Sunday, June 16, 2024

Virgin Labfest 19: Revisiting Acclaimed Plays and Philippine History Through “Pintog”

Virgin Labfest 19: Revisiting Acclaimed Plays and Philippine History Through “Pintog”

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If you missed last year’s theater festival or want to re-watch some of your favorite VLF plays, the Virgin Labfest 19: PINTOG revisits three of its featured works: Andrew Estacio’s ANG AWIT NG DALAGANG MARMOL, Dingdong Novenario’s DOMINADOR GONZALES: NATIONAL ARTIST, and Zheg Arban’s ROOM 209.

With the new staging, featured playwrights and directors give new takes to the revisited plays, providing audiences a chance to gain insights into snippets of Philippine history and culture and witness stories that mirror the realities of life.


For its second run, Ang Awit ng Dalagang Marmol hinges on its relevance and timeliness. With historical revisionism continuously resurfacing in today’s political setting, the play promises a new yet hauntingly familiar experience for the Filipino audience.

A play within a play, Ang Awit ng Dalagang Marmol shows the complexity of staging a theater production.  It shares the magical process of producing a play with the audience,” shared Estacio.

The story revolves around a group of artists producing a play about the popular yet controversial song “Jocelynang Baliwag.” In the middle of rehearsing and researching, the group discovers untold stories about the historical song, contesting its title “Kundiman ng Himagsikan.”

After encountering the song online, Estacio followed his curiosity and wrote a one-act play on Jocelynang Baliwag. After his unexpected encounter with historian Ian Alfonso, he researched further, pushing him to make his one-act play contemporary.

Because it is still discussed in schools today, the team behind Ang Awit ng Dalagang Marmol believes there is no better time to shed light on its history. Jocelynang Baliwag’s story is a great example of historical revisionism. Despite being labeled as a song for the revolution, the play reveals it is so much more than that.

While Dominador Gonzales: National Artist will miss 1 of the 3 original actors for its re-run, playwright Novenario looks forward to what the new cast will bring to the set.

“I am excited with what the actors are bringing. Usually, the artists bring something new—something they learned over the past year—that they want to put in the play. There could also be something they realized they didn’t do during their first run,” said Novenario.

The Palanca-award-winning play Dominador Gonzales follows a young writer as he seeks out his former mentor and lover for a possible project.

According to director George de Jesus, the play is very honest with its material and discusses topics in an “impolite” way. Novenario, meanwhile, believes the play is not taking sides, nor is it asking anything from its audience. Instead, it merely presents National Artist Dominador Gonzales’ story, letting the audience think for themselves.

Loosely inspired by the news about a cadet who died in 2019, Room 209 puts the spotlight again on the hazing culture inside the Philippine Military Academy.

“I was moved when I saw the news because I knew there was something wrong,” shared playwright Arban.

For this run, Arban and her team don’t want the audience just to watch the story unfold. They want to raise awareness about the hazing culture, not only in PMA but also in other institutions.

“We condemn dying this way [hazing]. We are trying to understand the system that perpetuates it as outsiders, not to say that ‘They are all evil’ or ‘It is all wrong.’ [But because] it is a deeply systemic issue,” said director Delphine Buencamino.

This year, the team behind Room 209 believed the process was different. With more time to flesh out the script and develop the story, the audience will have something to look forward to.

“For this run, we’re trying not to relax or rest on any of the laurels. It is going to be different because we have time to go deeper into the relationships and characterizations,” said Buencamino.

Through creative and truthful storytelling, the three revisited plays remain relevant today, with playwrights maximizing their stage to speak about uncomfortable, complex issues that most people don’t want to discuss.

“VLF is a very democratized way to have your play staged, especially if you’re a non-theater person who loves theater,” said Novenario.

VLF 19: Pintog runs from June 12 to 30, 2024, at the Tanghalang Ignacio Gimenez (CCP Blackbox Theater). Theater shows will be at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Other components of the festival will be at 5 p.m. at the Bulwagang Roberto Chabet, 3rd floor of the Tanghalang Ignacio Gimenez.

For more details on the schedule and ticket prices, visit the official social media accounts of CCP, Tanghalang Pilipino, The Writers’ Bloc, and the Virgin Labfest on Facebook, X, Instagram, and TikTok.