Eugene Domingo: From 'Kimmy Dora' to 'Bona'

Peta's "Bona" opens Aug. 24
Eugene Domingo: From 'Kimmy Dora' to 'Bona'
By Walter Ang
August 20, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Eugene Domingo
TV and film comedy actress Eugene Domingo ("Kimmy Dora") will portray Bona, a role performed by Nora Aunor in the film version, in Philippine Education Theater Association's stage adaptation "Bona."

Bona is a diehard fan of Gino Sanchez, played by Edgar Allan Guzman ("Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me"), a contestant on a television talent search show.

Originally written as a teleplay by Cenen Ramones featuring Laurice Guillen (Bona) and Ruel Vernal (Gardo), National Artist for Film and Peta founding member Lino Brocka directed the film version in 1980 starring Aunor as a high school girl smitten by macho bit-player actor Gardo (played by Philip Salvador).

Movies headlined by Aunor have been adapted for the stage before.  Peta staged the 1976 film "Minsa'y Isang Gamu-Gamo" in 1991 with Aunor herself in the leading role. Tanghalang Pilipino staged the 1982 film "Himala" in 2003.  Both productions were directed by Socrates "Soxy" Topacio, who will also direct Peta's "Bona."

Layeta Bucoy was approached by Peta artistic director Maribel Legarda to handle the script. Bucoy has been gaining recognition in the theater industry over the years, given her multiple Palanca awards and steady stream of one-act plays that have created buzz for their subject matter, use of language, and surprise twists, such as "Isang Libong Tula para sa Dibdib ni Dulce" (obsessive love), "Ellas Inocentes" (sexual innocence) and ""Doc Resureccion:  Gagamutin ang Bayan" (politics). Last year, she adapted William Shakespeare's "Titus Andronicus" with director Tuxqs Rutaquio, her constant collaborator, into a contemporary Filipino setting.

"In this version, Bona is more empowered. She's financially independent. She's a call center agent," Bucoy says. "As a fan, she lays claim to empowerment as she believes that the inclusion of fan votes for a talent search affords her the power to choose tomorrow's next big star."

"At first, we tried to follow the plot points of the movie, but as the adaptation developed and the process, true to the nature of theater, became more collaborative, a lot of changes were introduced, though still anchored on the spirit of the movie."

Comedy drama
The resulting work is now a comedy-drama. Bucoy points out that the addition of comedic angles is not so much a catering to Domingo's comedic skills than it is a result of the "evolution of the adaptation resulting from the team's collective vision."

"The term 'bona' is used in gay lingo. 'Nagpapaka-bona ka sa pag-ibig' means you're being stupid, being too much of a martyr for love. When we look at Bona from this angle, what might be melodramatic or even tragic to some might be comical to others. The difficulty lies in choosing a perspective. Isn't it true that even when it comes to religious fanaticism, some of us may laugh at those who go into a trance while singing 'In His Time?'"

Bucoy also writes novels and scripts for television and film, which serves as a reference point and helps inform her work for the stage. "Usually, when I write a play, I deliberately try to squeeze the action, even for full length plays, into just a day and in only one or two settings. I find it challenging to compress a 'life' into just a half-hour performance."

"Bona's 'story' doesn't happen in just a day and in just one setting.  Stageability is one of my major concerns when writing plays. My mentor Nick Pichay taught me that audiences' attention spans wane when darkness fills the stage."

The production will use videos as a transition device between scenes but Bucoy didn't want the obvious comparisons to television's commercial gaps. "We wanted to make the content of the videos part of the narrative. Working with my soul mate Tuxqs Rutaquio has taught me to be conscious of how text is 'translated' on stage. Form has a lot of influence on both content and how content is communicated."

"With 'Bona,' using videos not only affords smooth scene transitions on stage, but it also enriches the very content of the material: Bona falls for a guy she first sees on television, desires to see on the big screen, and follows in cyberspace. The guy is inside a 'screen' or a 'monitor' as Bona herself is slowly revealed to be seemingly trapped inside a 'screen' monitored by those who dictate what kind of life should we live."

"Bona" runs Aug 24-Sept. 23, 2012 at Peta Theater, Quezon City. Contact 725-6244, 0917-5765400 or Ticketworld (891-9999). Visit

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Repertory's "Wizard of Oz" opens Aug. 18

Repertory's "Wizard of Oz" opens Aug. 18
By Walter Ang
August 13, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Repertory Philippines's Children's Theater, celebrating its 20th anniversary, is staging the musical "The Wizard of Oz," based on the book by L. Frank Baum.

Dorothy Gale is swept away from her home in Kansas by a tornado and ends up in the Land of Oz where she meets a Tin Woodsman without a heart, a Scarecrow without a brain, and a Lion who's cowardly.

