“Babae ang bukas at siya ring simula,” says the parting words of this Women’s Month play offering and I thought that little line encapsulates the richness of the Filipino language because it could mean that the future is female and she is the beginning of that future, but it could also mean that women are the future and the beginning–of which she is, of course.
The show, written by Michelle Ngu-Nario, touches on this at the start, recounting a story of the birth of mankind and the woman’s role in it; as well as how the woman’s role has been distorted in society: “Hinugot sa tadyang, hinugot sa tagiliran, hinugot sa pangangailangan,” and later on, “Reyna, prinsesa, pwerta–at wala nang iba pa.”
The show doesn’t get as staggeringly plainspeak bold as its first three minutes, showing instead four different stories helmed from real life that reinforces the woman’s role in Filipino society still even today in certain circumstances.
The first (Joann Co), a woman who recounted how a typhoon ravaged their town and their source of livelihood–ie her husband’s job as a fisherman–and its lingering effects even after the debris has cleared. It’s uplifting, as all four stories would end up being, the woman saying how the women in their town have banded together to step up, to take over while their husbands heal, safeguarding their financial futures.
The second (Naths Everett), a woman ushered into an arranged marriage, going along with what culture and society dictated until she realized that if she didn’t do anything, what happened to her will inevitably happen to her newborn baby girl.
The third (Gold Villar-Lim), a woman helping spread COVID response awareness as well as unabashedly talking about women’s health issues and urging people to speak up when they see or hear domestic abuse happening, even if it’s not happening in their own homes. Here, the show takes a bit of a public service announcement turn, but a welcomed one as online streams to potential audiences of hundreds of thousands.
The fourth (Ericka Peralejo), a young girl recounting the horrors she experienced fleeing from her home under threat or siege. Unlike the other three stories where the women dealt with the lot that befall women, this fourth’s story is femaleness is more innate: that it is a woman’s story because it has happened to this particular girl, and it’s one of finding light after a period of darkness.
All these stories are blanketed by mesmerizing music composed by Ada Tayao (with Myke Salomon as Musical Director / Arranger) that exists like the fifth lead, with lilting background music to accompany the storytelling and songs (even rap)
To an almost literal degree, they’re all stories of women taking their present circumstances head on and preparing themselves for the future. And what better theme to explore these days when we’re all–Filipino women and all genders alike–are on the precipice of great change?
Produced for online streaming, it makes the most out of multiple mediums (directed by Maribel Legarda) –a clearly theatrical production that doesn’t ignore that it needs to be cinematic (Neil Daza is Director of Photography) for audiences at home while permitting itself to be creative with animations. A true exercise of the emerging hybrid theater medium that’s bound to stick around in the new normal.
In Babae Ang Bukas we are shown the different ways fate can bring a woman down, but we are also shown that she does not have to stay down for long nor does she need anyone else to pick her back up. She will do what she has always done from the beginning of time: look straight into the unknown future and step boldly towards it anyway.
PETA is hosting an online watch party for the show at 3:00 PM, March 26, on their Facebook page, hosted by Kakki Teodoro with resource persons Dr. Nathalie Africa-Verceles and Ms. Daryl Leyesa.
Venue: Oxfam Pilipinas on Facebook Running Time: 58 minutes and 29 seconds Credits: Michelle Ngu-Nario (Playwright), Maribel Legarda (Director), Neil Daza (Director of Photography), Bene Manaois (Editor / Projectionist), Myke Salomon (Musical Director/ Arranger), Ada Tayao (Music Composer), Julio Garcia (Production Designer), Jay Lorenz Conanan (Costume Designer) Cast: Joann Co, Naths Everett, Gold Villar-Lim, Ericka Peralejo, Ada Tayao, Jovy Vieja, Julio Garcia, Ciloi Villasor Company: Philippine Educational Theater Association / Oxfam Pilipinas