The Female Heart: A Critique

 

UP Playwright’s Theatre presents “The Female Heart”, written by Filipino-American playwright Linda Faigo-Hall, and directed by UP Diliman Department of Speech Communication and Theatre Arts professor Banaue Miclat-Janssen. It is a story of a family who lives in the slums and whose only way of living is collecting garbage from the Smokey Mountains. In a desperate attempt help their family rise from poverty and save her brother from a life-threatening disease, Adelfa volunteers herself as a mail-order bride to an American man.

It not only presents the realistic problems that the people who live in the Smokey Mountains face everyday, but also shows different perspectives about their way of living. The director and the actors of the play went so far as to go to the Smokey Mountains themselves just to experience what it was like to be in their shoes.

In the play, we have Adelfa’s brother, Anghel, who wanted to continue living in that mountain of garbage because he is content with the fact that they’ll never run out of garbage, and therefore never run out of things to sell. We also have Adelfa’s mother, Rosario, who represents a majority of the poor in the Philippines who believe that working abroad will make their lives better. Then we have Adelfa, who pursued getting a high education so as to lift her family from poverty.

The idea of a mail-order bride opens up a relevant social issue – online dating. Both mail-ordering a bride and online dating with a stranger involve communicating with someone you find attractive, even though you have never met before. Through Adelfa and Roger’s relationship, it is significantly shown how one may not truly know the person they are with. For example, Roger only opened up about his ex-wife a year after their marriage, and did not tell her immediately about his anger management issues.

The story of Adelfa and Roger opened up various issues regarding relationships in today’s time. Despite the fact that Adelfa gets paid to be Roger’s wife, real life problems of intercultural marriage is presented in the play. Not only does it show that one person believes all the stereotypes of the other, it also shows what stereotypes each think about their own country. Roger believes that Filipino women make the best wives because they don’t ask for too much, subtly implying that Roger believes that American women are spoiled and selfish. Another significant issue here is rape and abuse. Most people believe that when a man has sex with his wife, it will never be considered raped, even if his wife does not consent to it.

Meanwhile, Rosario is the epitome of colonial mentality. She believed that selling her daughter away to a rich American man will raise them from poverty and bring them happiness. Although the former was true, the latter was not. Rosario was engulfed into the world of consumerism, and thought that the more things she could buy, the happier she will be. This is a prevalent behavior in our time. People of all ages in this generation can never stop asking for more, and, like Rosario, will only snap out of such materialistic greed once they have lost what was truly important to them – family.

One downside is that Roger is, once again, left on his own in the end. This might send a negative message to members of the audience who may also have anger management issues, or other mental health problems. It remains clear, however, that people who are in a problematic relationship should never stay for too long.

The play is filled with symbolisms. The play went a full circle, beginning with a pile of garbage from the Smokey Mountains, and ending with a pile of garbage from all the unnecessary things Adelfa and Rosario have bought. There were many parallelisms during the flashback scene. As young Anghel says that white clothing does not fit in the Smokey Mountains because it’s easier to get it dirty, Adelfa was center stage, wearing a fancy white dress. Young Adelfa shouted to young Angel that “hindi ako magiging pokpok! (I will never be a prostitute!)”, showing the bitter irony that comes with growing up and forgetting one’s childhood.

In a very pleasing plot twist, Anghel, in the end, turns out to be the one with the female heart. It is pleasing because it contrasts with Roger’s thoughts on women, both American and Filipino alike. In the flashback, young Anghel tells young Adelfa that she has a female heart – a heart full of affection for the people she loves, a heart that will sacrifice everything for them. The idea that a man has the heart of a woman has always been an insult, meaning that a man is ‘weak, frail, and emotional’. The play empowers feminism, showing that when one is called to have a female heart, it meant that one had a heart that will weather any storm just to bring the people they love to safety.

The parallelism between Adelfa and Anghel as they grew up, and the unconditional sibling love that they had for each other, binded the whole play together, making it one of the most unique plays so far.

The Female Heart: A Critique

So what’s it like being a theater arts student?

You see, theater is like an arranged marriage. From the perspective of someone who chose Theater Arts without much knowledge of the said art form, of someone who’s never done a play back in high school, of someone who was never in a mile close to being in theater before college, of someone who has never watched theater plays and musicals in her free time (except Hollywood’s Les Miserable), I was kind of forced to love theater.

