Friday, August 14, 2009

Seditious plays, 2

"...On its feet, rabid with fury and frenzy, for three hours..." that was how the Filipino audience of seditious plays was described by Commander Anthony Stanley Riggs in his book THE FILIPINO DRAMA (1905); he was a Manila resident from 1902-05. Continued Com. Riggs, " is also difficult to conceive of our own feelings, were we placed as the Filipinos are..." Perhaps, that was why Riggs felt compelled to delve into the phenomenon of seditious drama in the newly conquered and occupied Republic of the Philippines.

Com. Riggs grudgingly admired the intrepidi Filipino patriots who, with meager financial resources and devastated by a superior military power, wrote play after play in the vernacular, creatively transforming theater into guerilla warfare, as a deperate last-ditch struggle to keep revolutionary flames burning until the restoration of Independence.

Among the audacious Filipino playwrights was Aurelio Tolenltino whose "Kahapon, Ngayon at Bukas" was presented on 14 May 1903, at a jam-packed Teatro Libertad in Manila. In the zarzuela, the actor symbolizing the Tagalog provinces had to trample on the American flag as a sign of victory; Aurelio himself played this role. The Americans in the audience reacted so violently there was a terrible riot after which Tolentino was arrested for sedition.

Juan Matapang Cruz, another intrepid patriot, presented "Hindi Aco Patay" at the Tetaro Nueva Luna in Malabon on 8 May 1903. Accordidng to reports, when the Katipunan flag was shown on stage, some American soldiers in the audience threw empty beer bottles at it, clambered on stage and destroyed the scenery, bedlam followed and J. Matapang Cruz and the actors were arrested by the American secret service a month later.

Gabriel Beato Francisco of Sampaloc (father of Filomena, first woman pharmacist, and Maria, firs twoman lawyer) wrote "Ang Katipunan" which was presented at the Teatro Oriental in Manila and later on 21 February 1905, in Laoag, Ilocos; everyone involved in the presentation, audience included, were arrested for violating the Sedition Act of 1901.

Pantaleon Lopez (1872-1912) wrote "Ave de rapina" or "Ibong manlulupig" in 1901, which alluded to the Dean Worcester versus "El Renacimiento" case where the latter was sued for esposing Worcester's predatory activities in a fiery editorial entitled "Aves de rapina" (Birds of prey"). The zarzuela was staged at the Teatro Angel in Singalong, Manila, under tight police surveillance as tension had been building up, a few days before, due to the arrest of a local band that played the Philippine National anthem at a fiest in Quiapo. Hoping to skirt arrest, Lopez made the fierce bird of prey rattle off a promise to look after the future of the country. Nevertheless, the theater was raided and playwlright, cast and audience were dragged to the Pako police station.

Most of the librettos and scripts of the Philippine seditious theater were confiscated and brought to the USA for translation and further scrutiny and then archived with the "Philippine Insurgent Papers.". Unwittingly, they were preserved for posteritiy in that roundabout and ironic manner.#

1 comment:

William said...

Having read the revelation of Sidney Lens in his book " The Forging of the American Empire" in my early teens, it became easy to understand the paradox of American benevolent "hegemony" as it was claimed to be, to our homeland. And having known the details of all their treachery with the Spaniards in performing a mock battle to cede our homeland to our "ally" in 1898, and having known even today, all the details of their atrocities clearly detailed in records and archives, we may have failed to address that there is no statute of limitation for massacres and murders they have committed during the defense of our country from their invasion. Yet we are angered at times of the complete discrimination they have shown to us and treated - which by ignoring it - by making Americans apologize and discussed restitution for it, we faile to recognize that even today - they treat us just the same.