The three of them set off to find the Wizard of Oz to ask for his help to get Dorothy back home and for him to grant her three new friends' wishes-all while fending off the evil Wicked Witch of the West.

For this staging, actor Rem Zamora will be alternating with Pinky Marquez in the role of the Wicked Witch of the West.

A role is a role
"I don't treat it so much as playing a female role but more of playing another character," he says.  "Being male does make it more challenging but once I zero in on the character, it becomes much easier.  The role is a lot of fun though.  She's a fun character and I'm having a great time playing her."

Zamora has played female roles before, such as (also) the witch in "Sleeping Beauty" and in the musical "Bare" for Ateneo Blue Repertory. "The witch in 'Sleeping Beauty' was a role that was open to male actors. 'Bare' was tougher because it had more layers."

"I was originally cast as the Tin Man in but when I read the script, I asked to play the Witch. The Wicked Witch of the West is fun because it's very one dimensional. Fun and games really."

He hopes audiences won't even realize that the Witch is being played by a male actor, "But if they do, I hope they can go beyond my gender and just see the merits of the performance. I don't think my being male playing a female role will open up any issues though. The material is so light and fun."

Not MGM version
There have been several stage musical adaptations of the 1939 MGM movie musical that popularized the song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and which starred Judy Garland as Dorothy.  The latest adaptation by Andrew Lloyd Webber premiered in London's West End last year.

Another popular stage musical version is "The Wiz: The Super Soul Musical" which was made into a movie in the late 70s starring Diana Ross as an adult Dorothy and Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow.  Rep staged "The Wiz" in 1994.

Theater fans will also know of the musical "Wicked," based on Gregory Maguire's revisionist book "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West," an alternative prequel that focuses on Elphaba, who becomes the Wicked Witch of the West.

The version Rep is staging has book and lyrics by Jim Eiler and music by Eiler and Jeanne Bargy. Directed by Rep Children's Theater founder Joy Virata.

Cara Barredo and Giannina Ocampo alternate as Dorothy.  Set design by Lex Marcos, costume design by Raven Ong, and lighting design by John Batalla.

Choreographer Nathalie Everett has been tasked to create a "freestyle street dance vibe." Virata says: "We've got the Scarecrow doing waving and bugaloo and the Tin Man as a popping, breaking, locking robot in some of the dance scenes."

Zamora says: "This version caters to a much younger audience. Audiences will definitely like this one. It's simple and fun.  The songs have good recall and the script is really funny.

"Wizard of Oz" opens Aug 18 and runs till Dec at Onstage Theater, Greenbelt 1 Mall, Makati City. Contact 571-6926, 571-4941 or or Ticketworld at 891-9999.  Visit

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Getting jiggy with juice

Getting jiggy with juice
By Walter Ang
Aug. 8, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer

The buzzword these days is "feasting" as a replacement for "fasting," in that you can feast on all the juices that you want during your fasting period.

Fasting has never really been out of vogue. For thousands of years now, whether for religious, spiritual or medical reasons, the premise for fasting is to allow the body to rest from ingesting all sorts of unhealthy foods and to allow it to "detox."

While some people forego all food during their fasts, some ease into it or do it with liquid diets. I wanted to do a one-day juice fast with other liquids thrown in, like soy milk and yogurt (a no-no for some vegan fasting regimens since yogurt is a dairy product).

But I wanted to do the fast and I thought, it's my fast and what the heck, I'll do it my way. In any case, since I'd eaten that morning (the unfortunate result of hemming and hawing before I decided to push through with my fast), I recalibrated my 24-hour fast to last from lunch of Saturday to lunch of Sunday.

I wanted to do a juice-by-color fast, starting with red. I road tested the Avance Juicer from Philips and threw in tomatoes, carrots, a red apple and an orange. I'd wanted to do red (tomatoes, red apple and beets) and orange (carrots and oranges) separately, but in a moment of confusion, laziness and realization that I had no beets (good for liver detox) on hand, just threw the reds and oranges in.

The large entry tube allows users to just throw in the fruits or veggies without pre-slicing. The Avance comes with two settings for soft and hard items. The juicer is really powerful with its 800-watt motor. I realized too late why the pitcher came with a cover--the juice comes out pretty strongly. If you get this juicer, trust me, place the lid on the pitcher before you turn the machine on.

Clean up
Clean-up is easier compared to another kind of juicer that I'd been using. The upside down sieve detaches together with the blade-disc with one pull. I found this very convenient because with my old juicer, you had to remove the blade-disc with this weird screw that came with the juicer and it was a hassle to screw back in.

The pulp is collected in a donut-shaped bin for easy disposal. The bin collects the equivalent pulp for up to 2.5 liters of juice, good for when making juices for your entire family or a group of friends.

