"Insiang" exacts revenge in the slums of Pasay

by Jude Bautista
Sep 28, 2007
Ricky Davao (standing) fights with Paolo Rodriguez in this scene taken from the stage play Insiang. Named ALIW Awards Best Play for 2003, Insiang returns to the Cultural Center of the Philippines for a limited engagement.

Thirty-one years after the release of the classic film Insiang (1976), Tanghalang Pilipino once again mounts the stage version of Lino Brocka's opus as part of its 21st theater season. Directed by Chris Millado, the "live" theater version of the classic film will be staged at the Cultural Center of the Philippines starting October 5.

Insiang was first developed as a radio play, then dramatized for television and then adapted for film and eventually the stage. All versions were written by Mario O'Hara. For this stage version, O'Hara created a new character named Toyang who acts as the common thread linking all the disparate lives in the story. Toyang was not present in the film version. Another difference is the fact that the action on stage takes place in Pasay instead of the slums of Tondo.

In a bid to promote this provocative play, Tanghalang Pilipino and Bright Eyed Boys Events & Ideas Inc. decided to hold a quad-media press conference that harnesses the power of the Internet.

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Apart from promoting the play through broadcast and print media, the Insiang presscon had a simultaneous web cast. Bloggers immediately posted pictures and published blogs through their laptops equipped with Internet connection from Airborne Access. The CCP Little Theater had a WiFi signal for the event that allowed laptop users to log on to the web. Interviews with the director, playwright, and cast members were shared on the Internet via web cameras.

Director Chris Millado explained, "The idea came to us when Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah came out with an incredible amount of blog entries. One fan watched it fifteen times and never stopped writing on her blog about it. So we considered blog marketing for Insiang, which is the wave of the future. Theater reviews are fewer in the broadsheets these days. Blogs have reinvented the way we promote the theater. The Internet may just save the theater from oblivion."

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Another interesting feature is the unique wrap-around set to be used in the play. "Audiences may also be seated within the set or [within] ‘spitting' distance of the actors. All they have to do is come forty-five minutes early. They may even be one of the labanderas," said Millado.

Producers warn ticket buyers that Insiang is for adults only because of brief portions of nudity and the strong, vulgar language used in the dialogue.

Playwright O'Hara explains, "Insiang is about the slices of truth that are hidden from plain sight. How will you be able to show truth if you don't show it realistically? And people from the squatters really do curse that much. It doesn't take anything away from their humanity; it's just the language they use. And because the medium of film has censors, we weren't as free to write or show the real language from the slums. In theater, it's freer in a sense."

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THE PLOT. The media and select bloggers were shown a five-minute sample of the introductory act. We were all transported to the slums of Pasay via the narration of Toyang (Mae Paner) and the acting of Dado (Ricky Davao), Insiang (Sheenly Vee Gener) as well as Ludy (Vannie Liwanag). Mailes Kanapi joined the production as Pacing, the mother of Insiang.

Insiang is a stirring drama about the transformation of a teenage girl from innocence to malevolence as she finds herself trapped by a life of poverty in the slums. Abused by the very people she trusts, Insiang rises from destitution and takes revenge against her abusers.

O'Hara explained that the reason the film was set in Tondo was because of Lino Brocka's obsession with Smokey Mountain. But as the writer of the screenplay and creator of Insiang, O'Hara insists he had Pasay in mind.

Director Millado said, "In order to get a better sense of the story, Mario brought me there [Pasay]. And it was a small crack in between a billboard and a wall. There was this narrow alley that led into the areas where people live in very confined and small spaces. This is the slice of truth that Mario was referring to that was hidden from plain sight."

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O'Hara added, "People in their cars and buses, pass by every single day, not knowing this world exists. Everyone knows an Insiang in their lives. It's just a matter of looking and understanding."

Venue: Tanghalang Huseng Batute, Cultural Center of the Philippines, Roxas Blvd., Pasay City

Performances: Show dates are from October 5 to 7 and 12 to 14, with matinees at 3:00 P.M. (Saturdays / Sundays) and evening shows at 8:00 P.M. (Fridays / Saturdays / Sundays).

Call Bright Eyed Boys for tickets, reservations, group bookings and special discounts, at 521-0412 or 0922-8712007. For more details, visit Insiang's official website at www.brighteyedboys.com/insiang.

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Ricky Davao (standing) fights with Paolo Rodriguez in this scene taken from the stage play Insiang. Named ALIW Awards Best Play for 2003, Insiang returns to the Cultural Center of the Philippines for a limited engagement.
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