Thursday, February 9, 2017

'Buwan at Baril': déjà vu.

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Was “Buwan at Baril sa Eb major” difficult to watch? No and yes.

No, because everything was so clear and real to me—the stories, the characters, the acting, the emotions, the sounds, the faces, the voices, the words spoken and unspoken. I couldn’t ask for more.

Yes, because a tsunami of memories came surging at me with the force of 14 years under a cruel dictatorship. Yes because in those two hours in the darkened theater at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani where martyrdom and heroism are enshrined, something so real suddenly leapt and came alive with so much force. Call it déjà vu.

So it was a welcome difficult, if I may call it that, especially because the bunch of us who survived martial rule under the Marcos dictatorship—scathed but unbowed—and who were reliving the dark years scene after scene after scene last Sunday, were seated among young people, a number of them familiar faces in show biz who needed to know what it was like then. And, God forbid, what it might be like if ever it happens again.

Go catch “Buwan at Baril” in the last days of its two-week run: Feb. 9 (today), 10, 11 and 12 at 3 and 8 p.m. in the Yuchengco Auditorium, Salonga Building, at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani on Quezon Avenue, Quezon City. First-timers might want to come early and stroll around to behold the almost 300 names of martyrs and heroes engraved on the black granite wall or gaze at the Castrillo monument depicting a defiant mother holding a fallen son.

“Necessary” theater is how a critic called the restaging of “Buwan at Baril.” Portable, too. The play is lean and mean, with only eight actors in all. Props are kept to a minimum, but vintage images are flashed on screen. A guitarist and a cellist provide live music.

The initial offering of the Sugid artists’ collective comes in five parts that form a whole. To call them vignettes might make them seem trivial. The first one is straight out of Lakbayan, the 1985 protest march of farmers and workers from Central Luzon to Metro Manila. Long-lost brothers, one a farmer, the other a factory worker, meet and talk about their struggles. (I covered that event and walked from Angeles to Bulacan until I got leg cramps. I have photographs.)

The next scene is a heartrending one; you can’t have enough tears for the Itawes woman (played by Angeli Bayani) who lost family and home. She bears cigarette burns on her shoulders and wounds in her soul. The young, bewildered priest helps her tell her story to the media. There is the widow who must retrieve her husband’s body. Her grief turns to rage. How many women like them have I listened to in real life? I remember Purificacion Viernes…)

Jackie Lou Blanco is a scream as the socialite-turned-activist. (The Rotonda rally she plans to attend was a real one. There, a friend’s son got a bullet in the back. I heard the shot.)

Joel Saracho is the devil incarnate as a former activist-turned-cop/interrogator (“dapat praktikal lang”) of a student caught with subversive stuff. (Ouch. I had gone through something similar and traumatic, but without the kicks and punches. I had been under surveillance. Then while driving at night straight from the printing press with a car full of subversive materials… Guns were poked in my face… I have written about that experience.)

Written in 1984 by Chris Millado (after he survived arrest) and first staged in 1985, the play is directed by Andoy Ranay. It gets its title from the children’s rhyme “Buwan, buwan, hulugan mo ako ng sundang.” E flat major is a “heroic” key, used by Beethoven for his major works. I don’t know if that is the reason Millado used it in the title.

But heroic indeed are the characters in “Buwan at Baril” for telling it like it is—the cruelty inflicted and received, the pain, the loss, the confusion and bewilderment, and, finally, the resolve. This play is unforgiving; it goes straight to the gut, then to the heart, the mind and finally the cells of your body. You ask yourself: Where was I in it? #