Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Becoming human

“'King Lear' remains a hard play to enjoy, but 'enjoy' may the wrong word--it's a work we endure in the hope that it will show us something about who we are. No other play has the same tragic power, the same ability to inflict pain on its audience: In the entire history of literature, only Sophocles gives a comparable portrait of suffering.

“Audiences have repeatedly turned to it in turbulent ages, as in the aftermath of World War II, and again today. When our own world seems to be filled with the war, torture and gratuitous cruelty that crowded Shakespeare's imagination, we look to 'Lear' to be reminded of what it is to be human.”

-- Jack Lynch, “A complex relationship with 'King Lear'”

PLUS: A clip from the fabled 1983 TV production of “King Lear,” featuring a constellation of British acting talent led by Laurence Olivier as Lear, Dorothy Tutin as Goneril, Colin Blakely as Kent and John Hurt as The Fool. Also Leo McKern as Gloucester, Diana Rigg as Regan and Jeremy Kemp as Cornwall. Can any sound be more terrifyingly beautiful than Olivier's Lear cursing his ungrateful daughter Goneril with these lines? (5:56-5:07)

Hear, nature, hear; dear goddess, hear!
Suspend thy purpose, if thou didst intend
To make this creature fruitful!
Into her womb convey sterility!
Dry up in her the organs of increase;
And from her derogate body never spring
A babe to honour her! If she must teem,
Create her child of spleen; that it may live,
And be a thwart disnatured torment to her!
Let it plow wrinkles in that brow of youth;
With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks;
Turn all her mother's pains and benefits
To laughter and contempt; that she may feel
How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
To have a thankless child! Away!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

More happiness

We advertised for 20 bloggers, but we ended up with 35 people in the room last Saturday. Most of them young, students even--which made it all the more gratifying. As Mcvie would write, “Hey, if I’m going to entrust the future of theater appreciation to anyone, might as well be to them.” Eh-men!

Here's the official dispatch, written by Karla, of course (just skip over the mention of my name):

Here’s a big thank you to all those who attended “Theater Talk with Floy Quintos” last Saturday. We hope you all went away with a deeper appreciation of the theater and continue blogging more about it.

A special thank-you, of course, should be given to Gibbs Cadiz, whose brainchild it was (the CD sampler you guys brought home was his brilliant idea); to Migs, whose professionalism and organization was really impressive (online registration! how about that?!); to McVie, who was a natural host waiting to be discovered (we should do this again and you get to be host the next time); and to Floy Quintos, who gladly set aside some time to share his vast theater experience with bloggers and encourage them to watch and continue writing about it.

JM, certainly, was most helpful in covering an out-of-town event that I couldn’t go to because I had to stay at the HQ, and Armand in Chicago, but with us in spirit, who’s indulged me this whim. Thank you, thank you!

Of course, not to forget the customary link love:

One of the first to blog was Andrian Bicaldo, who went away with two tickets to “Insiang:”

“Theater is indeed an alternative world, and as an audience, one has to open himself to this world. Learn the craft, learn to appreciate the director’s vision, the actors’ interpretation and attack on their roles. Everything was covered, it was like Theater 101 for me.” [“Theater Talk Atbp at PETA Center”]

Mrs. J (aka Jason De la Cruz) writes:

“Floy Quintos started a short introduction about theater, how we can appreciate it more . . . the production itself, from the set–how can it help the audience feel the 'world' that the director and scripwriter is creating, the actors–every artista has his/her own way of delivering the lines or portraying the roles, up to the technicalities of every theater production . . . he made examples, analogies of plays that really made a good impact and defy why theatre exist. . . Direk even talked about the other types of theatre like the musicals, ballet and opera and also how theatre now a days reach out more that at times it’s becoming so much like the comedy bars– direct and straight to the point!...” [“Bet ko 2: Theatre Talk with Floy”]

Within the week, pending some technical glitches, we’ll try to have the recorded talk online so those who didn’t make it could download and listen to it.

More stories from the other participants here:

Glaiza Seguia: “Crunchy Tuna Roll!”
Calvin Cortes: “Talk About Theater”
Jeanne Louise Cruz: “Theater Talk, Atbp. With Floy Quintos”
Arpee and Noreen Lazaro: “Floy Talks Theater”
Walter Ang: “Theater talk with Floy Quintos”
Shari Cruz: “Theater Talk + Liquor Ban = Disaster”
Jhed Cabrera: “The Dork Does Theater”
LA Lomarda: “Theater, Liquor and Coffee”
Alan Rey Penilla: “A Late Lucky Bastard at the Theater Talk”
Lalah Varias: “A Soulful Venture”
Juned Sonido: “A Night at the Theater”
Richard Raymond Uy: “Theater Talk with Floy Quintos”
Chris Lagman: “Theater Talk at PETA”
Joel Macaventa: “Theater Talk”

Some more attendees: Ederic Eder, Marco Angeles, Christopher Joseph San Jose, Chuck Smith, Carlo Capellan, Cyril Ramos, Sharline Bareng, AJ Matela, Joseph Datinguinoo, Faith Salazar, Coy Caballes, JM Tuazon, Ricky/Arlo, Gerald Cruz, and Philippine Star columnist Exie Abola.

Thank you!
1. To all the participants for spending time on this event. It was a Saturday, you could have been out on a gimmick, but you chose to dig theater instead. You rock.

2. To Floy Quintos. Wow, what can I say? You had them from the git-go, as I had expected. Your knowledge, experience and passion all combined for a terrifically sharp and entertaining presentation. Hats off to you!

3. To Tanghalang Pilipino, Repertory Philippines and Atlantis Productions for the free tickets that were raffled off, and to PETA for accommodating us in its Center. Continue giving us plays and musicals that we can be proud of.

4. To McVie for expertly hosting the event. Watch out, Boy Abunda! :)

5. To Armand, Karla, JM and Marj of and Migs of ManilaGayGuy for the generous sponsorship. The food was yummy, the encouragement inspiring, and the event itself something to cherish for good. Ready for more?

PLUS: More photos here.