Some people use fruit pulp for mixing with pancake or pastry batter for fiber, color and a bit of flavor. Vegetable pulp can be used for soups, stuffing or extenders for meat dishes.

Since my attempts at baking have never come out well and the weather was too humid for making soup, I threw the pulp out into the small patch of garden that we had. I thought I was being smart by helping enrich the soil, until the ants arrived.

For those who have a dishwasher, you can dump all the removable parts in.

Missing enzymes, missing cucumbers
Merienda was a can of pineapple juice (the kind with pulp and enriched fiber), not the kind made from concentrate, and yogurt. (Note to self: next time I do a juice fast, I really should prepare more thoroughly and acquire the fruits instead of the canned juices.)

Juicing purists frown upon canned, bottled or boxed juices because these are usually treated, pasteurized or sterilized, therefore, the enzymes that are beneficial for the body would have been destroyed.

Thus, the thrust towards fresh juices. In fact, they recommend drinking the juice immediately after juicing, before the enzymes degrade into nothingness.

Throughout the afternoon and evening, whenever I got thirsty or hungry or got cravings, I would drink plain water or soy milk. At one strange craving moment that night, I sucked on a piece of kiamoy and waved my arms above my head while jumping up and down to distract myself. (Not recommended unless you have a sense of humor and family members who are used to your antics.) It worked.

For dinner, I was planning on having my green juice using the spinach leaves, kangkong leaves and cucumbers in the ref and a packet of wheatgrass powder. I don' t know what kind of mysterious dimension I was thrown in but, first, I couldn't find my wheatgrass sachets. Second, I don't know what happened to the cucumber, because all I saw that night was an ampalaya.

I tried to be creative and added a pinch of rock salt and a dash of apple cider vinegar. "A soup-juice! Super healthy and delicious!" I thought to myself. Unfortunately, I don't remember how delicious it was because I gulped this one down fast.

But really, one should not have to suffer through a juice fast or any kind of juice concoction. If you don't like the taste of a fruit or vegetable, either leave it out of your mix or just put pieces of it so you can still get its nutrients while "masking" its taste with other ingredients.

Otherwise, you can simply search the Internet for juice recipes. The Avace blender also comes with a recipe booklet that you can use.

A few hours before bed, I had an apple cider vinegar and honey drink. No growling, hungry stomach nor cravings.

The following morning, a yellow juice comprised of lemons, peaches and a bit of ginger. The fragrance of the lemon and the sharpness of the ginger was a nice zesty wake-upper. (And yes, this time, I threw the pulp into the garbage instead of the garden.) I continued the fast until lunchtime and that was that.

Most people rush through fasts and diets, but really, why not see a fast as the start (instead of a be-all and end-all event) of sustained healthier eating behavior? I'd still use ampalaya for future juices, but maybe I won't dump the whole thing into the juicer next time.

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REVIEW: Theaterbatoring two awit-based productions: Tanghalang Ateneo's "Sintang Dalisay" and Gantimpala Theater's "Florante at Laura"

thoughts on two awit-based productions:
tanghalang ateneo's "sintang dalisay" and gantimpala theater's "florante at laura"
by walter ang
aug. 7, 2012

i recently caught two productions that were based on awit. awit is a form of filipino narrative poetry with dodecasyllabic (12 syllables per line) quatrains (4 lines per stanza).

ta's "sintang dalisay" is based on the awit "ang sintang dalisay ni julieta at romeo" (the pure love of julieta and romeo) by g.d. roke (1901). this awit is, in turn, based on william shakespeare's "romeo and juliet" (circa 1590s), among other versions of the story. ricky abad and guelan luarca have devised a staging script using national artist for theater rolando tinio's tagalog translation to supplement the plotline of roke's awit.

while shakespeare's play is set in verona, director abad resets the story in a fictional philippine southern muslim location and uses igal, a traditional dance of the indigenous sama-bajau people of mindanao, as its movement motif.

gt's "florante at laura" is based the awit "pinagdaanang buhay nina florante at laura sa kahariang albanya ..." (the life of florante at laura in the kingdom of albania ..." by francisco balagtas (1838), adapted by bonifacio ilagan and directed by roeder camañag using the staging conventions of komedya. not to be mistaken as the tagalized translation of "comedy," komedya is the performance/theater form evolved and indigenized from spain's "comedia de capa y espada" (cloak and sword drama) and "comedia de santo" (drama about saints), evangelizing tools used by spanish colonizers.

gt's use of komedya staging conventions is an interesting endeavor in that it aims to show audiences how this particular form used to be done. the "non-realistic, externalized" (i.e. exaggerated, declamatory) acting style and mustra (hand and body gestures) are not too difficult to accept, as the actors give off a performance vibe that, while hammy and hokey, kind of feels as if one was watching a children's play.

however, the entrances and exits where actors march on to and off the stage are distracting and interrupt momentum (it does not help that the music used for these marches stay the same regardless of the tone of the scene). and the paseo (pass-in-review) portions, where characters do geometric formations like circles, Xs, or figures of 8s, feel clumsy and look ill-choreographed/poorly executed.

