Rating: [rate 4.0]
A few years back, I volunteered for Kalinga Luzon, a summer immersion program for school sponsored by Gawad Kalinga. I was no stranger to GK because I used to volunteer for them, but it was my first time to go to a GK site that is outside of Manila.
The immersion brought me to a place called Dinggalan, Aurora. It’s a remote place near the mountains of Sierra Madre, and this was the relocation area for the survivors of the flash flood that happened in the previous year. Through that trip, I was given a chance to visit Barangay Paltic, their original hometown, and I was humbled by how much Mother Nature has unleashed her fury. My friends and I found ourselves standing and looking down at the vast disaster area where rocks, earth, logs and random pieces of clothing were scattered all over the place. I found myself looking down at the roof of one of the houses, half-buried in dirt and a car-sized boulder blocking the door way. I can’t help but wonder: was anyone trapped inside?
In the two years that I visited that place, I never forgot the sight that greeted me in the disaster area. I could only imagine what actually happened in that place — how many parents lost their children and how many children lost their parents, how many people lost their homes and everything they owned because of the floods?
* * *
PETA’s Noli at Fili Dekada 2000 was a walk in memory lane in more ways than one. While I never really read Noli and El Fili as a whole (my high school provided summarized versions of the novels), I’ve always had a soft spot for those two novels because of the fact that, well, they are novels, and they’re written by a Filipino. Other than the play reminding and challenging me of my knowledge of the two novels, it also reminded me of that day a few years ago, where I saw the aftermath of a very big calamity.
Noli at Fili Dekada 2000, written by Nic Tiongson and directed by Soxie Topacio, is a modern take on Rizal’s two novels, stitched together to form one tighter and shorter story. The cast of characters in Rizal’s novels were present there: Ibarra, Elias, Damaso, Salvi, Florentino, Victorina, Basilio, Isagani, Tasyo and Maria Clara. There were a couple of changes to make the story fit to modern times: Crisostomo Ibarra is now Ibarra Marasigan, the town’s new mayor who wants to make big changes to their community, Salvi is no longer a thin priest but a corrupt colonel who uses the law for his own personal gain, Tasyo is a school owner, and Maria Clara is now Clarissa, still the daughter of Damaso and still engaged to Ibarra.
The story still contains the main essences of the two novels, to form a more compact and fluid story. The play opens with a very heavy scene, with stories of what happened during the flash flood (complete with waterworks!). After the disaster where three thousand people died, we see the new mayor Ibarra in his engagement party with Clarissa, all optimistic with his plans for the town of Maypajo. Once he mentions the total log ban, though, you can see a couple of people flinch: Tiago, Salvi and even Damaso. We know from then that there’s going to be trouble for Ibarra. We also learn from there that Ibarra was not only optimistic, but also idealistic. We meet his best friend Elias, who ironically is the head of the rebel army. Just like Crisostomo Ibarra in the book, Mayor Ibarra tries to make changes in his town, and he is met by challenge after challenge — from the small things like when Clarissa’s aunt Victorina planning a grander wedding for the two of them, to Tiago not supporting their total log ban bill to Salvi trying to steal Clarissa and trying to stop Ibarra’s plans to stop logging altogether. We see how Ibarra loses his idealism and eventually everything else: his position, his best friend, and even Clarissa. Ibarra later returns as Ka Simoun, a part of the same rebel army that Elias was a part of, embracing violence to make changes. He then uses his position here to exact revenge on Salvi, but fails as he uses the group for his personal gain. And, like Simoun in El Fili, he reaches his end, asking for forgiveness because he lost his way.
It was a heavy play from the start until the end, made lighter only by some of the lines (“DKD” – Diyos ko ‘day!, “BCK” – Basta Crush Kita!), and I have to admit that it was kind of depressing. It’s definitely not like the musicals I used to watch…but then again, Rizal’s novels weren’t fluffy and light novels either. But to compensate for that, the play ended with a poem and a song number, that tells everyone that there’s still hope. That the change that Ibarra desired is possible without the use of violence, if each individual is up to it. Like what a friend had in his YM status before: “Be the change that you want to be.”
Although that bright light and Clarissa going out bringing that plant was kind of too much for me…it reminds me too much of the stageplay that we had back in high school. But maybe it’s just me. ^^;
I left the PETA Theater remembering Barangay Paltic in Aurora, and remembering the people I met during my stay there. And yeah, in a way the play also gave me hope that one day, we’ll be able to rise as a nation, and well, be the change that we want to be. :)
Noli at Fili Dekada 2000 (Dos Mil) continues through August 9, 2009, with shows on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, 10 am and 3 pm, at the PETA Theater Center, 5 Eymard Drive, New Manila, Quezon City; 7256244, 4100821, 7226911, 4100821.