For ages it seems, I’ve been feeding on a dystopian fiction diet, most recently from “The Hunger Games” and “The Maze Runner” to “The Divergent” series, so the theme of “Three Stars and a Sun” is well-played out for me.
Of course, for the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), to mount a Filipino version is novelty.
The Sci-Fi genre is almost non-existent in local fiction. And to render Pinoy SF as a rap musical was a daunting gamble – though the cast pulled it off well.
The story of “Three Stars and a Sun” takes place 70 years into the future. After an Armageddon of sorts, the state builds a “Stormdome”— a fallout shelter filled with solar panels – to enclose the whole archipelago, protecting – and yet imprisoning and isolating – its citizenry.
Everything else is literal. The country is Pinasland – a play on the contraction of the word “Pilipinas” -Philippines. The title, “Three Stars and A Sun”, alludes to the national flag. The heroes and villains are the stereotype two factions, one black, the other white.
However, the protagonists are clad in tattered black costumes and live in “Diliman”, a word play on darkness in the local lingo, although their leader is a creature of the light, named Sol – the sun.
The antagonists inhabit “Lumino” – a wordplay on “Light” and “Luminous”, whose denizens, despite their immaculate costume, court the darkness within them and their white-clad, white-skinned, platinum-blonde leader is a congresswoman who’s black of heart – “Inky”.
The message – which employed excerpts from 20 of the late nationalistic rapper Francis Magalona’s music – is quite simple: the Filipino youth should be aware of the history of their country and value their national heroes.
“I had to ask the question of whether the themes of Francis M’s music would still ring true almost a century into the future,” Director Nor Domingo acknowledged.
“Many of his songs were written from the 80s and 90s, mostly talking about history, dirty politics, social ills and the role of the youth in the future. His music still ring true today and seeing how things are now, I believe his music will still ring true in the future.”
“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce,” acquiesced Mixcaela Villalon who co-authored the musical with Rody Vera.
“I wrote this story for my people—those who can recite the Green Lantern oath but don’t know the minimum wage, the kids who are steeped in the history of Westeros but doubt the atrocities of Martial Law, all of us who are tired of activists blocking traffic while we think we can change the world through dank memes. We’re the fulcrum of history now, for better or worse.”
“We should learn our history as a nation lest we move into a future where we have all forgotten what it means to be a Filipino,” the director warned.
That future will be very much like the past, a dystopia accursed.
As for the actors – the performance was intense although veteran thespian Bodjie Pascua stole the show as Mang Okik. To me, he came across more like a surreal futuristic version of Jose Rizal’s “Pilosopong Tasyo” in Noli Me Tangere.
It was exhilarating to watch Nicco Manalo as Sol and Carla Laforteza as Congresswoman Inky – and the rest of the cast, rapping and stomping up a storm in their Converse shoes, one faction in black, ala “Mad Max” rags and the other in dazzling white.
Production designer Gino Gonzales and lighting designers Shoko Matsumoto and Ian Torqueza transformed the “Stormdome” into a kaleidoscope of replicating screens.
In many scenes, the country’s heroes were projected on the figures of the characters themselves – images in black and white, multiplying and multiplied.
In the finale, the cast became one big human screen on which the national flag unfurled.
(“3 Stars and a Sun” runs until March 6 from Tuesdays to Sundays (Tue-Fri 8PM, Sat-Sun 3PM and 8PM) at the PETA-PHINMA Theater, No. 5 Eymard Drive, New Manila, Quezon City)