“Bait” on Stage

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The issue of religion is never new; the bloody wars that ensued in the name of religion are testimonies to the heated debates about practices and dogmas.

The College of Business and Accountancy (CBA) breathed life and justice to Guelan Varela-Luarca’s winning piece Bait as it touched the hearts of many to win the Ronyando S. Baldeo Drama Festival, Feb. 14.

The Lions also brought home the following special awards: Monique Eballa, best director; Jan Carlo Regio, best actor; and Lorie Losloso, best actress.

Bait is a poignant story of Christian-Muslim conflict that won the 66th Palanca Awards in the Dulang May Isang Yugto category.

The Storytelling

“HINDI KO HO ALAM! Maniwala ho kayo sa ‘kin, bawat isa sa mga batang ‘yan e kasinghalaga ng sarili naming mga anak. Bawat isa. Hindi ho kayo guro kaya hindi ni’yo ho alam ‘yan. BAWAT ISA SA KANILA, handa naming ipagtanggol hanggang kamatayan. Maniwala kayo sa ‘kin, tao sa tao, sinasabi ko ho sa ‘yo. Ano pang mas sasamang parusa sa lahat kaysa nangyari nga ang nangyaring ‘yon? SIRA NA ang buhay naming lahat, Sir. Ni isa sa ‘min ay walang may alam kung pa’no lalampasan ang karanasang ‘to nang buo at buhay – kung gusto ni’yo kaming lahat mag-resign, maniwala kayo, hindi ho mahirap sa ‘min ang gawin ‘yon.

Isang bagay lang ho sana’ng paniwalaan ni’yong sasabihin ko, at alam ko ito dahil binuhos ko ang buhay ko sa mga bata: Sir, hindi ho sila mga robot, mga mangmang. Magiging napakalaking kawalang-hustisiya kung isipin ninyong walang- malay si Ahmad. Tama kayo no’ng sinabi ni’yong ginawa ‘yon ni Ahmad dahil ‘yun ang pinaniniwalaan niyang tama. Sa masama man o sa mabuti, these children are aware and responsible. I, I have never condescended to these children. I have never seen them as mindless. Buong dalawampu’t limang taon ko sa pagtuturo, Sir, ‘yan ang natutuhan ko: may sariling konsensiya ang mga bata, na kailangan nating pangalagaan. Inosente sila, oo, pero alam nila ang ginagawa nila. Hindi ko sinasabing masama si Ahmad – isa siyang napakabuting bata – pero napakalakas ng magiging guilt ng bata dahil ALAM NIYA ANG NAGAWA NIYA.

Lahat tayo, kailangang managot sa mga ginagawa natin. Kung kami lang ang may kasalanan, tinatanggalan ni’yo ng kamalayan si Ahmad. Ngayon pa namang ang pinakaimportante sa lahat ay mapaalala natin sa kaniya na MAY MALAY SIYA at kaya niyang mabuhay nang matatag at MAG-ISA! Hindi dapat tayo tumuon sa paninisi – rather, ituon natin ang energies at compassion natin sa pagsiguro na hindi lamunin ng pagsisisi si Ahmad, na – na – na maalala niyang mas mahalaga siya kaysa sa pagkakamaling ginawa niya –“ the Teacher, riveting the audience to tears especially those in the teaching profession.

The play was set between the teacher and the Muslim boy’s father whose son had his Quran disrespected by a classmate so he pushes him off the building as a way to protect his religion. This brought in a heated discussion about Islam, Christianity, cultural differences, misunderstanding, grievance, respect, forgiveness and empathy  involving the audience in a swirl of mixed emotions.

Rapid-fire spouting of arguments intensified the feelings where the characters eventually come to terms about humanity only to be ruined by a gunshot from the wrath of an avenging father after his son who had been in critical condition after a fall passed away, leaving the audience stunned and tearful.

Such is the power of drama as a literary genre`.

The Technical Aspect

The air of bad luck seemed to hound the CBA team in the beginning of the play as there was a delay for several minutes due to technical issues. “This had a big impact for me in the directorial, that was 40%. Part of it was sounds, lights, blocking… So I made sure there would be no problem,” play director Monique Eballa shared.

A news report as the introductory sound effects followed by a Muslim musical arrangement definitely set the mood for the darkness about to befall the audience. While the successful tension and atmosphere were created there were still multiple loopholes spotted.

There were times that the male lead would turn his back from the audience. The inaudible voice, stuttering and forgotten lines also cost the play. The audience, especially in the rearmost part of the theater, could not understand the play.

The crucial point though was the failure in the characterization of the actress. There was a credibility issue on the actor who played the teacher who was supposed to be 50 years old and yet acted as if she were in her twenties. Nonetheless, even with this weakness, there was no question about her acting intensity. Soon, the male lead’s lack of emotions answered the intensity of the teacher’s eyes.

The blocking, in comparison to the College of Arts and Sciences’ polished movements and directorial seemed to be more rigid putting the actors in a certain place although it was a little better than the College of Education’s blocking where the actors were dispensed everywhere in the stage that was quite distracting.

The CBA Backstory

The hectic schedules and erratic meetings for the CBA Drama Team pushed them to the brink of giving up. Preparation being the biggest winning factor in a dramafest was critical and since there was just a month’s time to get the play onstage, getting the characters at the same time in one rehearsal venue became an issue.

The female lead had given up on her male counterpart, a newbie in theater performance arts, who constantly lost his voice.

“There is no point continuing when an actor cannot deliver his lines well,” play director Monique Eballa confessed.

But the challenge to bring honor and pride to the home college prevailed. All frictions and disagreements were shoved under the table and the play started taking shape.

The play itself is about a sensitive issue and the storytelling is powerful. The drama team relied on the faith that the audience would identify with the storyline and the conflicts that unraveled in the play.

True enough, whatever weaknesses there were in the acting were overshadowed by the play’s powerful message.

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