Virgin Labfest 6: Set A Pariah Paraiso

The 2010 Virgin Labfest is one of the theater events of the year that I look forward to seeing, because I was unable to really follow or join the festivities during the previous years. Last year, I was only able to cath one set, but this year, I am determined to see all the sets! All 12 plays! (yes, there's also a twinbill and VLF5 revisited, but my schedules can not promise that i'd be able to see them too.)
The Virgin Labfest features one act plays that are freshly written. They are not yet published nor staged. Well, until of course it gets presented in the festival. Each set has a theme or at least a common denominator and each is composed of three one act virgin plays. As they say, "The Virgin Labfest seeks to explore new directions in contemporary Philippine Theater."

And today is the first day of Virgin Labfest VI! We of course bought the festival pass, which would let us see all of the sets this year for 1,000 Php. One set is for 250 Php, and there are 4 sets, 1 foreign set and 1 set that shows last year's performances. All in all, it's like getting two shows for free. However, as I mentioned, my schedule could only commit to 4. Hopefully we could squeeze in one more. We still opted to buy the pass so that there would no longer be any hassle in falling in line to get tickets per show.

But in spite of the price, we were shocked that the pass is printed on a thin sheet of paper! We were scared that we would lose it or it would get damged or crumpled easily. Good thing I have a big wallet where I could keep it. An oslo paper is even thicker! We even wondered if this is for real! Bwahahahahah! Oh, well, at least we were able to get inside and watch the first set.

Set A is entitled: Pariah Paraiso. Paraiso is paradise, that I know. But what is "pariah" as per Mr. Google, this means:

outcast: a person who is rejected (from society or home)
The three one act plays are sort of concentrated on its location. The grotto beside the Baclaran church is the focus of "Isagani", "Balunbalunan, Bingibingihan" is at a small house in the squatters' area or so I think and "Bakit Wala nang Nagtatagpo sa Philcoa Oberpas" as the title suggests is focussed on the overpass in Philcoa. This I was able to get after seeing all three plays.

Due to oversleeping because of the cold weather brought by the rain, we were late! We almost missed the first play. We caught about 10 to 15 minutes before it ended.

"Isagani" as I was able to figure out with the small bit that we saw, is about a stand-up commedian who had his past haunting him. I guess, I don't have the right to say anything since I wasn't able to see the whole thing, but with that small portion, it is a heavy drama play. John San Antonio was able to play the role of Isagani well, I think. However, Kierwin Larena, who is his alter-ego, seem to have the tendency to sing-song his lines when they are supposed to be dripping with emotion. Then, during the open forum, we learned that these are first time actors. San Antonio is really a choreographer, which he was able to use in some parts of the scenes with the needed movements, not dancing and Larena is a college student. I don't think I would have cried even if I watched the whole play, but I was able to enjoy what I saw.

We moved to a different seat because we were seated on the second floor of Huseng Batute. We went down and tried to look for a better seat. However, our choice of seats have big cameras at the back. So, instead of having shots of the back of our heads, we just let them be and were satisfied to be seated at the second row. Although, a little craning of the neck is needed since the front row was filled.


scenes from the play would be mentioned. i don't think i would be able to give a proper review without mentioning those parts. please head to "End of Spoiler" for the rest of this piece.

The second play was "Balunbalunan, Bingibingihan". The chimes were still playing and people are still preparing the set when a girl went to the stage. She took off her short shorts and clothe herself with a dress and an apron. I sooo admire Missy Maramara for her confidence in her own body. I sure wish to have that soon! :p i did not read the synopsis yet. I always wanted the actual play to tell the story. I would just read them to check if I missed anything.

It's a story about a man and a wife whose ages are 20 years apart. Brandy is a whore and Gilbeys is the pimp. They look so sweet. There is chemistry between Maramara and Bembol Roco. Then, they decided to open their doors to a bed spacer, even if their house is very small.

By the way, I love their set sooo much. Every piece was used and essential. It's not there just for aesthetics.

They named their bed spacer as Whiskey, to go with their alcoholic beverage names. As I have expected Whiskey and Brandy clicked and Whiskey is now convincing Brandy to go with her instead. He expressed his love, but even if Brandy physically gave in, her love for Gilbeys still won.

I also love the interpretation of their love making. It's very artistic.

