Disturbingly familiar: 'Buwan at Baril' reveals life under Martial Law
A widow journeys to claim the corpse of her husband – a victim of extrajudicial killing. An indigenous woman cries for help to fellow countrymen who cannot even understand her words. A student is nabbed on the flimsiest of charges and brutalized by a policeman who was once an activist himself. An elderly farmer whose toil feeds a nation succumbs to hunger while joining a protest march. A socialite-cum-freedom fighter comes to understand that even at the barricades, her safety and comfort come at the expense of those with less in life.
These true-to-life vignettes are all part of Buwan at Baril, the play that Chris Millado, incumbent vice president and artistic director of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, authored and premiered in 1985 during the Marcos dictatorship.
Buwan at Baril performs on February 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, 12 at 3pm and at 8 pm with a special gala on February 3 at 8 pm. Aptly enough, the set is none other than Ambassador Alfonso T. Yuchengco Auditorium at Bantayog ng mga Bayani Center – the monument for the victims of the Marcos dictatorship – located in Quezon Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City.
Buwan at Baril comes to life once again with a stellar cast:
- Angeli Bayani, star of Cannes Film Festival winner Iloilo, plays the indigenous Itawis who narrates being an internal refugee fleeing a military-perpetrated massacre in the Cagayan Valley.
- JC Santos, best known for his role in the telenovela Till I Met You, plays the priest who translates for the Itawis survivor.
- Jackie Lou Blanco, who has won plaudits for stage roles in Tanghalang Pilipino’s Filipino interpretations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Cyrano de Bergerac, plays the Coryista socialite who has come to realize that even at the barricades she is privileged with protection from students who take the truncheon blows for her.
- Cherry Pie Picache, a cinematic icon who has won the Gawad Urian Best Actress of the Decade, plays the wife who must identify the body of her slain activist husband at the morgue.
- Mayen Estañero, acclaimed theater actor, most esteemed for her roles in Himala and Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah, alternates in the role of the wife.
- Paolo O’Hara, freelance actor, plays the abusive police investigator who was once an anti-dictatorship activist before he became “practical.”
- Joel Saracho, who starred in the Berlinale Silver Bear winner Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis, alternates as police investigator.
- Ross Pesigan, with various television and theater credits, plays the student activist detained and abused by the police investigator.
- Crispin Pineda, esteemed theater thespian known for his roles in St. Louis Loves Dem Filipinos, plays the elderly farmer who suffers even as protests his plight.
- Danny Mandia, who teaches theater at the Far Eastern University, plays the factory worker and veteran activist who has survived policemen's bullets and now cares for the farmer.
- Reymund Domingo, part of Manila Shakespeare Company's Romeo and Juliet, alternates as the factory worker.
This re-staging of Buwan at Baril is directed by Andoy Ranay and is the debut play of Sugid Productions.
At the performance last January 25, the cast gave stark riveting performances with minimal props and set, putting the focus solely on their expression. Everyone in the cast rose to the challenge. No one faltered or broke the spell. From one actor to another, they deftly passed the baton that was the audiences' captivated heart.
Jackie Lou Blanco added touches of humor and levity, a counterpoint that only emphasized the poignancy and gravity of her realization that her stature in society comes at the cost of others, even when she protests. She effectively made audiences empathize with a character that was, initially, haughty and snooty. She was luminous on so many levels.
Cherry Pie Picache delivered a heartfelt performance that reflected her experience with the camera. Her expression was intimate and her words fragile, worthy of a closeup.
Paolo O’Hara delivered stirring performance of a lawman playing both good cop and bad cop, alternating between abuse and sympathy. He effectively portrayed a man who thought he was a master, only to be played a fool.
Angeli Bayani arguably tackled the most challenging role for both actor and audience. All her lines were in Itawis language, incomprehensible to most audiences. And that was the point. This deliberate creative decision was eloquent and poetic. Quite literally, her plight could not be understood by her own countrymen. Audiences only have the translation provided by the priest (JC Santos) to go on. Nonetheless her eyes spoke volumes.
Director Andoy Ranay revealed that he hopes to perform the timely play across the nation. The play has been restaged through the years, notably in 2013 by Ateneo Entablado. Now that historical revisionism and post truth viral propaganda portend the return to power of plundering political dynasties, Buwan at Baril needs to be seen more than ever. – Rappler.com
Writer, graphic designer, and business owner Rome Jorge is passionate about the arts. Formerly the Editor-in-Chief of asianTraveler Magazine, Lifestyle Editor of The Manila Times, and cover story writer for MEGA and Lifestyle Asia Magazines, RomeJorge has also covered terror attacks, military mutinies, mass demonstrations as well as Reproductive Health, gender equality, climate change, HIV/AIDS and other important issues. He is also the proprietor of Strawberry Jams Music Studio.