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Juan Tamad: The love triangle in Filipino folklore

By Ma. Glaiza Lee, Contributor

What happens when you fall in love with a boy, who doesn’t desire anything but his old bed; who cannot fall in love and misses his mother to take care of him?
You’ll probably end up heartbroken like Maria Makiling.
In the Tanghalang Pilipino season-ender Nang Dalawin ng Pag-ibig si Juan Tamad, the theater company explores why Maria Makiling forever nurses a broken heart, and why Juan Tamad remains a pop idol.
The story revolves around the love triangle among Filipino legends Maria Makiling, the goddess of love; Monte Banahaw, the god of war; and Juan Tamad, the iconic lazy boy.
Adapted for stage by Rody Vera, the story is based on National Artist Nick Joaquin’s story “How Love Came to Juan Tamad,” which is part of his anthology book Pop Stories for Groovy Kids published in 1979.
Back then, the Martial Law had been lifted, and Nick Joaquin didn’t want to write anything about it or the so-called new society. He then started looking for and researching about Philippine legends and folklore. Soon, it gave birth to a multi-volume series of folktale mashups, providing a contemporary touch to old Filipino legends and myths.
“I would have never known anything about this quirky tale concocted by master storyteller Nick Joaquin if Big and Charo Villegas hadn’t approached me hoping we’d do a musicale,” said the playwright.
Their original idea, Vera shared, was to pepper it “with naughty double entendres and lot more winks, putting Jose Rizal’s beloved diwata to raise her eyebrows and wag her finger.”
But, alas, the theater company is presenting a much tamer version — “something for young people to take in as a tongue-in-cheek cautionary tale on ‘lourve,’ that amorous passion that begins with hormonal changes in their growing, increasingly self-aware bodies.” 
And, well, for adults to “take it further to a stretch — with pursed lips of course.” After all, for the playful minds, there are too many risque references ? take, for instance, when Maria Makiling invites her lovelorn male visitors to her “cave.”
“Translating this work made me see Nick Joaquin in a different light. This is quite different from his other major works. I had a fun time translating it for theater,” said Vera.
It was written in 1970s, but it still resonates in today’s society. The situations that the characters have to face are the same things we experience — relationship, love.
In his theater directorial debut, Jonathan Tadioan asked: “Paano ka magmahal?” He believes that each person has a different view on love. The theater production explores the different faces and facets of love — spiteful, revengeful, selfish, foolish.
But more than the universal theme of love, Tadioan pushes for the retelling of Filipino folk tales. He expresses that today’s young Filipinos are not familiar with them. They have to know that the Philippines has Pinoy superheroes that are just as amazing and powerful as their Hollywood counterparts.
In this theater production, the iconic characters are re-introduced and given a New Age-meets-Indigenous look — or, as Tadioan puts its, “Lapu-lapu meets Iron Man” — through eclectic and colorful costumes and minimalist stair platform set design, which depicts a bayabas (guava) formed like a yin-yang.

Nang Dalawin ng Pag-ibig si Juan Tamad runs from February 16 to March 11, at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater), with evening performances at 8 p.m., and matinees at 3 p.m. For tickets, drop by the CCP Box Office (832-3704) or the Ticket World outlets (891-9999). For more information, visit the CCP website (www.culturalcenter.gov.ph) or the Tanghalang Pilipino Facebook page.

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