Did you know that Florante at Laura was recently staged by Gantimpala Theater Foundation at various theaters in the metro? My daughters and I were privileged to have seen it on its last show at SM Southmall Cinema 3 last August 18 for only PHP300 per head. We were apparently the only homeschoolers at the 2 PM time slot; everybody who came to watch came in big groups representing various conventional schools in nearby areas, not to mention they all came in their respective school uniforms. Since there were only three of us in our group, we were allowed to enter first and choose the best seats in the house–front row, middle, that is.
The good thing about homeschooling your kids is you get to enjoy doing things with them while learning too. I suppose I was the only parent present there who accompanied her children in watching the program. And, mind you, I didn’t feel too old at all, being in the company of kids from both high school and upper elementary levels. Not to mention, I really enjoyed watching the play as much as I enjoyed seeing the animated looks on my daughters’ faces as they were also entertained.
I was a little worried at first that the Tagalog words they’d be using might be too difficult for my daughters to comprehend and they might not appreciate the play. After all, it was the work of Francisco Baltazar or Balagtas we are talking about and kids these days have an altogether different way of talking, using entirely different words (i.e., from the time of Balagtas). Many are not even well-versed in Tagalog. In fact, both our homeschool academic advisers and my daughters’ former teachers from the conventional school they used to attend have shared with me that school subjects that use Filipino as a medium of instruction appear to be the most challenging ones among students these days.
I, myself, even if I were already a seasoned translator (of English–Tagalog texts) had difficulty following some of the words they used, particularly the dialogues at the opening of the program. I suppose those were the exact words Balagtas used in Florante at Laura. Most, however, have been changed to suit the young audiences. There were just a few terms that they have used that I was not entirely in agreement with though, such as istorya (story). Kuwento would have been more appropriate and is considered a more common term, don’t you think? But then, I might be wrong. I guess I will have to check if Balagtas actually used the term istorya, which reminds me that I have to start finalizing the list of books I need to buy for my 8th grader as we are starting the new school year in two weeks, with Florante at Laura in it.
Nevertheless, the production team managed to present this rather serious classic story that originally used deep Tagalog words in a fun and engaging manner without altering the storyline. I think that’s a huge factor if we really want our kids these days to be more acquainted with Philippine literature and appreciate our culture in general. Both my 13- and 10-year old daughters thoroughly enjoyed it along with the rest of the audience.
Further, the actors, especially the lead characters, displayed impressive acting skills. Just thinking about the long lines Paul Jake Paule (Florante) and the narrator (Michael King) had to memorize and deliver effortlessly leaves me in awe of theater artists, too. It’s also interesting to note that there was palpable chemistry among the couples Florante and Laura as well as Aladin and Flerida. On the other hand, Morris Sevilla, who played the antagonist Adolfo, was so convincing in his act that the young audience was clearly affected by his performance. They were hesitant to give him an applause when the actors were introduced and a few even booed him.
The actors also wore interesting costumes that seemed to enhance the characters’ beauty and personality. Laura, played by Ellrica Laguardia, was particularly beautiful in her gowns and she reminded me of TV and movie actress Dawn Zulueta. Daffodil Abear, who happens to be my fellow Isabelan, had a rather brief appearance in the play as Flerida, but the character she played and her portrayal of it made the story even more memorable, especially with her onstage partner Jeff Carpio, both a TV and theater actor, who played Aladin.
The stage design, though simple, was also effective. There weren’t many fixtures and they were able to maximize the use of lighting. There was just one tiny problem though–the audio. There were instances when Flerida and the narrator’s microphones would malfunction; thankfully, that didn’t happen very often and did not last for long. If anything, that only made me appreciate being seated in the front row, although that could be very frustrating to those seated farther from the stage.
Gantimpala Theater Foundation, the “Pioneer in Edutainment”, is now in its 40th theater season. They are staging other Filipino classics namely, Ibong Adarna, Noli Me Tangere or Kanser, and El Filibusterismo in the coming months at AFP Theater, SM Manila Cinema 9, and SM Southmall Cinema 3.
If you have kids or students, especially in grade 7 and above, please encourage them to watch these plays, as they would certainly aid them in their study of these classics. More importantly, these stories help instill in today’s generation significant values such as love, friendship, forgiveness, nationalism, solidarity, loyalty, purity, selflessness, and more. It could also help them appreciate more our native language, particularly at this time and age where foreign words are being Tagalized and we’re no longer sure sometimes which ones really are our own.
Discounts are offered to groups of 20 or more. You may call Gantimpala Marketing Office at 0921-2513733 / 998-5622 / 872-0261 or check out Gantimpala Theater Foundation‘s Facebook page for more details.