Friday, October 7, 2016

Review of NEVER AGAIN: VOICES OF MARTIAL LAW Set C: Steamy, Silly, Searing

October 7, 2016

Last September 21, 2016, the Philippines marked the 44th anniversary of the day then President Ferdinand Marcos signed Proclamation No. 1081, which placed the entire country under Martial Law. This year, the results of the recently concluded national elections shook many Gen X people up that the public awareness against Martial Law now ran very low, and history was slowly being revised among the millennials. The organizers of this show entitled "Never Again: Voices Against Martial Law" aimed to re-educate the millennials of today about what really happened during these controversial years from 1972-1981. 

There were three sets of three one-act plays (most of them are originals specifically for this show) by several noted playwrights and directors in the Filipino theater world today. Because of my tight schedule these last two months, I think this Set C that I watched today may just be the only set I will be able to watch. All three plays are originals, first to be staged in this festival. 

The venue of the shows is in the Bantayog ng Mga Bayani (a museum dedicated to the Martial Law years and the People Power Revolution) located along Quezon Avenue near EDSA beside Centris) that I never even knew existed. While waiting for the show to begin at 8pm, I was able to look at some of the interesting though very eerie exhibits they had displayed. The auditorium had very comfortable seats. I was already seated at the last row, yet the whole stage was clearly visible with excellent acoustics.

1. Shhh

Playwright: Allan Lopez
Director: Jenny Jamora

One rainy morning in September 1977, lovers Kim (a photographer) and Mark (a law student) were dressing up to go have lunch. As they cavort around in their apartment, they discuss about the pictures Kim took during an open forum a few days ago. Mark's fraternity brother Archimedes Trajano, a student from the Mapua, who dared asked the distinguished speaker a question about her appointment as director of the Kabataang Barangay. He mysteriously went missing after that.

This was a voyeuristic play by 10-time Palanca winner Allan Lopez which took us to look and listen in to very intimate intercourse between two young lovers as sensitively staged by Ms. Jenny Jamora. Most plays use humor to break from serious issues. This one uses steamy scenes and sexually-charged lines, so apt for a play set in the liberated 1970s. Thea Yrastorza (last seen in Red Turnips' "Tribes") and Karl Medina (one of the three talented sons of Pen Medina) were very natural actors as they boldly and realistically play the vibrant Kim and the libidinous Mark. A third actor, Paulo Rodriguez, struck an ominous tone of fear as he appears late in the play as Kim's driver Vera.

2. Ang Lihim na Kasaysayan ng Huling Habilin ni Ferdinand Edralin Marcos (Spiritual King Solomon of Israel) Hinggil sa Pamanang Kayamanan ni King Bernardo Carpio at Jose Protacio Rizal Para sa Pagpapaunlad ng Bansang Pilipinas na Siyang Nalalaman ni Mang Ambo, Taxi Driver

Playwright: Guelan Varela-Luarca
Director: Roobak Valle

G was researching about Martial Law for a play she was writing. It just her luck that the taxi she was riding was being driven by Mang Ambo, the Number 1 fan of Ferdinand Marcos. He animatedly shares with the girl about Marcos' last will and testament which contained an incredible story about his fantastic wealth of gold and platinum, and how he inherited this treasure trove from past kings Bernardo Carpio and Jose Protacio Rizal, interwoven among other historical personalities and events. 

Yes, that is the full 42-word title of this very funny play by the prolific and multi-talented Guelan Luarca. Director Roobak Valle has a natural touch for these absurd comedies, like he did with Deldoc's "Ang Goldfish ni Professor Dimaandal", a classic favorite at the Virgin Labfest. Veteran actor Lou Veloso and the bubbly J-Mee Katanyag were such delightful performers as they took us on a hilarious trip around the world through time. The whole situation was so silly and out-of-the-box, it was downright brilliant. The audience was laughing from the very first scene.

3. Indigo Child

Playwright: Rody Vera
Director: Jose Estrella

Felisa just underwent a session of electro-convulsive therapy. She experiences a period of lucency when her past history as a rebel during the Martial Law days all came coming back so vividly, she shared it all with her son Jerome. She had to endure torture, electrical and otherwise, under her ruthless captor named Kidlat. She called Jerome an Indigo Child, a child born out of strife with a mission to save the world.

The first time I saw Skyzx Labastilla and Rafael Tibayan were in Virgin Labfest plays. Labastilla was the soulmate of her own father in the controversial "Daddy's Girl". Tibayan was the very patient butcher's apprentice in the acclaimed "Si Maria Isabella at ang Guryon ng mga Tala." This play was a showcase for the thespic talent of Labastilla as she ripped through the erratically emotional monologues of this damaged woman with searing ardor, and director Jose Estrella wisely just allowed her to carry us along with her inner pain. The metaphors of lightning and electrical torture and ECT were well-used by Rody Vera to convey Felisa's deeply-scarring life experiences. 


The remaining show date for Set C is on Oct 14, Friday at 8pm. Tickets are sold for P500 per set. For tickets, text Joshua Chan (09176775141) or Eunice Rodriguez (09178047191).
Set A is composed of "Loyalist Redux" written and directed by Kanakan Balintagos, "Duyan Ka ng Magiting" written and directed by Erika Estacio and "Thingy Or Ang Pak na Pak Ganern na Ganern sa Pakikipagsapalaran ni Milenyo, D’ Great Pokemon Hunter," written by Chris Martinez and directed by Dennis Marasigan. The remaining show date for this set is on Oct 15, Saturday at 8pm.

Set B is composed of "Disco 1081" written by George De Jesus III and directed by Melvin Lee, "Princess Lilli" written by Layeta Bucoy and directed by Tuxqs Rutaquio, and "Bulong-Bulungan sa Sangandaan" written by Ramon Jocson and directed by Audie Gemora. The remaining show date for this set is Oct 16, Sunday at 1pm.


  1. This is such an interesting article to read, never been a fond of history since then, but if you talk about martial law, I'll always find it engaging to read. I wish I can catch this on stage, but seems to be far from where I am now. Thank you for granting us an insight about this.

  2. great insight into a little but trully big history of your nation... great read .

  3. Haha, I don't think I will ever get to watch these plays unless I visit Philippines? Good to know about the existence but hopefully, will see them online in future!

  4. Are there any videos available for such plays! I know most of us wont cannot watch these plays but it will be great to watch if there is any archive. It will not be as good as watching it live though but at least we watch something informative that is also well executed.

  5. I think this is timely now with so many social issues surrounding us. This could be a reminder on the ills of martial law.

  6. I think these plays reflect a large part of our society today as much as our history as a nation. The topics are well thought out of based on real life stories.

  7. It would have been a great moment for me to watch such a nice play but t tight scgedule will make it cubersome. Well, thanks for sharing.

  8. i don't know any phillippines history and this sounds intriguing. anything to do with history is always a plus. always learning

  9. It's good that people are raising awareness about Martial Law and what happened during that time. It's important for the kids today to understand what transpired so that they can also appreciate the kind of freedom that they have now.

  10. Martial Raw? I would be curious to watch. Any online link?

  11. Oh... Initially I read it as Marital law and I thought its dealing with Marital rape etc!!!! Martial law is a subject I've never read anything on...