Friday, September 2, 2005

St. Louis Loves Dem Filipinos

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What a way to open the 30th season of theatrical production. Dulaang UP lived up to its standards by giving life to the highly acclaimed written play by Floy Quintos.

St. Louis Loves Dem Filipinos, is about the journey of Bulan (Arnold Reyes), a high ranking warrior and datu of the Bagobo tribe, to the United States when he joined the St. Louis Exposition in Missouri, USA in 1904. The story was told through Alfred Tinawid (Jake Macapagal), a Fil-Am with a passion for history. His grandfather, Alfredo Tinawid (Ronan Capinding) has called him an oreo…white on the inside (American upbringing) but black in the outside (Filipino physically).

In Bulan’s journey together with other natives from different tribes, and the organizers: Dean C. Worcester (Richard Cunanan), Gen. Clarence Edwards (James Gregory Paolelli) and Dr. Gustavo Niederlein (Leo Rialp), with his willingness to do something great and bring home something his tribemates are to be proud of, he has lost his wife, Momayon (Mae Ann Valentin), when she caught smallpox, later his individuality, his roots along with his native clothes and way of living. Though the exposition was successful, amidst the protests of the Illustrados, represented by Dr. Leon Ma. Guerrero (Leslie Diaz) and Antonio Paterno (Bong Embile Jr.), the spirit of Bulan withers as season change after season. What kept Bulan going was the pride he will be bringing home and the friendship he had made with Maude (Agnes Garcia Barredo), a fat lady from the circus who is one of the spectators of the exposition.

When the exposition finally came to an end, the natives headed home but Bulan jumped from the ship when he sees Maude. He was in love with her. Nobody knew the story about Bulan after the jump. It was Fred who revived the characters in his mind and continued the story. Maude trapped Bulan in her selfish plans, that is, to enter Bulan as an ape man in the circus. For 10 years this has been Bulan’s life, an actor portraying an ape in a show in the circus. When the circus business was at its lowest, Maude disposed Bulan, broke his heart by showing that she has an affair with muscular man (also part of the circus) and from then on, their lives took separate paths. Bulan grew old, became a drunkard, a bum living his life in the streets and dark alleys of America.

Gramps Alfredo later told his story of the migrant Filipino workers in late 1920-1930s and their hardships encountered in seeking for greener pasture in the land of the free. Alfredo, was then young, encountered the old Bulan and told him all his frustrations in the foreign land. The only advice Bulan told him was to live through it and ‘take it on the chin’. Later, he met Neiderlein, now also old, and entrusted him Bulan’s headscarf hoping that he might see the datu again.

Years passed and Alfredo survived because he followed Bulan’s advice. Their paths crossed again when Alfredo was an organizer convincing Filipino labor groups in Seattle to return home as part of Repatriation Act. Alfredo never had the chance to talk to the old Bulan.

The play ended with the young Fred giving the headscarf to his owner, Bulan, as the latter weeps, while the chorus sings as they remembers him and his wasted greatness in search for something great.

The whole play was really excellent. It was a musical with the songs all written originally for the play and was sung with powerful voices. The actors were really great that you would actually be in awe. Arnold Reyes is only a substitute to Miguel Castro but he really did very well. I have read critics about Miguel Castro and they were all positive too! I really would like to commend Alexander Cortez, the director, for a wonderful job done. Everytime I hear his name, I always remember the play “Hibik at Himagsik nina Victoria Laktaw” which he also directed. I really did not enjoy it then but now his name is redeemed!!! I also would like to give credit to the composer and arranger of the soulful songs in the play, Antonio Africa. Each song was really appropriate and gave out the message and emotions of the character/s singing them.
I’ll leave you with some pics to give you a glimpse of what I have been talking.

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1) The princelike Bulans, Miguel Castro(left) and Arnold Reyes(right)
2)Bulan (Arnold Reyes) with wife Momayon (Mae Ann Valentin) 3) The whole cast of St. Louis Loves Dem Filipinos
I watched this play last August 3, 2005. So why am I reviewing it now when it has been a month? Maybe, it takes a month for me to have the guts to talk about this though I know my writing would never be enough to give the praise and credit that it deserves. It was really a 10!

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