Page last updated at 06:39 Asia/Manila, Monday, 07 October 2013 PH
Last September 7, 2013, I was literally swept off my feet by the musical within a play entitled LORENZO. I fully agree 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 ten million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and their approximately thirty to forty 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. For those who are able to read this column early in the morning of September 13, they still have the opportunity to go to the De La Salle College of Saint Benilde SDA Theater on 9950 Pablo Street for either the 1 p.m. or 6:00 p.m showings on either September 13 or 14 (Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, a very appropriate day to see a story about martyrdom). For those who will miss the "off-Broadway" run, they can as early as now plan to go to the "Broadway" run in the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) scheduled for July of 2014. I am sure there will be many more runs in the future in such theaters as those in the Resort World of Megaworld and others in Cebu, Davao and other major cities in the Philippines, not to mention theaters in Singapore, Hong Kong, Milan, Barcelona, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other places where there are tens of thousands of OFWs. LORENZO is all about their lives of struggling 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 Dr. Paul Dumol, a nationally awarded historian and playright, 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 Palanca awardee and who did the research and wrote the outline for Act 3 (Nagasaki), is also an alumnus 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 super-talents is well described by Nonon 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 with 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 Ballywood 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 number 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 seventeenth 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 fora held after some of the showings. Nonon Padilla was not exaggerating when he referred to "Lorenzo" as the "Pinoy divina comediya."
I understand that His Eminence Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle is expected to watch the showing at 1 p.m. on Saturday, September 14. Knowing the devotion of His Eminence to the Holy Cross, I wouldn't be surprised if he is inspired by the play to make a commentary on the intimate relationships among the Year of the Faith, the challenge to preserving the faith of the millions of Catholic OFWs, the devotion to the Cross of Christ and the ordinary martyrdom to which every Christian is called which is to accept the everyday sufferings and sacrifices life brings, without waiting for the rare opportunity to die like St. Lorenzo Ruiz did for his faith. Let me recall here what I have said in previous columns: it was during the tenure of Cardinal Tagle in the diocese of Cavite when Filipino priests were sent to some cities of Europe to take care doctrinally and spiritually of OFWs. The play Lorenzo may motivate more Filipino bishops to make the sacrifice to send more of their priests to administer to the spiritual needs of our OFWs. For comments, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.