PJ Paule, who reminds us of one of our officemates whose last name is Paule as well, played the role of Whiskey so well. He really seemed to be a good guy when he was still convincing the couple to be their bedspacer and you would really loathe him when he was trying to get Brandy from Gilbeys. Especially the part when he was talking to Gilbeys that Brandy is better off with him. Although, I can't help but think if this kind of confrontation would even happen in real life. It's so direct and honest, that most people would rather dodge away from this. But now, come to think of it, I found my answer at the last part of the play.

Whiskey, whose real name is Boyet, works for another pimp and wants to get Brandy. So, he used his charm in trying to lure her in. However, Brandy and Gilbeys' connection still prevailed. This enraged Whiskey/Boyet and beat Gilbeys up and took their money. But I guess, even if this happened, their care for one another still pushed through.

Yes, I almost cried. Almost.

-== END of SPOILER ==-

Next is "Nagtatagpo sa Philcoa Oberpas." It's a comedy play with music and songs. Unfortunately, it was very hard for me to understand of the lyrics of their songs. I guess, they should enunciate more, or it could be how the songs were actually written. Their "musical numbers" were hilarious! Maybe because of their jerky movements and jestures.. Hahahahah!

It's a story about the life at the Philcoa overpass, where there's a vendor, beggar, hustler, evangelist, policeman and of course, a snatcher. Then, two individuals decided to meet up there. They only knew each other online and finally decided to leave their current lives and start a new one with the one they are talking to online.

I have sort of guessed the twist behind the story, but then I was also lead to believe that I was wrong. So, I guess, that doesn't count. I would leave the twist of the story for you to know.

Acting wise, everyone was good: Paolo Rodriguez, Kat Castillo, Kat de Leon, Mayen Estañero, Russel Legaspi, Jonathan Tadioan, Crispin Pineda and Michael Ian Lomongo.

For this set, my favorite would be "Balunbalunan, Bingibingihan" written by Debbie Ann Tan and directed by Issa Manalo Lopez.

You can still catch SET A: Pariah Paraiso in the following dates and times:

July 2, 8:00 PM
July 3, 3:00 PM

at the Tanghalang Huseng Batute in CCP

You may check for the complete festival schedule.
Tomorrow would be SET B: Pas de Deux at 3:00 PM and 8:00 PM.

Due to proper theater decorum, I would not be able to post pictures of the play.  I'll try to post pictures in the next entry.  Just try though..

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The Jagged Barn

Your oblivious but observing blogger.


  1. I love your blog. I saw this SET and it was a nice way to start the VLF.. I am also a theater enthusiast and an actor and just came from davao, my cousin invited me to watch.. Missy was a nice actress but she was not able to sustain her energy till the end, perhaps because of the complexity of the role but that's not an excuse. I really admire her though but what put me in awe was ISAGANI, i mean the commitment of the production from the nice switching of lights, to nice selection music, to the wise direction etc. The college guy, kierwin larena was my actor for the day (may be for VLF). With the great transition and acting of every part of his body and voice. I've been watching several good actors but i really love his unique characterization that i've never seen before which fits his imaginary or egoistic role. I hope i could watch all of the plays. see you..

  2. I forgot to say about their eyes.... my god. period

  3. hi! awww.. how i wish i get to see the whole of isagani again.

    please select name/url instead of anonymous so i could get to know you more :) or leave your name in the comment. you can just put the address to your profile anywhere (fb or friendster or what have you) to the url field.

    thanks again! and i'm currently blogging about SET B! stay tuned! ;)

  4. Well, I think it's nice that some people have a different point of view on things. To put it bluntly, I am glad someone liked Isagani, because I don't know anyone who did.

    And I really do love the fact that there are a lot of theater enthusiasts out there. :) May we all go forth and multiply! ;-)

  5. thanks for the comment angku! :) yeah, but i'm equally surprised with those who liked larena.. :p

  6. in terms of two major objectives of a theater performance which is to educate and to entertain, I liked Isagani and Balun balunan too! objectively speaking, the actor's performance was soooo good! Specialy in the opening play Isagani. If you'll gonna say no, then ask yourself if you can even deliver a powerful single line, if not then cut the crap. Joking! the 3rd play was so anti climactic ang dragging! awkward and meaningless. Actors are obviously playing. no decipline, so bad. Kudos to the next play!

