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Bonifacio still on my mind

Two major productions are to be commended for highlighting November, the month that was especially dedicated to Andres Bonifacio.

One was “Teatro Porvenir, Ang Katangi-tanging Kasaysayan ni Andres Bonifacio, Macario Sakay at Aurelio Tolentino sa Entablado” of Dulaang UP, a Palanca Award-winning play written by Tim Dacanay and directed by Alex Cortez.

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The lengthy title gives a preview of the three extraordinary lives focused on, a cleverly handled portrayal of how three patriotic lives, brought together by their involvement in theater, could have been intertwined in the common cause toward freedom.  Teatro Porvenir or “theater for the future” was used as the platform for the causes being fought.

As inspiring as the production was, the full-house attendance was made up mostly of students. But while a number of students admitted that they had been sent by their Kasaysayan (History) teachers, many said they went because they were very interested in the play. I was told prior to the performance run that tickets could not be reserved to be bought and claimed at the door because all performances were sold-out events.  And anyone watching the play knew why.

Also, being neither a student nor a faculty member of the University of the Philippines, I had to pay higher-priced tickets even with my senior-citizen discount. All those were minor inconveniences for the cultural treat that the play was, awakening one’s feelings of patriotism.

Then there was “San Andres B.” at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Despite the “new new” opera genre, with libretto by Virgilio Almario and music by Chino Toledo, that startled and turned off the initial audiences, the opera succeeded in immersing us in the many issues that Bonifacio had to grapple with. But how I wish the lyricism of Almario’s poetry was made available in a libretto in the program or flashed on the screen.

My Bonifacio celebration would not have been complete without a visit to the National Historical Institute’s newly-opened Pinaglabanan Memorial Shrine and Museo ng Katipunan in San Juan. It is an interactive museum that students (and adults) will enjoy with the thoroughness of research on Katipunan history and the user-friendly techniques it uses.

The tour begins with the new Julie Lluch sculptures of Emilio Jacinto, Andres Bonifacio, and Gregoria de Jesus, all capturing the heroes in poses best depicting the strong emotions that possessed them.  The Pinaglabanan Shrine has always been there to commemorate the launch of the 1986 Philippine Revolution, when the Katipuneros attacked an arms storage facility of the Spanish colonial government. Thus, a Bonifacio statue had always been there. But with the new commissioned sculptures of Jacinto and De Jesus emerging more lifelike, Bonifacio deserved a new one as powerful—or appear as a “minor” figure, according to NHI director Ma. Serena Diokno.

Other noteworthy highlights are a large map showing Bonifacio’s Tondo, a portrait gallery of the Katipunan who’s who, a feature of the women of the Katipunan,  a recording of Bonifacio’s “Pagibig sa Tinubuang Lupa,” a display of original Katipunan armaments, and a detailed timeline of Katipunan history. One can flip through wooden displays by date, and information will appear.

An enthusiastic guide is Marlon Cadiz, a history graduate of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines who knows and loves Philippine revolutionary history. The museum offers an effective teaching tool for history teachers, not in the definitive answers it gives, but in the questions that students may raise. But Cadiz hopes that these student-visitors will be more thoughtful and ask questions beyond curiosity over trivia.  Perhaps teachers need to be reminded that prior orientation regarding the place to be visited is essential.

Were the Balintawak monument of Guillermo Tolentino kinder to the pedestrian, I would have gone there, too.

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This year was great to be reintroduced to Bonifacio on the sesquicentennial of his birth, but our remembering and honoring him should go beyond 2013.

* * *

Let this not spoil the holidays, but be warned that an impostor pretending to be Education Secretary Armin Luistro is on the loose. He called the office of the National Book Development Board last week and requested a return call. I dutifully called the number but wondered about the call because I had just seen him a few days ago and knew that he would be out of the country.

The impostor could have passed for the education secretary, except that he sounded inarticulate at times and said all the wrong lines. He wanted me to solicit cash prizes from “friendly” publishers (I nearly laughed because Brother Armin never ever asks for even the most minor of favors from any one, especially publishers) for the Department of Education’s Christmas party the next day. He also wanted me to donate a cash prize (I cannot imagine Brother Armin making that ridiculous request from me).

He claimed he was in Malacañang, to explain the children’s-playground noise in the background that I asked about. He asked how he would get the cash and I said an NBDB staff member would make the arrangements.

A quick call to Undersecretary Francis Varela confirmed that the real Br. Armin Luistro was indeed still away. The next best thing was to ignore the impostor’s subsequent text message asking “What happened?” and a call. The impostor used this mobile number: 09159098679.

Neni Sta. Romana Cruz ([email protected]) is chair of the National Book Development Board, a trustee of Teach for the Philippines, and a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

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TAGS: “San Andres B”, “Teatro Porvenir”, “theater for the future”, 1986 Philippine Revolution, Alex Cortez, andres bonifacio, Bonifacio, Chino Toledo, Cultural Center of the Philippines, Dulaang UP, Emilio Jacinto, gregoria de jesus, Julie Lluch sculptures, Ma. Serena Diokno, Museo ng Katipunan, National Historical Institute, Pinaglabanan Memorial Shrine, Pinaglabanan Shrine, Tim Dacanay, Virgilio Almario
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