Questions of historical accuracy aside (let's leave that to the scholars), you now have the chance to see how the inhabitants of Intramuros dressed up and looked like during the Spanish era, as actors and performers in period costumes parade around the area twice every night, some 45 minutes before an interactive show is performed at the open-air ruins of San Ignacio Church.
The play, which runs twice nightly at 8pm and 9pm, was written by the much-garlanded playwright, actor and teacher Rody Vera, directed by Chris Millado, and performed by Tanghalang Pilipino. The audience itself, milling about and standing before the stage, becomes part of the production, as various characters weave in and out of the crowd and engage audience members in small talk. So don't be surprised if a Chinese merchant suddenly approaches and unfurls a bolt of silk before you. Or two women shrouded in black engage in loud gossip nearby. They're all part of the act--a way to give you a feel of how it was to live within these walls during the Spanish colonial era.
I saw the preview performance and, despite some glitches, I appreciated what the Department of Tourism is trying to do with this activity. I would've preferred that the play's text were in Filipino rather than in English (an obvious nod to foreign tourists), and to have English translations or supertitles flashed on the walls instead. But I don't have the heart to quibble for now. After all, if it's exactness that should govern this valiant attempt at reliving a forgotten part of our history, the actors might as well speak in Spanish, right?
One other thing that excited me: it's Tanghalang Pilipino that's performing here, simply one of the country's best theater troupes at present. In particular, let me direct your attention to that boy dressed in sacristan vestments in the picture. His name is Abner Delina Jr., a recent graduate of the Philippine High School for the Arts in Makiling, Laguna, and he is a very young actor of tremendous promise. In last July's "Virgin Labfest 2" (a modest festival of 15 fresh, unstaged works by the Writers' Bloc, a loose group of established and emerging Filipino playwrights, held at the CCP and performed mostly by TP actors), Mr. Delina headlined Alvin Dacanay's play, "First Snow of November," an adaptation of Bienvenido Santos' "The Day the Dancers Came." All of 16 years old, he played an aging Pinoy expat in a Chicago nursing home pining for his homeland, and he pulled it off magnificently.
"A Walk Back in Time" offers other attractions, including a food festival highlighting our ancient ties with pre-Spanish trading partners like China, India, Japan, Malaysia and Arabia; chorale performances by award-winning choirs; an exhibit of Pampanga parols; as well as performances by contemporary bands (beginning 10pm every Friday).
And guess what? All activities and events are open to the public. Admission is free. So let's get our asses off the malls for once and find time to support this culture-building effort. (Call 9271294 local 108 for more details.)
[photos 1-4: Jim Guiao Punzalan]