Watching Carlos Celdran’s LIVIN’ LA VIDA IMELDA at the CCP is something both symbolic and relevant. The historical essence of the Center’s roofs and walls bring home the point of the show’s argument. Celdran’s narration tells about a moment in our history where corruption was legal and violence was a powerful tool of just one man and a woman.
It’s an important piece; a significant contribution to Philippine theater and preservation of the country’s history. It is something that every young Filipino needs to know.
But it’s mostly Celdran, and it was all in English.
Also, the show is expensive.
LIVIN’ LA VIDA IMELDA brings back how it was living in the Phiippines (specifically in Manila) during the reign of Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda Romualdez Marcos. The 2-hour and half show delves into the deepest closets in Malacanang to the darkest secrets from Imee’s real father to Marcos’ tiny ‘toooot-toooot.’
Had I not devoured Carmen Navarro Pedrosa’s THE UNTOLD STORY OF IMELDA MARCOS and THE RISE AND FALL OF IMELDA MARCOS and Sterling Seagrave’s THE MARCOS DYNASTY, I would have enjoyed LIVIN LA VIDA more. Its no-holds-barred depiction of the life of the former First Lady and her edifice complex is something that I am already familiar with. I even hosted a book discussion on the biography and interviewed Carmen.
LIVIN’ LA VIDA would have been an intensifying repertoire of monologues and photo montages had it not been for Celdran. I know, he created the script from his years of walking tours and exhibits on the Subject, and his credibility is unquestionable. But his delivery on a theatrical stage denies the discipline that the lights and platforms around him call for. The manner in which it is staged seemed like he’s simply chatting with a group of tourists and students, without consideration to control and theatrical direction. Had it been done in a walking tour or an exhibit, minus the lights and platforms, it would have been more effective. I see that the problem lies in the Narrator’s familiarity with his lines that his comfort leads him to look like a pedantic than an advocate.
Yes there is a Greek Chorus who reenacts history as narrated and described by its principal guide. But the disconnect between the Narrator (Celdran) and his Chorus was so obvious that I’d rather have the ensemble move further upstage and freeze for a photoshoot. Besides, they couldn’t maintain the energy and form I was expecting.
Apart from the photos and videos, the show was a mess. Something that even Imelda, herself, will say no to.
Yes, the show is in English. Celdran’s neutralized accent and language make the show accessible only to people who are familiar with his medium of choice. He talks about the nature of gossip, the relevance of history and our right to information. I’m wondering who his target audience were when he conceptualized the show. The upper and middle-class perhaps, or the educated. But I’m mostly concerned about those who’d want to understand what he has to say, but can’t comprehend his twang, because they’re Filipinos. I remember Celdran saying that the People Power Revolution was not a political upheaval but a class war. As class still defines our exposure to education and a Second Language in the Philippines, the show being in English limits accessibility to those who need to know.
My point? Translate it to Tagalog, or at least have a localized version! Para sa Pilipino yan.
Lastly, the show costs Php 800.00. You can get a 50% discount if you are a student, but it’s still expensive. It’s like seeing Imelda once again when she conceptualized the CCP with its ramp; thinking only of the rich who can afford a car and a chauffeur.
I understand how costly it can be to put up a show and producers are forced to pull up their prices just to get back their investment. But a show like LIVIN’ LA VIDA, despite it’s untheatricality, is the only thing we have about Imelda that is truthful and frank. I say for themes like these, it’s time to put on the advocate mindset and put the pedantic-business-minded hat off.
I am writing this not to discourage the show’s producers and actors. For all I know, they can just brush this off and forget they even read this. I am writing this because LIVIN’ LA VIDA IMELDA needs a lot to work on, both in its performance and accessibility. The show talked about Meldy and Ferdie – a power couple during their days, who turned a blind eye and deaf ears to criticism and disapproval. Killed those who opposed them. I hope the people behind this show wouldn’t do the same. It is a show that every Filipino needs to see. It is truthful, relevant, and frank. However, it’s lack of passion, and advocacy makes it a limiting piece that will soon be shelved in our baul of promising shows if they continue on doing what they’re doing. It is a pity if this one eventually closes with most of the young generation missing it.