  7. bwahahahah! love the joke! Ü although i know i can deliver more than a single line with much conviction.. ;) so on with the crap! hehehehe! joking too! :p thanks for dropping by!

  8. can i join? haha. hi laarni. hi angku. hi anonymous people. hi nocturnal people(joke)..

    SET A
    i've read the blog of angku. sorry angku but you're like hitting below the belt (may pampersonal ka bang galit sa writer?, ayy crush mo nga pala hehe) but it's alright, it's your blog :) . baka nagkamali lang si angku, baka pinatatamaan about 'playing' ay yung last show of SET A. I didn't see any 'playtime' in Isagani, what I saw/hear was incidentally part of the script. San Antonio(Isagani) just delivered the lines naturally that he seemed to be 'playing', in fact his role was a problematic comedian. The funny stuffs in the first part of the play I guess were simply PART of it.

    Laarni I don't know but I'm not equally surprised with those who like larena, he was good. Good is an understatement. I can't do what he did. Basta mahirap para sa isang aktor ang magpapalit-palit ng emosyon, karakter, gumawa ng karakter etc sa isang one-act. It's not with the crying and stuff, i guess it's with the acting, well crying is PART of it.. Kudos sa kanilang direktor syempre may payo sa mga yan si direk. for first timers in VLF, they did well.

    Nahilo lang talaga ako ng konti sa 2nd play, BALUNBALUNAN(but i'm happy with what i saw) I love the concept of the set kaya lang dumumi masyado ang entanblado, ang likot pa ni Missy but she did a good job..

    Sa third play naman, ang baduy. magaling sana some of the actors but all i can say is Baduy. Sana niutilize nalang nila ung pagkabaduy. baka gumanda pa. I'm not saying na pangit it could have been better. Baduy :))

    Sana maging objective tayo. WHET! sa technical pa pala ok ang Isagani. Malinis.

    SET B.
    Inaantok na ko.
    Madaliin ko na lang pwede?
    HIGIT PA DITO... Si Kanapi, mahusay. I admire her. I guess I saw her somewhere, i forgot which play.. Tapos, ayoko ng papogian.
    ok sana. pero ano nga ba ang karakter nya? It's a good thing Allan Lopez has a good material. Congratulations!

    Collectors Item.. I don't have much to say. may be because I left and ate in the middle of the run? Well I saw the efforts of the two actors. Well It's them.

    Ondoy. Obet, Jojit lorenzo and Cai were good. They energized the play of Velasco. I just don't know what's the purpose of inserting jokes(for me) like adding a song that we hear in airwaves. I mean what's the purpose? It's not heart felt. It didn't affect me. I was a victim of ONDOY, I must have been moved by the play. But no.

    GOOD NIGHT EVERYONE I'm so hungry and sleepy!

  9. hahahah! hi ben! go eat and sleep.. :) thanks for your comments!

    sayang, i can't catch those first plays of both sets again.. :( like i said, based lang naman sa mga naabutan ko yung aking mga saloobin.. :p

    go, join lang ng join! more comments more fun! :)

  10. ah eh kamusta naman si ben na nagka-copy paste ng comment? ahihi. :P

    anyway, sagutin kita dito.

    sorry angku but you're like hitting below the belt (may pampersonal ka bang galit sa writer?, ayy crush mo nga pala hehe) but it's alright, it's your blog :).

    wala naman akong masamang sinabi kaya tungkol sa playwright ng Isagani, sabi ko pa nga:

    I like the fact that the playwright for Isagani looks like someone who frequents embassy

    unless derogatory na talaga ngayon ang masabihang pumupunta sa Embassy. hahaha.

    baka nagkamali lang si angku, baka pinatatamaan about 'playing' ay yung last show of SET A.

    Hindi naman ako nagkamali sa pagpapatama, kasi hindi rin naman ako nagpatama. Outright ko rin namang sinabi kung aling play.

    "Bakit Wala Nang Nagtatagpo sa Philcoa Oberpas" started out like a very promising all-star cast play only to plummet down into boring pandemonium in a matter of minutes.

