(Editor’s note: Excerpt of Adrian Prophet’s Introduction to Asuncion’s book)
by Adrian Prophet
It is said that the ‘pen is mightier than the sword’ and when an articulate artisan of the written word takes ideas gleaned from overheard conversations on public transport, or in discussion at social functions and puts them into a thematic whole, this ability becomes evident.
For 25 years in Australia, Manny G. Asuncion wrote, directed and produced 7 major plays for theatre.Manny has an almost innate ability to convert to plays, the stories of the lives of Filipinos with whom he has had contact, and in doing so helps audiences feel empathy with the characters represented on the stage. For each play shows the human side of issues relevant to the Filipino who has migrated to a foreign land.
Seasons was chosen as the title for his work because each play represents one of the 4 seasons of Australia’s climate, and represents the sort of emotions experienced in his plays.
Winter’s Chill is set in the austere living room of a flat in the suburb of Footscray, and tells the story of Jun, a Filipino who is working illegally in Australia. His fears and concerns of being caught by the authorities comes to fruition after he is “dobbed” in to the Immigration Department by a fellow worker with whom he has had an altercation at work. Jun’s story is told by his friend Greg, with whom he shared the flat. The time of the year is actually Winter.
Kesehoda depicts the return to the Philippines of Elsa who has lived in Australia 10 years. During this time she has an Australian boyfriend called Paul. Elsa and Paul arrive to stay with Aunt Lily who is the owner of a beauty parlour. Aunt Lily employs Mariposa Alibangbang, a transvestite who is really into meddling in the affairs of others. Kesehoda is humorous in parts, and serious in others, but true love wins in the end, when Elsa and her former boyfriend meet again. There is a twist in the plot.
Autumn Sonata is a play that is demonstrative of families where relationships, love and affection may not necessarily be what they seem. The play moves a family through areas of concern for an elderly mother (Aling Pinang) who has, in the Autumn of her years, found new openings for friendship, autonomy and self determination that causes friction between her three daughters and herself. Needless to say, family conflict occurs, and at one stage Aling Pinang tells her daughters that she ‘didn’t really love their father’, as she had been caught in an abusive relationship. She did her best to provide for her children.
Mga Eksena sa Airport at iba pa is in the form of monologues by Filipinos who are waiting at the airport departure lounge before going to the Philippines. Each traveller has a story to tell and is returning home to face and resolve issues relating to their lives.
Overall this play depicts the joy, tears and laughter of every Filipino migrant in Australia. Through the characters’ narratives, the play addresses the concerns of migrant Filipinos regarding the present conditions of their homeland that they left behind. They explore their experience, dreams, hopes and ambitions about their adopted country.
Summer Butterflies is a heartfelt depiction of the lives of the dela Cruz family, who work very hard to earn a living working the vineyards of Meningee. The premise of this play is that in this strange land, life is hard. There are disappointments relating to non-recognition of qualifications, difficulties in living in remote and far- away places that are many hours from the cities, and the lack of educational opportunities for children. Relationship s fray, and the potential break-up of the family is ever present.
Ang Ikalawang Tag-Sibol ni Mang Florante or The Second Spring of Mister Florante is representing the renewal of Spring, where new growth occurs, and in this play the new spring relates to Mr Florante and his former love, Laura meeting by chance after 35 years of separation. Mang Florante had been detained under Martial Law and imprisoned, and Laura had not received any of his many letters written during his incarceration. She went to the United States, had her family and was now visiting them in Australia. She went to a travel agency and this was where she met the owner; her former sweet heart.
Presentation of Miting sa Makiling is an allegorical play about disharmony in the Filipino Community. Various animals meet to discuss their disputes, however they become very aggressive, fail to listen and vilify each other. Finally they are called before Maria Makiling who presides over a menagerie of animals and a meeting to resolve issues that were causing disunity in the community in the forests of Mt Makiling.
It is my belief that these plays could be produced in any country, as I am sure similar issues exist.
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