July 5, 2017
When I planned to watch Set C at 3 pm today, I did not know that there would be a staged reading of National Artist Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero's "The Forsaken House" (1937), translated into Filipino (with several Spanish lines as is) as "Ulilang Tahanan" by Ony de Leon. It was to be held at the Tanghalang Amado Hernandez at 6 pm. It was not written on the program booklet but I saw the poster on social media. Since I was already there at the CCP, I decided I should not let it pass.
Sr. Ramon and his wife Encarna have seven children, three girls and four boys, and they lived in material comfort. However, because of the extremely tightfisted overprotective way Sr. Ramon controlled their lives (no guests in the house, no attending parties, etc), the children began to rebel against him. One son Antonio suddenly took off to the USA, while daughter Adeling eloped with her boyfriend, and so on. Can Sr. Ramon realize the error of his ways before the other children leave him?
Sr. Ramon was played by the patriarch of Tanghalang Pilipino, Tatang himself, Nanding Josef. As he proved in productions like "Pahimakas sa Isang Ahente," father roles come very naturally to him. He was terrifying as the terror strict dad. His mere presence on that stage felt stifling. His elegant wife Encarna was played by Liesl Batucan, who definitely exuded a warm maternal vibe. She too though lived in fear of her husband.
Dennis Marasigan was the director of this staged reading, and he also played close family friend Tio Carlos. He was the one the kids could vent their frustrations on and the only one who can possibly talk sense to Ramon. Tami Monsod takes on Tagalog material for the first time playing the kind and solicitous Tia Pelagia. She still has very short hair following her having to go bald in her last role as a cancer patient in "Wit".
The children were played by JB Ibesate (as Jorge), Antonette Go (as Teresita), Aldo Vencilao (as Flavio), Eunice Pacia (as Adeling), Blanche Buhia (as Clemencia), and Joshua Tayco (as Gonzalo). Even if they were all holding the script in their hands, these young actors still attacked their roles with so much heart and emotion. There were real tears that fell during their respective scenes with their father.
As a staged reading, there were some scenes that were not too clear as set up. Clemencia had a scene with a suitcase that came out of nowhere and was never referred to again. The fate of Clemencia seemed to have been left out, and it was up to the audience to assume what happened to her. Tio Carlos seemed to just enter in and out of scenes at will towards the end to join in the conversations.
The material may have been dated in terms of pop culture references (like one character watched "Gone with the Wind" in the movie house), but the message is still pertinent up to now. Despite being written in the 1930s, this kind of family melodrama is still the stuff Filipinos seem to relish masochistically in all those telenovelas to this day.
Since Ramon had six problematic children, this soap opera can feel long and repetitive at times. The ending scenes sort of felt rushed, maybe because they needed to wrap up before the 8 pm shows begin (?). However overall, the on-point acting of the cast was still the key aspect that carried the day for this project -- an excellent ensemble effort indeed!