Guelan Varela-Luarca’s “ANG LIHIM NA KASAYSAYAN NG HULING HABILIN NI FERDINAND EDRALIN MARCOS (SPIRITUAL KING SOLOMON OF ISRAEL) HINGGIL SA PAMANANG KAYAMANAN NI KING BERNARDO CARPIO AT JOSE PROTACIO RIZAL PARA SA PAGPAPAUNLAD NG BANSANG PILIPINAS NA SIYANG NALALÁMAN NI MANG AMBO, TAXI DRIVER” may have the longest title that a short play could have had this year – or probably in this decade, but it definitely deserves its excessiveness. Being part of a series of short plays in NEVER AGAIN: THE VOICES OF MARTIAL LAW, this one doesn’t attempt to preach to the same choir. Rather it opens newer perspectives from a seemingly unconventional character representing – possibly almost – everyone from the other side of the political fence. In an unknowing flash, it dismisses the call for self-gratification, and evangelises truths about how desperations, dark pasts and circumstances affect personal choices.
G, a 26-year-old writer, just got hold of the copy of the Martial Law novel that she’s going to adapt into a play and she can’t wait to start reading. On her way to a meeting, she grabs a cab, and along the way, gets acquainted with the nosy cabbie Mang Ambo. Mang Ambo apparently is a Marcos loyalist, and though as much as G wants her own peace and quiet inside the cab with her book, Mang Ambo suddenly bursts with an interminable secret history of why Marcos was the ‘it’ man.
Director Roobak Valle choreographs this dynamic tête-à-tête, setting all actions on limbic platforms, arguably making G and Mang Ambo representatives of possibly any man (or woman) from both sides of the political fence. Valle composes more than just everyday actions. He composes recreations along the narrative to support Mang Ambo’s seemingly pathetic, and outrageously absurd Marcos history.
J-mee Katanyag as the silently vigilant, politically motivated millennial G is charming all the way. Katanyag transforms from a passive commuter to an outspokenly judgemental revolutionist. And it is Mr. Lou Veloso’s Mang Ambo who offers a polarized persona to complete this dynamic exchange. He sways the stage with breathtaking charm and character, that only seasoned actors can brag about. Veloso’s nuances suggest more than just a character for Ambo. In him, we see a spirited conviction of assured confidence for his truth and history.
Luarca’s ANG LIHIM… tells a bit about why we choose what we choose. G and Mang Ambo represent the two sides of the political ring – the anti-Marcos and the Loyalist. On the one hand, G is a 26-year-old millennial, who obviously never even had a glimpse of how it was living during the era in question. Her political stance may have sprung from books and peers – a distanced medium versus a more reliable first-hand experience. The aging Mang Ambo, on the other hand, represents the uncowering folks who lived and believe in that era and tells the absurd, tele-novelic – and possibly Tolkien-inspired history of their “great” and “mythic” leader. His unceasing belief pars with G’s unrelenting faith in her books, thus presenting two opposing psychological forces, where one can never be better than the other.
Because Mang Ambo has a past, and Luarca makes it a point to explore this aspect in his narrative, while limiting G’s back story. Though quite unbalanced, this intentional bias opens newer perspectives why there are still those who choose to side with the Marcoses. Their pasts dictate their own verdicts, making opposing sermons futile, if not a waste of one’s time.
In the middle of things, one realizes that even people like Mang Ambo have their own voices for Martial Law; and that we should as well give the same respect we give ourselves.
This entry in Ladies Who Launch’s NEVER AGAIN: THE VOICES OF MARTIAL LAW doesn’t preach to the same yellow choir. It is brave, curiously – yet heartily biased, and important, making it refreshingly surprising and ultimately engaging This piece avoids running a sermon against Marcos. As a matter of fact, it preaches about Marcos’ greatness – however absurd; however insane.
The play’s excessively wordy title says so much about those whom we don’t listen to. In Mang Ambo, we see millions who are still clinging to the Unwanted, blinded by their histories and personal pasts. Like G who closes her anti-Marcos book to listen to Mang Ambo’s obscure Marcos tale, Luarca’s ANG LIHIM… whispers to us that, we too, need to close ours and hear what the others have to say and why they say it. And hopefully, by doing so, we would soon know what would, and how we could, help others to transform.