Saturday, June 25, 2022

VIRGIN LABFEST 17: Set A

♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

MGA BALO – A writer, Manunulat (Alon Segarra), argues with two of her characters Balo 1 (Pau Benitez) and Balo 2 (Skyzx Labastilla) about how to tell their stories but through her voice. The two have been widowed due to EJK involving their husbands: one from the city’s urban poor; the other in a provincial hunt for insurgents. While the Manunulat is in it for prestige and purpose, the two widows just want their stories told and for their husbands to get the justice they deserve.

Mga Balo is fun from a frustrated writer’s POV because it gives you an interesting glimpse inside a writer’s thought process. How do you craft a story? How do you frame it? Aside from these technicalities, you are also introduced to specific dilemmas unique to the trade such as the chase for recognition and peer validation as well as virtue signaling, to some extent. In the end, a tricky compromise between the writer’s clout and easy accessibility to the public and the preservation of the story owners’ truth remain to be the end goal not always achieved.

BITUING MARIKIT – Three brothers come back to their hometown after years of being a part in an unlikely family reunion: the death and funeral preparation of their stepmother. Peping (JV Ibesate) should have taken his wife and child along but is hesitant because of the scandal waiting to happen when everybody finds out that their stepmom was a crossdressing gay man. Bok (Earle Figuracion) counters his older brother, while youngest sibling Butching (Joshua Tayco) is busy processing his grief as their father Allan (Gie Onida) dedicates a song to his fallen life partner.



Every year, there is always that one VLF entry that deals with a dysfunctional family duking it out during a reunion, may it be on a dinner table, in a morgue, or wherever the writer fancies. Bituing Marikit appears to be the only entry of the type this year, and it is everything you expect it to be. The only new addition it adds to the subgenre is the LGBTQ+ angle. Even then, the storyline still ends up seemingly cliched. That aside, one can appreciate the ensemble acting which is a good mix of the hysterical and the sublime.

WALANG BAGO SA DULANG ITO – A group of millipedes grace the stage and give their audience a peek into their lifecycle before the actors’ transition to their human roles. Millipede researcher Hija (Claudia Enriquez) finds a niche in the academe that takes her to field work across the Philippines to discover and study new species. What she doesn’t expect to experience is the barbarity not of the wild but of the humans she interacts with along the way. Marj Lorico, Wenah Nagales, Kath Castillo, and Ji-ann Lachica also star in multiple roles.

A bit absurdist in its approach, in the end you get to appreciate how the main storyline links to the millipede subplot. The actresses maintain the same costume all throughout and just put on various headpieces to depict their human characters. It starts off a bit weird and out of place, but the main issue tackled, that of sexual assault in the workplace, is gradually introduced. Of the three plays in this set, this one has the strongest message expressed in a really artistic way, but might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

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