Words by John Albert Pagunsan with contributions from Aaron Tristan De Vera of BA Communication Arts ’15. Picture lifted from Isko’t Iska 2018 Facebook page.
(Isko’t Iska 2018 is staged for free at DL Umali Auditorium, 7PM, on November 13 to 14.)
Continuing the tradition of activism and social awakening through theater, this year’s installment of Isko’t Iska discusses the personal struggle of Iskolars of finding a voice and using a voice and amplifies the voices of the victims of government neglect and oppression.
The play has never failed to deliver as an act of protest and as an alternative platform for discussion of social issues since the Marcos’ Martial Law regime. This year’s writers and production staff are sharp at molding characters and circumstances that hit close to home for many Iskolars and Filipinos; providing an alternative primer to the ideal character of an Iskolar, a public university and a Philippine society vis-à-vis the realities that surround students.
ISKA’S VOICE AFTER GRADUATION
The most remarkable departure Isko’t Iska took for this year’s installment is showering a delayed yet graduating senior with lots of spotlight. Iska’s story reflects the lives of many upperclass students – the dilemma of either using their found voice in helping the country or in building massive fortunes and portfolios. Isko’t Iska provides a persuasive reason and an impactful conclusion to that dilemma. The viewer leaves the auditorium with an answer but also carries with her questions of what to do with her recent enlightenment.
Albeit lapses in delivery and dragging scenes, Iska is a perfect caricature of a UPLB student – chained to familial obligations while aspiring for national obligations. Her story exposes the dynamics among Filipino family members and how their economic and social positions largely determine the nature and the use of their voices. The play is subtle in discussing how the most vocal becomes voiceless inside a home – and how that circumstance becomes a defining point of Iska’s character and story.
Iska’s wit and wisdom are her weapons in times of adversity – two characteristics the play would want audiences to espouse after brief immersions on different struggles of marginalized sectors through the play. While the play suggests options for using the found voice, it gives a lot of liberty to the viewer to choose and create new ways of voicing and being voiced.
ISKO’S SEARCH FOR HIS VOICE
Isko’s story resonates among freshmen – the dilemma of finding his true voice. A rich discussion is produced from the interplay of a Freshman’s internal and external struggles in the present context. It becomes an alternative life guide for many freshmen deprived of senior assistance and guidance (because of an OSA memorandum). Throughout the play, Isko finds his voice; but in the process that voice becomes threatened after it voices the voiceless.
The search for Isko’s voice could have been more impactful if complemented with higher and stronger vocal projection and a concise and precise script. While the play remains loyal to the formula of having main characters involved in social activism, this year’s installment focuses on activism through journalistic documentation and reporting – giving light to the media repression and government-sanctioned misinformation.
The search for his voice leads him to unexpected but liberating circumstances – a potent narrative that the play sustains from the first minute to closing.
AMPLIFYING THE STIFLED VOICES
The play is honest and unforgiving in depicting social realities that social lenses have been deprived of capturing and refuse to capture since Duterte’s election from extra-judicial killings to paramilitary aggression against farmers. The introduction accurately and creatively captures the current state of the country while the conclusion is a must-watch as it provides a persuasive solution to the play’s dominant premise of an oppressed Philippine society.
The lives of characters from the fringes tour the audiences in the maze of social realities in homes, city slums, and farming communities; but leaves audiences an important question that haunts both the main characters and the audiences – what does one do when one hears their personal voice and the voices of the masses?
Students cannot refuse to see and hear the social realities that plague the res of the country because the play’s bluntness engages them to how these social realities hit many powerless skin deep.