    Ayun. Absent ako kanina sa Set D. Sa June 30 na lang.:)

  11. June 29 ate. kay Dennis Teodosio daw maganda doon. I'll watch in the 29th. haha I've noticed that angku, about alex. Totoo naman, may be not embassy, baka padis point. Joke. and yeah, you said those in the medyo last part of you blog. I wish i could also have a website like yours angku. Happy anniversary!!!

  12. from juan.

    Ben tama maganda yung kay dennis watched it a few hours ago. Alex is also going to act sa play na Huling Babilin ng Sirena.

    Maganda ang punches ng Karmi Martin, very smart usage of "sub-texts". I appreciated it very well. Ako bilang malisyosong tao ay sadyang mahilig sa double meaning.

    everyone is entitled to their own opinion i guess, i don't find anything wrong with the way alex looks, he just dress according to his age. hindi tulad ng iba na nagpapaka-artsy pero gagsi na pala ang kinakalabasan.

    kierwin indeed acted excellently on isagani so did john. i don't know if you noticed the synchronicity of their movements pero it added to the schizophrenic effect that the author and director for me is trying to send across. The way their eyes moves was also wonderful, their technical level of acting is above awesome.

    Kierwin's sing-song-ish approach (if ever there was such a word) i believe is necessary, kung ikaw nga naman ay isang kathang isip hindi ka normal. The use of experimental movements and acting was done great.

    I'd give the technical aspect of isagani a 10, tama si ben, good use of lights and sounds.

    I'd give the actors a 10, maganda ang execution ng mga emosyon at galaw pati na rin ang pag bitaw ng mga linya.

    I'd give the director a 10, the blockings was clean, hindi masakit panoorin. The actors were given good directions, if not then hindi maganda ang acting ng artista.

    As for the material i'd give it a 9.5, medyo nabitin kasi ako. I don't know pero merong sa loob ko na kumukulo at humihingi ng more... siguro dahil yan sa kadahilanag gutom ako nug nanood. A good playwrite for me makes his audience or readers an opportunity to think.

    then again i'm just your average joe. :D

  13. June 30 ako manonood kasi 3pm lang ako lagi manonood. :)

    Maraming salamat sa pagbati Ben. :) Kung gusto, may paraan. ;)

  14. :) hi juan!

    absent rin ako kanina at june 30 rin ako watch at 3pm shows lang ako pwede.. sana angku makilala or makita kita dun :p gusto ko rin kasi yung blog mo! happy birthday uli (sa blog)! di ako magaling sa face recognition eh, sorry.. lalo na kung based sa pictures lang.

    nagustuhan ng friend ko yung carmi martin. excited na ko!

  15. Hi Laarni! Thanks for dropping by and for following. I followed you back. You have an interesting blog. It seems you're very high about the Virgin Labfest this year. haha. I will watch pa lang. :)

  16. don't forget to go back here to comment after watching, art! :)

  17. angku... hinahanap kita kanina kasi papakita ko sau yung sinasabi mo na nagpeplaytime ang mga aktors ng OBERPASS. wala ka sa process namin habang ginagawa namin ang overpass. so i dont think u have the rigth to tell us or write to ur blog na nagpeplaytime kami and hindi din tama na sabihan mo si mr riki benedicto na reckless director it is such a big word... sana maging maingat tau sa mga salita o words na ginagamit natin.

  18. nakakagimbal na ang pagka-pikon ng mga tao sa oberpass...kung ganyan lahat ang mga mandudula at artista ng tanghalan, mabuti pang wag na sila magperform para sa madla...magperform na lang sila para sa sarili nila. nakakatawang nakakangitngit ang ugali nilang hindi pwedeng salingin...sasabihin pa nilang nakikitanaw lang tayo at mga ordinaryong pedestrian lang...ano ang ibig niyong sabihin - kayo na nabiyayaan na maging part ng TP at CCP ay pinakamagaling? hindi niyo ba alam, na kaya ang pangit pangit ng mga palabas ng TP ay dahil sa kamangmangan niyo? may araw din kayo at ako ang unang unang hahalakhak kapag nakita kong lalayas na kayo sa CCP...kaya magbalot balot na ha! talentless!

  19. I beg to disagree about carmi martin (kinontra ung sarili?) hehe... ok nakakatawa...pero... hayy... pwede nyo ba ako turuan magoperate ng sarili kong blog website?