“Pagsambang Bayan”, a Critique of the Past and the Present

Ilagan related, “During the run through, it that was then I realized that the play was “napakatapang.” (very critical and daring)

He went to see Nick (Dr. Nicanor) Tiongson to consult with him regarding what to do with the play. Tiongson told him, “There’s nothing you can do to it anymore.”

Aiming to deflect the message of the play, Ilagan asked Cervantes to insert quotations from the Bible. The play is replete with quotations from the Bible on truth, justice and freedom.

The first day of the performance came. The Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater was jampacked.

Ilagan continued, “Early on, nagre-react na ang audience na matapang ang play. I was emboldened. Mali ang aking fear. With support from the people, nakakalakas ng loob.” (Early on, the audience were commenting that the play was very critical and daring. I was emboldened. Although I was still afraid, the support from the people strengthened my resolve.)

That was the start of the tour. “Pagsambang Bayan,” the first play during martial law that challenged the military regime in a way that no theater piece had dared to do then. It was performed over and over again in schools, churches and communities. All in all, Ilagan said they had 19 performances.

The play was cited in an article in the Far Eastern Economic Review that described its assessment of Martial Law in the Philippines. Ilagan knew that Malacañang must have read the article and took interest in the play. Since then, suspicious-looking men were seen during performances asking the audience about the play. “We were under surveillance,” said Ilagan.

Not long after, Cervantes was arrested. Other members of the cast and production crew, such as Susan Tagle, then the musical director, was placed on the government’s wanted list.

Ilagan was forced to go into hiding. Then a relative negotiated with Defense authorities. Ilagan was asked to submit the script and to report thrice a week to Camp Crame.

He recalled, “I submitted the watered down version. Sinermunan lang ako. Siguro, di naman naintindihan ng nagbasa.” (They just lectured me. Perhaps the person who read the script did not understand it.)

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