Tuesday July 17, 2018

Kalasikas: Restoring relevance to a long-ago epic

“Halina kasama, halina kapatid bigyang buhay ang daing ng bayan ipagdiwang ang katotohanan at ang ligaya ng sangkatauhan Kalasikas ay bulong. Kalasikas ay sigaw. Kalasikas ay himig ng kalayaan.” - Joey Ayala, Kalasikas

THE rustling of leaves.

Mindanao cultural workers and theatre performers have come a long way, upholding their role on theatre in education that has significantly made an impact on development. This time, five major cultural theatre groups based in Mindanao have come together to offer a unique plate of feast for the senses, bearing the assertion of peoples for peace and their aspiration for freedom.

The Maharadia Lawana play is featured in the 1stBudayaw: 2017 BIMP Eaga Festival on Culture and Arts, a multidimensional and multidisciplinary festival of arts and culture of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and the East Asean Growth Area (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines) held at General Santos City and Saranggani Province on September 20 to 24. The play is the Maranao epic of the Ramayana.

Nestor Horfilla, a pioneer in Mindanao’s cultural work, was the over-all Director of the play with four episodes each with its own artistic director. Maharadia Lawana, he said, was the prose version of the research done by Dr. Juan Francisco, an indologist who discovered this Maranao version of the Ramayana.

Maharadia Lawana is the eight-headed son of the Sultan and Sultanness of Pulu Bandiarmasir, who has caused chaos and destruction in the realm—through his infamous vile tongue. The original Ramayana is comprised of seven “kandas” or books.

Francisco, in the synopsis, pointed out that the influence of the Rama story in the literature of Malaya, Indonesia, Borneo and other countries in Southeast Asia is no longer debatable.

“As such it ranks high among all other stories of definitely Indian provenance. It is the source of much aesthetic inspiration, apart from the inspiration it has created in literature. Its influence upon the art of the region is too famous to need any reference here just as its pervasive spirit has permeated human imagination- crude or refined among the varied peoples of Southeast Asia,” he wrote.

Davao’s own Kaliwat Theatre Collective under artistic director Richard D. Vilar performed the prologue of the play, which featured the exile of Maharadia Lawana to Pulu Nagara, where he gathered leaves and wood to start a fire ritual. As the flames shore high to the sky, he climbed a tree wailing in despair for the world bound in chain and misery.

The Winning of Potre (Episode 1) performed by the Kagay-an Performing Arts under the tutelage of its artistic director Raul Prima, shows the voyage of brothers Radia Mangandiri and Radia Mangawarna to witness the beauty and charm of Tuwan Potre Malaila Tihaia, daughter of the Sultan and Sultaness of Pulu Nabanda.

The abduction of Towan Potre Malaila Ganding (Episode 2) by the Kabpapagariya Ensemble, as directed by Rochelle Claire Baliong depicts the battle of Radia Mangandiri against Maharadia Lawana, disguised as a deer with golden horns, in an attempt to satisfy the fancy of his wife.

During the abduction of Towan Potre Malaila, Radia was lost in the forest and and dreamt of losing to a carabao and fathering a monkey, who turned out to be real and offered to help him rescue the wife.

The Search for Potre Malaila Ganding (Episode 3), performed by Sining Kambayoka Ensemble under the direction of Pepito Sumayan, highlights the battle between the forces of Radia Mangandiri led by Laksamana, the monkey son and the fearsome Maharadia Lawana. With the help of Laksamana and his army of carabaos, the two Radias set to slay the abductor.

The fourth episode performed by Sining Kandilimudan with directors Tamano Sinsuat Mantawil and Thallasah Torres Alava shows the return of Potre Malaila Ganding, Radia Mangawarna, and Laksamana back to the land of Pulu Agama Niog of Radia Mangandiri, after the death of Maharadia Lawana. This was also the point when Laksamanmetha morpohosed into a handsome Datu.

It was a timely piece in the context of the events in Mindanao and the continuing dream for peace.

“The first kalasikas happened some 33 years ago. It is just fitting to capture its essence and sense of purpose,” Horfilla said.

Sheila Zafra Labos of Kaliwat Theatre Collective pointed out that it was a good experience performing with other groups in Mindanao. Narrated in an elevated style, the Maharadia Lawana epic shows the rich tapestry of culture in Mindanao, the depth of Maranao stories and the gift of telling it to the wider audience to change hearts and minds.

Kalasikas is the courage to show and re-tell the stories of and by the peoples in Mindanao.