"A friend overhears during MAMMA MIA opening: "The best! That's why I watch only Broadway plays because it's ALWAYS excellent compared to local productions. Pinoy musicals are corny. Sometimes I dont even understand their Tagalog."
The statements above formed the shoutout posted this morning by my friend Vince de Jesus which completely created a brain crash of sorts for the rest of my day.
Last night was a big event with the Gala Performance of Mamma Mia , right? Everybody who was anybody or wanted to think they were some body was there. The gliteratti and the culturatti were well counted. And that was expected. Nothing was wrong with that. I mean if you really want to watch the umpteenth revival of a musical featuring the songs of the Abba and dance to the tune of Dancing Queen or weep/be moved to an ultimate significant human experience the moment the lead actress bursts into:
I don't wanna talk about things we've gone through,
Though it's hurting me, now it's history.
Though it's hurting me, now it's history.
then it is fine with everybody. The rule of law is: Man, if you can afford the ticket prices and you have the time and the get-up and the social manners to cavort in fine company --- then go!
But what is particularly upsetting is when you hear fellow Filipinos bark comments such as the one narrated by Vincent as overheard by his friend at the lobby of the theater.
To come up with such a determinedly and proudly bigoted statement to allegedly prove to anyone within ear range that he/she/it is:
a) sophisticated enough to appreciate all the fine things that First World culture can offer, including a glimpse of what this creature feels is the mammon of all high cultures ---Broadway! --- thereby making him/her/it notches above the rest of the millions of his/her/its countrymen who speak in ----- ewwwwww --- Filipino!
b) capable of spending money to polish his/her/its spirit with the niceties brought about not only by his/her/its allegedly private (perhaps even foreign) education but also with the benefits brought by an environment surrounded by true culture!
c) merely subsisting and co-existing with all the rest of his/her/its kababayans, tolerant but not accepting of their inherent kabakyaan, kababawan and kabaduyan but still keeping that polite front in the practice of daily condescension in the time-held traditions of the senyoritos/senyoritas must still exhibit civilized behavior towards their muchachas/chimays.
Granted that is so, do we really take it against these fine prince and princesses of the so-called privileged classes to think that works in the local language --- that is Pilipino productions --- are basically corny and incomprehensible, if not lacking in depth and therefore their attention?
Let me just react to this mind-boggling scenario with three points:
a) Mamma Mia is an amusing musical but it does not exactly require genius nor does it provoke a lot of mental juices to understand what the whole thing is all about. Yeah, there is this whole visual delight --- and all the familiar songs of Abba --- but, Honey, this ain't even Sondheim, right? I mean, will this little piece of Filipino royalty claiming that Broadway is the best appreciate real masterpieces like Into the Woods --- or Sweeney Todd -- or Sunday in the Park with George? Of course not. I bet you, this self-proclaimed culture vulture can't appreciate any musical where he/she/it can't hum any melody, right?
So I imagine this specimen of Filipino cultural mutation will prefer singing I am What I am instead of Somewhere from West Side Story because the former has a disco version. I betcha.
b) And what's this hasty generalization about all Filipino musicals being corny?
I, together with so many Filipino theater people, who have worked so hard in bringing Filipino musical talent to the fore take offense in such careless and --- well, idiotic statements --- from some piece of either misguided/miseducated or simply demented cultural snob whose only claim to fame is a new outfit from Forever 21. At this point, it no longer matters from what theater group you belong ... whether you are from Repertory Philippines (that has staged one of the best productions of Sweeney Todd ever) or PETA ( who can dare question the popularity of Caredivas?) or Gantimpala Productions or Trumpets or.... It does not matter any more. There is a concerted effort to bring back life to Philippine theater. More so ... to give the theater artist who has sacrificed far too much to pursue, hone and excel his or her craft: to give them the respect they deserve is the only decent thing to do.
But I guess if you think that anything homegrown in your homeland is corny and incapable of excellence, then you cannot possibly be capable of any form of decency.
If you have to live off foreign bodies, then that makes you a parasite. And cultural parasites are basically amoral creatures ... as authentic as the Hermes and LVs sold in Greenhills.
c) There is nothing wrong with foreign productions being brought here. The foreign artists make money from us ... and we hopefully can pick up a point or two. Belonging to the arts is an endless process of learning and evolution. Anyone who shuts his mind and insulates himself from the rest of world will suffer from atrophy, wither and die.
But there must be that clear-cut distinction between appreciation and blind adoration. To succumb to a mentality that still insists that anything foreign is better than anything made here (in this day and age) is reserved for retards. OK, that was a politically incorrect term. I mean, nobody ever calls anyone retards any more. But I will still call these people retards because I have absolutely no respect for them and they do not deserve political correctness.
Remember that Lea Salonga together Leo Valdez, Junix Innocian, Monique Wilson, Isay Alvares, Janine Desaderio, Pinky Amador, Joanna Ampil, Robert Sena and the whole group of brilliant Filipinos who rocked London's West End with Miss Saigon never gave up their Filipino identities and instead flaunted their origins with singular pride. And to this day, they have earned the respect of musical communities on all sides of the oceans ... because they were proud of who they were and where they came from ... and how they want the tradition of excellent Filipino musicality to be passed onto generations.
Somehow we all thank God for giving us not only such talented artists but dedicated Filipinos who are exerting effort to perpetuate the tradition of musical theater despite all odds ... and mutants who think that by sounding superior to the rest of the population, they can escape from being Pinoys.
Unfortunately some people who think that by acquiring the right accent, the proper brand of education or even overdosing on glutathion can somehow disguise their being ...uh, Pinoy. But, let me quote somebody these people are supposedly familiar with:
"There are rich people. And there are those with money." --- Coco Chanel.