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PEP REVIEW: Mga Gerilya sa Powell Street

November 14, 2008 3:56pm
"A country that forgets its defenders will soon be forgotten."

Thankfully, Tanghalang Pilipino has mounted a production that is making sure that the Philippines will not pass into oblivion any time soon. By staging Mga Gerilya sa Powell Street at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the sacrifices and the hardships of World War II veterans will continue to live on in the collective memory of Filipinos.

Based on Benjamin Pimentel's novel of the same name, this three-hour play tackles the musings of Filipino war veterans who live as exiles in San Francisco, California. They spend their time in a cable car station located in Powell Street, with most of them just waiting for that "long-distance call from heaven."

Mga Gerilya is basically a play about waiting--the veterans wait for the benefits promised to them-and the audience wait along with them. As the heroes wait, they reminisce about their days at war, the women they loved, and family members that they left behind in the Philippines. They all share a common desire: the chance for their body to be buried in their homeland.

Lou Veloso is a scene-stealer for his impeccable sense of timing and his witty lines. As Ciriaco "Tex" Santos, he was applauded not only for his humorous lines but also for his dramatic scenes, particularly when it came to his philandering wife.

The mild-mannered gerilya named Fidel is ably portrayed by Tommy Abuel. Bembol Roco serves as his alternate but during the opening night last November 7, PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) was able to see Tommy's moving portrayal of a father who had to learn to the accept the radical ideas of his son Arnel.

The guitar-playing son (played by Paolo O' Hara) becomes an activist who sacrifices everything for his beliefs. He is just as principled as his father--and just as stubborn too!

Another scene-stealer would have to be the very virile Ruben (Dido de la Paz) who manages to have a sizzling sex life courtesy of the bombshell Svetlana. Not to be missed is her strip dance that will prove to offer plenty of eye candy for the male audience.

In typical Pinoy fashion, supposedly serious moments become sources of belly-aching laughter. When the veterans pay their last respects to their fallen comrades, the ashes suddenly have a mind of their own, causing a riotous situation that will have viewers laughing out loud.

TRIBUTE NIGHT. Making the gala night extra special was the presence of a dozen members of the Veterans Federation of the Philippines.

Clad in their uniforms (similar to the ones worn by the cast members in the pictorial, shown above), the veterans who are now mostly senior citizens, appreciated the effort of Tanghalang Pilipino to raise awareness about their plight.

Many of the scenes hit close to home, particularly those that depict the loneliness and homesickness that the beteranos feel while living abroad.

According to Ms. Carolina, as many as 6,000 veterans are waiting in the United States for their benefits. They have to remain in the mainland so they can get their $600 monthly but that amount won't be enough to have their body buried in the Philippines, which comes with a tag price of $10,000.

In fact, according to Ernesto Carolina, undersecretary of the Philippine Veterans Office, as many as 500 veterans are dying monthly without receiving the benefits that should be accorded to these war heroes.

As the cast members had their curtain call, some viewers and even members of the cast could not help but shed tears over the sad situation of our beteranos.

After watching Mga Gerilya, you just might have a lump on your throat and a heart full of hope.

Tanghalang Pilipino's Mga Gerilya sa Powell Street runs at the Cultural Center of the Philippines until November 30, 2008. For ticket inquiries, call 832-3661 or Ticketworld at 891-9999. - Philippine Entertainment Portal
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