Pasting here excerpts from a paper I wrote and delivered for a conference in February 2013, on two ballets made for the centennial (1996) of the Philippine revolution against Spain (1896), particularly the parts about Andres Bonifacio, leader of the revolution, because today is his birthday and the official national day that celebrates his contribution to history. He was almost 33 when he died, and would be 151 years old today.
There was a surge of nationalism in the mid-80s because of the EDSA revolution against Marcos, and Bonifacio had become a symbol of heroic interest to the masses. The reaction to this by academics was to discredit Bonifacio’s contribution so as not to forget Jose Rizal’s own importance, and then the debate began who was the more important national hero. I think that’s a load of crap, that we (the nation) needed both of them and they both deserve to be remembered, their dreams for the Philippines both to be aspired for. My favourite depiction of the Rizal-Bonifacio relationship is in Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s film Jose Rizal, where Gardo Versoza as Bonifacio meets Cesar Montano as Rizal for the first time and is excitedly shaking his hand like a giddy fan.
I am only including short paragraphs here because part of me still hopes to use this paper as material for another publication, and these journals don’t like to use stuff that’s been published previously. I probably won’t use these paragraphs again, and thought you guys might appreciate what I’ve been doing the last few years. Comments may be made on Facebook or email.
Happy Bonifacio day everyone 🙂
Dancing the Hero and the Filipino – excerpts
by Joelle Jacinto, delivered on February 9, 2013
On November 30,1998, Philippine Ballet Theatre performed Andres KKK at the Makati amphitheater overlooking the Pasig river. The open-air venue was jam packed with an audience not usually seen watching a ballet at the Cultural Center of the Philippines – a mix of classes of mostly C and D, and only a handful of B. This production was a commission by the Makati cultural office for its local citizens in celebration of Bonifacio day, in honor of Andres Bonifacio, Katipunan supremo and the title role of the ballet that was presented.
The audience was very reactive, as Filipino audiences tend to be, but even more so on this occasion: they were cheering, jeering, even screaming. From the stage, the dancers could hear giggles and trills when Andres meets Oryang, or Gregoria de Jesus, falls in love with and eventually marries her; they could hear gasps when Andres is captured by the Magdalo soldiers and even louder when Oryang is raped and Andres is finally shot. At the curtain call, the applause is as if for a pop idol; no shouts of “Bravo!”, only wild, excited, high-pitched screaming.
After the show, audience members flocked backstage to have their picture taken with the dancers, pulling aside any dancer they could find for a photo op. When the dancer playing Andres emerges, a mob forms around him, while girly screeching of “Si Bonifacio!!” (“It’s Bonifacio!”) pierces the air. It was a very happy Bonifacio day indeed.
In an ideal world, this adulation would be normal; but it is not. Of the repertoire that Philippine Ballet Theatre takes on tour, very few works command this seeming hysteria from a Philippine audience, akin to a “fans day” of a TV or movie celebrity. Of this few, Andres KKK has proven to be the most successful.
Andres KKK was choreographed by Gener Caringal in 1996, which was the centennial of the Katipunan revolution. In the same year, the other resident ballet company of the CCP produced La Revolucion Filipina, about the same revolution from the point of view of Apolinario Mabini, choreographed by Agnes Locsin. This paper analyzes these ballets, the circumstances that made these ballets possible, and the implications of the existence of these ballets in Philippine art and culture.
In the same way that La Rev was built on Mabini’s writing, Andres begins with a solo of the title character to a voiced over reading of his “Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa (Love for the Homeland),” which Bonifacio wrote for publication in the Emilio Jacinto edited Kartilya that was circulated to inspire Filipinos to join the Katipunan’s cause. The solo shows Andres as a thinking revolutionary; though inspired by his passionate love for his country, his decisions arrive with careful consideration. This could be seen in one of the three originators of the role, Lucas Jacinto, who “gave a twist to our conception of Bonifacio,” by “starting out more meditatively… and proceeded to etch the clearest fulsome dancing (Villaruz 1996).” The remaining original Andreses are Melvin Martinez and Ron Jaynario. Oryang is the second lead in the ballet, portrayed by Maritoni Rufino partnering Martinez, Melanie Motus partnering Jaynario, and Guada de Leon partnering Jacinto.
There was less political content in Andres KKK, unlike La Rev, which was built on Mabini’s texts. The storytelling was more straightforward, sometimes so much so that it was quite literal, like the snitching scene of the Patinos, the call to arms at the Cry of Balintawak and the tearing of the cedula. These were balanced by symbolic devices in the choreography, such as a tableau of oppressed Filipinos strategically laid out to resemble Juan Luna’s Spoliarium, which Andres views as if looking at a painting and is inflamed to push the revolution forward, alluding to how it was the works of art depicting the oppression that motivated Andres, that fueled the need to rescue his countrymen. Andres’ death, given all the speculation regarding how he really died, was also portrayed symbolically. Andres is tied to a swing, which raises over the stage where the Magdalo soldiers rape his wife. Against the popular belief that Andres fled from his captors and was shot in the back, Andres stands steadfast on that swing, summoning courage as he watches the atrocities happening below. A shot rings out, simultaneously killing Andres and saving Oryang, as if to intimate that Bonifacio’s death allowed history to run its course.
(from the conclusion)
Although criticized as being too lengthy, the harassment and rape of Oryang in Andres is used to depict how Bonifacio’s revolution failed, how Aguinaldo’s desire for an independent republic failed. The ballet ends, however with revolutionaries in white dancing to “Bayan Ko.” They hand over the Philippine flag to a still alive Gregoria de Jesus, who walks towards the audience, the flag in her arms lifted up as if in offering, as the curtain falls. The offering is a prompt to the audience, to the nation. That it is now up to us.
Of course, we cannot measure how many people watched Andres or La Rev and came away with a better understanding of freedom and brotherhood, or with a burgeoning sense of instigating the change that they want to see in this world. But as Rizal did when he wrote Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, as Bonifacio did when he wrote Ang Pagibig sa Tinubuang Lupa, and as Mabini did when he wrote La Revolucion Filipina, we can only hope.
Abraham, P. 1991. Dance [Sayaw] IN: Guillermo, A. (ed.) Art in Philippine History [Sining sa Kasaysayang Pilipino]. Quezon City: University of the Philippines.
Jacinto, J. 2007. The Ballet Company: A Philippine Experience Through Repertoire. MA Thesis. University of the Philippines.
Jacinto, J. 2008. La Revolucion Filipina: A True Revolution in Philippine Dance. Runthru Dance Magazine, October to December 2008, p. 8.
Locsin, A. 2012. Philippine Neo-Ethnic Choreography: A Creative Process. Manila: University of Santo Tomas Publishing House.
Mabini, A. 1931. The Philippine Revolucion (La Revolucion Filipina). Trans. L.M. Guerrero, 1969. Available from: http://www.univie.ac.at/voelkerkunde/apsis/aufi/history/ mabini2.htm (Accessed 2nd January 2013).
Ness, S.A. 1997. Originality in the Postcolony: Choreographing the Neoethnic Body of Philippine Ballet. Cultural Anthropology.
Villaruz, B.E.S. 1994. Philippine Dance IN: Tiongson, N. (ed.) The CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art. Manila: Cultural Center of the Philippines.
Villaruz, B.E.S. 1996. A Fullness in Time. Manila Standard, December 15, 1996.