Marinduque Island native reaching out for general awareness that our inhabitants have a lot to share with the outside world culturally and environmentally but we must be supported and helped regain our own battered consciousness. Alternative views & pills offered.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006


A compilation of Marinduque's folklores published in 1914, annotated by Otley Beyer, then a professor at U.P., that included stories on folk beliefs and cultural practices, was the inspiration for "Bulong". Pronounced boo'-long (not bu-long' the Tagalog word for 'whisper'), it is defined as the collective name of spirits that transport humans bodily into another place or dimension. Often old folks have many stories to tell about such experiences. In modern times this is perhaps the equivalent of teleportation.

In 2002, I used it as a practical device for the first "Araw ng Gasan" celebration in Gasan. Belief in the spirit world and ancestral worhip was, of course, the order of the day when Gasan was 'discovered' by the Spaniards who introduced their own set of beliefs. Buenavista was then a part of the Gasan 'pueblo'.

"Bulong" is thus a re-shaping of those traditional stories and historic data for today's generation to give new meaning to and hopefully, a unique vehicle for reflection by those who dwell on this stuff.


Salve, in her teens, catching 'bilabila' (butterflies) finds herself in a half-awake, half dream state and sees strange creatures, the elemental spirits, around her and is at once taken to another world. That's the world of spirits and strange creatures we've all heard about on this island. There she is also taken to a door that opens to the island inhabitants' pre-historic ancestors.

Salve encounters 'patianacs' (a kind of scary crow), asuangs, tikbalangs, swaying bamboo trees, duwendes, enkantos.. The elemental Bulong spirits take her to the enkanto but not before a tug-of-war between the asuangs and spirits friendly to her, thus saving her neck, had ensued. The enkantada (she's called the 'white lady' too), enters and since Salve is a mortal decides to take the girl to the world of those who were once mortals, the world of her ancestors. Here the Katalona of "Mara Unduk" fame is still seen wielding power. Salve becomes witness to the romance and tragedy of the Alon-Baylana-Kidlat (Katutubos), love triangle and its tragic end. Salve also gets to see the island's Pastores anito for the first time.

Salve is also made to see how intruders from other shores supplanted a new set of beliefs to those of her ancestors by the power of the sword and the cross. As the ancient people cry in protest Salve now begins to understand why she was taken here. The elemental spirits free her at last, their mission accomplished.

But the enkanto, apparently so much in love with Salve by now, gets in the way. He connives with the asuangs and ugly characters for her capture. With no one to save her except herself Salve uses the folk formula to set herself free at last from her new abductors.

Monday, January 30, 2006


Friday, 12 Jan. was particularly difficult. Ian and I visited lights and sound systems for rent in Pinggan, Gasan and Malbog. Bobby L of Pinggan who helped us with "Sukat.." unfortunately had left earlier in the morning for Manila. His mother told us, however, that Bobby after "Sukat..." had invested on new lights and microphones expecting that we would return for a new project. The blacklights and par 38 lamps were all kept in a room that only Bobby had access to since there was no duplicate door key.

The man from Gasan told us that it was a losing proposition to invest in such stage lights, that he had tried it, that a once or twice-a-year need for such lights could not be feasible and that travels to and from different venues often meant damaged lights and mics. The man from Malbog said the same thing but showed us what was left of the stage lights he had made for the holding of "Miss Foundation". He said he created colors not with gels but with 'yema wrapping paper' and no one noticed the difference. He didn't have blacklights since such lights are no longer a fad in barangay dances, he said.

Obviously we needed some cash to cover expenses for additional costumes, props, snacks, tapes, cd's and for running forth and back. I typed out a brief solicitation letter signed by Ian and made 20 copies. He had earlier identified persons whom he felt would be sympathetic to the project. An early response came from Sonny Arevalo who pledged P. 500. (But Ian got too occupied with many things and got to deliver less than 10 such request letters. One gave P. 40, a few gave P. 100, another gave P. 300 - Ian's total collection was P. 1,300).

