By ZOFIA LEAL
According to Vincent Tañada, lawyer, librettist and director of the stage musical “Ako si Ninoy”, the core message of the production is the “selfless giving of oneself for our countrymen and women for the advancement of our country as a whole”.
The play, a lifelong dream of Tañada, aims to show the parallelism between Ninoy’s life and of eleven other characters who can also be considered as modern-day heroes. The play also showed the different faces of Ninoy- as a husband, father, reporter, icon, and eventually Ninoy as the hero.
As a father, the struggle of Ninoy to choose to leave Boston and his family behind to go back to the Philippines was compared to Noli, the migrant worker who was forced to leave the Philippines so that he can provide for his wife Ivy and their son Osborne.
During his exile in Boston, Ninoy was also portrayed as a migrant who is homesick for his country, just like Nanding, a war veteran who lives in the United States.
As a reporter, Ninoy was portrayed as always searching for the truth which was highlighted by his choice to join Philippine soldiers in Korea with the United Nations Allied Forces. This was compared to a professor, Miss Nuñez, who discovers that another professor sexually harassed Ingrid, her student and vowed to give justice to her. Ninoy as a media person was compared to Oscar, a reporter who exposed a politician who is also a jueteng lord. Both Miss Nuñez and Oscar were challenged by their superiors to stand up for their beliefs.
Ninoy’s selfless attitude was portrayed through Dr. Ungria, a doctor who helps patients pro bono. The brave Ninoy was compared to Ingrid, the student who despite being a victim of sexual harassment managed to graduate at the top of her class.
Ninoy as an icon was compared to Yosef, a young actor who despite his fame is still searching for other things that he can achieve.
As a hero, Ninoy was shown as championing the cause of the masses especially when he decided to join the fight against the fascism and dictatorship of the Marcos regime. This was compared to the struggles of Quentin, an activist calling for genuine agrarian reform and Andeng, a labor union leader.
To compare Ninoy to eleven other characters is too ambitious for a 90-minute stage production. The play failed at giving a more focused look at the other characters in its desire to connect Ninoy to as many sectors in society as possible. The results, however, is less than commendable.
Also there are scenes in the play that can be quite confusing if one does not know the history of Ninoy. There is also one baffling scene wherein the cast wore hooded white gowns that resemble the Ku Klux Klan.
The cast however, deserves praise. Vince Tañada is effective as Ninoy and was also able to imitate Ninoy’s manner of speaking. Cindy Liper as Cory was also able to portray her character well. Another memorable portrayal is of Andeng, the grandmother labor union leader who courageously stayed in the picket against all odds while wearing short shorts.
The musical play succeeds in depicting Ninoy as an ordinary person who felt fear and struggled with himself so that he could serve the Filipino people more. A particularly striking scene was when Ninoy was in detention and began to hallucinate and question his beliefs. Eventually, he found the strength to continue to fight and the rest, as they say, is history.
The play also aimed at showing the different issues that plague our country today such as migration, poverty and human rights violations.
In a scene depicting a rally calling for genuine agrarian reform Quentin was picked up by the police and was tortured and eventually killed. The brutality of his death was shown together with Ninoy’s murder at the tarmac.
The play’s message is simple, that anyone and everyone who struggles for the truth, against tyranny and injustice even in their own little way is a hero. We do not need the blood of Ninoy to run in our veins to be able to fight for our rights. What we need is the resolve to do more for our country, and that is to join in the struggle of the majority for peace and justice.
The play is presented by the Philippine Stagers Foundation in cooperation with the Benigno S. Aquino Jr. Foundation and will run until December 2009. (Bulatlat.com)