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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fearful Forecast Para sa Cinemalaya 2009 Awards Night

Fearful dahil baka hindi masyadong matuwa ang mga filmmaker o manunulat na kinamayan ko sa CCP. Fearful baka hindi rin masyadong matuwa 'yung mga kakilala na kapag tinanong ako kung maganda ang isang pelikula ay sinasabi ko lang na "ok naman". The truth is, wala naman akong nakitang sobrang olats sa sampung entries ngayong taong ito. Pero meron akong gustong i-single out:

Best Film: Mangatyanan. Kumpletos rekados kasi. Drama talaga ang genre n'ya na tungkol sa isang babaeng merong madilim na karanasan. Ang nagpaganda sa kanya ay ang allegory ng kadramahang/kadilimang ito sa isang ritual ng isang vanishing tribe sa norte. Merong cultural at social relevance kumbaga. Saktong sakto rin ang ilang aspeto: iskrip, akting, direksyon at sinematograpiya.

Best Director: Pepe Diokno (Engkwentro). Magaling sina Jerrold Tarog at Ana Agabin pero na-impress ako sa batang-bata, 21 years old to be exact, na si Pepe Diokno sa pagtalakay ng isang disturbing na tema tungkol sa mga vigilantes. Hindi man ganap na orig ang estilo, nakita ko naman ang kanyang vision tungkol sa material.

Best Actor: Lou Veloso (Colorum). Masasabi sigurong acting piece talaga ang nakaretong karakter kay G. Veloso. Ang kakaiba lang ay sumubok s'ya sa todo-todong drama na wala nikatiting na idea na anytime ay magbibitiw s'ya ng punchline. Mahirap din ang krus na ibinigay sa kanya: isang dating bilanggo na naghahanap ng pagtanggap bilang isang ama at higit sa lahat, bilang isang individual. Sa konting pagkalamang, hindi ako magugulat kung ang award ay mapupunta sa deaf actor na si Rome Mallari para sa "Dinig Sana Kita". I can say na kung ihahanay lang din naman s'ya sa mga medyo batang aktor sa panahong ito ay hindi s'ya magpapatalo.

Best Actress: Che Ramos (Mangatyanan). May kakaibang vibes ang presensya ni Bb. Ramos sa pelikula. Hindi stagey at hindi sell-out sa madadramang eksena na kinaharap ng isang babaeng inabuso. Sustained ang tamang salita. Kontrolado. Kailangang na industriya ng mga ganitong klaseng artist para mabalanse man lang.

Best Supporting Actor: Jojit Lorenzo (Last Supper # 3). Menacing ang presence ni G. Lorenzo bilang isang simpleng taong-bayan na hindi nagpa-outwit matapos mawalan ng isang Last Supper tapestry. Makita mo pa lang s'ya sa frame ay alam mo nang merong kalbaryong kakaharapin ang lead character na ginampanan ni Joey Paras (na mahusay rin on his own right).

Best Supporting Actress: Glaiza de Castro (Astig). Nakita ko ang pagiging fragile/virginal ng aktres sa pelikula. Naramdaman ko bilang manonood ang dilemma n'ya bago s'ya magpakamatay. S'ya rin supposedly ang mitsa ng paglubog ng isang karakter at pagsabog naman ng isa pa.

Best Screenplay: Colorum. Iskrip pa lang ng pelikula ay buhay na buhay na. Hitik na hitik sa detalye at matalino ang pagkakasulat. Marami ring gustong sabihin ang iskrip kahit na pwedeng i-consider na simpleng road movie lang s'ya. Maraming nasagasaan na sensibilidad, social relevance at moral issues. Gusto ko ring i-note na kung ang screenplay ng "Astig" ang mananalo ay hindi ako magrereklamo.

Best Cinematograpy: Sanglaan. Pwede ko sigurong makalimutan ang lahat ng karakter sa pelikulang ito pero 'yung pagkakailaw at photography n'ung pelikula ay hindi. Nagbigay ito ng contrast sa bland at kalmadong pagtalakay ng mga buhay-buhay sa paligid ng pawnshop. Halos gusto kong umorder ng masarap at mainit na kape sa sequence nina Joem at Ina malapit sa harbor.