Last year, when people heard the words “theater arts” stumble upon my lips, and they replied with “Are you sure?”, I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand why the others were so afraid of our “theater practicum” class. But now, I do.

You see, there’s a reason why we have the phrase “break a leg”. A theater play is like one big magic trick, wherein the magician is willing to break his own wrists every time just to please the audience with every show. Just like a newly-wed couple that is still adjusting to the domestic life of cleaning houses and paying bills, being in theater makes you wonder: is this worth it? Is the audience really worth all the tears we have shed, all the money we have spent, all the effort we have given? Is s/he worth all my sacrifices, all my patience, all my love?

The theater is selfish. Well, people would retort that every course in college is selfish. But I disagree. Theater is even more so.  And like with an arranged marriage, it doesn’t always work out. There are moments when you wonder what you have done to upset God so much to pair you with such a demanding bitch. Why can’t Fate pair you with someone kinder, someone more gentle?

It’s at this point that we forget that we, too, are becoming selfish. Arranged marriages are used as a peace treaty or as a way to strengthen business between two families. Being in the theater is a selfless act of forgetting yourself – your physical health, your money, your alone time, your academics, your social life – all in exchange of pleasing others.

It’s difficult at first. Why put so much effort into people when you’re not sure they would even appreciate it? The injustice will weigh you down. You’ll think that you deserve so much better. You’ll get mad at your high school friends and family relatives who won’t be able to  watch what you’ve worked so hard for. You’ll look at the loud guests with distaste. You’ll see the theater as a hell that you have to put up with every goddamn day. Every action you make becomes a live performance that you have to fake.

And how can you not look at it in such a bad image? When you see the people you’re working with sacrificing so much, and receiving so little in return, how can you not hate the people they’re sacrificing so much for?

There will come a time when you will be so close to filing a divorce case with the course you have married; a time when you will feel that you’re better off somewhere else – free of obligations and commitment, where you will worry about achieving your own happiness, where you will think about nothing but yourself.

When I was at this point, at this terrifying edge of my figurative cliff, teetering between staying and leaving, I did the bravest thing I could ever have done so far – I waited. I waited for a miracle. Something that can make me genuinely love what I was doing. I waited for the storm to pass. I waited for the sun to rise. I waited for the smoke to fade. I used whatever I had as a shield against the temptation of an easier life.

And then… it came.

The sound of genuine laughter after a line that I’ve heard of a thousand times reached the ears of virgin minds. The high squeaks of fear from high school students as we shocked them with the magic tricks we’ve all lost slept for to perfect. The tear-strained cheeks of children and adults alike. The buzz of wonder as they walked out of the theater, discussing their ephemeral experience before it fades from their memory forever.

It’s the little things that make you stay in a marriage. The little things that turn duty into dedication.

From then on, every sweep of the floor was accompanied with a wave of fondness. Every step I took along the aisle of the audience seats reminded me of why I haven’t left, of why I shouldn’t.

So what’s it like being a theater arts student?

It’s faking a smile, and receiving a genuine one. It’s repeatedly saying “thank you for watching”, with the hopes that someone will reply with a “Congrats!”. It’s about living for the little things. It’s about living for others. It’s knowing that if you want to witness a beautiful sunrise, then first you have to go through the blackest night.

It’s offering your limbs to ideals, people, stories, places – content with the fact that, from nothingness you were born, and from nothingness you shall return. That does not mean however, that your life was worth nothing. Your worth is seen through the people you have influenced. And as a theater arts student? You will influence a lot.

So what’s it like being a theater arts student?

To the Tissue Papers in this Watercolor World

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We each have our own roles. The palettes provide color. The paintbrushes create the image. The hand guides the paintbrush. The water aids the process.

But we? We are the tissue paper in this watercolor world. The ones that that clean the mess created by the paintbrushes. The ones who gulp in the excess water. The backstage crew, the janitors, the underrated member.

A painting can survive without tissue paper. Tissue paper is just needed for one specific technique, anyway. But a painting cannot survive without the palettes, the paintbrushes, the water.

We are the tissue paper in this watercolor world, and with every droplet that we absorb, we become one step closer to breaking.

We are the tissue paper in this watercolor world. Not always important, not always needed. The second-class canvass, that at the end of the day, will be thrown away.

But no matter what is said about us, we enjoy each mistake we absorb. The clash of vibrant colors on my skin go unnoticed by the hand too focused on the masterpiece.

