Mrs. B: A Review

Ang monologo ay kinonsepto at dinirehe ni Soc Jose, at nasa panulat nina Joi Barrios at Rowena Festin at Grundy Constantino ng Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP). Prodyuser ng monologo si Bienvenido Lumbera, National Artist for Literature.

Handog ng Free Jonas Burgos Movement, Desaparecidos, at CAP, pinalabas noong Pebrero 5, 6, 12 at 13 ang Mrs. B sa Bantayog ng mga Bayani Auditorium sa Quezon City. Inilalathala ng Pinoy Weekly ang ilan sa mga larawan mula monologo.

Sponsored by the groups Desaparacidos, Free Jonas Burgos, Surface James Balao and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance, a performance of the monologoue Mrs B was organized at UP Baguio. My friends from the Outcrop became excited of this performance, especially since it features the issue of the disappeared, in which of the victims is of course our alumnus James Balao.

The monologue is created for the persona of Mrs. Editha Burgos, mother of the disappeared Jonas Burgos, who is a peasant leader and activist.

Let me proceed with the technicals. The mis-en-scene was quite simple; it exhibited a small table, a telephone, an altar (to emphasize the religiosity of Mrs. Burgos), a few props and a vertical projection screen at the center of the stage. This simple presentation of the setting emphasizes the simplicity and the uncomplicated petty-bourgeois, Catholic lifestyle of the Burgoses.  Bibeth Orteza’s almost casual presentation of Mrs. Burgos thoughts is very convincing; it was never too dramatic or cheesy.

In formal terms, I recognized that Mrs. B took on a rather unconventional form. Mrs. Burgos has scheduled a dinner/party/meeting, fully aware of the situation of Jonas and it almost went like it already spilled the beans. However, as the play goes on, it became evident that the main conflict is not between the Jonas vs. military, Mrs. Burgos vs. military, victims vs. state, enlightened ones vs. the establishment—no, the conflict was within Mrs. Burgos, on how will she react to the events, to the whole situation, deep down from the very personal phenomenon of losing a son to the overall predicament of political program of the state to pacify its critics.

Mrs. Burgos tried to rearrange and reconstruct her sense of stability that was shattered by the traumatizing event by creating rules (“Rule No. 2, wag mag panic pag may nagmamanman sa iyo) ad guidelines in case one is having an engagement with military surveillance. This element is more than an educational one, like Batibot does in its episodes; it also embodies a direct subversion of the ploys of the state. The tongue-in-cheek presentation and language of these ‘guidelines’ tells us how the subversion is constructed as a collective act, and also the how one is given power despite the tilted power relations in a repressive state.

This power, of course, is a constructed one, and it is evident that Mrs. Burgos, being a middle-class, has her own doubts of this constructed discourse of subversion. The conflict, indeed, is presented not as a linear progression of the usual ‘aktibista’ narrative (from the ignorant ‘masa’ until the final, blossoming of the proletarian consciousness) but as a rugged, jagged story. The different sound elements act as ‘punctuations’ that seem to give the narrative a pause and also act as introductions to the next sections of the play. Every section of the play has its own theme and hence also its own set of conflicts that reveal the vulnerabilities, weaknesses and doubts of Mrs. B.

Yet, despite the ruggedness of the narrative (a very modern trait), we are led to the final scene where we will witness Mrs. B admitting the change she went through and the readiness to continue the subversion together with the other victims of enforced disappearances.

What I deem as impressive with this monologue is its rather fresh way of dealing with the issue of enforced disappearances. It does not preach; it merely presents the humanity of every silenced victim of the state. It catches more than our sympathy and pity, for it also pricks the innermost loves we have for our family, fellow and ourselves.

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