At Large

Why we need ‘Game of Trolls’

During the Edsa People Power commemoration last year, the People Power Commission sponsored a walk-through exhibit intended to remind millennials of the horrors of martial law. Among the “rooms” on the route of the exhibit are one devoted to the torture methods employed by soldiers on suspected dissidents and activists, presided over by a circus barker; another one on the “orphans” of martial law holding up signs looking for their “disappeared” parents; and, near the exhibit’s end, tributes to human rights martyrs who “speak” of their torture and death and their aspirations for the Filipino people.

The plan was to “tour” the exhibit to different parts of the country — until the elections intervened. But traces of the exhibit can be gleaned from the musicale-play “A Game of Trolls” — mounted by Peta, holder of a Ramon Magsaysay Award—which goes onstage on all weekends of September.


“A Game of Trolls,” excerpts of which were staged last year and earlier this year, tackles once more what one critic called “millennial amnesia” (or is it ignorance?) about the martial law years and the excesses of the Marcos heirs who are determinedly staging a political comeback.

It centers on Hector (Myke Salomon), a young man who works as a “troll” in a call center and assigned to dog netizens who post anti-Marcos and anti-dictatorship items on the web. Until one night, in a reprise of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” Hector is “visited” by the “ghosts of martial law past,” telling the stories of martyrs Bobby dela Paz, Edgar Jopson, Eman Lacaba, Macli-ing Dulag and Sr. Mariani Dimaranan.


Mixed in with the political content is a personal drama between Hector and his mother Tere (Upeng Galang Fernandez), a martial-law-era activist whose frequent disappearances creates “separation issues” with her son.

How will the ghosts of martial law school Hector—and other millennials — on the painful past and the return of antidemocratic forces? How will Hector finally reconcile the ghosts of his childhood with the need to confront the malevolent spirits that have turned him against his mother’s and her generation’s legacy?

Finally, will “Game of Trolls” succeed where the martial law exhibit met with only limited success?

A reviewer of an earlier version of the musical (it has gone through at least six revisions) asks audiences to “laugh, but do ask questions, too.” Director Maribel Legarda said Peta conceived the musical “because the current sociopolitical environment that has seen the rise of trolls, fake news, disinformation campaigns via social media, and threats and intimidation directed at opposing voices, has become more subtle and dangerous.”

The playwright is Liza Magtoto; she and Legarda make up the same team behind the megahit “Rak of Aegis” and “Care Divas.” Vince de Jesus is musical director, composer and lyricist.

Still on the millennial front, demonstrators — alumni, students, faculty members — gathered in front of Gate 2.5 of Ateneo de Manila University were “visited” by at least two Quezon City police officers riding a black police cruiser (with no plates) last Thursday evening. The gathering was part of an ongoing protest against the EJKs and the war on drugs, sparked by the killing of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos.

The police cruiser arrived at the protest action, which drew 40-50 people, soon after a “moment of silence” and candle-lighting ceremony at 8:24 p.m., the exact time Kian died.


Although the police did not alight from the car, they were approached by a female Ateneo staff member who was then questioned about the purpose of the demonstration. The law enforcers also asked for the names of the gathering’s leaders, which the staffer refused to provide.

People have denounced the incident as a case of police intimidation, with an official of the student government describing the police presence as both “terrifying and disgusting.”

Indeed, is this the start of a campaign of intimidation, if not of suppression of legitimate dissent? Whatever happened to the policy of maximum tolerance? Or is that term already passé?

This is precisely why we need to watch “Game of Trolls.”

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TAGS: At Large, Game of Trolls, peta, Philippine Educational Theater, Rina Jimenez-David
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