#TheaterPH - The Kundiman Party: In Tune With the Times

“It is about Maestra Adela a retired opera singer who turned her back on an international career to fight in the 1986 revolution. After which, she decided because of delicadeza, to turn her back on her public career and to just teach students. The titas visit her often, they just love opera, her matatandang kerengkeng. Her latest student is Antoinette and Antoinette brings into this rather protected burgis circle the young Bobby who’s a social activist, who also turns out to be the son of a senator,” playwright Floy Quintos provides a brief rundown of The Kundiman Party during the press conference at the PETA Theater Center.

The play, directed by Dexter Santos was first produced by the UP Playwright’s Theater in 2018.  It was hailed by critics and audiences alike for the seamless weaving of our timeless Kundiman art songs into a plot that involved discontented millennials and social media, EJKs, and other current political and social  issues.  

“Nung nanood kami last year ng Kundiman Party, isang tropa kaming taga-PETA. As we were watching we were saying ‘oh my god, oh wow’, hanggang sa end we were clapping heartily, we were so inspired, we were high. Kasi it was an artistically excellent production, intelligently written. It was inclusive, it spoke well to all sectors, young and old, also from different classes. The acting was great, the directing was great, the writing was great,” raved PETA president, CB Garrucho.  “Sabi namin imbitahin natin sila sa PETA kasi yung season namin was entitled Stage of the Nation (SONA). We wanted to interrogate social and political issues that are currently happening, sabi namin fit na fit sa SONA. Finally, they’re here to perform!,” she continued. 

CB Garucho

As the cast of characters was called on stage, Mitch Valdes, who emceed the event was surprised (and delighted naturally), to discover that one of them was molded after her!  

Mitch Valdes

The sexy, sassy, tita Mitch is played by Jenny Jamora. Alternating with her is Missy Maramara. Tita Helen, who is selfless and nurturing, and guaranteed to never leave your side is played by Stella CaƱete-Mendoza. The palaban, protective and no-nonsense Tita Mayen who wants the best for her country is played by Frances Makil-Ignacio. Then there’s Melissa, an opera star struggling to make her art relevant again. She will do anything to make sure that she goes viral. The comic role is played by the real life soprano and voice teacher Rica Nepomuceno. Antoinette, a young soprano earnestly searching for her voice is played by Miah Canton. Ludwig, the Maestra’s accompanist and veritable sidekick is played by multi-awarded pianist Gabriel Paguirigan. Bobby Valderama, a young activist who brings Maestra Adela into the volatile world of social media is played by Boo Gabunada who appeared as Cyrano in Mula sa Buwan and Eman in Ang Huling El Bimbo. Sen. Juancho Valderama, Bobby’s estranged father is seasoned actor Nonie Buencamino. And Maestra Adela, the reclusive voice teacher whose latent nationalism is awakened, is played by Shamaine Centenera - Buencamino. Among the group, the newcomers are Gabriel, Boo, and Nonie. 

When I first watched Kundiman Party last year, I watched with my friends. It was something that really spoke volumes to me in terms of understanding the political climate, in inviting people to look into themselves as Filipinos and as human beings. And I think that was what was so enticing when they asked me to do this role because this material is so powerful and relevant up to today. I’m from a family that believes in different politics,” Boo related.

“When I wrote this play I was just feeling very worried about the country, where we’re going, what was happening. And the division, the polarization that was happening in society” revealed Floy.

And he continues to write it. The material is so relevant that it is rewritten as the situation in our country develops. “We warned the cast on our first meeting that because of the urgency of the material and the timing on which it is being performed, please expect major rewrites,” Floy explained.

Floy Quintos
"Itong Kundiman Party will touch not just minds but more important hearts... You will leave inspired, you’ll be moved, you’ll cry. And you will want to do something about what’s happening and that’s what we want,” stated CB.

The rest of the cast chimed in with reasons why The Kundiman Party is a must-see. According to them, it is a reminder to love our country and it will help us figure out how to do this. It shows what it means to be Filipino, what it means to be engaged in our society, what it means to have a stake in our future that’s being built upon our present. It emphasizes that we cannot be complacent. And encourages us to be interested and be concerned.

The promises of the play sounded too good too be true until we witnessed a one minute sneak peek courtesy of Rica and Shamaine. In less than 100 words, the monologue delivered a solid punch to the gut because it sounded all too familiar. Needless to say, it gave us a lot to ponder.

Maestra Adela: Ano na lang ang sasabihin ng mutya ngayong tahasang ipinamimigay ang karagatan at isla natin? Anong klaseng pag-ibig ang meron tayo kung hahayaan natin ang kalapastanganan sa ating teritoryo? At pagkatapos nating ipamigay ito, ano pa ang isusuko natin? Ang ating likhang yaman, ang trabaho na nararapat sa ating mga manggagawa? Gaano katagal bago isuko pa natin ang ating kultura at kaluluwa? Hinihingi ng inang bayan ang ating paninindigan, ang ating pag-ibig. Huwag tayong pumayag na basta-bastang iabot ang ating yaman sa mga dayuhang umaangkin nito. Mabuhay ang bawat mamamayan na magtatanggol sa ating kasarinlan.

“The basic form of theater is to entertain but it has the power to disturb, to ask questions,” points out Dexter. 

“A lot of people have read the play as a very political play. Yes it is, in many ways but it’s also, I think a meditation on how our generations are so torn apart. The older generation needs to learn to adapt to social media while the younger generation needs to get the humanism to balance the woken-ness,” declared Floy.

All eleven shows of The Kundiman Party’s limited run from May 24 to June 2 at the PETA Theater have been committed to several showbuyers so if you are interesting in purchasing tickets, please refer to this list:

Also part of The Kundiman Party are Mitoy Sta. Ana (Production Designer), Krina Cayabyab (Musical Designer), Meliton Roxas (Lights Designer), Nour Houshmand (Assistant Director), Io Balanon (Technical Director) and Steven Tansiongco (Video & Graphics Designer).  Although The Kundiman Party isn’t a musical, the  show relies heavily on the magic of the Kundiman Art Song and the production team is grateful to National Artist for Music , Maestro Ryan Cayabyab for lending his piano arrangements.

This article is written by our correspondent, Nana Nadal. She is a PR and Events Consultant advocating the advocates for a better world.

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