[Photo 1: JM Tuazon for]

‘El Filibusterismo’ from Gantimpala Theater

The final installment of Gantimpala Theater’s Four Classics, “El Filibusterismo” based on National Hero José Rizal’s novel and made into a play by Jomar Fleras, returns to the stage Nov. 4.

“El Filibusterismo” narrates the return of the protagonist of “Noli Me Tangere,” Crisostomo Ibarra, disguised as the wealthy jeweller Don Simoun (Roeder Camañag). Disillusioned by the abuses of the friars and government leaders, Ibarra abandons his beliefs in order to return to his hometown of San Diego and start a bloody revolution.

The cast includes Perry Dizon (Don Custodio/Tata Selo), Jorge Cabullo (Don Tiago/Ben Zayb), Perry Escaño (Kabesang Tales), Kimberly Diaz (Juli), Lani Tapia (Dona Victorina/Madre), Yutaka Yamakawa(Juanito Pelaez/ Padre Irene), Bluemark Rocess (Isagani) and Lailanie Anne Tejuco (Paulita Gomez), Jeffrey Camañag (Padre Camorra), Ronald Concepcion (Padre Fernandez) and Billy Parjan (Padre Salvi).

Soxie Topacio directs, with Perry Dizon as assistant director, Roobak Valle as production designer, Andy Villareal as lighting designer, Andrew Alcona as stage manager and Pamela Hundana as production manager. Gantimpala artistic director is Tony S. Espejo.

Performances are on Nov. 4 (7 p.m., Concert at the Park Open Air Auditorium, Luneta, Manila); Nov. 9-11, 23-24 (10 a.m. and 2 p.m., AFP Theater, Quezon City); and Nov. 16-17 (SM Southmall Cinema 6, Las Piñas City).

Call 8995745 or 8963503 for tickets or e-mail

Sunday, October 28, 2007


The talk:

The class picture/s:

The kainan:

The rest of the photos here. Full story, link love and thank-you speech later. Off for some shuteye for now, to smile in my sleep.

Friday, October 26, 2007

One day more

Just finished printing copies of Floy Quintos' notes-cum-handout for tomorrow's theater talk with bloggers, 5:30-7:30 p.m., at the PETA Theater Center. Mostly talking points, really, to guide him in his discussion on theater appreciation, but ones that I'm confident he can translate into an evening of insightful, entertaining and useful chika. I've attended a couple of his presentations during the summer series of directors' lectures at the CCP; the man can talk up a storm and leave his audience in stitches with his endless anecdotes. (Don't let him go without hearing his priceless Celia Rodriguez stories!)

Unlike those classroom-type lectures, though, tomorrow's set-up is going to be very light. We're transforming the corner we rented at the PETA Center into an ersatz living room, the better for everyone to feel relaxed and eager to participate in the chikahan. Aside from the modest chow, we're also raffling off some stuff, including gift certificates and tickets to upcoming shows. So if things go right, the 25 or so bloggers who've signed up (plus a few friends who are showing up to lend a hand) will be in for a fun two hours of learning, good conversation and bonding with new people. Masaya itu! See ya there!

P.S. Wanna join us? We're waiting for a few more confirmations. If anyone backs out, we'll do our best to accommodate new registrants. Take your chance and sign up here.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


“Fashionistas from Naomi Campbell to Carrie Bradshaw have made embarrassing missteps on the catwalk. But model Sarah Welch trumped them all when she fell through a hole during an LA Fashion Week show...”

Dulaang UP presents 'The Silent Soprano'

In celebration of the centennial of the University of the Philippines, Dulaang UP, on its 32nd theatre season, stages Vince De Jesus and Ricardo “Batch” Saludo’s new musical, “The Silent Soprano,” under the direction of Alexander Cortez.

“The Silent Soprano” centers on a domestic helper, Margie, whose golden voice captivates Hong Kong songwriter Ricky. But big-time record producer George thumbs down the idea of a Filipino maid singing Canto-pop, until he comes up with a daring scheme to sell her to the fans. The audacious plan catapults Margie to stardom, but she must follow George's draconian rules to keep her place at the top of the charts.

Will she stay in her cage in exchange for fame and fortune, or will she break free and be herself at the cost of losing it all? The musical sweeps across the themes of identity, music, race, love and freedom in a world driven by money, media and manipulation. The tunes, trials and tribulations of “The Silent Soprano” mark a journey between disparate cultures, lands and souls to find one common core of humanity.

“The Silent Soprano” runs November 21–December 9, 2007 at the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, 2nd floor, Palma Hall, U.P. Diliman, Quezon City. Call 9261349/4337840/9818500 loc. 2449, or Mara Marasigan at 09159046721. For sponsorships, ticket inquiries and reservations, call Luz de Luna at 0917-6206224 or Franchesca San Agustin at 0906-3916169. Visit

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

First Reading, part 2

Basil, a visiting Sri Lankan seminarian, joined the sophomore class of our college seminary at the start of the school year. Big and dark-skinned, with a high-pitched voice that belied his rotund, pear-shaped frame, he was sweetness personified, rather shy but very good-natured. Sri Lankans, we found out by observing him, had an exuberant body language, warm and hyper whenever excited. The always-smiling Basil was one of the boys in no time at all.

There was no particular difficulty in communicating with him. His English, while fractured, could be understood. Of course, the first Bicolano words he learned, when he grasped what they meant, had him cackling in laughter and blushing furiously--or at least we thought so, since we couldn't be sure with his ebony cheeks.

It took some time for Basil to feel comfortable enough to agree to do the first reading during Mass. He prepared for it by practicing whenever he could. Naturally, when the day came, it took on the status of an event, with everyone wishing him well on his first attempt at reading the assigned scripture in English.

Voice sounding tighter and tinnier than usual, he opened the reading, went through several paragraphs of I don't remember which Old Testament book now, and visibly grew more confident as he neared the end. So far, so good. When he finished without a hitch, he looked up and smiled through his glasses, his perfect pearly teeth reflecting the whiteness of his immaculate sotana.