The rehearsal on Friday, 13th Jan started 1 1/2 hours late. Many among the cast were part of a cheerdance competition for secondary schools scheduled on 17th Jan and held afternoon rehearsals in their school ground. The cast was not focused and to me none appeared to have any sense of urgency. Many have not mastered their cues for exits and entrances. Ian also had difficulty playing the appropriate music for certain sequences. I made it clear to the cast that it was not my style to shout at actors or scream when things got out of hand and would stick to that policy then reminded them that active viruses (actors making unnecessary noise during rehearsal or who tend to distract others or just playing around), were still free to quit... I asked Ian to take charge of the yet to be completed run through of all sequences we had covered. ("Our director will decide after this run through if we should still pursue this dance-drama or not", Ian admonished the cast). It went surprisingly well and I couldn't hide my smile after wearing a long face the whole day. It lasted til 9:30 pm. These rehearsals were held at the Buenavista Elementary School's Friendship Hall, the only place that offered some privacy. But these rehearsals had attracted for the last couple of nights a number of curious onlookers, sometimes applauding at what they'd see...

Friday, January 27, 2006


In 2002, together with Joseph O I organized a school-based theater group, Teatro Malindug, at the Marinduque Victorians College in Buenavista encouraged by the interest of the school principal, Jules Victor Pernia. "Mara Unduk" was then restaged after having been in hibernation since 1997. Lights and sound were provided by the provincial capitol after pleadings by a teacher, Ms. Orense, who also acted in the play as "Marindik". I was thoroughly surprised when the capitol sent some technical people with stage lighting equipment with special effects such as a smoke machine, special strobe lights and lightning effects. Most of all a powerful follow-spot almost exclusively used only during "Sinakulo" presentations in Boac was also there! Indeed, that surprise inspired the cast to show their very best before a large audience during the eve of the '02 fiesta.

"Sukat Ipag-alab ng Damdamin" a new dance-drama scheduled for Black Saturday '03 was then created for the group. It showed players doing a 'Sinakulo', where the principal character who played Kristo would be taken into another world, the world of local spirits, after a large dose of 'tawak' a local potion that had potency only on Good Friday. Shades of "Bulong" (Gasan 2001), a material on local folklore. For some reason, Ms. Orense did not succeed in borrowing the capitol's lights and sound equipment this time. We had to make do with a rented mobile equipment designed for barangay balls. With that the stage looked like a dimly lit old bar in Mabini even with all available lights on. Seeing this, Bobby L, the owner, hurriedly made a follow-spot of bamboo and that was what saved the play. He defended himself: "Your play is like scenes from a dream and I thought the lighting we came up with was perfect!" I could only agree. For the school's foundation day in '04 an altered shorter version of "Bulong" was also presented by Malindug.

So, our surprise visit to MVC was welcomed by the school heads, Mr. Pernia and Mrs. Saguid, immediately expressing "support in whatever way we can to your current plans". In no time, we were teaching the 'katutubo' dance movements to around 15 girls with the understanding that we would only pick out 8 among them. After 1 1/2 hours (that was Tuesday, 10 Jan), we had chosen our girls and invited those that did not make it to attend the 4:30 pm rehearsals. (It was intended as a polite brush off but to our surprise they all came for the rehearsal). By this time, the number of cast was evenly divided between the public and private high schools.

Based on my 'audition' notes, casting was done for the principal characters Salve, Fire, Air Water and Earth elements, Enkantada, Asuang Master, Alon, Baylana, Conquistador. As the katutubo girls had been chosen, the rest of the male members from BNHS were to be the katutubo boys. I could not find a candidate for Encanto and Katalona both of which required a certain 'power', also left unfilled was the role of Kidlat. It turned out we had a real need for more actors as Spirits, Diwatas, Carriers, Soldiers. Ian listed 36 cast members. We had only 8 days to go..

To the municipal coordinator we presented a sketch of the proposed stag and measurements for the two level platform to be constructed as well as a smaller platform. We also requested that an extension of the small stage be constructed using four pieces of plywood and coco lumber as support.

By Wednesday, the actors were getting more at ease with scenes 1-3 (intro of the elemental spirits, diwatas and asuang). But we had 12 to go thus blocking for the entire dance-drama had to be done immediately. An enkanto had to be selected (Rester). Wondered if we'd ever find a Katalona.. But by Thursday, a former Balangaw member turned up (from St. Mary's College who was part of 'Mis Lagrimas a Ti'), and asked if he could join. Casting changes. He (Bryan) had to be Enkanto and Rester as Katalona. Also by Thursday, Ian and I checked on the dressmaker's progress. She turned out to be the same costume maker from Gasan where she also had a small shop that did the costumes for the 2001 "Bulong" there. She has now moved to Buenavista.

