Arts & Culture News

The horrors of Martial Law as musical

Best director and best actor winner Vince Tañada with cast of Katips during the 70th FAMAS awards night.

When Katips (short for Katipunan) was first screened in November last year, nobody knew the Marcoses were poised for a dramatic comeback.

 Thus, the film was treated as another brainchild of Vincent “Vince” Tañada — the lawyer who pursued theater as his over consuming passion.

He is not strange to the story of the musical.

The late distinguished activist-senator Lorenzo Tañada was his grandfather. Moreover, he went over the stories of other martial law victims and came up with a play set to music.

The film was originally labelled as a rock musical staged in 2016-2017 and called Katips: Ang Mga Bagong Katipunero.

Writer Tañada said he wrapped up the play with the help of a historian to make sure the chronological accuracy of events is preserved. 

He pointed out he is against history revisionism. As a movie, the script has undergone changes without affecting the narrative.

The actor-director earlier pointed out: “I did this to make sure that the film remains neutral in its political stand and continues as a statement of facts about the realities of the 70s until the latter 80s through the eyes of fictional students who might have been real people sporting different names.”

For one reason or another, the musical’s theatrical release was stalled.

At the height of the promotion of Daryll Yap’s Maid in Malacanang, the young Tañada thought his musical was a good foil to the historical fantasies of the controversial filmmaker.

As it turned out, two films — Katips and Maid in Malacanang — vied for the same playdates and are all set to open on the third day of August. 

“I worked hard to get playdates that will counteract the lies peddled by Maid in Malacanang,” said Tañada in a presscon.  Maid in Malacanang directed by Darryl Yap seeks to tell the side of the Marcoses before fleeing to Hawaii during the 1986 People Power Revolution.

As it is, there is a lot going for Katips.

It has a good musical ensemble and the singing actors like Mon Confiado (as Lt. Sales who represents the heartless military) and Dexter Doria (the activist nun) made something deeply memorable of the parts they played.

Nicole Laurel Asensio and Jerome Ponce in a scene from Katips the musical.

Nicole Laurel Asensio — with her radiant theater style of singing — found its mark in the musical.

The character of Tañada as Panyong metamorphoses from martial law activist to post-martial law grandpa and connects very well with the character of Jerome Ponce as Greg.

As the musical unfolds, the grim fate of martial law victims is given true-to-life recall.

The highlights of the martial law cruelty were indeed the most harrowing sequence of the film.

The character of Confiado as Lt. Sales was doubly striking. He was the face of the military in the musical and he made sure his brand of cruelty would not be lost on his victims.

Mon Confiado as Lt. Sales, the heartless member of the military.

The evolution of Panyong (Tañada) was a moving portrayal depicting the fate of activists past their prime.

His appearance in the finale part depicting the inauguration of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani was both touching and symbolic of the life of activists in this country.

For the most part, Tañada triumphs as an actor and quite innovative as director.

Musical director Pipo Cifra has a way with transforming melody into heart-tugging yarns especially the music he used to highlight martial law abuses.

To be sure, Katips needs a lot of editing at the time it was first screened last year.  There were  just too many details that hampered natural flow of the story. When you thought the story was about to end, he added more sequences that belabor what he was trying to say.

But on the whole, it is a fairly good and viewable musical.

Moreover, it is quite lengthy (more than two hours). One hopes that between the time it was first screened in November last year and prior to its August 3 opening date, the film has already undergone some thorough revision.

As it turned out, Katips won seven major citations in the 70th FAMAS Awards night including best picture, best actor (Tañada), best director (Tañada), best supporting actor (Johnrey Rivas), best original song (Sa Gitna ng Gulo) and best cinematography, among others.

(Charo Santos won best actress for the movie, Kun Maupay Man It Panahon beating Sharon Cuneta (Revirginized), Janine Gutierrez (Dito At Doon), and Maja Salvador (Arisaka).  Tañada beat other nominees namely Dingdong Dantes (A Hard Day), Christian Bables (Big Night) and  Daniel Padilla ( Kun Maupay Man It Panahon) and  Mon Confiado for Arisaka.)

Before the August 3 opening of Katips,Tañada said,“Now is the time to fight for truth and expose the lies of the other film.”