One last line to go. Then Basil said, eyes suddenly bulging: “This is the word of THE GAAHD!”

We almost jumped off our seats in fright. The mass effectively ended a beat later, solemnity all gone as we exhaled one big wave of laughter. Basil stayed three more semesters with us, a chipper friend to everyone. But we remember him most fondly today for one thing: Once upon a lazy morning, without his meaning to, he very nearly gave us a glimpse of the Apocalypse.

PLUS: First Reading, part 1

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Repertory Phils. restages 'Fiddler On The Roof'

To celebrate its 40th year, Repertory Philippines is restaging “Fiddler On The Roof” at Onstage Theater in Greenbelt 1, Makati City.

“It will be nostalgia for many Rep subscribers and there is a whole generation that hasn’t seen this musical theater classic,” says director Baby Barredo. “Also, the message that it sends is as relevant today as it was 30 years ago. Besides, the music is some of the most memorable written for the stage and deserves to be heard again--sung, live, by the warm and funny characters of the story. Apparently both Broadway and West End feel the same way, because it has been revived over and over.”

Rep will introduce Tyler Allan Strand as Tevye, the happy milkman and father of five daughters who sings the popular song “If I Were A Rich Man.” Miguel Faustmann, one of Manila’s finest actors, alternates with him. Golde, his wife, will be played alternately by Joy Virata and Pinky Marquez, both seasoned musical theater actresses. Other roles will be played by rising young theater actors Niccolo Manahan, Cris Villonco, Vanessa Paolelli, Cara Barredo, Felix Rivera and Hans Eckstein. An exciting new talent, Siria Rutstein, makes her first appearance in Manila alternating with Samantha Sewell in the role of Tzeitel, the eldest daughter.

The leads will be supported by a strong ensemble of Rep actors, among them Jaime del Mundo, Bonggoy Manahan, Oliver Usison and Boyd Tinio. Violinist Farida Kabayao is The Fiddler. Baby Barredo herself makes a cameo appearance as Yente the Matchmaker alternating with Jay Glorioso.

Barredo and Robbie Guevara co-direct and Julie Borromeo choreographs. The music will be played by the Manila Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Arturo Molina.

Rep's “Fiddler On The Roof,” written by Josepth Stein with lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and music by Jerry Bock, runs November 9-December 16. Opening night will be sponsored by St. Joseph’s College, where it all began for Rep 40 years ago.

For ticket information, prices and show dates, call 8870710 or visit Tickets are also available at TicketWorld (tel. 8919999).

Why 'Holy shit!' sounds just right

“As secularization has rendered religious swear words less powerful, creative speakers have replaced them with words that have the same degree of affective clout according to the sensibilities of the day. This explains why taboo expressions can have such baffling syntax and semantics. To take just one example, why do people use the ungrammatical 'Fuck you?' And why does no one have a clear sense of what, exactly, 'Fuck you' means? (Some people guess 'fuck yourself,' others 'get fucked,' and still others 'I will fuck you,' but none of these hunches is compelling.) The most likely explanation is that these grammatically baffling curses originated in more intelligible religious curses during the transition from religious to sexual and scatological swearing in English-speaking countries:

Who (in) the hell are you? >> Who the fuck are you?
I don't give a damn >> I don't give a fuck; I don't give a shit.
Holy Mary! >> Holy shit! Holy fuck!
For God's sake >> For fuck's sake; For shit's sake.
Damn you! >> Fuck you!”

More of Steven Pinker's fascinating foray into impious language here.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Star-spangled belters

You might have seen this irresistible match-up in Mark Xander's blog. He beat me to blogging about “two of the greatest female voices on earth” applying their pipes to the US national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” but what the heck, I'm gonna rip off the sweet and smart (and hot!) Vegan Prince and ask you the same question: Who sings it better? Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey? Vote na!

Whitney Houston

Mariah Carey

Trumpets restages 'First Name'

“First Name,” a nearly 20-year old stage musical, originally mounted by the first core group behind Trumpets, has been reconfigured to appeal to a young audience, and is now running at Center Stage, Mall of Asia, until Dec. 14.

“First Name” features lyrics penned by veteran theater and live concert director Freddie Santos and original music contributed by highly respected OPM artists Gary Valenciano, Ogie Alcasid, Ray-Ann Fuentes, Butch Alvarez and Bob Serrano.

“First Name” is basically a musical journey through the Bible. The show’s hit song “Could You Be Messiah?” is one of the musical’s many highlights. “Could You Be Messiah?” became the first Filipino-written ditty released in the United States under an American music label. It was also used by the Billy Graham Crusade in several of its European and South American campaigns.

“When we first presented this musical in 1988, no one knew it would be the first English-language Gospel musical in the history of Philippine Theater. Critics compliment us on how the show reduced the physical size of its material’s body but enlarged the excitement on its soul with music and humor,” says Santos.

“I never thought that after nearly 20 years, I would find such great difficulty in restaging “First Name” with a young audience in mind, whose patience for a slow song demands a seat belt and stern ushers. Every day of the entire rehearsal process, we have to look for every handle meant for a young grasp—a visual, a joke, a prop, a dance move, a singing style. Something, anything,” he adds.

Supplementing the director’s young approach to this 2007 staging of “First Name,” is a young, frisky cast that includes Disney’s “High School Musical On Stage” alumni PJ Valerio, Kevin Concepcion, Fame Flores, Nelsito Gomez Marin and Kakki Teodoro. Also in the cast are Ring Antonio, JC Gotinga, Khalil Kaimo, Eric Mercado, Butch Montejo, Andrei Pamintuan and Maita Ponce.

Jeff Arcilla, DJ Myke Solomon of the Akafellas and Butch Montejo with HIWAY 69 have re-arranged some of the songs for a newer sound.

Assistant directors Bernice Aspillaga-Cañete, Johann dela Fuente and Jun Ofrasio, set designer Mio Infante, costume designer Pam Gumabon, lighting designer Joseph Matheu, vocal coach Sweet Plantado-Tiongson, choreographer Alfred Luanzon and multimedia designer GA Fallarme complete the artistic and production team.

