After watching this play with music—‘The Kundiman Party’, the latest production of UP Playwright’s Theatre for its 26th theatre season—it changed my perception about this classic form of Filipino love song, which suggests that the singer expresses undying love for his beloved is actually singing for love of country.
Perhaps at first, millennials might be skeptic about the production, but since it is penned by Floy Quintos and helmed by Dexter Santos—there is no way that this play would be set aside, but rather its message and how it was told by the playwright and as portrayed by the actors onstage—it has succeeded in making this latest collaboration of Quintos and Santos a work that deserves a repeat and perhaps to be made a full-length musical.
Upon entering the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theatre which is where this play is being mounted even on its extended run on May 12 and 13, respectively. It has four shows for two mentioned playdates at 2pm and 7pm—the audience will be transported and will have that intimate encounter with the characters imagined by Quintos and the abode that was designed by Mitoy Sta. Ana was just gorgeous and it reflects the 80s feel of a living room design.
Rarely I am impressed with how Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino approach her characters, but I guess—this is one among her best theater performances (apart from that of another play written by Quintos—‘Fake’ where she portrayed Sister Emily) ever. Being the retired singer, Maestra Adela Dolores; her effortless mimicking of the former First Lady of the Philippines—the ostentatiously extravagant—Imelda Romualdez-Marcos is such a delight to see onstage.
Though she doesn’t have to sing since her character doesn’t require her to do so—because in the story she has already lost her beautiful voice and chose to live a more private life after the ousting of the Marcoses when the People Power Revolution in 1986 occurred.
But in case, one day this production will be restaged and will be made into a full-length musicale, Lea Salonga can also fit in the character (but she has to be made up to look a little mature). The role of Mayen, which was effectively portrayed by Frances Makil-Ignacio can also be assumed or can be shared by Beverly Salviejo. While the character of Mitch can also be taken by Pinky Amador. And the role of Helen can also be shared by Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo or Karla Gutierrez.
Kalil Almonte did great as Bobby Valderrama, the son of Senator Juancho Valderama did a great job as the young, tech-savvy activist; but to alternate him could be Jef Flores.
What makes this play endearing is the fact that—it uses love songs, which Filipinos are a sucker of such genre. It is effective to use the Kundiman-type of songs in order to subtly educate the new generation about the song form. But what is more crucial is using this production to spark that sense of nationalism since Kundiman is a love song dedicated for love of country. The brilliance of this piece is also the utilization of what the trend these days—and that is social media.
It succeeded in incorporating social media to be a platform in presenting views and to be critical about the current administration. It serves as an awakening of that long-dormant sense of nationalism of the Filipino people. But the scene between the senator and Bobby was something that was ‘close to home’ for me. It has made me realize that no matter how family members have opposing beliefs especially in politics—blood is still thicker than water.
‘The Kundiman Party’ does not only provide insightful stuff about politics, about love, about friendships, but most importantly it emphasizes that life is sacred, no matter what.