Best Editing: Last Supper # 3. Hindi ko masyadong kabisado kung ano ang magandang editing pero sa tingin ko, ang timing ng comedy n'ung pelikula ay attributed lahat sa napakalinis na editing n'ung movie.

Best Sound Design/Production Design: 24k. Nagustuhan ko 'yung pag-capture ng tunog sa outdoors. Hindi man lubos na pwedeng gamitin na batayan, pero may isang eksena sa pelikula na ginamit ang music mula sa isang radyo na swabe ang rendering. Sa production design naman, wala akong nakitang peke (o agaw-eksena) tungkol sa digging na ginamit sa movie.

Best Original Music: Dinig Sana Kita. It's a film about music or utilized mostly with music. Maganda 'yung theme song na ipinadinig ng bidang babae. Engaging at radio friendly na rin.

NETPAC Award: Baseco Bakal Boys. Ito lang yata ang film na napanood ko sa mga entries na selyado ang material sa vision ng writer/direktor nito. Purong puro ang intention at wala akong nakitang ibang dahilan upang gawin ang pelikula kundi magpamulat sa kamalayan ng manonood.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Cinemalaya 2009 is On!

More pics here and festival details (schedule, summary, trailer, etc.) at

Had a blast last weekend at CCP for Cinemalaya 2009. Needless to say, it's my favorite local film festival. For this year alone, let me count the things to look out for....

1. First time film producer Piolo Pascual opened the festival with his first born "Manila" (directed by Raya Martin and Adolf Alix). Here's hoping that the gesture would inspire other "big names" to produce their own little films;

2. Introduced this year is the NETPAC award. This means that aside from the ten feature lengths in competition, another set of nine good films is in the running for another special award;

3. Rare Lino Brocka films will be screened, too. I have to catch "White Slavery" and "Orapronobis";

4. Out of the four films in competition that I've watched so far, I found "Dinig Sana Kita" to be the pack's ultimate crowd pleaser. On this regard, I'm inviting friends who are into maintream films to try at least this one. On a sidenote, the deaf cast was in the theater when I watched the film. It was amazing to see them "sing" the National Anthem;

5. As part of the tradition, some rare films will be screened. The line-up includes Adolf Alix's "Aurora" (ban MTRCB for giving the film two X's!) and Ralston Jover's "Baseco Bakal Boys" (this one deserves more audience and for a film so powerful, I demand an extra screening). Plus Ditsi Carolino's "Lupang Hinarang", Aureus Solito's "Boy" (another controversial film that made a noise on this year's Singapore International Film Festival) and Paolo Villaluna and Ellen Ramos' "Walang Hanggang Paalam";

6. One of the producers of the short film "Musa" (Shorts Programme A) is an officemate's friend and a trek buddy;

7. Tickets are cheap at P100 each. There's also a Day Pass at P300 and the watch-all-you-can Festival Pass at P1,000. My plan is to optimize my Festival Pass by watching 30+ screenings, giving me a rate of roughly P33 a film;

8. Pepe Diokno's "Engkwentro" boasts of one long take that lasts for an hour. Probably a first in local cinema;

9. GB Sampedro directs the Boy Abunda-produced film "Astig" which stars Dennis Trillo (on his indie film debut), Sid Lucero, Arnold Reyes and Edgar Allan Guzman. They are having a fans' night on Thursday. Again, another first. If you find this too showbiz, opt to revisit the indie films from past Cinemalaya ("100", "Pisay", etc.) or from other festivals like Cinema One ("Yanggaw" is a must-see) and Sine Direk (underrated "Agaton and Mindy" is actually a gem); and

10. Experience CCP's aura at its most indie spirited. The queues are long, artists and filmmakers are there, discussions are everywhere, students, celebs and cineaste friends are also present.

Movie Digest # 061

Greenbelt 3, Cinema 1, June 24, 8:10pm

Just check out my other blog Ang Pinakamalaking Pagkakamali ng “Transformers 2””.

Friends who might appreciate it: Pinili, Con.

