13th Virgin Lab Fest is truly ‘Wagas’

There is no English word that can fully capture the meaning of the Filipino word, “Wagas.”

Consult a dictionary and it will give you all feel-good meanings: unfeigned, endless, genuine, sincere, true, pure, faithful. “Wagas na pag-ibig,” is a common phrase. We also say it with an exclamation point to stress our approval.

We also use “wagas” as a reaction/ commentary to statements or situations so unbelievable that leave us dumbfounded likePresident Duterte telling members of Philippine Chinese Charitable Association, “I hate corruption. Hindi ako nagmamakalinis. Marami rin akong nanakaw pero naubos na. So wala na “ and the audience applaud him.

In this case, we say “wagas” in a downward inflection without an exclamation point.

“Wagas” is the theme of the ongoing 13th Virgin LabFest at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Dramaturg Tuxqs Rutaquio, who is VLF13 festival director, said “We anchor VLF13 on the theme of Wagas, a statement on the endless possibilities for storytelling and theater, if not on the constant search for truths that matter.”

Virgin Labfest is an annual theater festival dedicated to providing an opportunity for aspiring playwrights to create new works for the stage. It started June 28 and will be on until July 16.

Twelve one-act plays were selected from the 190 entries. The chosen plays cover the whole range of subjects and issues: love, pain, conflict, filial piety, racism, youth, politics.

We caught up with three last Saturday: Sincerity Bikers Club, Ang Bahay sa Gitna ng Kawalan, and Nothing But Dreams.

All three were outstanding in the areas of writing, acting, and direction.

The controversial “Tokhang” was tackled in Sincerity Bikers Club (Adrian Ho, playwright at Jenny Jamora, director). It revolved around the dilemma of the five-member club what to do with the newest and sixth member, newly- widowedLouella, a bank teller.

Louella’s husband, an artist, was a victim of “tokhang”, the group found out. Louella admitted that her husband was a drug addict but not a pusher. She was also being suspected of a pusher which she vehemently denies.

A member of the group, a teacher, shared her concerned that they will be dragged into Louella’s issue. The discussion brought out the characters’ individual values, selfishness, and sense of humanity.

Those who find horror entertaining would enjoy the gothic “Ang Bahay sa Gitna ng Kawalan.”

“Nothing but Dreams”written by Dindong Novenario and directed by Carlos Siguion-Reyna is fun because we see a lot of ourselves in the character of the Filipino couple played by Audie Gemora and Madeleine Nicolas.

It’s something like the 1967 Sidney Poitier starrer“Guess who’s coming to dinner.” Gemora and Nicolas were excited because their daughter (Lhorvie Nuevo) was coming home from a business trip in the United States with a boyfriend. They were imagining their future son-in-law to be tall, white and handsome.

The scene was a riot when Nuevo arrived with Thou Reyes – handsome (pwede na rin), black and not-so-tall.

The writer and director played with the word “black” cleverly all throughout the play revealing the couple’s racist values.

Social media was brought in when Gemora complained about the daughter “blocking” him in Facebook and the daughter also complaining about his reactions when she posts comments about Duterte.

Rutaquio said in the VLF program intro, “It is difficult to speak of theater at a time like this one, when so many more important things are happening in a nation, and the distance between the real and fictional, what is happening on the ground and on the theatre stage seem far from each other.”

He added:“We bank on the lighthearted and the sublime, the rebellious and the irreverent, as we always have. We fall back on the possibility that the productions we have chosen to stage will force our audience to re-think what they have always known to be true. We hope that this mens engagement in discussions that need to be had, no matter how difficult. Because it is real and honest conversations that are important at this point, and it is conversations that we always seek to spark with Virgin Labfest.

“On our 13th year, our playwrights seek to engage in these difficult conversations. Ultimately, we continue to do theater, and the VLF because we are committed to contributing to the nation’s intellectual and creative development. And at time of falsity and lies, this might be enough.”

For more information about the Virgin Labfest, please check out http://culturalcenter.gov.ph/single-tickets/view-e... or call CCP Marketing Department 832-3706 at 832-3704.


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