Wednesday, August 23, 2017


(Ang Tamaan, Huwag Magalit)

Back in early 1982, if memory serves, I wrote the lyrics of a set of songs for a film musical that director Mike de Leon, composer/musical director Ding Achacoso, and I were planning to do that year. That was the time a group of artists and journalists set up the Free the Artist, Free the Media Movement, which would give birth the following year to the Concerned Artists of the Philippines.

The musical, which we referred to as a "Brechtian zarzuela" or as a "sarsuwelang pampelikula," was about the role of artists in a time like martial law. But since Marcos's martial law was still in effect, Mike and I agreed to set the musical in the Second World War, during the time of the Japanese Occupation. During the martial-law period, people in the countryside referred to the Marcos-era military as Hapon, but we were hoping that the film censors wouldn't notice.

Also, the song that opened and closed the zarzuela had a final verse that alluded to the imeldific "true, good, and beautiful" mantra: "Awitin mo ang totoo, / sagad-buto, tagos-apdo. / Ang totoo ay mabuti / kahit mapanganib sa iyo. / Ang totoo ay maganda / Kahit pangit sa reyna." Again, we were hoping that the censors wouldn't notice.

The Brechtian zarzuela, which originally carried the title Sangandaan, never got made, and Mike and I instead used the title Sangandaan for another film project—which was eventually retitled Sister Stella L., because a friend of ours felt that the title Sangandaan didn't have "L" (in other words, walang libog). Sister Stella L. was released in 1984, and it used one of the songs originally written for the Brechtian zarzuela, "Aling Pag-ibig Pa," along with a new theme song titled (what else?) "Sangandaan." Both songs were set to music by Ding Achacoso.

In 1991, five years after the EDSA revolution, the lyrics of the songs I had written for the Brechtian zarzuela came out in a section of my poetry collection Sa Panahon ng Ligalig: Tula, Awit, Halaw (Anvil Publishing). The section was titled "Batubato sa Langit: Mga Titik para sa Isang Sarsuwelang Binalak sa Panahon ng Diktadura."

That same year, I managed to finish the first draft of a sequence treatment (something like a screenplay outline) of the Brechtian zarzuela, which I had retitled Batubato sa Langit. The following year, I wrote a second draft of the sequence treatment. The full screenplay, however, never got written.

More than a decade later, Ding Achacoso brought up the idea of turning the sarsuwelang pampelikula into a stage musical, and he set to music two more of the songs from Batubato sa Langit. He even recorded the songs, with his daughter Anne Isabel Marie as vocalist. Ding and I felt the stage musical could already be set in the Marcos martial law era. But I never got to start on the stage play.

Since the 45th anniversary of the declaration of Marcos martial law is coming soon (September 21, 2017), I’ve decided to post my second draft of the sequence treatment of Batubato sa Langit on this long-neglected blog.

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