The first play I saw in Dulaang UP was “Atang: Isang Dulang May Musika,” about the life and times of the queen of Philippine Kundiman. It was the second semester of academic year 2008-2009. That Atang musicale sparked my interest in theatre. I never stopped watching Dulaang UP’s productions since.
A decade after, they come up with another Kundiman production. This time, it’s still semi character-centric, but definitely a fresher take into the music. Amidst all the changing tastes, it’s commendable how the university theatre group manages to keep Kundiman alive.
But the “Kundiman Party” is not just a mere celebration of Filipino performance art. It puts music as a form of struggle and resistance. The “Kundiman Party” is a protest against the most pressing issues. It sparks the flame that will emblazon the brewing discontent in this generation.
While the elegance of Kundiman as a musical genre is unparalleled, it has always been connoted with romantic love—panliligaw, pagsuyo, pag-ibig.
Here, Dulaang UP puts Kundiman in another light. It mixes its lovely music with themes such as activism, social media, and the youth. The play’s narrative bravely assaults today’s issues—most notably extrajudicial killings, and the selling of our territories to China.
Without revealing too much detail: “The Kundiman Party” is a story about a fictional Marcos defector Maestra Adela Dolores (played by Shamaine Centenera Buencamino) who after years of joining rallies, chose to continue her singing through private coaching at home. She enjoys the company of three amigas, or the kerengkeng na Titas. All is well until Bobby, her student’s boyfriend, enters frame.
Through Bobby (played by Kalil Almonte) and his social media influence, the aging soprano becomes an inspiration for the youth to fight excesses in the government. Her art was used to jolt the seemingly apathetic youth into being politically active members of the society driven to fight abusive powers. Kundiman—in all its sophisticated and beautiful rhythms—then becomes a vehicle for awakening.
This fight doesn’t come easy. Like many people in real life who chose to side with truth and fight President Duterte, Maestra Adela and her friends came under attack from the troll army.
Online violence eventually transformed into the more dangerous, physical violence. But the women didn’t stop the fight.
The message was clear. If an old woman who could be just enjoying retirement had the balls to resist, then every one of us can.
Quite a number of productions have been staged to tackle the DDS issues: PETA has their “Game of Trolls” while UP Repertory Company has the “Pabasa Obitwaryo sa Nanlaban”.
Dulaang UP gifts not just the UP community but the general public with “The Kundiman Party”. The crux of its story is in the intersection between what’s fictional and what’s real. While most, if not all, of the characters have just been imagined, they all exist in real life. There are the reluctant heroes, the brave ones who wage war only to be softened by our family ties, and those who dedicate their entire lives to art—only to find a bigger purpose in their older years.
The story is tightly knit that it had no dull moment, and the progression of each scene was, for the lack of a better term, a rollercoaster of emotions.
The stage play’s ending is just the beginning of many stories of fighting, of protest, and of resistance not just inside the theatre but in many venues in real life—online, in the streets, and in the halls of those in power.
Kundiman makes us dreamy of romance, but it also has the power to disturb our political consciousness. This party is yet another proof of how powerful art is in opening our eyes into newer perspectives.
After their recent play Ang Dalagita’y ‘Sang Bagay na ‘Di Buo, Dulaang UP’s The Kundiman Party isn’t meant to just be appreciated. It serves as a challenge for everyone to fight the many wrongs in this country.
[Entry 257, The SubSelfie Blog]
About the Author:
Jervis Manahan is a News Reporter for ABS-CBN Integrated News and Current Affairs and is part of the original roster that founded SubSelfie.com. Previously, he was a Correspondent for PTV 4. He also worked before with GMA News and Public Affairs as a News Writer for 24 Oras and Unang Balita, and a News Researcher for State of the Nation with Jessica Soho. Broadcast Communication 2012, UP Diliman. Read more of his articles here