Latest Stories

‘In My Father’s House’ in Dumaguete –a homecoming for two masters of theater

For playwright Elsa Martinez Coscolluela, the local production, which opens July 19, feels like ‘the story itself is coming home’


ELSA Martinez Coscolluela

For theater director Amiel Leonardia, it must have been an interesting sort of homecoming—the kind that speaks of the beautiful symmetry of coming full circle—as he finds himself assembling on the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium stage at Silliman University the elements that would recreate a story of war-torn Dumaguete.

The play he is directing is a local production of Elsa Martinez Coscolluela’s acclaimed World War II family drama, “In My Father’s House.” It is also a virtual reckoning of his life in the theater.

He is working with set design by Lex Marcos, costume design by Carlos Villafuerte Pagunaling and technical direction by Loren Rivera—people he has worked with from his Manila theater days, particularly for Dulaang UP.

But here he was, back in Silliman campus, working with a local cast and production crew, in the city where his career in theater started in 1961 when, on a lark, he auditioned for a role in “Medea,” and landed the part of Jason.

It was the decisive turn in his life that has since seen him acting not just for theater but also for film and television, as well as directing many plays, such as the recent staging of “All My Sons.” (Once, he also directed the young, pre-star Bette Midler in a production of “Blood Wedding” in the University of Hawaii.)


CCP of the south

The Luce itself, designed by architect Augusto Ang Barcelona, was built from Leonardia’s technical specifications for large-scale theatrical productions. Since its inauguration in 1975, the theater, for which he became the first director, has since become known as the Cultural Center of Southern Philippines—arguably the biggest and best theater outside of Manila.

But the last time he had directed a play in Silliman was in March 1979, right near the tail-end of a theatrical era in the university town that had cultivated the likes of Junix Inocian, Paul Palmore, Belen Calingacion, Lu Decenteceo and Evelyn Aldecoa.

“It took a while—34 years,” he says.

More than apt

Director Amiel Leonardia

That he is directing Coscolluela’s play for the Luce seems more than apt. He first became involved with the play in 1987 when he was asked by Tony Mabesa, then artistic director of Dulaang UP, to design the set and play the role of Carlos, the father.

The production, for the UP Playwrights’ Guild, was highly regarded by audiences and critics alike, and was subsequently invited to the Singapore Drama Festival in 1988 as the Philippine representative. The play has since been staged in the US, in Kyoto, Japan, as well as in Bacolod City—but never in Dumaguete, until now.

“It is ironic that a play, written by a Dumagueteña, a Silliman alumna, about Dumaguete during the Japanese occupation, in which Silliman is featured, has been absent from the Silliman and Dumaguete theater scene,” Leonardia says. “This production finally addresses that absence.”


It is the same for Coscolluela. For her, the Dumaguete production, which is being undertaken by Silliman’s Cultural Affairs Committee, feels like “the story itself is coming home.”

Like Leonardia, this is also a homecoming for her. Before she became the vice president for academic affairs at the University of St. La Salle in Bacolod, she was a Creative Writing student in Silliman, taught by the likes of David Quemada and Edilberto and Edith Tiempo. (She was also a local beauty queen, having been crowned Miss Silliman in 1964.)

In Dumaguete, she immersed herself in creative work, and soon found herself hanging around Leonardia’s numerous stage productions—serving as script girl, gofer, makeup artist, costume manager, “or just plain miron.”

“Years later, in hindsight, I realized that this was where I learned to construct plays, develop an ear for dialogue, create character and take conflict to an intense or quiet closure,” she says.


Difficult time

“In My Father’s House” is a story she needed to tell of her own family and how they survived the horrors of the war: “While I was growing up, my parents hardly ever spoke about the war… They would speak in general terms about what a difficult time it was: the scarcity of food and medicines, the terrifying air raids, homes and properties being sequestered, and people disappearing or just found dead in ditches. It was a climate of want and fear. When I got married and moved to Bacolod, I learned that my father-in-law was a Death March survivor, but again, no one really spoke much about the war.”

CAST of Silliman University’s “In My Father’s House”

And then during one of her parents’ visits to Bacolod, her father and her father-in-law started talking about the war. Their exchange moved her to begin writing the play, especially so when her father finally asked her to write their story. (He did not live long enough to read the finished play, which she wrote at his behest.)


