once on this little island.

Last Friday, I had the opportunity of watching Theatre Down South’s summer workshop showcase, whose participants were taught by my boss/friend, Micko. With an adorable cast whose ages ranged from seven to 17, they staged a heart warming version of Once On This Island. The play tells the tale of two star crossed lovers, Ti Moune and Daniel, who come from two different social classes–Timone a peasant and Daniel a descendant of a French planter. She prays to meet Daniel to the gods of the island, Asaka, Mother of Earth; Agwe, god of Water; Erzulie, the goddess of Love; and Papa Ge, the Demon of Death. Agwe paves the way for the both of them to meet while Erzulie allows the two to feel affection for one another. Feeling defeated, Papa Ge decides to take Daniel’s life. Out of selflessness, Ti Moune gives her own in sacrifice. Daniel gets well enough to return to his own world, but Ti Moune knows they are destined for one another. Although Daniel is in love with her, practicality and expectations force him to do otherwise. The play ends in tragedy but is sung with victory.

Seeing such small things act out such a depressing play made it feel heartbreaking at first. But after a few songs, these kids belted out their best, proving their endless potential in the field of music and theatre. Most impressive were the four gods and goddesses. The concept itself of making them played by the smallest children (their ages ranged from 8 to 11) was genius. Aren’t gods and goddesses in mythology practically like children? Although it didn’t feel right having children act out such a tragic play with adult themes (check out the lyrics of “Why We Tell The Story”), the kids made me proud. Having seen their incredible talents at a young age, it makes me hope for the best in the cultivation of Philippine art. Sayang talaga if these kids grow up and have the cynicisms against going into the arts hold them back.

I may have been living a short life, but it would definitely be frustrating to see another generation unable to fulfill its artistic dreams. I’ve had a fair share of friends with the same talents and dreams, only to have ‘life–or whatever you want to call it–tell them it would be impractical to do otherwise. They say that there’s no money in venturing into the arts–whether visual, performing, or in writing. Most end up applying their skills in more invested industries–usually completely unrelated to their degrees or callings. But there are still those who are still able to fulfill their artistic dreams. The Philippines has given birth to a large number of fiction writers, theatre actors/actresses, painters, and photographers. Film director Brillante Mendoza just won a Cannes award for Best Director! Johna’s entry (and coming soon, her thesis), can give you some more names.

There’s a reason why there are so many art geeks and artists produced in our country. We just have to look into their direction to find hope. And yes, we can also find that belief of “yes, the Filipino still can.”

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