Call Trumpets 6317252 and 6354478.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Annals of mall security

“Seguridad sa iba pang mga malls sa Metro Manila lalo pang hinigpitan kasunod ng pagsabog sa Glorietta mall sa Makati.” -- “Saksi,” GMA 7, October 19, 2007

Not true. The entrances to the connected structures of Gateway Mall, Farmer's Plaza and the LRT Station in Cubao, while sporting the usual bag-checking security guards, was as porous as ever at 8 p.m. last night. My friend actually said, just before we entered the mall, “Naku, mahigpit 'ata ngayon.” He had a large, bulging bag with him.

The guard just took a cursory, uninterested glance at what was inside, then waved us through. Didn't even frisk either of us. Which made me wonder as usual: When these guards ask us to open our bags in the name of OUR security, do they really know what they're looking for? Would they know how to identify an explosive device (or at least parts of it) if it stared them in the face--especially now when lethal bombs can be assembled from the most innocuous, ordinary-looking of items?

I don't mind the extra chore of opening my bag and having my belongings poked, if that's what it would take to make me feel safe inside a mall. But I wish there was some way the malls could assure us, too, that their security personnel do know what they're looking for when they go through our bags and wave those beeping batons in front of us. That the whole procedure isn't just some rigmarole, a token set-up, but a serious effort to weed out those with mischief on their minds.

The fact that a bomb would go off now, however, in the midst of a raging political conflagration, is another point to ponder. Two weeks ago it was talk of a new coup attempt, and now this. How convenient. Haven't we seen this script before?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Blast from the past: 'Mass'

Note: My very first review of a Tanghalang Pilipino play, published February 28, 2005 in PDI. Two years ago! 'Tempus fugit,' indeed.

Yul Servo as Pepe Samson and Mads Nicolas as his mother Emy

PDI, February 28, 2005

Tanghalang Pilipino's “Mass,” Rody Vera's stage adaptation of National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose's last installment to his five-novel Rosales saga, is at once powerful and frustrating, mythic and opaque.

In this inventive but not particularly illuminating production directed by Chris Millado, Jose's darkly panoramic vision of Philippine society in the grips of never-ending violence and betrayal is pared down to a rather straightforward exposition of the adventures and political awakening of the novel's hero, Pepe Samson.

Samson (played by Yul Servo) comes to Manila in search of answers to his bastard origins. He is the son of Antonio Samson, the hero in the preceding novel, “The Pretenders.” A reluctant ilustrado, Tony Samson would write a galvanizing screed against the excesses of his social class before committing suicide by throwing himself in the path of an oncoming train.

In Samson's son Pepe, now struggling to survive in the stinky underbelly of the city, Jose continues his caustic dissection of the corruptibility of the Filipino soul.

The younger Samson becomes, successively, a “toro” performer, a drug pusher and a murderer before finding the light. Along the way, he also becomes a writer, a playboy, a student activist--while under constant torment over his unacknowledged ties with his father.

This Freudian vein assumes an all-important part in the play, as Millado uses it to anchor Pepe's stark descent into prodigality and rot. The young man from the sleepy town of Cabugawan has found an excuse to go wild--he has issues with dad, who, while already dead, still casts a shadow over him.

The psychologizing is expected, and perhaps appropriate given the play's early-'70s milieu. But it must be said that such self-destructive angst now seems more quaint than shocking in our permissive, tell-all times, when bastard starlets regularly pop out on TV to wax boo-hoo in public and claim their 15 minutes of fame.

What this amounts to is much ado about nothing, and the play's emotional core isn't as compelling as it should be.

With Kokoy Palma as the ilustrado Juan Puneta

The start of “Mass” sees Pepe on a revolving spot on stage, turning round and round and howling out his various incarnations--“pusher,” “mamamatay-tao,” “torero" and, of course, “bastardo.”

But once it gets on its way, the play turns out to be an episodic, point-by-point exposition of these chapters in Pepe's life. Each new layer is assumed and discarded--sloughed off is the right word--like a ratty piece of clothing, with Pepe looking none the worse for wear.

Perhaps it has to do with the novel's sprawling structure--a tough case to adapt to theater, admittedly. In any case, Millado ingeniously employs various techniques to collapse time and compress the storyline--a montage of interacting dialogues, for instance, or a change of lighting and speech pattern to visualize a character's thoughts.

These dramatic shorthands are impressively staged and are obviously the product of much thoughtful design. But as plodding links in a chain leading to Pepe's moment of truth, they fail to “lift” the play. The material, as staged, refuses to rise and engage us in the gut, despite the volatile social and emotional traffic in the characters' lives.

Servo as Pepe is a hardworking actor, and he imbues the role with disarming charm. His rough-hewn vocal inflections make up for an intrinsically filmic, minimalist style of acting. But the intelligence that animates his skills is more native and intuitive, which deprives his character of the cunning and calculation it requires.

He is supposed to be editor in chief of his organization's paper, but he betrays no sense of academic or writerly introspection ever. His harrowing experience as a drug dealer and sex worker doesn't seem to deepen him, either. Right up to the end, he remains a perky, if opportunistic, interloper.

So when he takes up arms, raises the red flag and presumably heads to the hills in the end, we are left to wonder: Given his chameleon-like past, how deep will he go into this, the latest chapter in his overstuffed life? Will the revolution he now embraces be just another pit stop on an eternal quest for identity and self-actualization? How long, really, before he goes off on yet another adventure?

With Ronnie Lazaro as the drunkard Roger and Lou Veloso as Ka Lucio

The rootless search for meaning and identity may be true in real life, but it is a pretty dispiriting conclusion to a play that makes Pepe Samson's almost-superhuman character the mythic embodiment of the common Filipino's hunger for justice and uplift.

Or perhaps that is precisely Jose's point? That someone like Pepe, alive now with so much power and sense of righteousness, could also end up like his father someday, purchased and castrated by the aristocracy he so despised?

If there is anything that gives “Mass” its potency despite its prosaic execution, it is Jose's unswerving, unalterable voice at the heart of the play.