However, unlike the painting, my existence does not exist solely on the artist’s image. I am free from scrutiny, free to embrace every hue that comes my away, and free to never let go of any one of them.

We may be trash in your eyes, but art is art, and

we

are

beautiful.

To the Tissue Papers in this Watercolor World

Film Review: “Hunger Games – The Mockingjay Part 2”

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Reviewing for Kas 1 (Philippine history) over a cup of good coffee just a few hours before watching ‪#‎MockingjayPart2‬ really does a lot to your brain. Add in the fact that you’ve been keeping a close eye on recent social issues, and there you go – the end result will be a perfect blend of over analysis and mind-blowing revelations.

Here’s a semi-review, leaning more on comparisons and implications and less on the film itself.

Continue reading “Film Review: “Hunger Games – The Mockingjay Part 2””

Film Review: “Hunger Games – The Mockingjay Part 2”

Our Society… and Game of Thrones

You know, with everything that’s been happening recently, I can’t help but wonder about what’s happening up there at the top of the economic chain with the political leaders. It’s like some Game of Thrones shit.

I mean we know only 10% of what’s really going on. That’s all the media shows – just a mere 10%. Think of all the rest of the 90% – all the things those presidents and prime ministers have been talking about for the past 6 days of APEC. The conversations behind closed doors, the plans they’re proposing, the secrets they are hiding. Their motives, their goals. The mere 10% consists of the commercials and tarpaulins saying “We are for the people yadda yadda” but that’s it.

GoT (or Game of Thrones) is a fictional series that shows us how politics works IN REAL LIFE. The people up there are just on each others’ sides so they can fulfill their selfish wants – more land, more money, more buildings. Was there ANYONE at the top of the food chain in GoT who was truly concerned about the masses? Can you think of ONE character whose pure motive was to serve the people?

And the thing is, from the very beginning, we know that there is a problem in our political system. But like in GoT, it’s HARD, so freaking hard to change it. But maybe we as a whole are not ready for that change. I mean look at how afraid we are of change, that when the stars on Twitter simply transitioned into hearts, the whole world went batshit crazy, that when people started filtering their profile pictures on Facebook, the whole world was divided into being “For it” or “Against it”.

Human beings are just SO. DIVERSE. With all our different opinions and advocacy on so many things, fueled by our differences in upbringing, education, religion and nationality. This is what makes us different from other animals. This makes us so unique – as individuals, and as species.

But the one thing that makes us unique is also the very thing destroying us. How are we supposed to fix ourselves as species when nO ADULT IN THE WORLD actually has their lives fixed in even as individuals? When no one is actually sure of what they’re doing? When even our perspectives of right and wrong VARIES PER PERSON? How are we supposed to progress with that?

Or maybe we’re not supposed to. If we aren’t ready to break that wall between the life we’re living today, and the life we’ve always dreamed of that has only ever been portrayed in sci fi movies, then maybe we were meant to live and die like this, continually existing in such a primal state, always suffering, never moving beyond corruption, like a dog chasing its tail endlessly.

Are we destined to constantly be on self-destruct? Is there a way out?

Our Society… and Game of Thrones

Pangalan Ko’y Kalikasan

A/n: Essay na ginawa ko para sa Filipino class namin noong Dec 30 2013.

Pangalan ko’y Kalikasan. Bihira lang ako pansinin ng tao, at nakakalungkot ito dahil mahal ko ang tao, at nakaraan ay may isa kaming matamis na pagkakaibigan. Tugunan ang aming relasyon at balanse ang mundo. Ngunit sa panahon ngayon, ang tao ay lumalayo na saakin, lumalapit nalang kapag may kailangan, kinukuha ang laman na gusto at binabato saakin ang buto-buto. Kahit masakit sa aking kalooban ay hindi ako kailanman susuko. Dahil pag namatay ako, mamamatay rin ang tao. At hindi kaya ng puso ko, dahil may mga tao pa rin sa mundo na, kahit minsan, ay tumutulong saakin. Isa na doon si Nicole, isang batang nananahimik, at bihirang mapansin.

Bata pa lang sya’y malapit na sya sa puso ko, at dahil bihira na ako magkaroon ng kaibigan, naging malapit na rin ako sa kanya. Bata pa lang sya’y mas gusto na nyang maglakad sa damo kaysa sa konkreto. Nang tumanda sya’y sinisita nya ang mga kaibigan nyang hindi rumerespeto saakin. Kapag umiiyak ako at tumutulo ang luha ko sa lupa ng tao, ngingiti sya at ipipikit ang kanyang mata – iniisip nya kung gaano ako kaganda, kahit na nagmumukmok ako dahil wala akong kasama.