(and do students in ancient greece, even if they are from royal stock, all wear immaculately white tunics? all with gold trim? and with white leggings?)

ta's reconfigured locale and cultural context works and brings the material closer to home. its igal-based movement lends a visually pleasing kinetic layer to the text, though the production could scale it back a bit.

companions who watched with me had these two observations: (1) the hand and arm gestures, though novel in the beginning, loses its potency because almost every single line comes with the gestures; (2) the male actors need work on their shoulder movements ("it's supposed to be an up-and-down motion, not 'shake, body body dancer,'" said one.) and they lack masculinity in their demeanor ("this play is still, at its core, about men and women. the movement should reflect that," said the other.)

i'm ambivalent about the continuous use of hand gestures all throughout and i'm not an expert on dance, so i can't tell if the shoulder movements were correct or not, but i didn't mind so much that the men and women didn't have distinct movement vocabularies. i felt it was a softer (and fresh) take in relation to the love/gender dynamic. perhaps even a more "eastern" or "asian" take versus more "western" notions of masculine and feminine physicality. and when divisions of love loom so largely as a theme, uniformity (not necessarily unison) in movement seems an interesting counterpoint.

here and there, then and now
beyond production values and executions per se, it's the staging choices that interest me. how does one take material written in and set in a different time, and set in foreign locations, and make it work for today, for filipino audiences?

we have, on one hand, a british playwright who wrote a play set in verona (italy), whose work was adapted into an awit by roke (nationality unknown), whose work has been reset back into a play by abad and guelan, (re)set in a philippine muslim locale, staged by manileños portraying their southern counterparts.

on the other hand, we have a filipino playwright who set his komedya in europe (the story spans albania, greece and crotone, even has a character from epirus, and has turks and persians as invading enemies) being staged by present day manileños using an old staging form derived from the spanish.

ta's staging takes its material to a fictitious and "timeless" locale and infuses it with a "non-realistic" movement. gt retains the foreign locale and attempts to replicate old(er) staging devices that also have "non-realistic" movement.

ta's "sintang" is able to make connections with its audience perhaps because it uses devices audiences are familiar with.  gt's "florante," unfortunately, is a challenge to enjoy, perhaps because the devices it chose to use are (now) unfamiliar and harder to appreciate.

plot and familiarity
the awit "sintang dalisay" is based on a play (and ta's version still uses the play as an anchor to stage the awit) while the awit "florante at laura" was not written with the objective of being staged. setting aside issues of engaging plot and/or structure*, let's explore familiarity as an aspect of relatability.

is it easier to relate to a production (and, therefore, easier to like it) if you are (somewhat more) familiar with the material (before you go watch a staging)?

(some) audiences are familiar with "romeo and juliet" because of movies and occasional pop culture references. (most) filipino audiences should be at least familiar with the plot of "florante at laura" because it's required reading in high school.

and here lies the question: in this particular round of "romeo and juliet" versus "florante at laura," are we filipinos more familiar with (and therefore, can relate better to) a foreign playwright's work (because it's easier to watch a two-hour movie version; because there are more versions of it floating around in the world; because theater groups will always find a way to stage shakespeare) than one of our own (because who can honestly read an awit just for fun these days?; because why hasn't any movie producer made a new version for contemporary audiences to enjoy?; because, aside from "canonical" stagings of "florante at laura," who else explores other ways of staging it?)?

i don't know the answer(s), though for possible non-sequitur answers, we can quote both shakespeare and balagtas, kekeke.

shakespeare: "the play's the thing."

balagtas (my sophomore high school filipino teacher required us to memorize the second stanza of "florante at laura" and for some reason, i still remember it to this day, kekeke.):

kung sa biglang tingi'y bubot at masaklap
palibhasa'y hilaw at mura ang balat
ngunit kung namnamin ang sa lamang lasap,
masasarapan din ang babasang pantas.

[eng. translation by patricia jurilla]
at a glance, this may look unripe and sour,
because its rind is still green and immature,
but when savoured, the taste of its meat
will be enjoyed even by the discriminating reader.

[*shakespeare's "romeo and juliet" has love, street fights, family fueds, poison, missed communications, etc., elements that would be at home in a teleserye. (and his general use of major romantic couples supported by comic sidekick couples as a device in his other works is used in many a teleserye, too). balagtas' "florante at laura" is epic in scope, has romance, travel, battle scenes, intrigue, court politics, etc., also elements that would be at home in a teleserye. or even an animated film!]