It's a conscience that bravely cries “J'Accuse” at the country's mendacious, grasping elite, the ilustrado class that has betrayed the nation time and again by collaborating with invaders and oppressing their countrymen at every turn.

“Ang kasaysayan natin ay kasaysayan ng mga bigong rebolusyon (Our history is a history of failed revolutions),” Pepe tells Toto, his friend and fellow activist.

Later on, he calls the Philippines “bayan ng mga traydor (a land of traitors),” citing the inglorious deaths of Antonio Luna, Gregorio del Pilar and Andres Bonifacio, among others, at the hands of their countrymen. Jose lays the blame for this moral filth squarely on the controlling oligarchy.

“Moral clarity” is a loaded phrase these days, with America's right-wing leadership having appropriated it in its global war on terror. But in “Mass," moral clarity is what Jose exhibits in his ringing denunciation of the depredations of the country's ruling class.

That could explain why he is a polarizing figure in Philippine literature. In a nation with perpetual soft-focus memory and vision, Jose's temerity to call a spade a damn spade is deemed dangerous, even incendiary. Yet works like “Mass” shows that speaking truth to power has never been as necessary.

“Mass” offers a great supporting cast in Lou Veloso, Mads Nicolas and Ronnie Lazaro. But see it for its truth--for what it says, not so much for how it says it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Raves for 'Romulus'

PETA's “Romulus D'Grayt” is on its last two weekends. The reactions I've been reading so far about the play are heartening. Take your cue from them.

PoisonRaven: “Nang matapos kong panoorin ang palabas ay tumayo ang aking balahibo, hindi dahil sa takot kundi sa sobrang pagkamangha sa napanood ko. Napakahusay ang pagganap ng mga artista sa papel nila. Maganda ang pagkakasunod-sunod, gayundin ang pagkagawa ng buong istorya. Binabati ko ang mga tao sa likod ng produksiyon na ito sapagkat matatalino sila at naisip nilang magpalabas ng ganoon kaganda at katalinong palabas. Nasasabi kong matalino sila sapagkat nabatid ko na hindi lamang puro komedya at katatawanan ang pinapalabas nila dito kundi alam kong mayroong natatagong kahulugan ang palabas na iyon. Binabati ko din ang mga nagsipagganap sapagkat, ayon nga sa nasulat ko, nagampanan nila nang mahusay ang mga papel nila. Nagpapasalamat ako kay Prof. del Mundo sapagkat binigyan niya kami ng pagkakataong makapanood ng isang mahusay at matalinong palabas. Binabati ko din ang PETA, dahil nagpalabas sila ng ganito kagandang play.” More here...

Zhali: “This was the very first PETA play that I had ever watched, and I can say that I was not disappointed. Though sitting inside the theater for 3 hours was a bit exhausting. (Believe me, it was!) 'Romulus D' Grayt' features an all-male cast... Yes it was an all male cast, which reminded me of Repertory Philippines' Taming of The Shrew! *joy* It was fun to watch because most of the actors were already familiar to us... But the real surprise was Eric dela Cruz! Basta, watch it to find out! Basta sa kanya kami tawang tawa. Laveeeeeet!” More here...

Aika: “We watched 'ROMVLVS 'D GRAYT,' the Filipino Version of the Swiss play “Romulus the Great". It was a lovely play! Lively, with dynamic and funny characters.. not to mention CUTE. haha.. well, it had an amazing story about loyalty, deception, the government and whatnot... We were granted backstage entry. I saw all the actors, congratulated them and honestly told them that the play was amazing.” More here...

Migs: “I watched Insiang at CCP and Romulus d’ Grayt at PETA this weekend--a one-two punch (aba Manny Pacquaio ikaw ba yan!?) of drama and comedy. Both stage plays were remarkable, so I encourage you dear theater-watching people to watch! (Even non-theater goers, go na!)”

And a typically perceptive piece from Exie: “Under the sure-handed direction of Maribel Legarda, PETA takes [Romulus D' Grayt's] anachronistic spirit and turns it up a few hundred notches... An air of unreality pervades the play. The Roman costumes (the fever-dream spawn of designer Santi Obcena) are flamboyant and fervid in color. What pieces of furniture appear are indistinct black shapes with chalk-like outlines. The set design is at once extravagant and garish. Thanks to Jerry Respeto, who adapted the play from an English translation, the characters speak in hip, breezy Filipino and make frequent references to pop culture, as if they watched The Buzz all day. (Boy Abunda gets mentioned, for good measure.)... Not that the play forgets that it’s a comedy. Far from it. A festive--or rather, fiesta--spirit pervades most of it, especially its first half. The characters (“big, bold, and garish,” Legarda says in her notes) are a riot... The performers are a crack crew of seasoned actors. In the title role is Dido dela Paz, who does an exemplary job veering from avuncular nuttiness to grumpy childishness to world-weariness.” More here...

“Romulus D’Grayt” runs until the last weekend of October at the PETA Theater Center, Quezon City. Call 4100821/7256244, or e-mail or

PLUS: Love the “Romulus” photos in this post? There's more of them here, all taken by ace actor Jojit Lorenzo, who also wields a mean camera.

PLUS PLUS: Got the cast meet 'n greet last Sunday afternoon on video! Raw, unsophisticated clip (haven't had the time to sit down and learn video editing, sigh), so just skim through it for the actors' faces and the mostly-young crowd's cheery post-show vibe. (The gorgeous Christian Vasquez--part of the first staging of “Romulus” in 2005--makes a cameo. Actually I forced him to, hoho.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Earning their keep

Old man selling souvenirs, Kiyomizu Dera Temple, Kyoto, Japan

Woman hawking bananas and pineapples, Old Quarter, Hanoi, Vietnam

Woman selling artworks, Guang Market, Bali, Indonesia

Young Muscovite gone capitalist, Old Arbat district, Moscow, Russia

“Nobody dast blame this man. You don't understand: Willy was a salesman. And for a salesman, there is no rock bottom to the life. He don't put a bolt to a nut, he don't tell you the law or give you medicine. He's a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine. And when they start not smiling back--that's an earthquake. And then you get yourself a couple of spots on your hat, and you're finished. Nobody dast blame this man. A salesman is got to dream, boy. It comes with the territory.”

