Francisco Baltazar, a.k.a. Balagtas, wasn't called Shakespeare's Filipino counterpart for nothing. Both successfully crafted—in modern jargon—"nosebleed-inducing" prose/poetry albeit in different languages. I don't mean that in a bad way. In fact, I regret my inability to appreciate their works more.
When I got the invite for the Orosman at Zafira press conference back in January, I actually had no idea what to expect. I only knew that Dulaang UP will be re-staging a play based on one of Balagtas' works. To simply say that I was impressed by the sample numbers presented by the cast would be an understatement. I was totally blown away by their sheer talent, energy, and enthusiasm in playing their roles.
When I finally watched the whole show during the press preview, once again, I humbly admit I think I still only understood less than half of the dialogues and song lyrics said and sung on stage. For someone who has been raised in a small barrio in Laguna and grew up speaking deep Tagalog words, the language in Orosman at Zafira is still way too profound for me to understand in one sitting. Then again, the lyrical verses sound pleasing to the ear. To better understand what's happening on stage, I suggest you read the synopsis of the scenes from the souvenir program before the show starts.
Here are some memorable quotes:
"Hayo na, guerrero't iyong ipangako ng ako'y tumanggap ng ligayang buo tingni ang Prinsesang mataas na puso na sa iyong yapak ay susuyo-suyo!" —Zafira
"Bayaan mo ako himalang kariktan. Huwag mong pigilin ang aking pagpanaw. At kung ang dalita'y di na makayanan. Makitil na yaring hininga kong tangan." —Orosman
"Alin ang kariktan? Alin ang susundan? Ang hiwaga ng dilim, o ang silaw ng iyong liwanag?" —Zelima
The story revolves around three tribes: the Marueccos, Tedenst, and Duquela. It begins with Zelima (Tao Aves), the daughter of Ben-Asar (Felipe Ronnie Martinez), right vizier of Boulasem (Nazer Salcedo) who is the pacha of the Tedenst tribe. She sings about Mahamud (Neil Tolentino), sultan of the entire realm and pacha of the Marueccos tribe, and his call for a feast.
Meanwhile, Aldervesin (Red Concepcion), Mahamud's adopted son, secretly meets with Gulnara (Jean Judith Javier), Mahamud's wife, in the Garden of Houris. Their affair is discovered and leads to Aldervesin's death sentence. This is also the time when Orosman (Jay Gonzaga), son of Boulasem, and Zafira (Maita Ponce), princess of the Marueccos, meet for the first time and fall in love.
During the feast, Zelim (Acey Aguilar) pacha of the Duquela tribe, and Boulasem, are present when Mahamud is killed. This results to a cycle of war, treachery, and more deaths. Gulnara and Zafira begin the first war. As lust for power continues to escalate, Boulasem's oldest son, Abdalap (Roeder Camanag), murders his own father to take over the throne and also plans to kill his brother Orosman so he can have Zafira.
More lives are sacrificed because of the struggle for power. Watch the play to see how it will all end.
Hats off to all the performers for delivering their lines so well! I already have great respect for stage actors because they have to memorize lots of lines to last the whole show but the OZ cast must have worked double time! I can only imagine how hard it would be to remember all those archaic words. And to think that these are mostly young people who are probably more well-versed with today's lingo and their generation's creative use of jargon. The success of staging OZ just shows how passion for one's work can transcend anything.
The live music with indigenous flavor, performed by very talented musicians, gave the whole show a deeper dimension. They will also make you really proud for having such a rich, cultural Filipino heritage. Kudos to Carol Bello, the musical director, for coming up with a fusion of beats, sounds, and melodies that Filipinos could appreciate.
Despite the language barrier (indulge me, please, if I call it that), audiences would thoroughly enjoy hearing the cast's wonderful singing voices and the must-see dance numbers. The war dances alone had me literally catching my breath. Orosman at Zafira is a showcase of Filipino theater talent at its finest.
Congratulations to the OZ production and artistic team! I commend Atty. Darwin Mariano for producing the show, Dexter Santos for directing, and Dulaang UP and Bit by Bit production for making a classic Filipino story more accessible to today's generation. This highly-recommended contemporary adaptation of Francisco Baltazar's work is a celebration of the uniqueness of our Philippine culture through the all original music and dance.
For a couple of hours or more, enjoy being transported to a time when poetry was an everyday language. Be delighted with what you'll see and hear, and later feel that Filipino pride by having witnessed something great.
I believe that the inspiration and passion felt from watching Orosman at Zafira will stay with everyone who watches it, for a long, long time.
Catch OROSMAN AT ZAFIRA on its LAST Saturday run
February 26 / 3PM / SAT @ MOA CenterStage
Ticket Price: Php350
Contact Onay @ 0918.536.2116 to reserve tickets.