposing a shallow appreciation of his seminal works upon high school and college students who often read them out of context?

Knowing us as a race, I can only quote the national hero’s own words: “Adios, patria adorada…”

This Dulaang UP play should help us view Rizal and his works in a fresh light. Written by Floy Quintos, Isang Panaginip na Fili’s original music was composed by Ceejay Manuel Javier. Reprising the role of Pepe Rizal is Franco Laurel, for which he won an Aliw Award in 2009. Alternating for the role is Red Concepcion, who was last seen in Repertory Philippines’ “Equus”.

Fili will run from November 24-28 and December 1-5 and 8-12, at 7pm from Wednesdays to Fridays, and at 10am and 3pm on weekends. For tickets, call Cherry at (0917)750-0107, or the Dulaang UP Office at 926-1349 or 433-7840. ***

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pop goes the world: culture stock

POP GOES THE WORLD, By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 7 October 2010, Thursday

Culture Stock

Where resides a nation’s heart and soul?

This was the question that several university professors, media professionals, and I discussed the other night during a PhD class at the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication. It stemmed from College of St. Benilde professor Rod Rivera’s report on theaters in Manila that screen films bordering on the pornographic.  There are those, he said, that claim that such theaters in Quiapo and Recto are a front for male prostitution.

From there, Dr. Jose Lacson segued to commercialism in television and film. Advertising executive Chitchat Diangson said that much of television content in dictated by what producers believe will sell, leading to the creation of mind-numbing programs like “Wowowee”. Professor Bea Lapa deplored the entertainment media’s unwillingness to raise the programming bar in standards and taste, while writer Nina Villena brought up the issue of media gatekeeping. Women’s development professor and staunch feminist Julienne Baldo decried the media’s reinforcement of negative stereotypes of gender and class, perpetuating cruel cycles of prejudice and bias that further retard national social development.

Prof. Julienne Baldo analyzes the poster of  ”Serbis” at a theater in Quiapo.

Which brings us back to our question and its possible answer. It is in art where commercialism does not hold absolute sway and the discourse on social issues may be expanded without the taint of capitalism and the imperative of profit. There are those of us who write, paint, make music, and sculpt not for money, but because we need to express the meanings and concepts that burn within us and cry to be expressed and physically manifested in forms that may be shared with others.

These forms – books, songs, paintings, theater plays – often do not translate into income for their creators, but that was not the point of their creation anyway. It is in a nation’s art that current social events and issues are poked, cut up into bits, and licked to find out what they taste like. What’s important to people? That is what floats up in the content being made nowadays, and is disseminated over channels such as the Internet.

Dulaang UP scored one such intellectually-shaking triumph with their recent hit production “Shock Value”, written by Floy Quintos and directed by Alexander Cortez. It’s been given a positive review by MST opinion editor Adelle Chua, who focused her piece on the play’s theme of the commercialization of television, and how producers of celebrity shows of mass attraction artificially manufacture the scandals and intrigues that make up its content.

“Shock Value” cast members sashay across the stage. (Dulaang UP photo)

Among its stars in its cast are John Lapus, Mylene Dizon, Andoy Ranay, Christian Alvarado, and the awesomely talented Sabina Santiago. As “Little Tweety Girl”, Santiago’s hilarious on-stage simulation of an orgasm, eyes rolling back in her head, demotes Meg Ryan’s performance in “When Harry Met Sally” to amateur status.

Dulaang UP’s next offering is “Isang Panaginip na Fili”, “an edgy, dreamlike interpretation” of the Jose Rizal novel El Filibusterismo by writer/director Quintos, which will run from November 24 to December 12 at UP Diliman’s Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater. Call (02)926-1349 or (02)433-7840 for tickets.

“Isang Panaginip na Fili” publicity still, courtesy of Dulaang UP.

