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‘Banwa!’: A Great Collaboration of Om Velasco and Joey Ting


Inspired from Edward Mast’s ‘Jungalbook’ and based on the original novel ‘Jungle Book’ of Nobel Prize winner, Rudyard Kipling—Om Velasco and Joey Ting joined forces to mount ‘Banwa!’ at Senior Social Garden (SSG), University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB), Laguna, from September 25, 26, and 27.

The said play had to add one more evening show at 9pm on Thursday, September 26, just to accommodate the influx of walk-in guests who were all eager to watch the show after a much-talk-of-the-town launch via its mini-parade around the UPLB campus on Thursday, September 19.

Velasco as playwright and Ting as director for 'Banwa!'

Velasco as playwright and Ting as director for ‘Banwa!’

Its simple plot depicts the issues of today—territoriality, culture, folklore, ritual, and laws that bind the resident dwellers. The campus of UPLB is perfect for hosting such unique and exciting theater treat.

The characters in this stage production blend well with the environs that offer a fresher and cleaner air of nature; at nighttime—the insect sounds that hid and are nestled in the forest of Makiling lull the local tourists and its residents in the area. Huge, towering and ancient trees provide a great backdrop for the play that can be imaginary on its stage setup.

According to Velasco, the playwright, who teaches writing and literature at UPLB and currently finishing his MA in Philippine Studies in UP-Diliman, “When we were reading Mast’s adaptation, we wanted to preserve its sincere and straight-forward rendering of Kipling’s novel.

“We were attracted to its complex but subtle depiction of the tensions between the world of the jungle and its characters. But we also wanted to adapt it in such a way that this ‘universal’ jungle—this world constructed by Kipling becomes fully recognizable by our audience. In this attempt, we wanted the audience to identify not just the familiar flora and fauna found in our jungles, but also our own culture and traditions, which we used as wellsprings for our characters.”

Ting’s take, as the director says, “I wanted to show circus’s imperfections. This is the Philippine version.

“We have a pre-conceived idea that circus is supposed to be perfect, precise, sharp, and edgy, complete—just like we see in foreign acts like Cirque Du Soleil.

“Tayo hinihiram lang natin yun. It’s kind of difficult for us to scout real-skilled circus performers. Kaya bakit natin pipilitin? Why don’t we create something unique, something Filipino kagaya ng nakikita natin sa peryahan (carnivals)? The acts we see are ritually-inclinde—performers get to eat chickens. Pa-folkloric… that’s what I wanted to present—the parallelism of folkloric and the dynamics of a circus scene.

Official poster of 'Banwa!'

Official poster of ‘Banwa!’

The evolving concept of Dadaism, contemporary pop art and culture, industrial and machine art installations, stylistic movements, techno-folkloric music combination, and circus-like elements and spectacle using kinetics (body motion), proxemics (interaction with space), and aero-dynamics (concepts of flying and aerial stunts) are major influences of this production.

Homegrown UPLB student-actors comprise its huge number of cast and production staff of ‘Banwa!’ Christian Alfajora, Brylle James Galang, Kristofer Abe Pojas, Mark Salas, and Lester Avan (also a film actor who appeared in the film ‘The Flu’ play multi-dimensional animal characters. Jeremy Dela Cruz provided its movements and choreography onstage.

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