By Maryo B. Labad

“I have done many compromises in terms of  my work; but this time I cannot; what I want is what I want and what I believe is what I believed in. So I want to tell a story, no matter what.” – Direk Andoy Ranay

More than three decades after PETA (Philippine Educational Theater Association), first staged it at the Rajah Sulayman Theater (Fort Santiago), and was directed by Apo Chua, Buwan At Baril Sa Eb Major (an original Pilipino play written by Chris Millado), will be mounted again by the newest theater company in town as their initial offering, called Sugid Productions, formed by a young group of artists and theater enthusiasts, led by Gwyn Guanzon.

Today, Buwan At Baril Sa Eb Major will return center stage with a cast of  impressive and talented artists from theater and film,  to be helmed by a passionate stage and film director,  Andoy Ranay.  A collaboration with Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation, it will run from January 26-29/February 2-5/Febraury 10-12, 2017, with two shows a day (3 PM and 8 PM), at the Ambassador Alfonso T. Yuchengco Auditorium of Bantayog ng mga Bayani Center (along Quezon Avenue, Quezon City, next to Centris Mall).

Originally staged in 1985 the remake will totally have a new cast, except for Crispin Pineda (who played manggagawa before, but this time playing the role of magsasaka), and claimed that he was an active KMU member when he did the play. Admittedly, all cast were invited and chosen by the director. “I think it is safe to say that we want a cast na pareho ang paniniwala at ideology namin kasi hindi naman namin magagawang sabay-sabay na hindi magkatugma ang paniniwala namin sa isa’t-isa.  Kaya hindi ko puede sabihin na trabaho lang ito kasi sa movie at TV ko lang ginagawa iyon,”

“We stick to the original script of the writer, including the setting of the play during 1984, from the costumes and props. We didn’t change anything except for the videos we added in between to set the change of  scenes,” Ranay added.

Asked on why it is timely to present a play like this now? “Bakit napapanahon ang play na ito ngayon? Why not?,” he replied. “Gusto naming maging relevant. Let’s face it. Pareho naman halos ang mga nangyayaring extra judicial killings ngayon sa mga napagkakamalan na NPA noon. Kung dati tungkol sa leftist ang kalaban ng gobyerno, ngayon sa drugs; parang ganun din, human rights violation. Kahit ano pa yan, leftist or addict, it’s still human rights violatioin. And there’s a looming talk about Martial Law, so bakit kailangan pang pag-usapan uli. Galing na tayo dun so bakit kailangan ibalik pa. As storytellers, let’s tell everyone what happened during those years.”

And what’s the importance of the Eb major in the story? “Kahit anong kanta pag pinatugtug mo sya sa Eb major, nagiging malungkot, sentimental and majecstic. All the songs used herein every scene are original. And it sets the mood of the play,” he said. There will be live music during the entire duration of the play.

The play is a collection of five separate stories of various characters but somehow intersect in this crucial period of the country’s history. The first story dwells on the Manggagawa  (this time played by Raymund Domingo), long estranged from his family, but suddenly meets his brother Magsasaka (Crispin) in  the historic rally May 1984 Lakbayan, which sets the tone and the theme of the play.

Next scene is The Priest (JC Santos) and the Babaeng Itawis (Angeli Bayani). It talks about the refugees who flew from their ancestral lands in the countryside after a military operation. Here, Angeli never had a tagalog lines, all in Itawis.

The third is The Socialite (Jackie Lou Blanco), who was awakened by the prevalent injustice and how she views the sufferings of the marginalized sector of the society and sympathizes with their need for change. The fourth scene is The Asawa (Cherry Pie Picache), who identifies the body of her husband, an NPA guerilla, while talking  to his lifeless body, recalling their struggle for survival.

And the last scene is The Student (Ross Pesigan) and The Police Officer (Paolo O’hara) who arrests and interrogates the student, but  eventually releases him, and in the end after an intense exchange of opinion, the officer was charmed and outsmarted by a most wanted activist.

Both Cherry Pie and Jackie Lou will be doing a monologue. “I was scared at first when I got the script because it was a 20-minute monologue,” said the petite actress who appeared in several Tanghalang Pilipino plays, the recent of which is the William Shakespeare’s adaptation of “Midsummer Night’s Dream” (Pangarap sa Isang Gabi ng Gitnang Tag-Araw).

“But I really love the role kasi sa lahat ng mga characters she brings the lighter and  funny side of the play. Good I was able to memorize it. Nice how we can show to the different kinds of people….and make them think and rethink kung saan sila sa buhay nila. I hope people who come to watch will allow themselves to be interrupted for a greater cause. After all,  isa lang naman ang bansa natin, so let’s do our share,” she added.

While multi-awarded actress Cherry Pie, who appeared in various Dulaang UP plays in the 90’s, believed that as an artist, she has a social responsibility to her audience. “Doing a play is entirely a different discipline compared to movies or TV,” she explained. “You have to memorize your lines because it is live. You cannot afford to commit mistake because the audience can see you.  And basically as an artist, you can use the venue to inform and inspire people, to move them and let them think. We are here not to agitate but to let people be aware kung ano ang mga nangyayri sa ating kapaligiran.”

Fresh from the success of the teleserye (Till I Met You, with JaDine), and a homegrown Dulaang UP artist, JC Santos said that it feels good to be back doing his first love, the theater. A post-Martial Law baby, he stressed that all his ideas about the era came from the stories of people he met  who somehow experienced to live in those years.

 “I did my own research and talked to the original cast as part of my preparation. I also tried to check the internet and do my own readings.   Medyo nahihirapan ako kasi I just came from a teleserye for six months so I just really need to do extra work for my role. And doing the role of a priest was a new thing for me.” He also claimed that it’s his first time to be directed by his manager  (direk Andoy) in a play.

Hopefully, Sugid Productions aims to bring the play to colleges, universities and local government units in Metro Manila and the nearby provinces.

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