Glorietta 4, Cinema 6, July 1, 8:05pm

This film maybe too eventful as compared to other Rico Maria Ilarde charmer films namely “Sa Ilalim ng Cogon” and “Altar”, but it has originality somewhere. I mentioned “originality” because I can’t think of any other Pinoy film of the same genre having similar approach/vision. “Villa Estrella”, also about an old house, introduces a Pinoy take on body snatching as segued by some strange incidents, usual scare tactics and that haunting chilly atmosphere. As for the acting department, I like Maja Salvador here though I can say in general that the female characters shine more on this film. Forget about the alien-like green fluid-spitting creature from the pool and just enjoy the movie with friends over a bucket of popcorn.

Friends who might appreciate it: those who love swimming pools.

Robinsons Place - Manila, Cinema 5, July 5, 1:00pm

Directed by Gil Portes and written by Eric Ramos (of “Azucena” fame and FHM Philippines’ first editor-in-chief), the film explores (and exploits) the plight of a small time actor who dreams of becoming popular like his idol FPJ. Instead of making it big, he stumbled upon a bag of cold cash that was stolen from a bank. What follows is a series of cat-and-mouse pursuit between the lead character and a group of crooks. Paving the way to sexy stardom through this film is Paloma, FHM April 2009’s cover girl. Beyond the “sex sells” packaging (there’s nothing much really) of the film lies a serviceable filmmaking and a bit dragging storytelling.

Friends who might appreciate it: those who, at some point in their childhood, played “pitik-bulag”.

SM Megamall, Cinema 11, July 9, 9:30pm

This is the sixth and last film in the ambitious Sine Direk series. Directed by Mel Chionglo, from a script by Ricky Lee, the film tells a multi-character story on graft and corruption, freedom of expression and on living dangerously. Emilio Garcia is a corrupt mayor. Richard Gomez is his hitman/bodyguard along with Ryan Eigenman. Snooky Serna is Jinggoy’s wife while Iza Calzado is Richard’s. Aldred Gatchalian and Glaiza de Castro play an activitist couple. The theme may be Joel Lamangan’s forte but Mel Chionglo handled the material very well. No melodrama or awkward execution, the film avoids being preachy and treads the road less travelled: unpleasant, brutal, vigilant and bloody.

Friends who might appreciate it: those who believe that a life costs more than P20.

Gateway Cineplex 10, Cinema 1, July 12, 4:30pm

Usual formula animated film from Hollywood: predictable, occasionally witty, cuddly characters and more often than not peppered with celebrated voice talents. Aside from the character named Manny, a mammoth, there’s nothing much to crave about this film. Even the 3D feature is not tempting enough.

Friends who might appreciate it: those who saw “The Land Before Time”.

SM Mall of Asia, IMAX Theater, July 16, 7:45pm

I can say that it’s the most boring Harry Potter film I’ve seen. And the best! For two hours and a half, I forgot that the film is supposed to be a popcorn film. This is the point in the installment where filmmaker David Yates declares his independence from the expectation that a Harry Potter film should be candycoated with CGI and that it should be a roller coaster ride at the very least. A reckless abandon it may seem but the director might be saying, “F*ck the box office! People will watch the film, anyway.” I immensely enjoyed the consistent maturity of the style, its focus on storytelling, its awesome mythical/magical feel (thanks to the cinematographer of “Amelie”, another great film) and the readiness of the leads’ acting chops.

Friends who might appreciate it: those who can answer the question "Why do we adapt books to films?".

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Eiga Sai’s Discomfort Man

Ehem, that’s me.

Last weekend, I had the chance (a really small one) to catch some films (two to be exact) on this year’s Eiga Sai. I’ve been a follower of the festival eversince it was still held in a basement at Equitable Building along Makati Avenue. The venue maybe a little remote, and piracy hasn’t shaken the art film awareness in us yet, but ticket distribution was so smooth sailing then. Once the theater is open for screening, cineastes just line up and get in, as simple as that. Fast forward to this year’s venue, which has been hosting the festival for a couple of years now, the Shangri-La Cineplex, the whole viewing experience now turns into a harakiri.

Let me count the ways to perdition:

1. Tickets are distributed one hour before the screening. For this year’s festival, there are only three screenings a day. There’s one at 2pm then at 4:30pm and lastly at 7pm. So if you’re catching the 2pm film, expect the ticket to be released at 1pm sharp. The problem lies in the queue. Film buffs, students and freeloaders form a line as early as two hours before the distribution. Some just gossip it out with friends or eat or read a book. This is serviceable to young ones (and the likes of me) but our dear senior citizens will definitely skip the three hours of plain bumming. How about those with disability?

