Paglaya, isang metapora (a dance libretto)

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By Bienvenido Lumbera

Dancers:

PAGLAYA
INANG KARIMLAN (The Dark Mother: Three dancers in one costume designated as Una, Ikalawa, & Ikatlo)
TUMAKAS (The Superstar, who rides on the shoulders of seven dancers most of the time)
LUMABAN (The Activist, whose movements are usually propelled in unison with seven dancers)
MAKAPANGYARIHAN (Seven dancers, massed)
NAGKAKAISA (The same seven dancers)

I. PRELUDE
The dance opens in stillness. PAGLAYA stands against an indistinct dark mass, dove-like and virginal, transfixed by an intense grey overhead spot. She dances timorously within the circle of light, and the dark mass behind her takes the shape of a huge mother (inside the costume, Una is standing on the shoulders of Ikalawa and Ikatlo) hovering jealously over a favorite child. Toward the close of PAGLAYA’s prefatory dance, she reclines into the lap of INANG KARIMLAN, their pose suggestive of Michelangelo’s Pieta.

II. MOTHER AND CHILD
The music starts. INANG KARIMLAN sprouts two more heads. Playtime starts between PAGLAYA and her three-headed Mother, to music that is alternately lyrical and grotesque.

III. THE WEIGHT OF FORCE
The music is prestato, cacophonous. This is PAGLAYA’s initiation into the weight of force. IKALAWA separates from INANG KARIMLAN and IKATLO disappears into the costume. IKALAWA leads PAGLAYA through a sequence showing the individual as she is habituated to violence until she learns to accept as part of her lot to submit to it. INANG KARIMLAN (two dancers now in one costume) serves as the third dancer assisting IKALAWA in breaking down PAGLAYA’s resistance. The dance is athletic, with intimations of sado-masochist sex.

IV. THE WAY OF COMPLIANCE
Now the music is adagio. IKATLO separates from INANG KARIMLAN to initiate PAGLAYA into the virtue of compliance. The movements are reminiscent of the vocabulary of classical ballet as PAGLAYA is taught to submit herself to the PRIEST, the FATHER and the HUSBAND. The theme of the ritual is sublimation, with PAGLAYA turning away from the flesh to favor the spirit, fearing  freedom and preferring the safety of dependence, foregoing the self to dedicate herself to the service of her partner. The music ought to be an ironic comment on the figures of the dance.

V. NOW BEGINS THE NARRATIVE OF PAGLAYA’S SUBMISSION
The music is agitato, but, as a counterpoint, the song is a haunting lament accompanying PAGLAYA’s miming of the hunger that had thrown her into the lap of INANG KARIMLAN.

Gatang na gumagapang
Sa bigasang
Walang laman.
Gutom
Na humihimay
Sa sikmurang
Kumakalam.

Ay, mumo na di matanaw,
Ay, tiyang walang laman,
Ay, walang-wala,
Wala
Kahit dighay.

Hunger is like an inner demon gnawing at the innards of PAGLAYA, who desperately, despairingly tears out the enemy. The struggle wears her down, and she seeks the security of INANG KARIMLAN’s lap. The three-headed Mother clasps her in embrace. PAGLAYA yields.
Then, bird-like PAGLAYA flails her arms like wings in an attempt to break away. INANG KARIMLAN subdues her with much violence. PAGLAYA repeatedly attempts to escape and exhausts herself trying to unlock the embrace of the Dark Mother.
Finally, INANG KARIMLAN lets her go. But PAGLAYA does not want to fly away, dancing only within the circle of light in the prefatory dance. Then she stands still, with only her arms simulating flight.

VI. THE TEMPTATION TO ESCAPE
TUMAKAS enters to a grand musical flourish on the shoulders of MAKAPANGYARIHAN. TUMAKAS repeats PAGLAYA’s miming of hunger, suggesting that she too had gone through PAGLAYA’s agony. The mime ends with TUMAKAS seeking refuge in INANG KARIMLAN’s embrace. When, like PAGLAYA, she tries to unlock INANG KARIMLAN’s embrace, she reaches out to MAKAPANGYARIHAN.
TUMAKAS is freed through the force applied by MAKAPANGYARIHAN. INANG KARIMLAN pursues her, but like a skilled acrobat, TUMAKAS climbs on the backs of the seven dancers, leaps from their shoulders, crawls under their legs, in her frantic bid for freedom, the figures recalling the sado-masochist images in Part III. During this dance, PAGLAYA, from time to time, is caught up in TUMAKAS’ orgiastic movements and acrobatics, indicating that she is being drawn to escape the way TUMAKAS did. The dance concludes with TUMAKAS once again borne aloft by MAKAPANGYARIHAN. PAGLAYA is left behind in the embrace of INANG KARIMLAN.

VII. THE INVITATION TO RESIST
LUMABAN enters unattended, miming the hunger of PAGLAYA. The seven dancers representing NAGKAISA enter severally, each one miming hunger. LUMABAN engages each one in a pas-de-deux suggestive of a dialogue during which pain and comfort are exchanged. From time to time, PAGLAYA is snatched away by NAGKAISA from INANG KARIMLAN, and she experiences brief ecstatic moments of liberation.
INANG KARIMLAN unleashes violence on the seven dancers, and the mise-en-scene from time to time recreates images from photographs of confrontations between military men and activists. Finally, NAGKAISA as a mass sets upon INANG KARIMLAN and breaks up the three dancers who inhabit the costume, and pursues each one to off-stage.
The dancers composing NAGKAISA return individually. LUMABAN takes PAGLAYA’s limbs and teaches her the motions of freeing herself. Then NAGKAISA and LUMABAN leave PAGLAYA alone, with the INANG KARIMLAN costume (now magically in bright colors) spread out before her.

VIII. AND SO, LIBERATION
With INANG KARIMLAN gone, PAGLAYA is beset by uncertainties, even fears. But she is free at last. As she stands against the cyclorama at the rear, she slowly lifts her arms as though they were wings. Then she picks up the INANG KARIMLAN costume such that it drapes behind her like wings. A great wind from up front catches her and she moves in an accelerating run toward the footlights, the costume flapping behind her. PAGLAYA is taking flight! The music comes to an abrupt end, and PAGLAYA is caught in a freeze at the very edge of forestage.

Montage Vol. 11 • September 2008