A fresh take on heartbreak, loss, and recovery comes from writer Carljoe Javier by way of his non-fiction book The Kobayashi Maru of Love, with artwork and design by Adam David of the Youth and Beauty Brigade. It’s available at

Says Carljoe: “I wrote The Kobayashi Maru of Love because, first, I was trying to understand (a recent) breakup, and I was trying to work through my feelings about it. Like any breakup, there are nasty emotions that follow, and I was going through all that. But I thought that if I was forced to apply aesthetic distance, if I was forced to try and be funny about it, that I would be able to cope better. And as I got back into the dating game, well, things were just funny and had to be written about.”

The book is indeed funny, but beyond that, it dwells on themes that nearly everyone who reads it can relate to. “I think that I’m talking about something universal,” says Carljoe, “and that’s loss. Pretty much everyone has gone through a heartbreak or a heartache. I guess that I was just trying to connect to that, to make the book not just about my own personal heartbreak, but to make it for everyone who’s ever been through it. Our individual experiences are different, but the hurt is the same. So I wanted to write a book that talked about that.”

Carljoe’s next book, Geek Tragedies, will be published by UP Press next year. “I have a number of projects in the works,” he says, “among them a book I hope to write about the Filipino diaspora and the effect that having parents abroad have on kids; a book about me, a fat man trying to get healthy; and a novel.” A freelance writer and editor of the Philippine Online Chronicles, he is also taking his MA Creative Writing at UP’s College of Arts and Letters.

Art in this country is alive and well and a thriving part of our culture, a part that is not a slave to commercialism but is free to speak out on social matters, the human condition, and what lives inside the Filipino heart and soul. ***

Photo above, L-R: (front) writer Bambi Harper, UP professor emeritus Dr. Cristina Hidalgo. (back) writers Waldo Petralba, Jeena Marquez, and Carljoe Javier.

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pop goes the world: ‘orosman at zafira’ and divorce

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 19 August 2010, Thursday

“Orosman at Zafira” and Divorce

For its 35th season, the Dulaang UP of the University of the Philippines is putting on a series of productions kicking off with Francisco Baltazar’s “Orosman at Zafira”, running up to August 29 at the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater at UP-Diliman’s Palma Hall.

For those who remember having to slog through Baltazar’s epic poem “Florante at Laura” in high school, “Orosman” is the same in flavor; the dialogue is heavy reading in archaic Tagalog and hard to follow, although the narrative, as brought to life by cast members, can be comprehended from the talented and excellent performances.

Reed screens decorate the set and are moved around to create spaces, emphasize separation, and otherwise indicate location. At the beginning, the title of the play is cast upon the screens in light, which fades and shifts to a rainbow of coruscating lights.

Suddenly a woman’s low, husky tones ululate in distinctly Filipino cadences, followed by the doom-doom beat of tribal drums. At those sounds, something primal surges within, a call of the race deep within the blood that hearkens to the rhythm of forebears as the reed screens separate to reveal the singer/narrator, Zelima (played superbly by Tao Aves), clad in flowing robes, mourning the deluge that has overwhelmed their land: “Sa aming bayan, dilubyo sa aming bayan. Tatlong pacha, isang kahariang mahal; nagalit ba ang dakilang Allah, at nangyari na ang dapat na mangyari?”

Then unfolds the story of power and wealth, love and sorrow, life and death, played out in dance and song and words. The women of Baltazar’s “Orosman” are powerful: Tasy  Garrucha enchants as Zafira, princess of the Marueccos tribe, while Jean Judith Javier’s Gulnara, the beloved of Sultan Mahamud, Zafira’s father, convincingly portrays a complicated love. Both turn warrior upon the assassination of the sultan; do not be misled by the flowing gowns and the soft voices; the dulcet tones turn harsh with anger, the gowns stripped to reveal men’s clothing while staves and other weapons are waved at the moment of battle.

As the drama unfolded, I realized that the spirit of warrior women still lives in Filipinas today. Infidelity is endemic in our culture and is cause for much heartbreak in relationships. Our laws are biased towards men, who can only be charged with concubinage upon submission of proof that they have set up a household with a woman not their wife. Women, on the other hand, only have to fail once and be caught in a tryst with their lover to be charged with infidelity. Is that fair?

