Last Tuesday, 21th of September, while the world was glued on television watching Charice Pempengco appear on the Episode 1 of Glee's Season 2, the rest of it seemed to be observing what Bayan Muna Party-list Reps. Teddy Casiño and Neri Colmenares probably had in mind in filing House Bill 3288 like a Khmer Rouge therapy by reenactment.
At the University of the Philippines, at least, two plays were mounted as if in response to the said representatives' proposal of keeping alive the memory of modern-day Filipino heroes and martyrs who suffered during Pres. Ferdinand Marcos' Martial Law regime. One was the Department of English and Comparative Literature's production of the deconstructed version of Griselda Gambaro’s Information for Foreigners by Anton Juan Jr. who transformed our College of Arts and Letter New Building every night, from September 20 to 26, into a torture chamber in an interactive play that features real family members of the desaparecidos who are still crying for justice to this day. The other was Reuel Molina Aguila's Alimuom and Walang Maliw produced by the Departamento ng Filipino at Panitikan ng Pilipinas at the Faculty Center or Bulwagang Rizal's Teatro Hermogenes Ylagan until tonight at 7.
It is directed by the busiest body in town, Chis Millado, who is also the moving spirit behind the success of Lloyd Suh's American Hwangap at the Cultural Center of the Philippines' Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino until October 3. He, too, is the reason why there are on-going fora from September 23 to 28 in selected areas from Ayala Museum to Philippine High School for the Arts featuring the Mellon Consortium (with May Adrales, John Eisner, Loretta Greco, Kate Loewald, Rehana Mirza, Jorge Ortoll, and others) and the Obie awardee playwright David Henry Hwang, whose upcoming Broadway musicals with composer David Yazbek and director Bartlett Sher include Bruce Lee: Journey To The West.
Set in a safehouse after the Edsa Revolution in 1986, Alimuom, is a classic monologue that challenges the caliber of Philippine Legitimate Stage Artists Group Inc.'s Gawad Buhay Award Outstanding Lead Male Performer nominee -- Jonathan Tadiaon – whose acting prowess we already noticed when he took multiple roles in Rody Vera's adaptations of National Artist Francisco Sionil Jose's Rosales saga.
Walang Maliw, on the other hand, happens during the 30th birthday of an abducted freedom fighter (played alternately by Julia Enriquez of Philippine Educational Theater Association and Kat Castillo of Tanghalang Pilipino) celebrated by her activist mother portrayed by ever-reliableSherry Lara, an Urian nominee for Best Supporting Actress for Crying Ladies, and Teroy Guzman, whose subtle yet substantial attack as the father with “good looks,” reminded us so much of the playwright who is also a faculty member that goes by the name Mario. We, with our seatmates Joey Baquiran and Luna Sicat-Cleto, could not help but remember in him Dr. Mario Miclat, too!
In fact, when the Mario the character said something about activist parents discouraging their kids from following their footsteps alludes to what Mario the doctor wrote to his opera singer/actress daughter Banaue: “We pass this world but once. I'm glad your passage is not as tumultuous as ours.” Well, the complete version of the aforementioned letter can be found as a prologue in his latest novel Secrets of the Eighteen Mansions, longlisted at the 2009 Man Asian Literary Prize, eventually published by Anvil Publishing.
Doc Mic, as he is fondly called, has carefully woven a 351-page tapestry about Filipino expatriates whose young and restless political exploits enable them to operate on the chance of experiencing the best (or was it the worst?) of both worlds in the First Quarter Storm and New People’s Army here and the Cultural Revolution in China from the late 1960s up to early 1970s. Indeed, a trip down Martial Law lane! And more, since the author at times can manage to take us back and forth at will: from the time of washbasin-size sunflowers to the time of Gov. Gen. Narciso Claveria 's decree in 1849 when he gave us Filipinos Spanish surnames in the name of tax collection to the time of Jose Villa Panganiban's 1363-page English Pilipino Thesaurus Dictionary to the time of Project 571 to the time of that urban Filipino in every way acting like an ignorant probinsiyano in search of a comfort room. It starts fromTalahib Plumes, a metaphor for the delegation of leftists in the winds' eye, with questions and comparisons: “In China, all gateways of importance must face south, while paintings and poetry depicted the rising sun. Would I now come back to my tropical isles, be Filipino and celebrate our sunsets?”
Alienation, and/or alien nation(s) of the protagonist, which he shares with almost everybody, are composed with a photographer's precision when entered Into the Vortexas he zooms in and out of the Movement Underground, Eighteen Mansions, and Quarter Storms. Vivid descriptions and verbal depth never fail to invite us to take part in travelling back into our history's critical, therefore crucial, moments, without getting hit by a bolo or by bullets, as if ever-advised by Chairman Mao: “An army without culture is a dull-witted army, and a dull-witted army cannot defeat the enemy.”
This time, we could recall Aguila's trash-talking reformist soldier seemingly tailor-made for such great actors as Joel Lamangan and Julienne Mendoza, more popularly known as directors today. The I persona in the book is not as loud as the I persona in the play but the former definitely can outsmart, or outlast, the latter anytime.
From cover to cover, we can read between the lines the oozing of toughness from within, the edge of an intellectual over a violent brute, the strength of mind over matter!
Being a thinker that he is, the main character can still afford to have a heart.
Alone, the last scene completes, or balances, everything heady and heavy in the beginning: “I am not sure if she noticed the tears beginning to swell at the corner of my reddening eyes. Maningning stared at me. After a while, she took my hand and led me to her room. She showed me a framed picture of my self.”
Myself means Mario.
Of course, his partner in “crime,” in fiction and in fact is Alma, his wife, who
reminisced the secret of their youthful years in 2004: “It was a sultry day in August 1971 when Mario and I took the plane from Manila to Hongkong for an undisclosed mission. We were just three months married in underground rites. If we kept our marriage secret to both our families, our trip was even more secret and we never told anyone. I just disappeared. My parents tried as much as they could to gather even the faintest clues about my whereabouts. It would be reported that I have been sighted at this or that barrio in the province of Bataan. People assured them that I often covertly passed by our house in the town of Orani to get a secret glimpse of them. The legend grew that I led an armed band against the martial law regime. One day, they received news that I was killed in an encounter. My supposed remains were brought to the municipal hall of nearby Dinalupihan, ready to be retrieved by the family.”
And the girl, whose name's origin can be seen in Chapter 8, is Maningning.
Thus, it is fitting to launch Doc Mic's special limited collector’s edition during the 2010 Maningning Miclat Art Awards, now on its eighth year, to be held on Wednesday, 29 September 29, 6:00 p.m. at the 3rd Level Exhibit Area, Shangri-La Edsa Plaza Mall.
National Day of Remembrance, if it becomes a law, will help us heal in immortalizing what went beyond the September 21, 1972-February 25, 1986 timeframe.
Hopefully even beyond the generation of Martial Law Babies' baby like Charice.
Only two people signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, John Hancock and Charles Thomson. Most of the rest signed on August 2, but
Executives from rich countries who communicate with their counterparts in poor countries show that there is no significant intellectual difference. Race or skin color are also not important: immigrants labeled lazy in their countries of origin are the productive power in rich European countries. What is the difference then? The difference is the attitude of the people, framed along the years by education, culture, and tradition.