Jun 15, 2008

Post Script to Pag-ibig Sa Tinubuang Lupa

When our group was invited to do an Independence Day performance at the mall up there, the idea of performing for a pedestrian audience was quite a challenge for a group that’s used to performing in a regular theater set-up: proscenium stage, audience quietly seated on the other side of the theater’s proverbial fourth wall. Up there our audience would be constantly moving, faces constantly changing, minds wandering from one commodity to another, one sale price to

another. Our ideas would be competing with the loud speakers blaring out of every shop wanting to grab a customer’s attention.

And I thought: that’s exactly who we should be reaching with the ideas our performance wished to communicate.

Pag-ibig Sa Tinubuang Lupa is a poem written by Andres Bonifacio, and the title of the show. First, we, Ethan Andrew Ventura and I, selected a few literary works by various National Heroes. After coming up with the final list of poems, we proceeded to set these to music: Bonifacio’s “Pag-ibig Sa Tinubuang Lupa” and “Ang Katapusang Hibik Ng Pilipinas,” his Tagalog translation of Rizal’s “Mi Ultimo Adios,” Amado V. Hernandez’s “Kung Tuyo Na Ang Luha Mo, Aking Bayan,” Jose Corazon De Jesus’ “Bayan Ko” and “Pakikidigma.” We decided that the best finale would be the “Lupang Hinirang.” It was a quite a struggle getting this one onstage, and in the last 24 hours before curtain time, this is how we got there:

Rehearsals ended early the night before, around 8pm. Ethan and I finished composing and arranging and recording the original music for some of the poems just a couple of hours earlier that afternoon. We decided to just perform the existing music composed for “Pag-ibig Sa Tinubuang Lupa” and “Bayan Ko”, I don’t think we could’ve come up with better compositions than what was already there. After rehearsals, I settled infront of the computer to edit the videos, which I expected to finish in a couple of hours. We’ve decided just days before to complement the performance with a multimedia presentation projected on a screen which served as the stage’s only production design element. The sun was already rising when I started burning the DVD.

It’s been a huge learning experience for us, perhaps way more than it has been for the audience: We struggled through the poems' meanings, the context in which this and that line were written, what was perhaps going through the authors’ minds when they were composing the haunting lines.

And when some of us had to look up the English translation of “Mi Ultimo Adios” to better understand the Tagalog translation of Bonifacio, it dawned on me: I don’t think we ought to celebrate Independence Day, for we are not yet truly free. We are still struggling to have the honor of having an Independence Day. We may have a Filipino president in Malacañang now, but our true identity as a nation is still buried under centuries of slavery and we are still governed by colonial mentality. Most of us have lost the ability to see ourselves through our own eyes, we seem to only comprehend the world around us if we look at things through western eyes, judge everything according to western standards. A lot of us believe that a song sounds good if it sounds foreign, a person is beautiful if he or she looks foreign, a product is good if it’s foreign-made.

We are proud of Jollibee because it’s like McDonald’s, we look up to Lea Salonga because she performs Broadway songs exceptionally, we admire APL because he raps like an African-American, and these days we search for local talents based on American Idol standards.

At five to six we were in a makeshift backstage for one last company call, with all those thoughts in my head. And I thought: this should not be the last performance of this piece, a lot of people need reminding that once upon a time, this country had its very own heroes. And they didn’t wear capes or masks nor did they have superpowers – their power emanated from their hearts, from their sincere love for their country. And because they loved this country so much, they are immortalized and their words will forever haunt us.

Aling pag-ibig pa ang hihigit kaya sa pagkadalisay at pagkadakila? Gaya ng pag-ibig sa tinubuang lupa? Aling pag-ibig pa? Wala na nga, wala. – Andres Bonifacio.

(Tales from a hillstation, Cordillera Today, June 15, 2008 issue)

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