TRAIN RIDES are oftentimes tiresome because of the lengthy lines at ticket stations, the immersion with a huge pack of commuters, the noisy clanking of the wheels with the rail tracks, and the grasping of steel posts as one stands impatiently waiting for the train to arrive at his destination. However, Banyuhay shows it as a more significant notion.
Nine different passengers enchained by various burdens in life board the same locomotive. As the vehicle passes by four stations (C. Bulan, Balaquid, Muntican and Katuparan), its passengers vent their frustrations about the irksome experience of riding the train and their troubles at work. One by one, they earn the spotlight—emotionally disclosing their stories and finalizing each of their statements by admitting what they feel inside. They disembark as the train reaches their destination, gradually emptying the railcar until one is left in the end.
The train serves as the macrocosm of the oppressed—a collection of figures bound by undesirable circumstances. As a medium of transportation—which in reality has been branded inefficient due to underdevelopment with regard to insufficient number of railcars and unpremeditated halting in the middle of the ride—the locomotive compelled them to unleash their vexations, which was accompanied by an occasional shifting of stage lighting to enhance the mood.
The train stations, on the other hand, resemble the journey in the life of a person. C. Bulan symbolizes the emergence of plights; these plights, in return, constitute Balaquid. As one nears to solving his predicaments, life continuously presents him more and toughens the situation until he yields, mirroring Muntican. Yet, some attempt to persevere and eventually succeed, paralleling Katuparan. The four stations showcase the endless battle of man to conquer the obstructions that hinder his path, and the play realistically portrays such ideology through each passenger entering the railcar and choosing whether to remain inside or leave.
To convey the characters’ messages, the University of Santo Tomas Chorus of Arts and Letters (AB Chorale) euphoniously performs various renditions of Filipino songs as the train stops in every station. Bamboo Mañalac’s Tatsulok addresses the clamors of the hard-working barista and the emcee that are dejected by their tyrannical bosses. Gloc-9’s Upuan draws the audience’s attention to the disc jockey and the gay man after their co-workers conspired against them. Francis Magalona’s Mga Kababayan Ko imbibes a sense of self-confidence similar to that of the four characters who never back down—the male sales assistant who happily serve the buyers in a supermarket, the female employee degraded by her colleagues in an internet service company, the model who strives for her family despite being molested by her boss, and the waitress who struggles to find a new job after being consecutively fired.
Despite the pessimistic atmosphere the stories of the personalities have induced, the play ends positively. When the train arrives at Katuparan station, only the young magician remains inside the railcar. As the guitarist uplifts the spirits of the audience by belting out Eraserheads’ Para sa Masa, the comical magician is seen rummaging the chairs and when he finds his coin, he joyfully lifts it to make the audience burst with laughter. The scene exemplifies what Katuparan signifies—success even in such a simple instance. The closing act showcases another orchestral performance of the AB Chorale, imparting a message of unity towards progress.
Banyuhay, above all else, delineates the revolting condition of the Filipino society today. It serves as an eye-opener to certain social problems that continuously plague every individual. In spite of presenting how complex reality is, the play enthusiastically hopes for the viewers to traverse their own labyrinths safely and prosperously. F ZYMON ARVINDALE R. DYKEE