Nang maranasan nya maging masaya ay naisipan nyang pumitas ng bulaklak at ihagis ito sa mga ulap. Nang maranasan nya maging malungkot ay ginugunihin nya ang sarili nyang burol – at ang kabaong nya’y gawa sa kahoy at may suot syang korona ng rosas, at dahan dahan syang itutulak sa dagat kung saan kami magkakaisa. Nakapikit ang kanyang mata – at naisip ko kung gaano sya kaganda, kahit na lumuluha ang kanyang muka dahil minsa’y wala syang kasama.

Dahil doon, araw-araw ay hinihinipan ko sya ng hangin. Kahit saan sya pumunta’y hindi sya gaano naiinitan, hindi tulad ng iba. Dahil tunay ngang hindi sya katulad ng iba. Minahal nya ako kahit wasak-wasak na ako sa maraming sulok ng aking katawan. Malapit na akong sumuko, at bumigay, ngunit dahil may batang naniniwala na ako’y maganda pa rin, at dahil tuluyan syang nagiging mapagpakumbaba pagdating sa akin, hindi ako susuko sa tao. Dahil nalaman ko na, marami man ang mang-iwan sa iyo, ito naman ang magiging dahilan kung bakit ang kakapiranggot na natira ay magiging espesyal sa buhay mo.

Pangalan Ko’y Kalikasan

Ancient Greeks’ Lights and Shadows

“Love is a trap. When it appears, we see only its light, not its shadows.” – Paulo Coelho

The Ancient Greeks, according to our English book, and based on what I’ve learnt so far, are exceptional and talented and beautifully artistic and unique. They have contributed many inventions and innovations to their society, and to our world. They are the ones who began art in pottery, their architecture was impressive and useful, their literature is legendary, their philosophies became our basic scientific principles.

Basically, everyone’s inital knowledge about the Greeks is that they are perfect in every way. As we ginny on further into the module, that opinion has been nurtured, so much that, for the masses,  it has turned into a fact.

But the Ancient Greeks were not all that perfect.

Sexism, misogyny, slavery, power greedy men, wars, superiority, colonization… these are some of the factors that we have completely ignored when talking about Ancient Greece. We have blinded ourselves with Ancient Greece’s good things that we forgot mentioning to the masses that the Greeks have done some bad, too.

This is why I have written this essay. I feel a need to express my sentiments. The ancient Greeks are not as perfect as they seem to be in our book.

War is a famous factor of Ancient Greece. In their history books, they boast and pride themselves in being able to conquer many lands. They are said to be a powerful nation because of all the wars they have won. In fact, the Greco-Roman War started with Alexander IV, a Greek who wanted to prove himself in battle by organizing a campaign against the Romans.

I have always loathed the idea of human beings – said to be the most mature specie of the world, said to be the dominant race because of their intellectual prowess – killing other human beings – soldiers who have families and hopes and dreams and actual lives – just because the higher authorities want to claim the land, the resources, the people of the opposing party. Ever since I can remember, I have always wanted to know who thought it was a great idea to kill senient beings just so they can claim a plot of land and force the sentient beings who live in said lang into slavery.

To be honest, the different tribes, the different nations, who were each in their own way unique, could have just traveled the seas and explored new worlds and meet new civilizations and stretch out their hand and learn the different cultures, taste the different kinds of food, share the resources and distribute them evenly. Instead of mass murdering the people, turning the survivors into slaves, raping the women, letting them all starve to death, and steal the resources.

Things could have been so much more different if that one Ancient Greek suddenly had an idea that goes like: “Oh I know! What if we slaughter a man, just to gain his properties?” If the Ancient Greeks were really wise, they would have thought of that. But now, two world wars, thousands of colonizations, billions of millions of dead people later, it is too late. This is the world we live in. This is the world the Ancient Greeks have brought down upon us all.

Colonization and war has been happening since the times of B.C. It is now 2013. Sadly, even after 2000 years, we have still not found a solution to the greatest illness found in even the healthiest human being of all – corruption.

