FIFTY YEARS from now, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration perceived that half of Manila and parts of Las Piñas will be completely gone due to the effects of climate change. On the other hand, most fantasize about a Philippines taken over by robots and highly advanced technology like “smart homes.”
However, for writers Mixcaela Villalon and Rody Vera, the Philippines 70 years from now would look exactly like a dystopia, but with a few twists: a country haunted by the remains of a nuclear war, a group rebelling against their oppressive government leaders, and the Stormdome, a walled shelter established by their ancestors to “protect” what remained of the population from the possibility of their countrymen’s extinction.
“3 Stars and a Sun” is one of Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA)’s rap-musicals featuring Master Rapper Francis Magalona’s songs. It is also their last show for their 48th theater season.
The play begins with a punch: Mang Okik (Bodjie Pascual) holds a crumpled piece of paper with an illustration of the Philippine flag, and he invites the audience to sing Lupang Hinirang. From the very beginning, the pain in Mang Okik’s eyes is trying to send a message of hopelessness, calling out the audience to hang on to the play’s every word and note. The dramatic scene is cut short when the Protektados, workers from the ruling city of Lumino, dragged him to their headquarters while he goes frantic about another “blank future.”
Director Nor Domingo almost did not allow any breathing space for the audience as an explosive and powerful scene featuring Francis M’s “Mga Kababayan Ko” shakes the theater, with the rebel group Tropang Gising of Diliman city and the leaders of Lumino engaging in a duet that showcased their contrasting features. The citizens of Lumino flaunt themselves in white clothing as an image of “purity,” while the members of Tropang Gising expose themselves in black mixed with the grit and grime of the streets as the opposite, “filth.”
Throughout the story, the two groups clash while trying to save one another from death and avoid the possible destruction of the Stormdome. As Tropang Gising runs into the stereotypical spoiled rich kids of Lumino, they seek the guidance of Mang Okik, fondly nicknamed “Matandang Baliw.” They find that his deteriorating memory of the country’s smallest historical details leads them astray as they are equally clueless that they even had a history to fathom.
Outstanding Musical Direction awardee Myke Salomon might have used Francis M’s songs but he made his own legacy with his renditions of the Master Rapper’s famous works such as “Kaleidoscope World,” as it was transitioned into a melodramatic scene when a mother suddenly remembers the distinct features of her son when she could have sworn that she had forgotten every moment; “Cold Summer Nights” was beautifully translated into Filipino and sang during an emotional moment between two lovers. Indeed, Salomon proved that the Filipino language still packs a more powerful punch.
The play’s set design was meant not to be too futuristic than expected, as the characters are in a future where no ray of hope that things would get better for the citizens of Lumino and Diliman can be found. A set change was not necessary because production designer Gino Gonzales made sure that every necessity was present in each scene.
The Filipino youth is not immune to the venom of smartphones and petty Internet fights, and “3 Stars and a Sun” wants every citizen to look it straight in the eye and realize that there are issues beyond the blinding computer screens. It challenges today’s generation not to underestimate the power of history—these may have been events of the past, but the story proves that the neglect of education may be the destruction that years of oppressive governance struggled to avoid. Mang Okik’s state calls on us to value even the simplest details of the Philippines’ bloody yet influential history, or we may end up being an entire population of purebred “Matandang Baliw.”
The probability that the future presented in this play is what lies ahead of us is not impossible. This sneak peek of our future is a silent protest against the plight of our country and the minds behind our miseries: our political leaders and us Filipinos who allow their subtle oppression to continue.
The play was packed with the country’s prevailing issues of problematic governance and societal discrimination, subtle imageries that only seem like a brush on the shoulder or a faint whisper, and a talented cast that can grab everyone by the throat with their superb acting coupled with Delphine Buencamino’s fierce choreography. Without a doubt, “3 Stars and a Sun” will keep the audience at the edge of their seats from start to finish. F MEG ELA J. ADONIS