2. Film marathon is absolutely mission impossible. Out of three films a day, you just have to choose which one to watch. Two films could be doable but that means you have to queue for two hours twice. Thanks but no thanks. Sometimes just by looking at the long queue, you can secondguess that not everybody can fit in the cinema. And yet, the cinema staff just let the line freeze that way for hours. I don’t know about them but in two hours, I can have my lunch, do some grocery or even attend a mass. To top it all, if the queue reaches the Starbucks area, chances are very, very slim.

3. Before, those who are attempting to do a marathon just leave the cinema while a film is being screened and queue for the next one. The most harrowing part, of course, is seeing the images of those shadows making an exit even if the film’s not over yet. This is somewhat addressed by the one-hour rule on ticket distribution.

4. I was surprised to discover that chance watchers are only allowed admission 15 minutes after the film has already started. On this regard, I approached the cineplex manager, Mr. Reynaldo Cabigting, and asked if this is really the rule. He affirmed the policy, which he said was implemented by the Japan Foundation, and justified that the chance watchers “deserve” it because they don’t have tickets. Please note that some films have highlights on the first 15 minutes. Where’s the respect to its filmmakers?

Looking at the bright side, here’s hoping that the organizers of the festival and the cinema management can address these issues, which are normally overshadowed by the fact that the screenings are for free. But regardless, the Discomfort Man will just suck it and watch the films still. On the dark side, another good idea is to look for a queue boy/girl who is willing to kill time for almost the whole day. Discomfort Man is willing to pay for P200 to P300 a day. Sarcasm aside, there’s always UP Film Institute.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Why I Bought a Copy of “Love Duets”

It all began with Jaejay’s “evil” plan to record a video of Sam Milby for Mel’s birthday last July 9. Initial efforts were futile as the expected contact (an officemate of allegedly Sam’s friend) failed to secure us a moment with the so-called acoustic heartthrob. It actually ended up having Jaejay take a momentous pose with Anne Curtis instead (which, sorry to say, is a been-there, done-that for me).

On Mel’s birthday last Thursday, we were empty-handed. To somewhat appease with the defeat, I just greeted Mel on Facebook with:

“Happy birthday! Ako na lang ang magre-represent kay Sam Milby. Hahaha.”
Mel replied with:

“:)) manny, gawan mo ng paraan para magka-picture kami ni sam!!! :D”
As an obedient friend as I am, I started annoying my contacts again. That didn’t take long, to my surprise. A contact that happens to be Sam Milby’s relative (no less!) just surfaced out of the blue. Let’s just call him/her “Good Sam-aritan”. He/She mentioned that he’ll/she’ll try his/her best to reach Mr. Milby. This good news was related to Mel through YM. The idea, of course, was just to know Sam’s whereabouts and steal a minute or two for picture taking.

Minutes later, Good Sam-aritan then asked for Mel’s office number and he/she said that he’ll/she’ll share it with Sam. Good Sam-aritan himself/herself wasn’t sure that the SMS would reach Sam. What happened next was something unimaginable. A text reply from Mr. Milby was relayed to me (by Good Sam-aritan) that he’s been calling Mel for a couple of times now and nobody’s answering. I checked Mel’s table and true indeed, she wasn’t on her cube! There were four missed calls registered on her Cisco. I took the liberty to check for the birthday girl and true to my hint, she was at the pantry upstairs having a cake party with her batchmates. I told Mel that she had four missed calls and just maybe, she had an idea where the calls came from. In a jiffy, Mel was already rushing down to her table only to find out that the chance was already gone. Mr. Milby informed Good Sam-aritan that dubbing had started.

Oh well, Samuel. Take the supposedly birthday treat as an epic fail but I contest that it’s the thought that really counts. I promise myself not to remind Mel again that those are the four missed calls she won’t forget for the rest of her life. The deal to have a picture taken with Sam is still on, yes, and Mel can always have her birthday next year. On that note, I decided to buy Sam Milby and Toni Gonzaga’s all-duet album called “Love Duets”, just a simple appreciation of that dreamy afternoon.