-- from “Death of a Salesman,” by Arthur Miller

Monday, October 15, 2007

Gatecrashing the Bloggers' Kapihan

Showed up at Bloggers' Kapihan 2.0 held at the Ramon Magsaysay Cubao High School last Saturday. There weren't many people around. Was it because it was a long weekend and many bloggers had gone out of town? Or because they learned that Benj was one-half of the hosting duo, and felt intimidated? (Peace, man!) Or because the topic--Blog Ed 101, on the “importance of blogging in learning, learning in blogging and blogging as a tool for alternative education”--appealed more to teachers than to their students?

The speakers were Prof. Danny Arao, assistant professor of the Department of Journalism at the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication; Martin Perez, Social Studies teacher at the Philippine Science High School; and Tonchi Tinio, chairperson of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers. I had to leave early for work, so I only caught the presentations of Prof. Arao and Mr. Perez (who, I must say, is showing the way for other teachers with his extensive and novel use of blogging to reach out to his high-school wards.)

(Read the full text of their speeches here).

Despite the lackluster attendance (at least compared to the first Kapihan held at the Philippine Science High School, which had an all-star line-up of speakers in Manolo Quezon, Bikoy Villanueva and Abe Olandres, plus a captive audience of Pisay students), the Kapihan organizers should still be commended for their initiative and commitment “to bring young bloggers together to discuss issues and matters that affect the blogosphere and the youth in general,” as Ederic put it.

I suppose the right mix of fun and seriousness in these events will draw in more of them. But what do I know, since I'm ancient at 37, or one year over the official “youth” age cut-off? Aaargh. I better just play photographer to the kids.

Bikoy, Benj, Karla, JM, Shari

Ederic (in green shirt) giving the opening spiel in flawless Filipino. To his right are Tonchi Tinio of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers and UP's Danny Arao.

Sparse but all-ears audience

Prof. Danny Arao of the UP College of Mass Communications

BK organizer Mong Palatino (in blue shirt) with student-reactor Lalon dela Rosa (right) and other bloggers

Philippine Science High School teacher Martin Perez deep into his presentation

PLUS: “Things Learned in Bloggers' Kapihan 2.0: Blog Ed 101” by Shari. More pics here and here.

Calling all Filipino artists!

From Nanding Josef, CCP Artistic Director:

“The Artists Welfare Project, Inc., a private corporation of artists, is finally registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. We can now move on faster so we can provide assistance to artists in need. Please attend the general assembly on Tuesday, October 16, 4-6 p.m., at MKP, 4th Floor, Cultural Center of the Philippines. Agenda includes report on activities, membership, finances, orientation of new enrollees, etc. Please invite your other artist-friends. Thank you.”

Friday, October 12, 2007

Theater Talk Atbp with Floy Quintos: Oct. 27 and ManilaGayGuy, with the help of Gibbs Cadiz, are inviting 20 bloggers to “Theater Talk Atbp,” with multi-awarded writer-director Floy Quintos. This informal, animated, and interactive chikahan session on theater appreciation will be on October 27, Saturday, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the PLDT/Smart Exhibition Hall of the PETA Theater Center on 5 Sunnyside Drive, New Manila, Quezon City.

This is a rare opportunity for bloggers to learn from someone who has had extensive experience in theater, television, show business, and the arts.

“Mr. Quintos’ professional practice ranges the field, from Ballet Philippines to Kuya Germs, from directing a Vina Morales concert one moment to staging the UST Conservatory of Music’s acclaimed production of Tchaikovsky’s opera “Eugene Onegin” the next. He’s guided the ditzy show-biz talk show “StarTalk” to its 12th year and appears on TV as one of the judges in “Pinoy Pop Superstar,” while also churning out well-written, highly contemporary theater pieces like “Laro” (Schnitzler’s “La Ronde” set in Manila’s gay milieu) or “St. Louis Loves Dem Filipinos” (about the export of Filipino tribesmen to the St. Louis World Exposition in 1904). He runs his own art and antiques gallery, even as he’s also one of the most in-demand directors around for corporate shows, product launches and the yearly velada of Assumption alumnae and their like.” [Source: “Fluid, as in wishy-washy”]

This event is free, and we won’t starve you (yes, there’s free merienda and we’ll be raffling off some stuff too!), but we only have slots for 20 bloggers, so head on over to this site and register. (In case the 20 slots have been filled, please register anyway and we’ll try to accommodate you when someone backs out at the last minute.)

Our only condition is that you blog about this experience. We promise it will be priceless. See you there!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


“Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal is urging the Senate to stop its probe on the cancelled national broadband network deal with ZTE Corp. of China and focus instead on addressing the basic needs of the masses... 'The investigation is becoming personal, which should not be. When you become personal, you will tend to say a lot of things about the person, which have nothing to do with the contract,' he said... 'When you tell the truth, see to it that there is no damage done on the person told to or about.'” -- The Philippine Star, October 7, 2007

Let's say you're a teacher and you chance upon two kids slugging it out in the schoolyard. One accuses the other of stealing his baon, the other hotly denies it. What do you do? Do you try to find out the truth, to see which party is at fault so you can render a fair judgment and teach the children a lesson on honesty? Or do you shush the two kids, berate them for disturbing the peace, and ask them to forget their quarrel in the name of school camaraderie?

The second option is a stupid choice, of course--a monumental case of seeing the trees but not the forest. Common sense demands that a possible case of theft should require greater redress than the far simpler matter of equanimity on campus. To paper over this quarrel in the name of some smarmy sense of “Kumbaya” comity among schoolchildren is to teach those kids the most wrong-headed value, which is peace at any price, peace built on injustice, deceit and the absence of fair play.

