Saturday, June 30, 2018

VIRGIN LABFEST 14: Set D

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

MARAWI MUSICALE – Jhong (Jonathan Tadioan), Khristina (Lhorvie Ann Nuevo), and Richard (Nazer Salcedo) are all Manileños who find themselves in war-torn Marawi to facilitate a feeding program as well as a music therapy project, an advocacy geared towards a semblance of normalcy for the province’s children. They are joined by Khalid (Popperts Bernadas) and his sister-in-law Salanka (Bayang Barrios) who both await the return of her husband, fearing he has already been captured by ISIS. Preparing meals with the sound of bombs exploding in the background, the group has to remain steadfast and unfazed, trying to make a difference by focusing on what they do best.

This is a musical and the lyrics of the songs, while few and still incomplete, do tug a heartstring here and there. What we have to thank this mini-musical for is its introduction of the issue with individuals involved. Mindanao is not in a different country, although we who live here in the capital two hours away by plane only ever hear about the conflict in the news, seeing statistics instead of faces. We can say that the issue is humanized here. Instead of being bombarded with numbers that we will never really care about, we are confronted by the plights of Jhong, Khalid, Salanka, and the like. We are all reminded that this issue is as real as it can be and, perhaps, that awareness is all we need to start giving a damn.


AMOY PULBOS ANG MGA ALABOK SA ILALIM NG RILES NG TREN – Ramil (Bong Cabrera) and Chona (Marjorie Lorico) prep their son Igit (John Paulo Rodriguez) for one of his “field trips” with an old white guy. The family lives under a bridge where their daily soundtrack is a mixture of trains passing by and Chona’s loud nagging. Her favorite topic is his husband's failure to win the million-peso jackpot prize in a noontime variety show. As the two argue about life and harsh everyday realities, the audience is given a glimpse of what daily life looks like for the normal homeless Filipino family who rely on a mix of luck and tenacity to make it through the day.

Short but sweet, this one is such a guilty pleasure to watch not just thanks to its actors but also because of its scathing social critique of how it is like to live in Manila under the poverty line. However, it’s not really that lifestyle that draws you in, but rather the Filipino mentality of banking on fate instead of earning a living. We are indeed a nation obsessed with everything instant, from coffee all the way to money. How else would you explain the mass following and influence that noontime shows and their respective “messiahs” enjoy? What this one-act play offers is a peek of what happens when the cameras stop rolling, something you wouldn’t really get to see unless you undergo an immersion of sorts or watch a boring documentary.

RIVER LETHE – Abe (Paolo O'Hara) and Mara (Dolly de Leon) check in at a motel after their chemo therapy session, trying to remember the details of their medication. The two have been cheating on his wife for quite some time now, bonding over coitus and their common tragedy which is the big C. As they talk about everything from sexual positions to the details of their medical condition, they try to put on a brave face in the midst of an uncertain future.

River Lethe is just so risqué, which makes it all the more enjoyable. From the interpretative dance introduction of the three motel staff members cleaning a room just vacated all the way to Abe and Mara’s unfiltered tirades laced with Pinoy sexual slang, the narrative is meant to raise some eyebrows from the conservative crowd. Vulgarity aside, this story is a common tale of finding solace with someone going through a similar terrible experience, in this case cancer and all the uncertainty it brings along. Your takeaway from the narrative is that ever relevant question about the meaning of life and how insignificant all the seemingly important things are when faced with the inevitable and unavoidable phenomenon that is mortality.

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