Iligan City—Fusion of history and fiction through the multimedia characterized the new production of “Datu Matu” by Saturnina Rodi.
It was a play President Duterte would have relished watching given his anger over the alleged human rights violations of Americans during the Bud Bagsak and Bud Dajo massacres in Jolo and Lanao, and the wars between the Moro and Lumad on the one hand, and between them and the American forces on the other in Davao, Cotabato, Bukidnon and Agusan in the waning years of the Philippine-American War.
The infamous John “Black Jack” Pershing was one of the strategists who led the massacres in Mindanao.
The character of Datu Matu, meanwhile, is really a composite of prominent Mindanao datus of the three major Muslim groups Maranao, Maguindanao and Tausug.
Datus Uto, Ali, Piang, Ampuan Aguas and, from the warrior class, Panglima Hassan, resisted American colonization whose policies were to make the state of war terrifying, to “kill and burn” and “take no prisoners” in order for the native population to crave for peace and, thereby, surrender to the Americans, as articulated by Gen. Jake Smith, the butcher of Samar, and Gen. J.M. Bell, commander of Batangas.
Prelude of the drama is McKinley’s notorious Manifest Destiny.
Mounted anew by the Integrated Performing Arts Guild (Ipag), the play opens in the lake village of Gumbaran where the people are celebrating the circumcision of Datu Matu’s (Miguel Joven Perfecto) son Khalid (Cleven Garban). Khalid is presented a kris which Datu Matu inherited from his father, Datu Malik.
But the idyllic scene is disrupted by the beating of the ubiquitous snare drum, signal of American incursion.
The new production of the play is packed with action. It is also bigger with more youthful performers joining the koro. Foreign actors also join in: the American Robert Point plays the Captain and the British Mark Boot the composite of Generals Wood and Pershing.
As it happened in history, the Moros were defeated through treaties, negotiations, clever strategies of the colonizers with their superior weapons.
Many in the audience cried and applauded lustily in the right places, especially students of the the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT).
They were actually students of History 3, the History of the Moro, Lumad and Christian Filipinos. History 3 has been offered in MSU system for 30 years now to foster respect for religious differences and racial diversity.
“Datu Matu” had eight runs and generated over 30,000 audiences at MSU-IIT’s gymnasium. It was performed under a grant from the National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA) and MSU-IIT.
The new production of “Datu Matu” had additional scenes. Interesting details were added to the man-to-man combats. In the cleansing ritual, for example, the white-garbed warriors wore the head-and-arm white bands, the armbands serving as tourniquets to stem infection in the brain due to wounds incurred in fights, director Steve Patrick Fernandez said.
The play showed Moro women taking up arms to continue the fight after seeing their men succumb to the superior gunpower of the Americans.
Viewers appreciated history unfolding onstage, the facts interwoven with the imaginary dialog between the main characters during the kanduri in a kalilang (celebration), and the trysts between Tarintang (Yvonnie Emit/Jhoanna Rania Salic) and Hassan (Daffriel Bucayon/Restinil Kim Indino). The audience gasped at the killing of an abusive American soldier, his head cut off by the fabled kris from Hassan. They also seethed with anger at the betrayal of Datu Awalo (Melvin Pascubillo/Julius Gregory Hechanova).
There were some amateurish acting and miscues and jerky movements during entrances and exits by some of the youthful members of the cast.
But the strength of the play is that it has been able to come up with a coherent dramatization of what happened based on the the narratives written by historians Cesar Majul, Fr. Horacio de la Costa, B.R. Rodil and others.
The dialogue in Maranao and the rendition of Maranao and Tausug cultural practices and behaviors also enriched the play’s attempts at realism. —CONTRIBUTED