Lessons learned:

1. This world is such a small, small world;
2. Samuel Lloyd Milby is a kind soul;
3. Mel is a big time wisher; and
4. Sam and Toni’s version of my videoke piece “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” from “Dirty Dancing” is awesome.

POSTSCRIPT: After the incident, some girl friends started having their birthday wish. Au said, "Manny, si Piolo sa akin ha!". And Jam, "Manny, si Richard Gutierrez ha. Sa Sunday na ang birthday ko!". On which I blurted out with, "Teka, para lang kayong nagpapa-load sa 7-11 ah!".

Sunday, July 05, 2009

More from Virgin Labfest 5

Just to continue with the other half:


“Maliw” by Reuel Aguila (Playwright) and Edna Vida Froilan (Director)

First impression: You can never go wrong with Bembol Roco. Past that, the play delves into another desaparecidos-laced theme on longing and moving on. It’s about a couple who is passing through a difficult tunnel that eventually leads them to a light of acceptance. Staging-wise, everything went into place except for having Bembol Roco sleep on a couch for almost the entirety of the second half.

“Boy-Gel ang Gelpren ni Mommy” by Sheilfa Alojamiento (Playwright) and Carlo Garcia (Director)

An all-female cast led this gender-bender story on how adoloscent kids, a boy and a girl, were introduced with their mother’s lesbian relationship. Everything was dynamic in the play, from the colors of the costumes down to the juice drink in a pitcher. The staging boasts of great acting, too. That’s from the kids, who, at their age, already know the concept of good timing and ad-libs, down to Che Ramos, the mother, who underplays the delivery without sacrificing artistry.

“Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White” by George Vail Kabristante (Playwright) and Paul Santiago (Director)

This third play for the set tackles the predicament of deported Filipino workers in Japan. The characters in spotlight are a couple; both attached to their Japanese partners but are forced to continue their lives in the Philippines. In their search for comfort, they found destruction that eventually led them to a certainty that is either dark or blinding. I appreciate that even the play is written as something eventful, the direction tightens it and produces a pragmatic staging.


“Ang Mamanugangin ni Rez” Clarissa Estuar (Playwright) and Paolo O’Hara (Director)

This set promises to be an understudy of the trappings of love. To start with, the first play intoduces a set of characters, all of them working in a mall and anchored by a certain “manunugangin ni Rez”. He is being paired with another girl, named Anne Cortez, who is jokingly marked as Rez Cortez’ daughter (hence the title). Another girl, a co-worker in a shoe repair shop is also in love with this “mamanugangin ni Rez”. All is not well as the object of the two girls’ affection is later on fetched by the wife. Occasionally funny and the turn of events is very in-your-face.

“Salise” by J. Dennis Teodosio (Playwright) and Roobak Valle (Director)

I remember big time that I particulary singled out J. Dennis Teodosio’s “Gee-gee at Waterina” from the very first Virgin Labfest. I liked the humor and the right mix of social relevance and drama rolled into one. His play for this year’s Virgin Labfest did not disappoint. It tells a bittersweet confrontation between a gay writer and the family of his young boytoy who stole his laptop. Underneath the outwitting and acceptance is a reminder that every relationship is a masked robbery. It steals a part of us, be it time, personality or even life itself. “Salise” takes this path in a very literal but equally engaging and contemplative way. That’s the charm on most of Mr. Teodosio’s works. It allows the viewers to enjoy a realistic modern-day setting, with a promise that an insight is impregnated on it. Acting may not be at its prime, but still serviceable, just the same.

