A rock musical on OFWs
Last Sept. 7, I was literally swept off my feet by the musical within a play titled “Lorenzo.” I fully concur with Archbishop Socrates Villegas who wrote in the introduction to the booklet describing details of the musical that: “Every Filipino must watch this. It sets our sense of patriotism afire again as we hear Lorenzo declare ‘I am a Filipino… I am a Christian.’ It makes us proud that we are Filipinos, whether living in the Philippines or toiling in distant lands.”
All 10 million overseas Filipino workers and their approximately 30-40 million relatives at home must be given the opportunity to watch this inspiring, uplifting, challenging and Spirit-inspired (to quote Archbishop Villegas again) creative work of some of our most outstanding artists. I am glad to learn that the management of De La Salle College of St. Benilde SDA Theater agreed to have an extended run.
For those who will miss the “off-Broadway” run, they can as early as now plan to go to the “Broadway” run at the Cultural Center of the Philippines scheduled in July 2014. I am sure there will be many more runs in the future in such theaters as those in Resorts World of Megaworld and others in Cebu, Davao and other major cities in the Philippines, not to mention theaters in Singapore, Hong Kong, Rome, Milan, Barcelona, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other places where there are tens of thousands of OFWs.
“Lorenzo” is all about their lives of struggle to preserve their faith in God and in Jesus Christ in an oftentimes hostile environment.
First, let me make a disclosure. The book and lyrics of this musical within a play are by Paul Dumol, a nationally awarded historian and playwright who teaches at the University of Asia and the Pacific, where I also teach, and Christian Valles (aka Juan Ekis) who is a UA&P alumnus and also teaches part-time at our university. Joem Antonio, five-time winner of the Palanca Award, who did the research and wrote the outline for Act 3 (Nagasaki), is also an alumnus of and now professor at UA&P.
The possibility that I am biased, however, is mitigated by the active involvement in the production of the play of some of the nation’s leading personalities in arts and culture: Christopher (Boyet) de Leon is the producer; Nonon Padilla is the director; and Ryan Cayabyab, arguably the best Filipino composer/arranger today, wrote the music.
The final result of the cooperative effort of this bevy of supertalents is well described by Padilla himself in his Director’s Notes: “Little did I know that my simple suggestion to add a contemporary angle to the narrative would trigger a creative frisson, a leap and somersault, prompting Paul and his team of writers, Juan Ekis and Joem Antonio, to ‘go to town’ and write a really sophisticated drama on the first Pinoy saint. Exciting and challenging as it is, it is also awesomely deep in its poetic approach. The conversion of one historical figure from 17th-century Manila, from accidental tourist, criminal, renegade, and fugitive into a martyr in Nagasaki is embedded in a contemporary narrative concerning an OFW condemned to death for murdering his employer and awaiting execution by beheading in a Middle East prison.”
Millions of Filipinos can benefit from watching the play. The vast majority—ordinary citizens, especially among the OFWs—can just be simply entertained by its rock music sung by the most powerful and melodious voices of the stage actors and actresses, and the very creative and lively dance numbers (with a Bollywood style scene at the very end). High school and college students taking courses in literature, the humanities, philosophy, and theology can probe deeper into references to biblical phrases, to the works of Dante and Shakespeare and glimpses of “Rashomon” and Michael Jackson. For students of economics, political science, sociology and anthropology, there is much food for thought on the plight of the OFWs who may be the No. 1 engine of economic growth today but are subjected to serious threats to life and family stability, as serious as those faced by St. Lorenzo Ruiz in the 17th century.
In fact, I was very impressed by the way the “off-Broadway” showings attracted numerous high school and university students, who asked some of the most profound questions during the open forum held after some of the showings.
Padilla was not exaggerating when he referred to “Lorenzo” as the “Pinoy Divina Comedya.”
Bernardo M. Villegas ([email protected]) is senior vice president of the University of Asia and the Pacific.
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