In Noli at Fili Dekada Dos Mil (literally translated as Noli and Fili in the year 2000), playwright Nicanor Tiongson takes the essence of Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo and skillfully weaves them together in a 2.5 hour play set in the modern day.
It is 2004, the year of the infamous Infanta landslide. The play begins with harrowing stories from victims of the devastating storm. Set designer Gino Gonzales masterfully creates a set that simulates the unspeakable tragedy. In this adaptation, Ibarra (Lucho Ayala) has just been elected as mayor and is trying to put a stop to illegal logging. His arch-nemesis, Salvi (Jack Yabut), who is a military colonel in this adaptation, tries to defy him at every turn so that he can continue to reap the benefits of corruption.
From the beginning until the end, it was exciting to see familiar characters come to life in a contemporary setting. But it was also glaringly bittersweet- interesting to see how everything in the novels became so relatable, yet painful to realize that the same societal issues remain blatantly relevant more than a century later.
The entire production is heavy with meaning, even using parody and satire to call out political figures and expose the real cancer in society. It also shows how corruption can turn the biggest idealist into the most violent rebel.
The material was brought to life by a majestic cast of 17. Lucho Ayala played a commanding Ibarra. He showed his range and flexibility as an actor, as he shifted from the idealistic mayor to the vengeful Simoun. Kris Bernal was impressive in her theater debut as the beautiful and strong Clarissa. It was refreshing to see a principled “Maria Clara” in this stage adaptation. Jack Yabut was utterly convincing as the sinister Salvi. Just the sight of him on stage made me shudder and sink into my seat. There were still a few things to polish in terms of the over-all delivery of the cast, but considering that it was only opening night, they’re bound to be unblemished as the run progresses.
Tiongson and director Soxie Topacio have been very brave in staging a production like this. This show was met with great controversy when it was first mounted back in 2008 (approaching the elections), so much so that there was a small bomb that hit the theater on its 3rd week run! But amidst all this, PETA remains unfazed; completely steadfast in its vision of educating students through the power of theater.
Have you seen the show? What did you think? For more details about the show, click here