Though far more Manila-centrist in its composition, the
Writers Bloc, a group of emerging and established playwrights in the country had gamely looked forward to their most recent annual Yuletide party cum reunion as Caveat witnessed it first hand.
The designated party place of multi-awarded musical director for TV and film and noted playwright himself, Vince De Jesus of PETA, in Tandang Sora posed a triple challenge to locate for first time visitors on foot. Good that kindred spirit Job Pagsibigan in his usual egalitarian mood to drive friends around came in time to bundle us up in his car. Job, sporting a major Palanca award as if his life depended on it, has written some liminal virgin plays for the group’s annual Virgin Labfest with Tanghalang Pilipino and CCP hosting it for over a decade now.
He shared the limelight with his peers present at the merriment whose works have been staged to critical acclaim in said past and present Labfests—Agustin “Oggie” Arcenas, Allan Lopez, Ned Trespeces, Alfonso Dacanay, Joel Gaviola, Dingdong Novenario and Aleks Dré Pates. And so with Layeta Bucoy, the acclaimed lady playwright/screenwriter and humanities professor at UP Los Baños, whose recent screenplay Rigodon was helmed by director Eric Matti.
New member from UP Cenon Obispo Palomares on his second directorial assignment (Unang Patak Ng Ulan Sa Buwan Ng Mayo) for Cinemalaya indie filmfest project in hand caught some qualified admiration to himself.
The phenomenal playwright and part-time screenwriter (Sta. Niña and David F.) from PETA, Liza Magtoto, in her catch-all retro outfit was through much of the affair seeing things to a meaningful beginning and leave taking among members. Liza was the playwright behind the unprecedented mammoth success of the musical Rak Of Aegis.
Incoming playwrights wet behind their ears wishing to be part of such an elite group of Shakespeare’s memes as volumes of pre-owned rare books of literary vintage were raffled off to everyone’s delight.
Palanca Hall of Famer and founding director of the group Rody Vera, with more than 20 screenplays to his credit (Norte Hangganan Ng Kasaysayan, Badil, Niño, etc.), was gamely micro-managing the occasion.
His most recent oeuvre Die Beautiful was fielded at the MMFF raring to clinch itself some awards for screenplay and perhaps for Paolo Ballesteros who earlier won plaudits abroad for his transgender role.
Another Palanca Hall of Famer and master of other literary genres Nicholas Pichay, was in daze holding on to his significant other as if to shield him from the frailties of human incursions (to borrow the lines of Senator Leila De Lima in one of her TV interviews). It was Nick’s way of giving himself the much-needed break from his consuming binary life both as artist and sought-after lawyer in the industry.
Several names missing at the party included some notable Labfests playwrights Floy Quintos, Elmer Gatchalian, Chris Martinez, Jun Robles Lana, Emmanuel Dela Cruz, Sydney émigré Marcelino Cavestany, Njel De Mesa and Vince Tañada.
Most of them have become today’s acclaimed playwrights, scriptwriters, stage and maverick film directors as well with caveat: Writers Bloc is far from claiming it made them at all.
Making up however for the absence of the aforesaid playwrights were the wide-eyed and sparkling faces of the new members officially listed down in Magtoto’s black book. From among the newcomers, will anyone perhaps follow in the footsteps of their more successful predecessors? Hard to foretell, but Shakespeare’s traveling soul blowing in the wind would perhaps know.