That's what Cardinal Vidal is saying by complaining that the noisy probe on the latest scandal to hit the Arroyo administration has got to stop because “it is becoming personal.” Here we are in the middle of yet another mind-boggling case of corruption, bribery and sleaze that points all the way to the highest reaches of government. A government, by the way, that has yet to account for its right to exist given its obstinate refusal to explain the “Hello, Garci” controversy. Not content with stealing the vote, it appears to be stealing us blind this time with the grossly overpriced broadband network deal. Once more we're getting royally screwed, and what does the Cardinal have to say about it?

Only that we should stop asking any more questions because it's “becoming personal.” In other words, to get outraged over this colossal iniquity is not being helpful, because it only makes everyone, beginning with him presumably, uncomfortable.

Well, what of it? So what if the revelations made at the Senate have hurt Benjamin Abalos, Mike Arroyo and GMA? So what if the probe has dredged up ugly stories, uncovered icky details, and along the way also showed how uncouth some senators could be? Why, in the face of evidence of overwhelming corruption and governmental rot that demands thunderous denunciation from our so-called moral elders, is the Cardinal obsessing over social niceties, over the inability of people to get along?

If it's parliamentary boorishness that bothers him, the solution is simple: Scold the senators for their lack of decorum and manners, and tell them to stick to the issues. But to call for scrapping the hearings altogether when the need for answers cries out to high heavens?

What is there to feel hunky-dory about, anyway? Why are we being asked to make peace with and be more forgiving of people who have a lot to answer for? Why are we supposed to worry about how grievously offended Abalos et al feel when each new detail that has emerged about this deal implicates them more fully in its criminal onerousness? Why should we care about their fragile emotional states when they have yet to account for their respective roles in turning this country into one big psychological basketcase, where wrong is now right and right wrong?

Consider just Abalos' case: This is the guy responsible for a botched poll computerization program that cost us taxpayers hundreds of millions of pesos. This is the guy who presided over elections marred by unprecedented (because caught on tape) and yet-unresolved charges of presidential cheating, the poisonous legacy of which we will carry for generations. This is the guy who, as Comelec chair, had no business brokering for the broadband deal, yet repeatedly went on lavish junkets to China to cozy up to ZTE Corp. officials. And this is the guy whom Romulo Neri accused of attempted bribery to the tune of P200 million--an unbelievably large sum meant for only one man; imagine the amounts that would have gone to Neri's superiors, not to mention to the broker himself.

And this is the guy we're supposed to feel sorry for because things became too “personal” for him at the Senate?

This is one big heaping pile of dung. When no less than one of the country's highest church leaders sees fit to avert his eyes from wrongdoing out of some petty, fastidious sense of propriety and instead urges the country to just move on, then we're in deep, deep trouble. What a life this is, when every institution of the country is tried by the times and found woefully wanting. At the very least, if it wants to remain neutral on this issue (though you wonder why in hell it would), where is the simple call for truth from the Church? What we get, instead, is head-scratching, meaningless tripe like “When you tell the truth, see to it that there is no damage done on the person told to or about.” Huh?

Tellingly, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines has the time and energy to condemn the news of some legislators' plan to buy condoms for the country's population control program, but it has none for the far more egregious matter of bribery and thuggery in the heart of Malacanang.

The peace and goodwill that the archbishop of Cebu wants to believe will reign over the land if all of us just stop asking questions and conveniently tuck away our outrage is not the peace of the just, but the peace of the cowed, the co-opted and the maimed. What a wimp. And what wimps we are for letting him think this is what we deserve.

Monday, October 08, 2007

A moment in the 'Woods'

The cast of New Voice Company's upcoming production of Stephen Sondheim's “Into The Woods:” (back, from left) Angela Padilla, Missy Maramara, Tommy Abuel, Joaqui Valdez, Mika Margolles, Jon Mulhall, Red Concepcion; (seated, center, from left) Lynn Sherman, Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, Michael Williams, Mads Nicolas, Cathy Azanza; (front, from left) China Tapia, Julia Abueva, Mica Pineda and Maita Ponce.

Completing the cast are Jamie Wilson, Juno Henares, Sisa Esteva and Amiel Mendoza. Direction by NVC Associate Artistic Director Rito Asilo, choreography by Dexter Santos, set design by Gino Gonzales, lights by Martin Esteva, musical direction by Ceejay Javier.

“Into the Woods” runs November 9-December 8 at the Music Museum. Call 8966695, 8965497, 8990630 or 8919999 for tickets. Email or visit

Hooray for Tommy Abuel's comeback and a rare musical appearance by Mads Nicolas!

PLUS: What's your favorite “Into the Woods” tune? “No One Is Alone?” “Children Will Listen?” “Agony?” Mine is “Moments In the Woods,” not because it's the most melodious--it's hard to sing, actually--but because it spotlights Sondheim's beautiful, buoyant wordplay (“Let the moment go/Don't forget it for a moment, though/Just remembering you've had an AND/When you're back to OR/Makes the OR mean more than it did before”) that, in the hands of a gifted musical actress like Joanna Gleason, assumes even more nuance, delicacy, coloration, humor. See video below for Ms. Gleason's radiant interpretation of this tricky song. Great actressy moment worthy of her Tony trophy!

(Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo is singing this part. Yey!)

Sunday, October 07, 2007


Shoutouts to the following comrades and kindred souls for their recent theater posts:

On Actor's Actors Inc.'s “Art:”

Benj (a lengthy, incisive review!): “'Art' did not disappoint. Translated in Filipino, Yasmina Reza’s comedy about three friends in different stages of the lives captured the universal theme of friendship and compromise. When all three of them ended up in the same room, all hell break lose. If making white lies, saying half truths, dishing out sarcasm and discussing past events were Olympic events, Serge, Mar and Jun would have given the country our first Olympic gold medal. And yes, all of this was because of a single painting!” More here...

Melissa: “The play is as funny as one might hope. There are a number of clever moments, ending is truly inspired, as the friends make their choices. 'Art' is a great play, it is certainly an actor's play and allows for entertaining stage indulgences. It is more successful in examining friendship than it is art. Michael de Mesa and Jett Pangan were very serious while Ricky Davao really made the audience laugh. Congratulations to Mr. Bart Guingona for a job well done!” More here...

