Last night, I was contacted by my friend Henry asking if I wanted to join him in watching another play at the PETA theater. The first time we went there was to watch the Rock (or was it spelled Rak?) of Aegis. While some of the humor in that play escaped me (maybe because of my age) and notwithstanding the fact that I am not an Aegis fan, I did enjoy the show. So, without any ifs or buts, I decided to give a Filipino play another try. This time it was entitled FNL, a play written by Rody Vera.
The play starts with a Filam, raised (even probably born) in the States, having a dream about Florante and Laura which albeit the fact that he could neither speak nor understand Filipino, was struck with a Tagalog word "linggatong". His parents are getting ready to take him back to the Philippines as they have gone bankrupt. Like a typical narrow-minded Filipino living in the States, they believe their son would be their saving grace with his chances of being a rap star strong with the knowledge that Filipinos love anything Stateside.
Meanwhile, the female protagonist, Flor, who works at a call center who can talk English with an American twang also has suddenly got an attack of Filipino words which is so ancient that none of her colleagues (or the audience for that matter) could understand. Both protagonists will discover that they share the same affliction of losing themselves and reciting words uncontrollably. It turns out that her patriotic father was taking possession of her soul while Lance, by Balagtas himself.
Personally, I find depth with the story as it tackles the complexity of our nature as part of the human race. Our language has not only been outshined by a language of oppressors but has also developed into several dialects ingeniously created by sub cultures like bekimon and jologs talk. The writer's genius is shown by his expertise in handling these languages and pointing out his main thesis of language being the only way that can unite us. This he did without being preachy but, as true to our nature, with humor. Another aspect I found to be witty was the addition of a lesbian lover of Flor who would recite a poem in English albeit without feelings or emotions implying that while we use the english language for intellectual discourse, it is only in our native tongue that we can feel emotions.
While the thespians of Rak sang a lot better (understandably so for afterall it was purely a musicale than anything else) the songs are not bad and the singers are alright. My main beef, if I would be allowed to nitpick, is that the humor in both plays rely on contemporary events which given a few months or years will have to be reinvented, otherwise would not work. Case in point, in Rak, there was this reference to the Vhong Navarro case where the actor was asked "to bring foods". As the popularity of the issue has waned, the audience did not find it funny anymore. In effect, a play like this does not become immortal but only relevant today. Also, while I am not homphobic, it uses gay humor which I feel seems to be ubiquitous in every comedy we have. In fairness, the play's use of gay humor is justified as it uses gay lingo as one of those dialects that "bastardized" (not my idea but, for me, is the premise of the story).
Nonetheless, I truly enjoyed FnL as it tackles a subject close to my heart. That there are still Filipinos who think that English is better and that anything Stateside is worthy to mull over - that English is far better than our own simply because it is the medium of instruction. That those who speak English well is much more intelligent than those who could not. With our true identity being lost, as observed by Lance that while he could speak english well, is lost as he could pass as neither American, African-American nor even a Latino back in the States and a true Filipino here in the Philippines. It just brings to mind Filipino households trying to rear their children in English but do not have the time to train their children and leave them to their nannies making their children good in neither languages. Too bad, if you ask me.