“So Sangibo a Ranon na Piyatay o Satiman a Tadman” by Rogelio Braga (Playwright) and Riki Benedicto (Director)

This is the third of Ogie Braga’s trilogy on Bangsa Moro. As compared to “Ang Pagdating ng Barbaro” and “Ang Bayot, ang Meranao, at ang Habal-Habal sa Isang Nakababagot na Paghihintay sa Kanto ng Lanao del Norte”, this play doesn’t have a stranger who arrives in a town in Lanao and then later leaves. But it’s also a about goodbyes. It’s about freedom from the dark past and the amount of sacrifices it needs to liberate us from something we’ve become out of fear. Judging from the sincerity of the material, I see a distinctly Pinoy originality in it. First time Virgin Labfest director Riki Benedicto lived up with the challenge on the play’s intertwining past and present. The compound storytelling between the young and present-day female characters is clearly told. In one sequence, the lights were out and only two characters holding a flashlight ran through and across the stage, giving a sense of being trapped and helplessness. To seal the notion that this play is one of the best stagings for this year, a live music is being rendered by Bailan to accentuate the main character’s love, loss and her constant search for “maratabat”.


“Isang Mukha ng Pandaraya” by Oggie Arcenas (Playwright) and Roli Inocencio (Director)

The play reminds me of Malou Jacob’s “Anatomiya ng Korupsyon”. It tackles how a small unit of the society, the university to be exact, deals with dishonesty, power and social injustice. Two students face a “hearing” as one summoned the other for cheating in an exam. The witness happens to be poor and is assumed to be a prostitute while the other is a summa cum laude contender and a Starbucks addict. Sequences and dialogues remind the audience that the scenarios are real and happening in the university right next to you. Staging-wise, the direction sets a mood that the rest of the play is intense and can be taken as it is, no double-meaning whatsoever.

“Ang Huling Lektyur ni Mrs. Reyes” by Tim Dacanay (Playwright) and Hazel Gutierrez (Director)

This one’s probably the weakest among the lot for me. It’s a monologue by a teacher who is having her last day in a nun-managed school. She interacts with the audience as her class and discusses extreme topics like dissonance in music and birth control. The devise used is a bit similar to Terrence McNally’s “Master Class”. Acting and direction may be good but the material itself has no sense of direction. I can’t guess what the play is really all about and where it is heading. Is it about suppression? Minutes before the end of the lecture, she closes the door and changes her topic from music to sex. Is it supposed to promote the bill that’s being discussed in the senate/congress a few months ago? From time to time, the teacher is distracted by some snippets of her life that tend to be the cause of what she has become. I still don’t get it. Just the same, the staging is interactive, often times funny but that’s about it. I’d rather see this in a lounge or a comedy bar than at Tanghalang Huseng Batute. On second thought, Virgin Labfest is ideally a borderless space for something experimental and this somewhat salvages the play.

“Mababang Paaralan ng Caniogan” by Job Pagsibigan (Playwright) and Sipat Lawin Ensemble (Director)

There’s something cute about this memoir play about spending one stormy day in a Grade 6 class with a terror teacher. It could be the multihued props, costume, characters or simply the production number of “The People in Your Neighborhood”. Audio-visual is an added treat, compounding the already eye candy set. The honesty is there, from the script down to its magnificent actors.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Briefly, Virgin Labfest 5

There’s an ongoing cultural out-of-the-box event held at CCP. It’s called Virgin Labfest that is now on its fifth year of showcasing untried, untested and unstaged works of the Writer’s Bloc. First week, June 23 – 28, was the first time staging of themed Sets A to F while the following week, this week (on its last weekend to be exact), is a repeat of sort.

As for the sets I’ve seen last week, here are some notes:


“Kitchen Medea” by Kiyokazu Yamamoto (Playwright) and Toshihisa Yoshida (Director)

It’s a modern day retelling of the Greek classic Medea set in a Japan household. It’s a monologue, by the way, and it’s performed by Mailes Kanapi. I like the idea that the kitchen is used as the character’s comfort zone but a tragic story like Medea is too eventful to pull off as a monologue. The best part, of course, is its actress.

“Asawa/Kabit” by George de Jesus III (Playwright/Director)

A reminiscent of Maryo J. Delos Reyes’ “A Love Story”, the play tackles a dark and witty war of the senses between a wife and a mistress. Its episodic take, told as if in a boxing match complete with a bell, is fresh and entertaining. Film and stage actress Sherry Lara and scriptwriter/actress Raquel Villavicencio shared the stage.