Lalah: “While it may seem that 'Art' is a stage play that may tackle something technical (because of the title), it goes beyond learning what modern art or even deconstruction is all about. Apparently, it’s all because of the play’s humor. Lito Albano’s translation is commendable in terms of being able to bring the humor to the play... “Art” is [also] a perfect play to get to reflect about our relationship with our friends. There is politics in friendship. Every friendship or any relationship is confronted with a ‘white painting’.” More here...

Weng: “Acoustics—6/10: They seemed to have problems with the positions of the lapel mics. I heard clothing brushing across the microphone on several occasions. At times, the performers’ voices also seem to fade in and out... Performers—9/10: I had always thought that movie actors were more used to having several takes for a scene. I thought they wouldn’t pull off those long lines and would have to do ad-libs. Btw, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt since I don’t know how the translation went... I think I would have enjoyed this play more if it had been set in another venue.” More here...

Eros: “There are two main reasons why I didn’t like watching the play 'Art.' But I liked the play itself. The form and content, that is. But not really the performance. I’m not sure if the reaction is valid... I thought the lady who sat beside our seat was harmless so I shook my head when she asked if the seat was taken. My nightmare started when Jett Pangan delivered his first line. After that, she would laugh at every dialogue. [Also,] The play was supposed to start at 8pm. Oh, I really hate delays... Davao was the most applauded actor in the cast. De Mesa was always De Mesa. Pangan was kinda flat, especially in monologues. They all deserved a pat or a hug or a bouquet.” More here...

On Atlantis Productions'
“Avenue Q:”

Nina: “The cast [is] amazing. Rachel Alejandro, Felix Rivera, and Joel Trinidad are totally one with their muppet characters, and can seamly switch from one character to another (as they each handle two puppets). It’s multi-tasking at its best: they sing and act with their whole heart at the same time handling their puppets to move its mouth and gesture with its hand. Aiza Seguerra (who was the perfect choice to play Gary Coleman), Frenchie Dy, Rycharde Everley and Teenee Chan completes the Avenue Q cast.” More here...

Weng, again: “Acoustics—8/10: Since this auditorium is taller and less wide than other show venues, I felt that the sounds were better. However, during cetain portions of the show, most noticeable when Aiza was singing, the sound would shift to one side of the auditorium... Performers—10/10: Two thumbs up for dual character roles by Rachel Alejandro, Felix Rivera, and Joel Trinidad! It’s hard enough to control a puppet, sing a song in a different accent, or alternate different voices, but to do them all together, that’s a great performance.” More here...

On Tanghalang Pilipino's “Mulan:”

TheBachelorGirl (with beautiful pictures!): “Undoubtedly, the children will be familiar with the storyline because of Disney’s animated version that’s also entitled 'Mulan.' This knowledge will serve as a fine jumping off point to introduce the children to Asian theatre and its distinct style through Tanghalang Pilipino’s original production of 'Mulan'... The costumes of New York-trained Gino Gonzales and character makeup by multi awarded Dennis Tan are an excellent foil to the exaggerated theatrical style and the fusion of dance with martial arts by premier dance artist Denisa Reyes.” More here...

Melissa, again: Ang rate ko sa dulang ito ay 5-star. Nagampanan ng mga artista ng maganda ang kani-kanilang papel. Makikita mo sa mukha ng mga tauhan kung masaya o malungkot sila ng dahil sa magandang pagkakapintura ng mga mukha ng mga tauhan. At ang set ay napaka-simple pero parang nararamdaman mo na nandoon ka sa lugar na iyon. At lalo na ng biglang lumitaw ang dalawa sa mga kalaban nila sa likuran ng mga manonood... Sa umpisa palang ng palabas ay alam ko na na maganda ang kabuuan ng palabas na ito. More here...

On Floy Quintos' “Fluid,” by the 2007 Ateneo Theater Arts Seniors:

Ren Aguila: “I would not want to say this was outright brilliance. I found the plot of the artist and his patron to be at times predictable... [But] With that caveat, I would commend this play precisely because it is not only a good piece of reflection for those of us who are interested in the arts, but also because this has been, of all the fund-raising efforts the Fine Arts majors have staged, the cleverest.” More here...

Ren Robles: “The action is paced well, and there are no dull moments. There's also a good balance between gravitas and the frivolous; it's never too serious to be depressing, and never too slapstick to be disposable. The material is clever and witty, and there's a lot of unexpected humor... I definitely recommend watching this play. It is entertaining, yes, but it also brings to life the dilemmas of every artist.” More here...

Toff De Venecia, Young Star columnist: “The show’s poignant message of life, love, art and compromise is showcased within two acts of gripping realities, themes and social situations that confound the artist and his patron in this day and age. Floy Quintos’ writing and direction soars as with his new generation of stars who, despite Fluid’s previous run at UP, has created something that is young, fresh and uniquely their own.” More here...

PLUS: Philippine Star columnist Exie Abola's graceful, lapidary prose makes his recent appraisals of two productions a joy to read--and his future reviews something to look forward to.

On Dulaang UP's “As You Like It:” “How fares the production? Not badly, though not too well either. The production--directed by Jose Estrella, the company’s artistic director--is largely unremarkable, defined less by prudent restraint than by a strange half-heartedness. Yet, despite these shortcomings, the production seemed to at least even out, if not come out ahead. The producers make two smart casting decisions involving the two most important roles, Rosalind and Touchstone.” More here...

On “Fluid:” “A play about art--the struggles of artists with their work and the temptation to compromise--seems an unlikely subject for an evening’s entertainment. Yet Fluid, staged by Theater Arts students of Ateneo de Manila’s Fine Arts Program, is just that: an intelligent play about art that manages to be fabulously fun at the same time... From the least promising of subjects, [Floy] Quintos--as writer and then as director--manages to weave an astonishingly merry entertainment, one in which the performers make their characters funny yet human and true. Art as entertainment: two categories more fluid than we might have thought.” More here...

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