There are also no strict safeguards for battered women and children, despite the Violence Against Women and Children law which was only passed a few years ago. What recourse is there for Filipino women in the present day to escape from the trap of loveless marriages scarred by infidelity and violence, the wife-beating husband in the arms of another woman, often providing no support for the children?

House Bill 1799 is one such solution. Called the “Divorce Law” and proposed by women lawmakers who are among our modern warrior women, it provides a better option than the costly and lengthy annulment that is the only means at the present for unhappily married Filipinas to be emancipated.

Have you noticed how the proponents and supporters of the bill are women and progressive men, while its opponents are traditionalist men? The reactionary male lawmakers and their like-minded fellows who seek to keep women entrapped at their convenience are selfish and fail to take into account the feelings of the women who yearn for freedom and the chance to start life anew, perhaps find a man who will truly love and cherish them. Why can’t they let go?

These hidebound fogies see women as property, theirs to bind and loose at their whim, blind to the rights of women to live their own lives as they see fit, while they engage in affairs left and right. That is not fair or moral or right. If a marriage is not working, for whatever reason, why not accept that fact and take steps to set both parties free to start anew? That is better than for unhappy couples to stay together for the sake of appearance – that is hypocrisy.

Baltazar’s women took matters into their own hands when it came to love and war. Today’s women need to keep to the law of modern society; wielding swords and bows are not an option. Yet Filipinas are not without weapons – we have our brains to think and our bodies to act to support a law that is long overdue and that will give women that which are our rights and should not be withheld by those who wish to retain their power over half of the population.

As examples of strong and loving women, Zafira and Gulnara are inspirations. Some of the other cast members include Jay Gonzaga (Orosman), Kevin Concepcion (Aldervesin), Roeder Camañag (Boulasem), Acey Aguilar (Zelim), Neil Ericson Tolentino (Mahamud), and veteran Ronnie Martinez as Ben-Asar, Mahamud’s vizier. Directed by Dexter Santos with original music by Carol Bello, “Orosman at Zafira” is a must-see. Call Dulaang UP at 926-1349 for tickets and playdates. ***

Photos from Prof. Amy Bersalona of the UP-Diliman College of Arts and Letters/Dulaang UP.

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dulaang UP’s 35th season playlist

From my friends at Dulaang UP, an announcement on their latest season of stage plays:

Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas (Dulaang UP), the University of the Philippines’ official performing theatre arts group, launches its 35th season with the theme “Return Engagement: Plays Deserving a Second Look” on July 22, 3:30 pm, at its improved home, the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theatre, 2nd floor, Palma Hall, Diliman, Quezon City.

Various DUP productions will be restaged, among them Orosman at Zafira on August 11-29, a musical hailed as 2008’s first great production with Dexter Santos as director and original music by Carol Bello;  Shock Value..Take 2 on September 14 –October 3, which adds a new chapter to this exciting comedy that mirrors the  wacky and controversial truth about showbiz life, with Floy Quintos as playwright and Alexander Cortez as director;  Isang Panaginip na Fili on November 24-December 12, another powerful and compelling post-modern musicale of Rizal’s El Filibusterismo and nominated as the 22nd Aliw Awards Best Musical production  under the direction of Floy  Quintos with Cj Javier providing the music; and Amphitryon on February 16 to March 6, in a Filipino translation by Jerry Respeto based on Heinrich Von Kleist’s play with Josefina Estrella as the director.

Also, UP Playwrights’ Theatre on its 22nd season will present Floy Quintos’ new play Fake on May 4-13 at the Teatro Hermogenes Ylagan with Dulaang UP founder Tony Mabesa as director. Aside from these theatre productions, Dulaang UP has two upcoming fund-raising efforts: Backstage Sale with various Dulaang UP artists on July 27-30 at the College of Arts and Letters New Building and the launching of Friends of Dulaang UP on July 22.

For further details, please call telephone numbers (632) 9261349 and 9818500 x. 249 and telefax (632) 4337840.

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