Film stars stage comeback in Nick Joaquin play
Amadís Ma. Guerrero (The Philippine Star) - February 21, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Three Generations is one of the iconic short stories of National Artist Nick Joaquin, at par with Summer Solstice and May Day Eve. Joaquin later made it into a play, Fathers and Sons, which was translated into Filipino by the poets Virgilio Almario and José F. Lacaba, and titled Mga Ama, mga Anak.

This play was first presented by PETA (Philippine Educational Theater Association) decades ago, directed by Lino Brocka and with an all-star cast including Ben Rubio, Mario O’Hara, Laurice Guillen and Bembol Roco. It was also the first theater experience for Joel Lamangan, who appeared at the end with another actor in tow, prepared to destroy an invincible dinner table which served to symbolize the power of the tyrannical father, Zacarias.

The play was restaged by Tanghalang Pilipino (TP), the resident drama company of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), in 1995. The cast included Joe Gruta, Tommy Abuel, Sherry Lara and Frances Makil-Ignacio. Anton Juan directed.

And now, the good news is that Mga Ama, mga Anak will close Tanghalang Pilipino’s 27th season, and will be staged at CCP’s Tanghalang Aurelio V. Tolentino starting today. It will run for three weekends until March 9. Lamangan directs.

This was announced at a recent press conference at CCP’s Bulwagang Amado V. Hernandez. Young TP talents JV Ibesate and Antonette Go served as emcees. A serio-comic excerpt from the play was performed, giving the media audience a portent of things to come.

Mga Ama, mga Anak is the story of The Karatela King Zacarias, a violent man who represents another era and who is dying, hated by the son he has abused, Marcelo.

The powerful cast is headed by Robert Arevalo (with Spanky Manikan alternating) as Zacarias. Nanding Josef is the conservative son Marcelo, with Celeste Legaspi (alternating with Jackie Lou Blanco) as his liberated wife Sofia. Banaue Miclat and Madeleine Nicolas play the spinster-daughter Nena who idolizes her father. Marco Viaña is the grandson-seminarian Chitong, who has compassion for his grandfather, while Cris Villonco is Zacarias’ young mistress, Bessie. Peewee O’Hara is Mrs. Paulo.

For Lamangan, the play “ay sinasalamin ng mga katotohanan sa isang partikular na taon. Ang sining ay kaluluwa ng ating bayan. May oppressor, may oppressed (in the play). It is a microcosm of society. Meron pa rin ganun.”

For Arevalo, it is a grand comeback to the theater after almost 30 years. “I see the same passion,” the film actor declared. “Hindi masyadong kumikita, pero ganadong-ganado.”

The same could be said for another comebacking actor, Blanco.“Nakaka--miss ang theater,” she said. “I’m very happy about this comeback.”

Villonco, who is adept in both English-language as well as Tagalog plays, noted that “in this language (Filipino), everything is much more expressive, and therefore, more fun.”

Legaspi has done Shakespeare in Filipino in the past, and has appeared in at least one heavy play (in Tony Perez’s Sa North Diversion Road, opposite the late O’Hara). But she is better known for her songs and for being a musical theater stalwart.

Thus, she said, “I had to dig more into my acting because the subject matter is more profound. That’s why I found it more challenging.”

Legaspi and Girlie Rodis also produced Larawan the Musical, based on Joaquin’s classic A Portrait of the Filipino as Artist. She informed the media that “our dream is to make Larawan into a film. So keep your fingers crossed. Maghahanap kami ng maraming-maraming pera. It will be our legacy.” Photos by Amadís Ma. Guerrero

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