Mother’s Day in Pampanga just got earlier as last January 30 at the Holy Angel University Auditorium, Teatru Ima at Arti (Maarti) staged “Ima,” a Kapampangan musical. Lots of popular local figures—who can make up some percent of the province’s alta sociedad—were present during the show, dressed in their respective formal wear, mostly Filipiniana, along with some media coverers and cultural workers. And let’s not forget the amigos and amigas of the performers of Maarti, who come in seemingly complete families, along with English- and Tagalog-speaking children of Kapampangan descent.
It began with a Kapampangan prayer, followed by the national anthem in the Kapampangan (Lawiwing Pambansang Filipinu) and the Imnu Ning Kapampangan, both lyrics of which most of the audience really had no idea of. I myself haven’t memorized the lyrics of the national anthem in Kapampangan despite hearing it on several occasions already.
And then the show began with Kapampangan women aged 50 and above showcasing their thespian skills. They didn’t need much acting experience because they were acting as themselves—old Kapampangan women, albeit scattered in different roles: from wet market vendors to tailors and from elites to senile homemakers. Some lines namedrop pop culture icons during olden times, which the youth will not surely be able to relate to, but the show is a nice way to get to know a bit about our elders’ idols when they were young.
No Men on Stage
All throughout the musical, one will not see a phallic creature on stage—let’s call this creature a man. Names of husbands and male relatives are dropped in several occasions, but we do not see these guys. Why? Probably because most scenes are set at home, where the woman reigns supreme, and is exactly one of the goals of the musical: to explore the traditional world of old women.
The show could also delight some feminists, as some acts touch lightly on women’s issues such as unpaid home labor, the woman’s contested ability to earn money even while working at home, the disregard for elders, and the treatment of women as sex objects.
Ageism, the type that discriminates aged people, is also tackled in the musical. The matriarch of the group is all grumpy and disappointed with how life has been as an aging woman, because she feels as though she is being forgotten by her family, but she didn’t know that they were organizing a surprise birthday party for her—something rarely done nowadays.
Lastly, the musical emphatically asserts the honorable role of mothers in society and how their love for their children is distinct and seemingly unbreakable. With the tickets sold out, I have been informed that a re-staging is called for, and probably, it would fall on May, on Mother’s Day.
One thing different about “Ima” compared to the other musicals directed by Andy Alviz is its liberation from “ruralism” and linguistic purism, which could raise some eyebrows among cultural workers, but to me is just dandy and fine.
Even though the musical is said to be in Kapampangan, it was actually in three languages, as it had portions of Tagalog, English, and Taglish song numbers. Contemporary expressions like “you want,” “excuse me,” and “okay” also find their way in the Kapampangan dialogues, which in previous works like “Siwala the Musical,” weren’t welcome.
A new thing with “Ima” too is the exploration of other settings other than Pampanga, as in the second half of the musical, we see the group of old (but strong) Kapampangan women taking a trip to downtown Manila—well-emphasized in a cute song which I assume is titled “Downtown”—unaccompanied by any man, while wearing colorful, exquisite clothes that remind me of Carmi Martin in high social class roles. In the story, they get naughty whistles from Manilenyo men (unseen on stage) and complain how ‘bastus’ they are. One of the characters, funnily played by the President of Maarti, challenges the whistlers to a sparring using hilarious Kapampanganized Tagalog, but retreats anyway. She is, for me, the best performer of the night.
For a cause
The finest thing about the musical is that the proceeds are bound to go to foundations that aid society in educational, cultural, spiritual, and women-related development. Aside from adding more color to the lives of the performers who are in their golden years, it is also good to know that the movement towards Kapampangan cultural development has made use of our senior citizens. This makes it a proof that everyone, regardless of class, age, religion, or town, can contribute to Kapampangan empowerment.
Congratulations to the director, staff, and of course, the beautiful cast: Ma. Frieda O. Hizon, Ma. Theresa “Tess” Laus, Marita “Rita” G. Villanueva, Agnes “Anette” Romero, Lina Francisco Velez, Roxanne Flor “Roxie” Gorospe, Macaria Teresita “Siobe” Co, Maria Amio “Maygold” Guintu, Theng Villaluna, Marilou “Malou” Bianzon Garbes, Agnes “Bondee” M. Dinio, Dita Dayrit Patawaran, Bess Tranquilino, Beth Masangcay, Josephine Gozun, Ma Czarina “Rina” O. Alarcon, Doren Tayag, Victoria “Vicky” C. Segundo, Ma. Lourdes “Des” Deang, Carmen “Meng” Mc Tavish, Leonor “Nor” S. Pineda, Maritess Ramos Punsalan, Germinia “Germie” C. Villanueva, Divina “Vina” O. Tayag, Corito Rose O. Tayag, Caridad Tanciangco, Marsha Nepomuceno, Cleofe Umlas, Evelyn “Leny” dela Cruz, and Let Panganiban.