Dangers, compromises

The play, about the members of the affluent Santamaria family, dramatizes the dangers and the compromises common folk in Dumaguete faced during the Japanese occupation.

(The cast includes Dessa Quesada-Palm as Amanda, Leo Mamicpic as Carlos, Ian Rosales Casocot as Miguel, Earnest Hope Tinambacan as Franco, Carla Angeline Mongado as Cristy, and Ina Azarcon as Isabel. It also features Jerry Angelo Catarata, Andrew Alvarez, Onna Rhea Quizo, Ron Jacob Calumpang and Rudy Juan.)

“It is often said that so far, this is the only major play about the war and the occupation years, ever written,” she says. “I don’t know if this is still true. But what remains true is that almost everyone who has watched it says this story resonates with their family’s experiences during the war years, both told firsthand by those who survived that period, or retold down the second and third generations.”

“In My Father’s House” goes on previews at the Luce Auditorium in Silliman University, Dumaguete City on July 17-18. It will open on July 19, 7:30 p.m., with closing performances on July 20.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Carlos Villafuerte Pagunaling , Dumaguete City , Elsa Martinez Coscolluela , Lex Marcos , Loren Rivera , Luce Auditorium , playwright , Silliman University , Theater , “In My Father’s House”

  • Nethaneel Sagun

    Break a leg guys! :D

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. How to enjoy Buntod
  2. Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  3. Life lessons I want to teach my son
  4. No tourist draw, Malang the croc will remain wild
  5. ‘Wild West’ Masbate’s pristine marine gems
  6. The best flavors of summer in one bite, and more
  7. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  8. Homemade yogurt, bread blended with pizza, even ramen
  9. What has happened to Barrio Fiesta and Singing Cooks & Waiters?
  10. Haneda International Airport: A destination on its own
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  4. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  5. Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  6. How Margie Moran-Floirendo keeps her dancer’s body
  7. This is not just a farm
  8. President Quezon was born here–and so was Philippine surfing
  9. Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  10. Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  3. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  4. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  10. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer


  • Afghan hospital guard kills 3 American doctors
  • [VIDEO] No assurances on Janet Lim-Napoles’ bid to become state witness
  • South Sudan president fires long-time army leader
  • Grenade explodes outside MPD Station 1
  • 25 cops ordered relieved over links to drugs
  • Sports

  • Pacquiao can dodge tax issues
  • F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone rejects bribery charges
  • Big Chill freezes Cafe France to arrest skid
  • Pacquiao has to go through PBA Rookie draft
  • Guiao summoned by PBA for name-calling incident
  • Lifestyle

  • Gongs and southern dances star in a workshop at San Francisco Bayanihan Center
  • This woman ate what?
  • Photos explore dynamics of youths’ sexual identity
  • 12th Philippine Food Expo set at the World Trade Center
  • No tourist draw, Malang the croc will remain wild
  • Entertainment

  • Smithsonian wants photos, videos for ‘Day in the Life of Asian Pacific Americans’
  • What Garcia Marquez left behind
  • Has Ai Ai fallen deeply with ‘sireno?’
  • Sony developing live-action Barbie comedy
  • California court won’t review Jackson doctor case
  • Business

  • Metro Pacific acquires stake in Victorias
  • How ‘one percent’ economic elite was uncovered
  • Facebook profits triple as mobile soars
  • Insular Honors Sales Performers at Testimonial Rites
  • Apple increases stock buyback, will split stock
  • Technology

  • Enrile in Masters of the Universe, Lord of the Rings?
  • Top Traits of Digital Marketers
  • No truth to viral no-visa ‘chronicles’
  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 24, 2014
  • Talking to Janet
  • Respite
  • Bucket list
  • JPII in 1981: walking a tightrope
  • Global Nation

  • Obama to visit Filipino soldiers in Fort Bonifacio
  • Fil-Am youth conferences unite under one theme
  • Embassy advisory: Filipinos still need visas to enter US
  • No travel restriction to Mideast, DFA clarifies
  • PH-HK relations repaired, but families of victims still being courted