With colonizations, and war, comes people with high authorities and a hunger for power that can never be satisfied. Power-greedy men, the leaders who led the war for their own sake, the human beings who claimed they were more important than others. With men like these, comes superiority and most of all, a social issue that still exists now, especially in the Philippines, corruption.

Another factor we have forgotten to delve deep into, is how the Ancient Greeks treated their women, and how they apply to our modern lives, even until now.

One perfect example for this is Helen of Troy in the Iliad. She was portrayed as “the most beautiful woman in the world”. She was the reason the Trojan War started. But wait! Is that really true? No. It all started with Zeus thinking the world was too overpopulated. He wanted to lower the numbers. So he created a war, because apparently it’s more interesting than a tsunami or flash flood because war has tragedy and romance.

So what is Helen’s role in the story, really? She was a trophy for Paris. She was a puppet to Zeus’ plan. She was an object of infatuation for every other man in the world. Another chess piece for the gods of Greece, to be given from one man to another with just a single shot to the chest by the arrows of Cupid.

If you think misogyny just happens in fictional stories, you are wrong. During Ancient Greek times, the lives of the Greek women were closely tied to domestic work. They cannot even watch theatre, or have education, like every other men. They were caged into their very own house, their freedoms stripped away from them the moment they were born, for having a vagina means not having the same equal rights as those who have a penis.

The Greek men are a busy lot during their everyday lives. They either train in military, discuss politics, go to a theatre for entertainment, or farming, depending on their status in the social hierarchy. They played sports naked, and that’s their sole reason why they did not allow women to watch the games.

But, despite all these, the Greeks were not all that bad. The Ancient Greek men, in both the fictional and non-fictional worlds, have done many notable noble and respectable actions.

One perfect example of this is Hector’s bravery to face Achilles despite the fact that his wife and infant needed him. He faced his mistakes, swallowed his pride, and sacrficed his life, all simultaneously, in that one moment when he walked out to battle Achilles into an honest battle of swords.

Another, and this is my personal favorite, is the scene between King Priam and Achilles. This is notable, and it made my sympathize both parties because one was a warrior, and another was a king. One was Trojan mortal, while the other was a demigod. Achilles was a murderer, but King Priam was no different for he and his sons led the Trojan soldiers into battle. They had troubled minds and eating dinner with the same person who was the cause of it must have been hard, but they suffered through it – they suffered together. To me, the whole scene between them was a beautiful tragedy that I am willing to repeatedly replay in my head, if just to satisfy my need to understand the complexity of their actions.

In reality, the Ancient Greek men are notable for their stragetic methods in combat. One particular famous clever strategy was created by the Leonidas and his 300 Spartans who fought against almost 10, 000 Persians near the narrow pass between the mountains. They used the narrow pass to their advantage, and kept piling up the dead bodies of the Persians to create a massive wall.

The Greeks have taught us many useful things, of course, especially in the field of Philosophy and in terms of militaristic strategies. They have taught the world to be passionate about art, to include all kinds of artistry – music, sculptures, pillars, paintings – in to our daily lives. They have taught us that things happen for a reason – that is why they invented the Greek gods and godesses.

The Ancient Greeks were interesting, but they were not perfect.

If you still believe that the Ancient Greeks were special snowflakes with no flaws, then I have failed to deliver my message clearly to you. If you feel a deep hum of dark energy within you because of what you have read in my essay, then I am a disappointment for not being able to tell you the true moral of this essay.

Let us refer to this quote:

“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and… bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant.” – The Doctor (Doctor Who)

The bad traits of Greece should not spoil the good traits we have gotten from them, and vice versa, the good traits should not blind us completely into believing thatt the bad traits are of no importance.

It all boils down to this – to know not just one’s lights but also one’s shadows is to know one truly, and only then will we be able to fully accept them, and move on. Move on, to boldly do what no man has done before, and that is to solve the problems they never could in the past.

“Sometimes, people don’t see shadows. The Chinese, of course, never paint them in pictures, oriental art never deals with shadow. But I noticed these shadows and I knew it meant it was sunny.” – David Hockney

BIBLIOGRAPHY

http://eoa.wikia.com/wiki/Greco-Roman_War
http://www.ancientgreece.com/s/Life/
http://www.ancientgreece.co.uk/war/story/sto_set.html
http://www.planetclaire.org/quotes/doctorwho/series-five/vincent-and-the-doctor/
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/shadows.html#2k1vT2yI3M4YukDj.99

Ancient Greeks’ Lights and Shadows