By Jhesset Trina Enano
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
“Ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan.” This line may be among the most famous attributed to Jose Rizal, who addressed the Filipino youth, believing them to be the ones who will help our country rise from its poor state. Yet if we look at our youth today, does this still hold true? Or was our national hero gravely mistaken?
Today, many of us in the “Facebook generation” are occupied with the wonders that the modern age has brought us, seemingly busier liking Facebook status messages or updating our Twitter feeds than living up to what Rizal imagined us to be. For many of us, Rizal is simply a face on the one-peso coin, an emblem on shirts and other merchandise and a name in our history textbooks.
This connection between Rizal and the youth of today is the main theme of Rizal X, Dulaang UP’s first offering for its 36th theater season. The musical sheds light on the colorful life of Pepe (as Rizal is fondly called), our present situation and our generation.
Directed by Dexter M. Santos (who is also behind the highly successful DUP play Orosman at Zafira), the play is incredibly imaginative and playful. It is told in a non-linear fashion, as actors portray different characters, shifting from one to another across changing scenes.
The main setting is a playground, representing our firsts and dreams as children. As the curtain rises, the audience is welcomed into a wonderful take on Rizal’s world. The idea of the playground is not removed throughout the whole musical; the elements of it are merely rearranged to form the other settings.
The continuing parts of the two acts vary after the first segment. Written by collaborators Dong Abay, Vlad Gonzales and Floy Quintos,these vignettes are bound to surprise the audience.
There are various parts of the musical that present a modern take on some chapters from Rizal’s novel Noli Me Tangere. A modern version of chapter 15, “Ang Dalawang Sakristan” (The Two Altar Boys) features an act where two poor brothers from Quiapo struggle for change. Chapter 16, Kabanata 16: “Si Sisa,” however, is more chilling, as three women portray the real lives of three mothers who made the headlines in tabloids for heinous crimes done to them in the course of their work.
Several parts focused on Rizal’s life that most people do not know. As the statue in Luneta Park came to life, actor Reuben Uy (who also appeared in Orosman at Zafira and Isang Panaginip na Fili) sang about the new Philippines, a place he believed to be free of the cancers of society. The play also featured Rizal’s various love interests – all of whom he left to return to the one he loved most, Inang Bayan.
Yet the most important focus of the play was the present generation. In a Fliptop-like battle, the actors traded raps about the state of Filipino youth.
The musical numbers also featured artists in popular culture like Lady Gaga, 50 Cent, Katy Perry and Rebecca Black, making Rizal a more familiar concept to Generation X.
A new take on Rizal
Rizal X is a new take on Rizal, stretching the boundaries of conventional plays even as it explores new ground in the world of theater.
Also featured in the musical were actors Reuben Uy, Red Concepcion, Jules Dela Paz, Jean Judith Javier and Maita Ponce. Though not new to Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, they still captured the crowd in fresh and exciting ways.
The most piquant element of the play is the music, written by William Elvin Manzano, and played by his band, Happy Days Ahead. They featured melodies that were not only whimsical and catchy, but at the same time, had thought-provoking lyrics.
Rizal X captures the minds and imagination of our generation by putting a twist on the life of our national hero as he is remembered today. The addition of popular culture, such asconyo and famous trends and songs, fascinates and convinces audiences to think twice about the “Facebook generation” and the goals that our country should achieve.
Dulaang UP’s Rizal X will run from July 20 to August 14 at the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater in Palma Hall, University of the Philippines, Diliman.