"A country that forgets its defenders will soon beforgotten."
Thankfully, Tanghalang Pilipino has mounted a productionthat is making sure that the Philippines will not pass into oblivion any timesoon. By staging Mga Gerilya sa Powell Street at the Cultural Center ofthe Philippines, the sacrifices and the hardships of World War II veterans willcontinue to live on in the collective memory of Filipinos.
Based on Benjamin Pimentel's novel of the same name, this three-hour playtackles the musings of Filipino war veterans who live as exiles in SanFrancisco, California. They spend their time in a cable car station located inPowell Street, with most of them just waiting for that "long-distance call fromheaven."
Mga Gerilya is basically a play about waiting--theveterans wait for the benefits promised to them-and the audience wait alongwith them. As the heroes wait, they reminisce about their days at war, thewomen they loved, and family members that they left behind in the Philippines.They all share a common desire: the chance for their body to be buried in theirhomeland.
Lou Veloso is a scene-stealer for his impeccable sense oftiming and his witty lines. As Ciriaco "Tex" Santos, he was applauded not onlyfor his humorous lines but also for his dramatic scenes, particularly when itcame to his philandering wife.
The mild-mannered gerilya named Fidel is ably portrayed byTommy Abuel. Bembol Roco serves as his alternate but during the opening nightlast November 7, PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) was able to see Tommy'smoving portrayal of a father who had to learn to the accept the radical ideasof his son Arnel.
The guitar-playing son (played by Paolo O' Hara) becomes anactivist who sacrifices everything for his beliefs. He is just as principled ashis father--and just as stubborn too!
Another scene-stealer would have to be the very virile Ruben(Dido de la Paz) who manages to have a sizzling sex life courtesy of thebombshell Svetlana. Not to be missed is her strip dance that will prove tooffer plenty of eye candy for the male audience.
In typical Pinoy fashion, supposedly serious moments becomesources of belly-aching laughter. When the veterans pay their last respects totheir fallen comrades, the ashes suddenly have a mind of their own, causing ariotous situation that will have viewers laughing out loud.
TRIBUTE NIGHT. Making the gala night extra specialwas the presence of a dozen members of the Veterans Federation of thePhilippines. Clad in their uniforms (similar to the ones worn by the castmembers in the pictorial, shown above), the veterans who are now mostly seniorcitizens, appreciated the effort of Tanghalang Pilipino to raise awarenessabout their plight.
Many of the scenes hit close to home, particularly thosethat depict the loneliness and homesickness that the beteranos feel whileliving abroad. According to Ms. Carolina, as many as 6,000 veterans are waitingin the United States for their benefits. They have to remain in the mainland sothey can get their $600 monthly but that amount won't be enough to have theirbody buried in the Philippines, which comes with a tag price of $10,000.
In fact, according to Ernesto Carolina, undersecretary of the PhilippineVeterans Office, as many as 500 veterans are dying monthly without receivingthe benefits that should be accorded to these war heroes.
As the cast members had their curtain call, some viewers and even members ofthe cast could not help but shed tears over the sad situation of our beteranos.
After watching Mga Gerilya, you just might have alump on your throat and a heart full of hope.
Tanghalang Pilipino's Mga Gerilya sa Powell Street runs at the CulturalCenter of the Philippines until November 30, 2008. For ticket inquiries, call832-3661 or Ticketworld at 891-9999.