Powerhouse Cast Talks About Martial Law Play, ‘Buwan at Baril sa E Flat Major’
As the newest theater company in town, Sugid Productions Inc. has chosen Chris Millado’s Buwan at Baril sa E Flat Major as its first-ever theater offering.
Producer Gwyn Guanzon talks about how it all started.
“Sometime June, a small group of friends talked about what is happening right now with the current affairs of our country and as since all of us are artists, we decided to form a group that would tell stories about current events particularly original Filipino plays. Dahil doon we came up with Buwan at Baril sa E Flat Major for our first offering.”
“Sugid basically is a Hiligaynon term for story. At the same time it also means sustainability guided and innovatively designed productions.”
Playwright Chris Millado (who is also currently the Vice-President and Artistic Director of the Cultural Center of the Philippines) first staged the play in 1985 with PETA and director Apo Chua at the Rajah Sulayman Theater of Fort Santiago.
(READ: Sugid Productions Restages Chris Millado’s ‘Buwan at Baril sa E Flat Major’)
Director Andoy Ranay talks about why it is important to restage the play a little more than 30 years later.
“Siguro may pagkakahawig sa mga nangyayari 30 years ago sa mga nangyayari ngayon. Gusto sana namiNn maging relevant. Ito kasing play na ito, sabi nga ni Chris Millado, nung sinulat niya ito nung 1984, after nilang pinalabas, sabi niya sa sarili niya na sana hindi na ito maipalabas ulit. Pero 30 years after, ipapalabas ulit. So bakit kaya?”
Inspired by real-life events including Millado’s, the play is told in 5 different scenarios—Manggagawa and Magsasaka, the Priest and Babaeng Itawis, the Socialite, Asawa, and the Police Officer and the Student, which show how Martial Law affected different kinds of people.
Ranay: “Magkakakabit ang lahat ng eksena.”
Crispin Pineda, who now plays Magsasaka, played Manggagawa in the original 1985 production. We asked him how the political climate was when this was first staged.
Crispin Pineda: “Nung panahon na iyun talagang medyo mainit pa kasi actually talagang manggagawa ako. Nasa labor movement ako noon sa KMU tsaka mainit talaga iyung labanan ng manggagawa at mga kapitalista noon.”
“Mainit pa iyung script nung ibigay sa amin. May takot ako noong gawin ko iyan kasi noong panahon na iyun yoong avenue… ako katulad ko meron kaming mga record na raw na nasa Crame na under surveillance na kami. Actually noong panahon na iyun iyung sinasabi ng estudyante ngayon, talagang hindi ako dumadaan ng dalawang beses sa isang daan. Sa isang araw o sa isang lugar. Marami akong daang alam. Ganun iyung nangyari noong 1985 na ginawa ko iyun [play].”
He also added, “Nagpapasalamat ako sa Diyos na hanggang ngayon nandidito ako. Hindi ko naman din inisip na gagawin ulit ito after itong mga nangyari noong Martial Law. Akala ko hindi na mauulit iyung gagawin na ito.”
How did audiences respond to the material back then?
Pineda: “Pati iyung mga nanonood noon kasi, talagang halos lahat ng mga nanood, may apoy sa dibdib na lumaban noong panahon na diktatorya na iyun. Talagang welcome na welcome iyung pagkagagawa namin nitong play na ito. At kahit ako noon sinabi ko gagawin ko ulit ito kahit walang bayad. Noong panahong iyun talagang napapanahon. Ngayong ginawa ito parang napapanahon nanaman yata. Kaya ito siguro huwag naman sanang napapanahon katulad noon.”
The director and the producers of Sugid have assembled quite a casting coup for this production. 2011 Gawad Urian Best Actress of the Decade awardee, Cherry Pie Picache, plays the role of the Asawa, alternating with triple threat Mayen Estanero.
Cherry Pie Picache: “I am honored and I am grateful that I am part of this production.”
Picache said that she was more than happy to be part of this production after a decade-long hiatus from the stage.
Cherry Pie Picache: “I am very proud to be part of this production because as artists, we should also use it para magkaroon ng boses, para makainspire, para makapamulat sa tao and this is one way I think in my own little way that I can inspire, ask people to move, to think, kung ano talaga iyung mga nangyayari na bagay bagay sa kasalukuyan.”
