Guess where the hardworking filmmaker Joel Lamangan was Saturday night?
Somewhere in hoi polloi Balic-balic district in pedestrian Manila, that’s where. More specifically, the award-winning filmmaker was on the fourth floor of a low building at the corner of G. Tuazon St. and Kalabash Road and watching the play Ang Bangkay, written and directed by Vince Tanada, who also portrays the ruthless, incestuous embalmer lead character.
The play is produced by Philippine Stagers Foundation (PSF) whose artistic director is Tanada himself.
Lamangan watched the entire play at the PSF Studio Theater, sat through the open forum that followed, and told everyone: “I am very impressed by what I have seen!” He stayed on for the native dinner on banana leaves served at the building’s rooftop. Having decided to be a teetotaller after a heart attack a few years ago, he passed up the drinking after dinner, and then left quietly.
The multi-awarded filmmaker knows Tanada because the latter had acted in two well-reviewed indie films made by Elwood Perez: Ocho and Esoterica. Some PSF actors also appeared in both films.
During the dinner, we told Lamangan that Tanada must be feeling so honored by his presence. Lamangan replied, “But I really watch plays a lot. Remember, I started in theater at PETA [Philippine Educational Theater Association] when it was headed by Lino Brocka]. And I’m with a theater company even now [as artistic director of Gantimpala Theater Foundation.”
Downstairs at the open forum, Tanada had remarked that if Lamangan would accept, he could be the first non-PSF member to direct a PSF production. For now, PSF productions are written, directed, and produced by Tanada himself. He also plays the lead roles most of the time, though with alternates.
Ang Bangkay is a first prize winner in the three-act play in Filipino division of the 2012 Palanca literature awards. Tanada’s PSF was already on its 11th year at that time. Since 2013, PSF has been mounting Ang Bangkay in between its musicals which are toured practically all over the country as educational shows primarily for high school and college students. Since July 2015 to present, PSF mounted #Pope-pular: Paano Kung Pinoy si Kiko for a grand total of 535 times.
How did that happen when there are only 364 days a year?
Well, every school booking of the musical required three mountings: the first usually at 9 a.m., the second at 12 noon or at 2 p.m., and the last at 6 or 7 p.m. Tanada usually plays the lead in two stagings.
#Pope-pular is a convincing imaginary encounters of Pope Francis with five heroic Filipinos told in one seamless narrative. Again, its book is by Tanada, and music by Pipo Cifra who does musical scoring for ABS-CBN’s drama anthology Maalaala Mo Kaya.
A few weeks from now, PSF will begin rehearsing the musical Katips. No, it will not be about our Katipuneros of long long ago but the young fighters against dictatorship during the Marcos regime just decades ago.
Tanada in this report is a practising lawyer and a graduate of San Beda College. His family belongs to the political Tanada clan of Gumaca, Quezon. He is a bachelor and his mom fully approves of his theater involvement. She designs all the costumes for his musicals.
His dad also watches his musicals and both his parents have watched, Ang Bangkay in which Vince has a frontal nudity scene for two to three minutes.
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Going back to Lamangan, he told us that he is in the thick of completing Siphayo, a sexy film starring GMA Network discovery Nathalie Heart, Luis Alandy, Joem Bascon, and Allan Paule, produced by BG Films. He has finished for Regal Films the gay comedy That Thing Called Tanga Na starring Eric Quizon, Angeline Quinto, Billy Crawford, and Martin Escudero and Kean Cipriano, both of whom play cross-dressing gays. The two films might be submitted to the 2016 Metro Manila Film Fest (MMFF) screening committee whose deadline for potential entries is in September.
You may have heard that MMFF standards and rules have changed. Artistry is now the major criterion; not strong commercial appeal anymore. And then it’s no longer just the script, the proposed artistic team and lead cast that have to be submitted for consideration—it’s the complete film. There are talks that Regal Films producer Lily Montever is hesitating to field any entry, and it’s not because she doubts the quality of the films her company has managed to put together for the MMFF over the years.
Lamangan confided to us: “When an already completed film is rejected as an entry, Mother Lily feels that the rejection will very likely earn the film the stigma that it is napakapangit siguro kaya na-reject. With that stigma, the movie might flop when it is shown after the MMFF.”