Date Written: 12th June, 2016. 9:58pm
What makes a hero? Is a hero someone who risked his life for his country? Someone who died saving lives in the midst of a tragedy? Is a hero someone who fights for what (he thinks) is right, even if it means betraying a colleague or two? Are every hero someone who is too good to be true we might as well call them a saint, or can someone with a bad streak become a hero themselves?
This is what Storyboard Junkies‘ Cafe Bayani is all about. Or at least what I hoped the play to be about.
A few months back, while we were still doing Sakura and Cafe Bayani was in its earliest stage (ie; when it was still just a concept being tossed around), I was asked, “Who’s your hero?” It took me quite a while to answer the question because the truth is that I can’t come up with a local hero that I can call MY hero, so I said J.K. Rowling. Why? Because she’s the one who made me love books. I’ve always loved to read when I was a kid—I even spent one subject worth of my time just so I can return the books I borrowed from the library when I was in 4th grade—but it was the woman who penned the Harry Potter series that made me fall ridiculously in love with reading. So yeah, for me, in a way, she is a hero. Not the “I’ll die for my country” kind of hero, but a hero just the same.
Although I do have some ideas what Cafe Bayani is all about, I came to Teatro Papet with zero expectations. Days before the show, I told myself I would behave and listen and watch the show like a decent human being would. But come Saturday, and as expected, there would always be one, two, three people who takes the role of a jerkazoid who prefers to look at their cellphones or talk to the person beside or in front of them than to watch to what is happening on stage. I unfortunately happened to be seated with such people.
I didn’t take any photos of the play because I was trying to be a good audience and was, foreal, listening and trying to absorb what’s in front of me. But at some point, all I really wanted to do was smack my seatmates because they kept talking and texting or whatever else they’re doing during the play. And they were supposed to be theater people. I guess you really couldn’t buy theater etiquette, can you?
I mean, I know what we were watching is a work-in-progress, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to be an asshole when a show is going on. Please, have some respect for the actors on stage.
Sorry for that 15-minute interval. Where were we? Oh yes, the play.
Written by Adelnica Amor Izon, Kim Fortin and Anna Margarita Guarin, and directed by Adelnica Amor Izon, Cafe Bayani is a story about a coffee shop serving free drinks for heroes who have passed. Featuring 8 well-known Filipino heroes—Dr. Jose Rizal, General Antonio Luna, Francisco Dagohoy, Andres Bonifacio, Melchora Aquino (aka as “Tandang Sora”), Emilio Aguinaldo, Remedios Gomez-Paraiso, and Muelmar “Toto” Magallanes—Cafe Bayani’s aims to show what our heroes would say if they find out how our country is now. Will they be happy with what they will find out or will they be disappointed that they died for nothing? Also, how does one person become a hero?
During the entire time, I was waiting for these questions to be answered because I, too, am curious about the answer, but it didn’t come. I don’t know if I just didn’t pay enough attention or I was just so distracted by my seatmates but I don’t think it ever happened. I found out later that it was supposed to be part of the play, but one small booboo caused it to be ripped off the show. Imagine that, the most important topic, didn’t make the cut because a prop never made it on stage. Too bad, because I think it was what will seal the deal. I almost didn’t care what they were saying by the end of the show because I kept waiting for it happen, and it didn’t. Although, I gotta say, I really did enjoy Cafe Bayani tremendously.
And the acting. I mean, let me get this straight, I know every single one of those actors on stage, and I’m gonna talk about them in a while, but there are some people up there that just seems like they orbed into a different realm in the middle of the play; the voices are at the lowest level, some were out of character (at one point I don’t even know who they were supposed to be and was trying so hard to decide if I care or not), and the energy level dips lower than the temperature inside the theater as the show progresses. It was sad, because they started kinda high.
But the others who were in character stayed in character all throughout. AA Erquiza and Mark Tuazon were both impressive as Heneral Luna and Francisco Dagohoy. And my friend Anna Guarin as Remedios Gomez-Paraiso (Kumander Liwayway) was sassy as fuck. She and the bartender, played by Kristine Bernal, were a source of joy due to the sassiness of their characters. I was trying so hard to keep myself from laughing out loud because I can’t imagine an old woman sassing the other heroes out in this kind of gloomy play.
Before the play started, we were handed a piece of paper and asked to write questions and/or suggestions that would help them improve the play. I left mine blank because I realized there’s nothing I could say at the moment. After the play, there was a discussion where the audience was given the chance to ask questions or give comments about what they just saw. One of the audiences said that the bartender’s line at the end, ‘Wala ka na magagawa, Senyor. Tapos na ang iyong panahon’ (“There’s nothing you can do, Senyor. Your time has passed”) was the most judgmental of all. I kept thinking about it even after we left the theater because even though it does sound judgmental, it also makes sense. These so-called heroes have done their part, and whatever they think of what our country is now, there is nothing they can do. The past is in the past, they can only do so much.
When it was over I said, “why not add another character to represent a hero in the making?” Amor, the director, told me that it would defeat the purpose of a coffee shop for long dead heroes. And then it got me thinking, what about the bartender? Who is she exactly? Is she also a hero? Is she dead? Is she Time from Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass? Why stop with what we know instead of adding another character that will represent everyone in the audience; a hope that we, too, can be a hero?
I honestly don’t know what changes they will make with Cafe Bayani, but I have high hopes on this show. Not because they’re my friends, but because I believe in their talent and ability to polish this play and make Cafe Bayani something that will make a difference in the theater world; something that, by the time the audience leaves the theater, will make them realize that everyone has a potential to be a hero.