Esteemed film, TV, and stage actress Jackie Lou Blanco plays the Socialite in the play. She mentions that she felt nervous in the beginning after finding out that she had to do a 20-minute monologue.
Blanco: “But my role, I really loved it… this is very interesting. I’ve never played a role na ganito.”
She added, “It’s really nice that we can show how it affected different types of people. I’m very, very happy to be a part of this, I’m very, very happy to be with such a wonderful cast. It is always like Pie said it is an opportunity not only to act but to make people think or maybe rethink where they are sa buhay nila. Do I say something, do I just keep quiet, do I tell people how I feel, do I care, do I allow my life to be interrupted.”
“I hope that those people who will come and watch will allow their lives to be interrupted for a greater cause. After all ito lang naman ang bansa natin so dapat we have to do our share in any way that we can.”
Called a “Philippine national treasure” by Hollywood director Ang Lee, Angeli Bayani says that being in the Bantayog ng mga Bayani (which houses a Martial Law museum) helped her prepare for her role as the Babaeng Itawis.
“Siyempre doon po kami nagrerehearse isang museum talaga. Siyempre iyung iba sa mga pangalan doon pamilyar na po sa akin, kasi naririnig ko na po, napapag-usapan noong lumalaki ako tsaka nung pagpasok sa school. Pero nung nagpunta na kami ng Bantayog nakita na namin iyung mga picture nila. Iyung mga gamit nila. Totoong tao. Hindi pangalan lang sa isang libro.”
Bayani has the daunting task of almost learning an entire new language for her role as she does not have a single Tagalog line. All her lines are spoken in the Itawis dialect. Director Ranay jokingly said, “Dito niyo na po makikita kung bakit umabot si Angeli na tinawag ni Ang Lee na National Treasure.”
Picache talked about why this is such important work.
Cherry Pie: “Tapos na tayo doon sa Martial Law. Naranasan na natin kung paano magkaroon ng patayan, ng karahasan, ng pananakot, ng pagkikitil ng ating karapatan. Naranasan na natin iyun. Nalampasan na natin. I think we made history worldwide by gaining our freedom and our democracy na walang bloodshed. So sana, diba, natapos na natin iyun. Ngayon, bumabalik tayo sa isang kultura ng violence, kultura ng pagpapatayan, ng balikan. So sana wag na tayo bumalik doon. In this play, aside from what our director wants to convey and the cast and the production people, gusto ko ring ipahiwatig at gusto kong ipakita na walang maidudulot ang karahasan na mabuti sa isang society. Bagkus dapat mamulat tayo. Pilitin natin na wag na tayo bumalik doon. You know the culture of violence and the culture of death in society. Hindi natin kailangan iyun. And fear. And to curtail our democracy and freedom. Hindi natin kailangan iyun. Tapos na tayo doon. Naipaglaban na natin iyun. Nanalo na tayo. So ipagpatuloy natin iyung pagiging vigilant natin. We should be aware now na protektahan natin iyung ipinanalo natin na democracy.”
The play will be staged at the Ambassador Alfonso T. Yuchengco Auditorium of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Center. Why choose such an intimate theater?
Director Ranay: “Because I believe that this play was written to be intimate. Mas maeexperience niyo kasi siya na mas intimate kaysa mas malaki.”
He talks about how the cast won’t even have microphones, lapels, and even make-up to make the experience more intimate and more organic.
“Kaya pinili naming iyung Bantayog ng mga Bayani na 100-seater, ng punung-puno na iyun, 70 lang talaga, para maexperience ng lahat ng audience na tatapak sa teatro, maiexperience nila ang lahat ng kuwento na ilalahad namin ng hindi ka magkukulang sa experience mo.”
In light of historical revisionism in textbooks today, Bayani hopes that they will be able to get people talking because word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful tools that we have at our arsenal.
Angeli: “We don’t just want to tell this story. We want to affect everyone.”
The show will run from January 26- February 12 at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani. You can buy tickets here.
Here are some excerpts performed during the press conference last January 23.