'Janus Silang': From young adult novel to manga piece-and, now, stage play

Edgar Samar's folklore-infused work debuts as a Tanghalang Ateneo production this February
January 27, 2017
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Earvin Estioco plays Janus Silang.
Photo by Hikaru Murakami
Just like a video game character that comes to life in different versions across different consoles and devices, Edgar Samar's creation, "Si Janus Silang at ang Tiyanak ng Tabon," has been finding new lives in different adaptations.

The story of teenager Janus Silang, who encounters supernatural creatures as he tries to solve the mystery of why players of an online game have died simultaneously, was published as a young adult novel by Adarna House.

Adarna House's imprint Anino Comics then published a graphic novel adaptation illustrated manga-style by Inquirer's To Be You section contributing artist Natasha Ringor. Samar has also been in meetings with ABS-CBN for a television adaptation.

In February, Tanghalang Ateneo will stage Guelan Luarca's play adaptation, under Charles Yee's direction (He recently directed "Ang Sugilanon ni Epefania" for last year's Virgin Labfest).

Character study
"I'm excited. Nakakatuwa...that other people see how my stories have potential outside of their original form, the novel," says Samar.

Tanghalang Ateneo's artistic director Glenn Mas has asked permission to have the book adapted. He enjoyed the book and felt it would translate well into other mediums like film and theater.

"Janus is a great character study and very easy to root for," says Mas. "He has a painful coming-of-age story, a difficult rite of passage into adulthood."

He also praised the inclusion of Philippine folklore and legends in the story.

Samar has another book that's been adapted for stage. His children's story, "Uuwi na ang Nanay kong si Darna," was adapted into a play by Job Pagsibigan for the 2008 Virgin Labfest.

For "Janus Silang," he gave Tanghalang Ateneo free rein. "I only check the script to catch any possible contradictions to the canon."

Reimagined entities
Edgar Samar.
Photo by Roxanne Cuacoy
Samar's canon, which includes elements like online player-avatars and reimagined Filipino mythological entities, will be envisioned for the stage by Gwyn Guanzon (set design), Mitoy Sta. Ana (costume design), Toni Muñoz (music and sound design) and Meliton Roxas (lighting design).

Samar--who used to play "Command and Conquer: Red Alert" on a desktop when he was in high school, and these days plays "Clash Royale" on his smartphone--has produced a mythos for Janus Silang that already encompasses two other books (so far), "Si Janus Silang at ang Labanang Manananggal-Mambabarang" and "Si Janus Silang at ang Pitumpu't Pitong Pusong," which he's editing. (An excerpt from the third book was published in Inquirer's Super section last year.)

If he could be any of the creatures from the world of Janus Silang, he chooses the Manananggal.

"In the story, they're creations of the Tiyanak. But they don't remain subservient. They choose to do what they think is right. They are not blindly loyal.

"Kailangan natin ng mga manananggal ngayong panahong ito na kayang manindigan para sa makatarungan."

"Si Janus Silang at ang Tiyanak ng Tabon" runs Feb. 1-25, Rizal Mini Theater, Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City.  Tickets: 0916-314-5475 or Ticketworld.com.ph. Details: Fb.com/TanghalangAteneo.

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