“Doc Resureccion: Gagamutin ang Bayan” by Layeta Bucoy (Playwright) and Tuxqs Rutaquio (Director)

I’m a fan of Miss Layeta Bucoy and the capsule review here could be a littled biased. Anyway, the third play on this set tells (more of questions) the morality hounding a small fishing village that is bound for obscurity. It’s a murky tale that delves into the hearts of the characters, opens it like a frog in a Biology class looking for its intent and explodes. Direction is good and the ensemble, topnotch. I have to single out Gawad Buhay! nominee Jonathan Tadioan (“Pamantasang Hirang”) for the intensity and efficiency.


“Paigan” by Liza Magtoto (Playwright) and Sigrid Bernardo (Director)

Partly historical, “Paigan” (a corruption of the name David Fagen) tells a story on racism and nationalism, and a mix-up of the two. The topic may not be as appealing or engaging as the others but it’s serviceable. I would always for for Liza Magtoto’s “Agnoia” anytime.

“Hate Restaurant” by David Finnigan (Playwright) and J. Victor Villareal (Director)

This is the second play I’ve seen for Virgin Labfest 5 that is not written by a Filipino. It’s another black comedy told inside a restaurant kitchen, plagued by different peculiar and sometimes-loveable characters. There’s a timid chef, a nerdy waiter, a manager who just killed a rat and some very demanding customers. All in all, the play is decent enough. I just have this sentiment that I may not be getting the Aussie humor/language that goes with it.

“Isang Araw sa Karnabal” by Nicolas Pichay (Playwright) and Chris Millado (Director)

It’s probably one of the most pleaser plays for me among all the entries. It’s a story of two people with desaparecido relatives who meet up inside a theme park. They talk about their love (and the blandness of it) for each other, their future, heartbreaks and their longing for the long lost loved ones. The stage is equipped with a floor landscaped with “grass” and with just a bench in the middle. As the couple tried a shooting booth and a horror roller coaster ride, the zen-like stage is surprisingly utilized into something dynamic and efficient “theme park”. Thanks to its direction, sound design and lighting. Skyzx Labastilla and Paolo O’Hara are both brilliant. The play’s definitely a must-watch.


“Ang Kalungkutan ng Reyna” by Floy Quintos (Playwright/Director)

This Palanca-winning play accounts the last harrowing days of the lady President turned dictator in an attempt to revamp her strong image. She hired an elite fashion designer/stylist to pave the way. The cast includes the great Shamaine Centenara-Buencamino and actor/director Tuxqs Rutaquio as the leads. I can say that it’s well directed and some scenes are tremendously funny but I find the whole play’s running time too short for its worth.

“Uuwi ang Nanay Kong si Darna” by Job Pagsibigan (Playwright) and Cats Racsag (Director)

There’s nothing really much about this play (if you can call this as such). It tells animatingly how an OFW mom is comparable to Darna, complete with colorful costumes and some decent action sequences that are very eye candy for the kids. The “play” is short and sweet at 15 minutes.

“Ang Bayot, Ang Meranao, at ang Habal-Habal sa Isang Nakakabagot na Paghihintay sa Isang Kanto sa Lanao del Norte” by Rogelo Braga (Playwright) and Nick Olanka (Director)

As compared to Ogie Braga’s “Ang Pagdating ng Barbaro”, this play is contrastingly relaxed and lighter. It tells a story of an unusual meeting of the loud and gay Bambi and a Muslim named Hamid, their endless outwitting and their escape away from social hypocrisy. Underneath the clever conversation is a thesis that homosexuals and Muslims share the same plight on discrimination and acceptance. This one’s also a pleaser, thanks to the one-liners. My only comment is that the play is prone to excessive ad-libs that might ruin the momentum. Just the same, it’s enjoyable. Both Joey Paras and Arnold Reyes are exceptional.

SIDETRIP: Introduced only this year is a series of unannounced new plays called “Fragments (X Marks the Spot)”. Unanounced, meaning, some portions inside the CCP will be used as a stage without you recognizing that it’s a part of a play. I experienced one at the cafeteria wherein a female staff was found to be too annoying when asking for orders. She repeatedly asked, “Ano, oorder ka ba ng kanin?” and she did that to almost every customer. Then she broke down at the kitchen, smashing some plates, I supposed. A big mascot “X” came in and a monologue (I think it’s Vincent Tañada’s “Mga Kuwentong Balic-Balic”) ensued. Awesome!
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