At the press conference, organizers tried to foment a 1970s feel, which is the time frame of Mga Ama, Mga Anak, the final offering of the 27th season of Tanghalang Pilipino (TP), the resident theater company of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). But the period the play depicts is earlier than that, but like any great work of art Mga Ama, Mga Anak is still relevant at any period. Its director, Joel Lamangan, always points out its universality.
“Mga Ama, Mga Anak, for me, has both personal, sentimental value and a huge artistic, philosophical and cultural relevance,” he said.
The play is about the passing of an era, and the pain and frictions it bring, as embodied in a family. The story studies relationships of a former town ilustrado and “caretela king” Zacarias Monzon with other members of his family, especially his son. He tries to grapple with the fact of his fading power, wealth and health, and gnawing conflicts with his family. For Lamangan, the coming of new inventions signals the changing of the era, the transition into a new one, the kalesa giving way to the jeepney in the play.
Mga Ama, Mga Anak is the Filipino translation of the three-act Fathers and Sons by National Artist for literature Nick Joaquin, written in 1976. It is an adaptation of his short story “Three Generations.” National Artist Virgilio Almario and Jose “Pete” Lacaba, Jr. wrote the translation.
The number of National Artists attached to play attracted Lamangan, who is directing for the first time for TP. Moreover, Mga Ama, Mga Anak is most memorable for him.
“This was the first play I did for PETA (Philippine Educational Theater Association),” he revealed, “starring Ben Rubio, Mario O’Hara, Bembol Roco, Laurice Guillen and Mia Gutierrez.”
Lamangan was one of the two handymen (with Kryss Adalia), who smashed the table at the final scene of the play.
“I made sure I prepared for it emotionally and physically, with full concentration and internalization,” he related. “We always get applauded for that.”
He further said: “But the most important reason why I am excited about this project is that I consider Mga Ama, Mga Anak as one of the most important work of Nick Joaquin. It is in this play that the playwright vividly mirrors the illness of the Philippine society—the recurring appearance of societal threats to our values as a people, the predictable emergence of new predominant foreign culture and world view, and the shameless ease by which we as a people embrace every new modern philosophy, especially that which is introduced by the First World technocrats and bureaucrats, to the detriment of our own distinct folk Filipino traditions.”
The cast of Mga Ama, Mga Anak proves to be stellar, led by Robert Arevalo and Spanky Manikan, alternating as Zacarias Monzon; Celeste Legaspi and Jackie Lou Blanco, alternating as Sofia Monzon, and Cris Villonco as Bessie. TP’s artistic director Fernando “Nanding” Josef is also in the cast playing Celo Monzon, Zacarias’ son. The rest includes Madeleine N. Nicolas, Peewee O’Hara, Banaue Miclat Janssen and Marco Viana and members of the TP Actors Company (Lhorvie Anne Nuevo, Nicolo Magno, Jonathan Tadioan and Doray Dayao). Production design is by Tuxqs Rutaquio, lighting design by Monino Duque, and sound design by TJ Ramos.
Mga Ama, Mga Anak is be staged on Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 P.M. and 8 P.M., and Sundays at 3 P.M., from February 21 to March 9, at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theatre). Tickets available at all TicketWorld outlets at P800 and P400 (students with IDs), with a 20 percent discount for senior citizens, government employees and PWDs. For inquiries, contact TicketWorld at 891-9999 and Tanghalang Pilipino at (02) 832-1125 local 1620-1621, 0917-7500107.