Batlaya Theatre Guild Keeps Marikina’s History Alive for the Millennnials
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Heeding the call of Mayor Marcy Teodoro to teach Marikina’s history to the young generation of Marikenos, the Batlaya Theatre Guild of Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Marikina (PLMar) is mounting a play based on the life of General Hermogenes Bautista, who had a key role in the Philippine revolt against Spain.
Born in Bayanbayanan, Marikina on April 19, 1866, Hermogenes organized the Marikina chapter of the KKK (Kataas-taasan, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan) or simply Katipuan, an organization founded by the Supremo Andres Bonifacio to fight for the independence of the Philippines from the Spanish colonizers.
Hermogenes was eventually promoted as General of the Katipunan and when the Philippine Revolution exploded in 1896, his army helped Bonifacio wrest control of San Mateo from the Spaniards, according to an article in the National Commission for Culture and the Arts website.
“Nakakalimutan na ng mga Marikenyo, lalo na ng mga kabataan, ang mga importanteng tao sa ating kasaysayan. Ang mga taong lumikha ng kasaysayan ng Marikina. Si Hermogenes Bautista ay ang nag-iisang heneral na taga-Marikina noong panahon ng KKK,” says Edwin Maestro, artistic director of Batlaya.
Batlaya is portmanteau or a blended word that resulted from combining two words, in this case “bathala” (God) and “kalayaan” (freedom).
“Somehow may pagka-radical ang Batlaya. Because we believe na dapat ang theatre ay magsilbing mirror ng kung ano ang kasalukuyang nangyayari sa society and how it can awaken the young people of Marikina about the realities of life outside of the school,” says Edwin, who is writing the play/musical based on the life of Gen. Bautista.
The yet untitled production will be mounted on the stage in August this year, he adds. The show is free.
Formally formed in 2012, Batlaya has for its members PLMar students, most of them Mass Communication students taking up theatre arts as a subject.
Batlaya normally mounts one major production lasting for at least an hour each year, and several short ones – 15 to 30 minutes -- for the communities in Marikina.
This month, the theatre group staged “Teresa Meets Pepe,” a fictional story about the real life characters of Teresa Delos Santos Dela Paz Y Tuazon, wife of a rich landowner in Marikina during the Spanish era, and the national hero Dr. Jose Rizal.
The two characters accidentally met in heaven and discussed their important contributions to history, as well as the problems besetting the present day Marikina and the Philippines and how they can help the present generation solve them.
“In the play, we tackled two problems. Nakalimutan na si Teresa ng bayan ng Marikina. Wala ng nakakakilala sa kaniya maliban sa kaniyang angkah. Si Rizal naman, tinalakay ang mga problema ng bansa at paano sila makakatulong kahit wala na sila dito sa mundo,” says Edwin, who also wrote the script for the play/musical.
“Tinalakay din nito kung ano ang mga nagawa nila noon na pwedeng maging sandata ng mga Filipino ngayon para maresolba ang mga kasalukuyang problema ng bayan,” he adds.
After the presentation, a Question and Answer portion followed, where the audience asked questions and gave feedback about the play, Edwin says. This was their way of interacting with the audience to make sure that they understood the message of the play.
According to a study made by the Ateneo de Manila University on Dona Teresa, she was born on October 15,1841 in the town of Mariquina, which used to be part of the province of Manila. Dona Teresa used her wealth and influence to help the poor in Marikina, including educating the girls. She bought a huge house to serve as the school for girls.
She was also a philanthropist, as she acquired the mansion of Don Laureano Guevarra (the building now known as Kapitan Moy) and had it converted as an evacuation and refugee center for victims of calamities such as fire, floods, according to the Ateneo de Manila research paper on Dona Teresa.
Aside from its major productions at PLMar, Batlaya also mounts several community plays in Marikina that tackle the problems of the place where they are staging the production.
For instance, when the group staged a play in Tumana last year, the story was about poverty and flooding, but told in a humorous manner, says Edwin.
“Sa community theatre hindi ka pwedeng magseryoso dahil marami na silang problema. Pero ang comedy act ay tungkol pa rin sa mga problema nila,” he says.
These community productions are also for free.
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