Finally, I was able to watch UP Playwright’s Theater production, titled ‘Umuulan, Umaaraw Kinakasal ang Tikbalang’ on Sunday, December 9, 10am at Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City, with Stephen Viñas as Jepoy and Ji-Ann Lachica as Galis.
As a whole, the play is one powerful tool that provides its audience a crash course on Philippine folklore and myth, as the two main characters Jepoy and Galis were invited to a magical kind of wedding underneath a Balete tree, amidst the dark forest.
Both were only given a sign to figure out the wedding date and that is when it rains while the sun is shining, then it’s the time to go and witness the vows of the ‘tikbalang’ couple.
At the wedding, Jepoy and Galis meet varied talking magical creatures like three mythical goddesses: Maria Makiling, Maria Sinukuan and Maria Cacao of the mountains, the enormous Doña Geronima (the ever talented Jules dela Paz) with her clean and shiny plates, the Spanish-speaking dwarf maitre d’ Pacqui, talking pythons and frogs, tiyanak debutantes, ballroom dancing aswangs, the four musicians of San Roque and a woeful kapre named Kap portrayed by veteran stage actor Bodgie Pascua.
What is admirable about this play is its message, originally written by Gilda Cordero Fernando, a short story titled ‘The Magic Circle’. Even if this was treated and designed to entertain young audiences—it talks about an urgent plea to the only human guest, and that’s Jepoy, and despite his stature in life and his age, he was commissioned by the ‘enkantos’ to tell his world to change things before it’s too late.
Since I watched along with elementary students, which I suspect came from public schools as member of the audience—I was kind of worried if they really understood what the play is all about. The kids were unruly and were noisy. The theater company should take the responsibility of educating their audience prior to staging a production with a heavy lesson.
Personally, I love everything about the play—from Leeroy New’s sculptural costume pieces and Don Salubayba’s unique shadow puppetry were all beautifully thought of and greatly executed as Lex Marcos’ set and lights and Tj Ramos’ sound design complemented such stage artistry. Apart from acting onstage Stephen Viñas choreography completed the whole magical experience. As a whole, Filipinos indeed can even surpass any locally-produced Broadway-franchised shows in the metro.
The play ran from November 21 to December 9 and was directed by José Estrella and story adaptation by Rody Vera.