Plays

Getting ‘woke’ via ‘The Kundiman Party’

“The Kundiman Party”, Floy Quintos’s play that was first staged by Dulaang UP just last year, so that it is somewhat new. This makes the storyline… fresh, tackling such issues as EJK, Millennial apathy, the young’s over-focus on “Likes” in social networking sites, the older generation’s forgotten sacrifices, et cetera.

“The Kundiman Party”, Floy Quintos’s play that was first staged by Dulaang UP just last year, so that it is somewhat new. This makes the storyline… fresh, tackling such issues as EJK, Millennial apathy, the young’s over-focus on “Likes” in social networking sites, the older generation’s forgotten sacrifices, et cetera.

And in many ways, this trying to tackle just about everything is the strength – and for me, the weakness – of this “party”, which is always worth considering by the “woke” or “want to be woke”…

THE STORY

The story is – in a word – (too) comprehensive.

Maestra Adela (Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino) gives private lessons (with her pianist/accompanist Ludwig/Gabriel Paguirigan); and one of her students is a young management trainee cum singer-wannabe Antoinette (Miah Canton). During one lesson, Adela’s group of “woke” titas of Manila – Mitch (Missy Maramara) and Helen (Stella Canete-Mendoza) and Mayen (Frances Makil-Ignacio) – appear in Adela’s place after marching in an opposition rally. While discussing why the opposition is failing to gain traction, the audience is introduced to Antoinette’s social media-savvy suitor, Bobby (Boo Gabunada), who happens to be the estranged son of a not-so-loved senator.

One time, Bobby was able to goad Adela to talk about her life and her obsession with the kundiman; caught on video, he then shared her story through social networking sites without her consent.

After we learn that Adela had a storied past (e.g. supported by the Marcoses, and then betraying her patrons by joining the opposition rallies that toppled the Marcoses). It was while choosing between “La Strada or Mendiola” that she ruined her voice; and so ending up unable to sing anymore, “just” to teach.

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When the video became popular (Adela became the #WokeLola), everyone decided to create contents on the issues affecting Filipinos now, and then use social media to spread the same. Hashtag: #KundimanParty.

And then we follow the characters as they face the consequences of what they have done…

WHY WATCH IT

There are numerous reasons why the play is worth watching.

  1. To start, there’s the attempt to repopularize kundiman; something that – as Bobby himself noted – aren’t always relatable for the young, and so aren’t necessarily listened to. The show attempts to – even if weakly – reintroduce kundiman; what makes these beautiful, and, yes, relevant even now (when so many people prefer trashy pop).
  2. The cast – e.g. Centenera-Buencamino who, even if she didn’t really belt out, still managed to portray Adela as a believable character; the “titas” (Maramara, Canete-Mendoza and Makil-Ignacio), who had chemistry, so that they were funny when needed, and panicky when needed, too; Paguirigan, who’s believable as a NAMCYA winner and who has the best one-liners that stole the show from the rest of the cast when he does open his mouth; and Nepomuceno, another Adela student who could carry her tunes, but also had great comic timing.
  3. The production – e.g. set design is good (though this is PETA, so this is to be expected); lighting is good; costumes are good; et cetera.
  4. And then there’s the message – i.e. to be part of change.
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WHY NOT WATCH IT

  1. It wants to cover just about everything in such a short period of time. Yes, the issues discussed are interconnected; but wanting to be everything for everyone is always problematic, as the focus tends to be watered down/even lost.
  2. Some over-the-top acting – e.g. Bobby comes to mind.
  3. The end-result of realizing that the play is a very representation of the failure/s it notes – e.g. that people may be “woke”, but these people aren’t on the streets, they are in “pa-sosyal” venues (arguably, for me, including theaters that may still be seen as not-very-proletariat).
  4. Short run – i.e. if you can’t catch it now, who knows when the play will be produced again?

IN THE END

I’d say if only to see a commentary of where we are now, and what we can do to deal with our current situation, then The Kundiman Party is worth considering. The challenge we are facing now is how to convert the online anger to anger on the streets; to actually bring the fight, the struggle where it matters. But I suppose we start with having the awareness, the knowledge, and here, this one’s a good attempt at least…

“The Kundiman Party” is on a limited run until June 2 at the PETA-PHINMA Theater in Quezon City. Thursday and Friday shows are at 8:00PM with Saturday and Sunday shows at 3:00PM and 8:00PM.

We believe that just because one is popular, doesn\'t mean it merits that popularity. There are many at the fringes also meriting attention, though do not have the means to means/know-how to be so. And so here we are, celebrating everything... artistic life from the fringes.

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