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Art and Culture


Zarzuela, more sophisticated than the moro-moro; it is a musical-comedy in three acts performed in the Philippines since 1844

Carillo, a shadow play using cardboard cut-outs projected on a white screen during moonlit nights

In outdoor dramas, performers were itinerant; among these outdoor dramas were:

Pananapatan, staging an appeal to a house owner for temporary shelter by a distressed caller; it was performed in the Christmas season

Pangangaluluwa, an all Saint's day socio-religious practice of begging for alms for the souls of the departed Tibog, a religious drama about Queen Helen's long and tortuous search for Christ's cross; staged during Holy Week

Sta. Cruzan, a May celebration in commemoration of the finding of the Holy Cross by Queen Helen

Alay Kay Maria, a drama in which leis and garlands are offered to the Virgin Mary; performed inside a church in the evening or afternoon

Moriones, a festival from Holy Wednesday until Easter Sunday on Marinduque since 1807; participants wear colorful masks in commemoration of Longinus who, according to Catholic dogma, regained his sight when the blood of Christ dropped on his eyes

Cenakulo, a passion play

Hugas Kalawang, a drama played in the rice paddies during planting season

Pagibong-Tarundong, a thanksgiving drama staged in appreciation of a bountiful harvest; characterized by symbolic breaking of a portion of a paddy dike

Home dramas were actually more pleas and prayers than plotted stories. They included:

Patatlo for children, or Pasiyam for the adult, a nightly vigil of games and prayers after a funeral

Pamanhikan, which depicts the stages passed by a man in courtship and marriage

Panubong or putong, a socio-religious rite performed during birthday celebrations, with verses chanted by a group of men and women

Pabasa, the chanting of passion verses

The natives, during the Spanish occupation, were discouraged from writing and producing their own, new plays. Pre-Hispanic plays were allowed, but verses were literally translated into Spanish.

Some popular plays during the 18th century were "El Diablo Mundo", "La Pata de Cabra", "Aida", "El Zapatero y el Rey". These were exclusively for the Spanish Manilenos as they did not interest the indios (the term the Spanish used for the natives) because of their foreign plots and participants. The moro-moro and comedia were accepted by the natives but they appeared in Manila theaters only in the 19th century.

During the US era, plays were written in Tagalog and English, entirely replacing the Spanish. The first English play written by Filipinos was "Modern Filipino" by Jesus Avacillo and Lino Rastilejos staged December 15, 1915. It was followed 14 years later by Augusto Catanjol's "Oil Lamp", a comedia about a good natured family later rewarded by an old woman. The play had nothing to do with the Philippines because nationalistic plays were not allowed during that period.

In the first two decades of the 20th century theater declined. Playwrights put emphasis on the linguistic aspects rather than the theatrical structure of the play. Just publication of their work was their aim with no intention for production.

Very few worthwhile plays were written and performed. This caught the attention of an American professor at the University of the Philippines, Jean Garot Edades. She spent a lot of effort teaching techniques of writing plays. The 30's then turned into a renaissance of Philippine theater. Serious drama concentrated on relevant social issues. Playwrights of this period were Salvador Lopez , Jorge Bocobo, Carlos Romulo, and Jose Garcia Villa.

The Japanese occupation gave way to a revival of theater in Tagalog in the Philippines. All English plays were banned and English movies were stopped in favor of Tagalog stage shows. The noted playwrights of this period were Daisy Hontiveros Javellana and Wilfredo Ma. Guerrero.

After the war, playwrights went back to English. The Barangay Theater Guild organized by Lamberto Javellana in 1949, became the most prestigious group of actors after World War II. It presented foreign plays as "Joan of Lorranine", "Hamlet", "Macbeth". Popular playwrights of the time were Leon Ma. Guerrero, Nick Agudo and Totoy Avellana. Despite high productivity of many playwrights, audiences were small as people fled to the movies. This trend in Philippine theater continued until the 60's.

In 1966, Rolando Tinio translated and adopted foreign plays to Tagalog but the growing nationalist sentiments of the people, awakened by student activism, rejected adaptations of foreign plays. Playwrights during the late 60's included Nick Joaquin , Wilfredo Guerrero, Jesus Peralta, Jose Flores and Alberto Florentino.

In the 70's American Broadway musicals attracted Philippine audiences and triggered the revival of zarzuellas like "Sundalong Mantika" (Oleo Soldier)" and "Dalagang Kiri" (The Flirt). Since English was often a barrier between the theater and people, playwrights used Tagalog and Taglish (a mixture of Tagalog and English) for Philippine musicals the most popular of which was "New Yorker in Tondo".


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