In this era where both young and old alike find themselves disillusioned and misled by purveyors of Daang Matuwid, the route paved with an iron hand seems even more palatable to this generation.
Social media is abound with such myths. One prevailing myth is that the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos helped usher in unprecedented progress and development in the 70’s, a supposed golden era.
Capitalizing on this myth is his son and namesake, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., who is running for Vice President in the upcoming May 2016 elections.
According to National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera, the current generation’s historical amnesia is the result of their maleducation. Lumbera explained that teachers, parents and leaders failed to educate the youth as to what truly happened during Martial Law and the play is a conscious effort to rectify these shortcomings.
Bongbong’s electoral bid and seeming popularity with the youth served as the impetus for director Bonifacio Ilagan to write a play exposing the truth behind the lies.
“Inang Lupa, Inang Bayan” was a twin-billed play performed at Bantayog ng mga Bayani from March 14 to 19.
The first play, Sanlibongan, told the story of three women from the Mandaya, Manobo and Bagobo tribes in Mindanao. Despite belonging to different tribes, they face a common enemy: foreign corporations pillaging their ancestral land and the government that pits Lumad against each other.
Big mining firms and the bureaucracy destroys not just their land but their culture as well. In a scene from the play, one of the main characters was shown abandoning the ways of traditional herbal medicine. She relies on western medicine and goes to the barangay health center only to find out that the wrong pills are given to her baby.
Despite being written over 20 years ago, Sanlibongan’s contains a story so current as if it were freshly written, with ink still wet on the paper.
As an elderly Lumad, Apo Jamon, passed on a bladed weapon, a sundang, to the younger generation. And the message that the play wishes to convey to the viewers is clear: to end exploitation, the people must persevere and fight.
Last year, thousands of Lumad participated in the protest caravan Manilakbayan ng Mindanao 2016. They travelled all the way to the national capital to make their voices heard about the rampant human rights violations and environmental plunder in their communities.
The play told the story of the Ventura family. The family’s patriarch, Jaime “Lolo Veni” Ventura Sr., was fittingly portrayed by National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera.
Lumbera and Ilagan know the perils of Martial Law all too well. They share a common experience outside theatre: both were imprisoned during Martial Law. Ilagan’s sister was abducted in 1977 and has never surfaced since then.
Anxious for the arrival of his grandchildren for their yearly Christmas family reunion, the elderly Lolo Veni is comforted by Susana.
Through a series of flashbacks, Susana reveals the family’s colorful albeit painful past. The Christmas season brings back the pain of loss as Lolo Veni’s son, Jaime, was abducted by state agents because of his political activism. Jaime is the elder brother of Susana.
Susana tells the story of her own political awakening and deepening involvement in the tumultuous 1970’s as member of radical women’s organization Makibaka.
Aware of the play’s target audience, Director Boni Ilagan crafted the script in such a way that could be easily understood by those uninitiated in the lingo of activists. Acronyms such as DG (discussion group) and ED (Educational Discussion) are explained.
The play pays tribute to one of the revolutionary movement’s enduring icons: Makibaka’s founding chairperson Lorena Barros. One of Barros’ works, “Liberated Woman: I” was recited by the Makibaka girls in a whimsical and playful manner.
Love between activists was also portrayed, providing comic relief between the dark and foreboding scenes in the play. Activists are romantics, too, and revolutionary love bloomed despite challenges brought about by imposition of Martial Law.
The fearsome scenes did come and the dangers of the era were expressed through images flashed on stage, the chilling voice of the dictator permeates in the air, reciting the infamous Presidential Decree 1081. Martial Law victims violently dance around the huge tree, as if in a trance, loudly describing abuses they suffered under the New Society.
Bongbong’s recent brash pronouncements about his father’s legacy blasted through the speakers. Not a single word of apology could be heard. In its place, distorted views justifying Martial Law. The voices of both father and son were portrayed by impersonator Willie Nepomuceno.
In the play’s final act, Lolo Veni’s grandchildren arrived, one after another, and each of them proudly tell their grandfather how they would keep the family’s patriotic tradition alive.
In an unexpected twist, the play became interwoven with the play that preceded it, Sanlibongan. A third generation Ventura appears onstage with the Lumad. It is revealed that Jaime Ventura III joined the Lumad in the Manilakbayan and brought them as guests to the family gathering.
Both plays resonated with strong and clear messages: First, women play an important role in social liberation. Indeed the Maoist adage holds true: women hold half the sky. Second, we must never forget our past. Third, for as long as the same rotten social order exists, injustice will prevail, and it is our duty to pass on the torch of struggle to the next generation.
If art is truly a weapon to liberate the mind, then this twin-billed play is a double-edged sword that shatters the Marcosian myths to pieces.
There should be more works of art of this content, especially at this time. Every story of every 120,000 victims of illegal detention, 35,000 victims of torture, 1,500 extrajudicial killings and 769 enforced disappearances in the 14-year dictatorship should be heard, amplified.
Those blinded still by the Marcoses’ deceits on the “goodness” of Martial Law should not sit still with their choice and opinion until they have heard most of it. And, finally, until the Marcoses themselves be wrenched by their own myths.
Inang Lupa, Inang Bayan was a production of Tag-ani Performing Arts Society.
Additional photos from UP Aperture | Tag-Ani Performing Arts Society Facebook page