Playwright Tony Perez: seeing ghosts, bending time

Seeing ghosts, bending time
By Walter Ang
February 9, 2009
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Tony Perez is, depending on who you ask, popularly known as the founder of the Spirit Questors, a group of psychics who "communicate with earthbound human spirits and elementals in attempt to negotiate for the peaceful coexistence with human beings."

He is also known as the author of a series of books set in Cubao with eerie titles such as "Cubao Pagkagat Ng Dilim," "Cubao Midnight Express," and "Eros, Thanatos, Cubao," among others. Some readers know him as the author of a series of books on how to cast spells and perform wiccan rituals.

Perez wrote segments for the movie "Shake, Rattle and Roll VI." Students from De La Salle University-Manila, St. Scholastica's College and Ateneo De Manila University who have had him as a professor know of his passion for esoterica.

Aside from also being a poet, painter, graphic designer, illustrator, art therapist and fabric artist (by way of knitting), he is also known as a prolific playwright whose works are constantly staged by various professional and collegiate groups.

Given his background, it is no wonder, therefore, that his play "Saan Ba Tayo Ihahatid Ng Disyembre," to be staged by Philippine Educational Theater Association (Peta) this February, has been touted to be a "ghost play."

The play revolves around Lalaki (alternately played by Julienne Mendoza and Jack Yabut) and Isa Pang Lalaki (played by Lex Marcos) and their love affair with the same woman, Babae (Angeli Bayani), who is torn between her feelings for the two.

These are the characters comprising "five generations of the David clan as they attempt to complete the unfinished painting of their Lolo, on the condition that it must be done only by an artist who has married into their fold."

But there is a fourth entity, Isa Pang Babae, who has, as Peta Artistic Director Maribel Legarda describes, "clairvoyant, clairaudient and clairsentient tendencies."

Prolific playwright Perez is quick to note that Disyembre, "is not just about ghosts. It is really more about elements of time and space manipulation, in that time is simultaneous in this play. It's very metaphysical."

Disyembre is actually the last of "Indakan Ng Mga Puso," a trilogy that Perez has written, the first two being "Oktubre, Noong Tayo'y Nagmamahalan Pa" and "Nobyembre, Noong Akala Ko'y Mahal Kita," both of which were staged at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in the 90s.

Last year, Perez won the National Book Awards for Drama for another trilogy of plays he's written. Collectively titled "Tatlong Paglalakbay," it includes "Bombita," "Biyaheng Timog," and "Sa North Diversion Road." The last play of which was adapted into a film in 2005 by Dennis Marasigan.

For "Indakan," the overarching theme for all three plays is friendship, love and compassion despite complications of betrayal, jealousy and anger. "There are two men and one woman in the first play, two women and one man in the second play," he says. "In Diseymbre, the third play, all `four' are present: two males and two females. All three plays are about making choices."

While there is no need for audiences to have seen the first two plays since each of the three functions as an independent play, the fun (or challenge) for audiences in watching this third installment is the device employed by Perez of "time and space manipulation."

"The first act is set in the 1960s and ghosts from the future (2008) are in the same setting as the characters. In the second act, this is reversed and the ghosts from the 1960s are now with the characters in 2008. All the characters are superimposed on one another," he says. "It's now the job of the audience to determine who is who."

Perez has been writing plays since he was in high school at Ateneo De Manila University. His first Tagalog play saw its earliest incarnation while he was in the fourth grade and eventually became "Hoy, Boyet, Tinatawag Ka Na; Haingabi Na'y Gisng Ka Pa Pala" when he reached high school. It was staged by Dulaang Sibol in 1967. He was also involved for many years with Ateneo Children's Theater, starting out as "a monster designer" until he became its resident playwright.

While "Disyembre" was only recently committed to paper, Perez notes that it has always been fully formed in his mind. It was just a matter of timing until it could be written out and, finally, staged.

Disyembre will be directed by Nonon Padilla. The collaboration is familiar ground for Perez since both he and Padilla started out together as young artists working closely with Peta. Save for attending rehearsals to tweak some dialogue ("I adjust the lines to follow the speech patterns of the actors," he says), Perez trusts Padilla's choices completely. "I have no problems with his direction."

Saan Ba Tayo Ihahatid ng Disyembre runs from Feb. 6 to March 15. For details, call 410-0821 or 0918-906-8083. Email

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