The old costumes I brought from Bahaghari were not enough and that was expected, so Ian and I checked on apparently the only dry goods store that sold textile materials here and found out that both cotton and geena silk sold for P. 35 per yard. We had to make a new costume for enkanto, the elemental spirits, a few diwatas and for the katutubo boys and girls. Didn't find here what could pass off as 'katutubo' costume and had to go to Boac. Was lucky to find something there. Digs started working on the headdresses and came to the rehearsal with a greyish silky fabric he wanted to make as Salve's magical dress.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


Monday, 9 January

Met with the selected participants for a briefing on the proposed dance-drama presentation at 2 pm Monday. The meeting was held at the Buenavista National High School where we had chosen 25 students (15 girls, 10 boys), mostly 3rd year students. The briefing was done in the presence of other students equal in number who also came to observe.

Earlier in the day, the school principal who was known to Ian expressed all support to the project but cautioned that it would be best to also get the support of the parents of those who would pass the audition. She called in a male teacher for the purpose of listing down the names of prospects since he had familiarity with the students and knew who had potential as performers.

Upon learning this, he asked a curious question thus: "What will the students get in return since they will provide their services to you?" It was in complete contrast to the school principal's statement earlier in the day: "We have always wished to have such a theater group in our school or training for teachers, but we do not have enough resources. In fact, it is very seldom that we are able to send our teachers to Manila to attend similar activities organized by the Cultural Center as an example for lack of funds..."

I was quite direct in my answer to the assistant: "No, we are the ones providing our services free of charge..."

The students were told that there would be rehearsals after school and that they should themselves talk it out with their parents. Some of those selected came from barangays quite a distance from the town center like Timbo and Daykitin.
In the middle of the briefing Ian excused himself to attend a municipal meeting on the town fiesta. For the first time he showed signs of nervousness.

Only 11 made it to the first rehearsal meeting at 6 pm. Ian and I scheduled new auditions on the next day at the Marinduque Victorians College. But by this time other things seemed to move in our favor. The municipal government had agreed to construct the stage design we would require, it would make representations with the provincial government to borrow the mobile stage lights used during cultural presentations, it would request pangulong (fishing boat) owners to provide food for the cast and production staff after the presentation. The presentation was moved to 19 January, the fiesta day itself since there would be an all-barangay dance on the eve of the fiesta. The mayor also stated willingness to sponsor a streamer to help promote our activity. The distict supervisor who was also present in that meeting expressed interest to support any future project that we might have.

Ian reported that during the municipal meeting, the mayor also made a curious remark: "We had problems with a previous similar project with another group...we were not able to liquidate a considerable amount of funds... later learned that similar funds were actually received by the proponent from NCCA..."

Monday, January 09, 2006


Over cups of coffee at Malbog Sulfur Spring in Buenavista using a natural stone formation there as table the idea to come up with a showcase of Buenavista's talents sprung on the 3rd day of 2006. It was to be a song-music and dance-drama showcase. The target date for presentation was January 18, eve of the town fiesta. The small group of five persons including me identified initial problems and point persons to address specific issues. The normally biggest issue of lack of funding was completely ignored. I guess everyone knew the reason by now. Lack of funds never prevented any volunteer workers from pursuing any plan to fruition.

Ian was to discuss the plan with the municipal authorities and was reminded to make it clear that all we needed was official manpower to help execute the stage design using bamboo, sasa and coconut leaves as primary materials, and no funding. Lights and sound might be available this time from the provincial capitol and should be approached. Ian would be chief choreographer.

Digs who had talent in transforming seashells and corals strewn on the beach into cabinet decors and souvenir items volunteered to take charge as costume designer provided all old costumes from previous plays would be turned over to him.

Mark would take charge as talent coordinator, messenger and make-up artist. He'd also help with the props. Patrick was to take charge of promoting the activity and help identify talents.
I was to decide on what dance-drama to be presented (an easy one) and direct the play.

On Thursday and Friday last week high school students from Buenavista National High School and Marinduque Victorians College were wooed to audition. Met all the cast at 2 pm today for a briefing and agreed to meet again at 6 pm today, Monday the 9th. That leaves us with only 9 days to make magic.

Will the community positively respond to problems we might encounter along the way to see the realization of this coffee-cup brew? Or will whatever group or whichever person/s, for whatever motives, move hell not heaven to prevent our curtains from rising? Again?

Abangan sa susunod. Exciting itoh!
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