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‘Works of the heart’: New plays, new voices at Virgin Labfest 14

The playwrights and directors featured in this year’s Virgin Labfest, which will run for three weeks at various CCP venues, from June 27 to July 14. —PHOTOS FROM CCP

Since its founding in 2005, the Virgin Labfest (VLF) has had a major hand in the development of Filipino playwrights and playwriting. Its aim is to provide aspiring dramatists a venue where they can present their unpublished, untried and unstaged works.

Tuxqs Rutaquio has served as VLF festival director and dramaturg since 2012—a role that requires him to oversee the event’s nuts and bolts, from the choice of plays, to the matching of playwrights and directors, to monitoring how the plays are mounted.


“Though seemingly taxing, the joy of being a part of a theater artist’s development is unparalleled,” he said. “As festival director and dramaturg, I enjoy reading new works by playwrights (both first-time writers and veterans) and supporting the visions of their works.”

Many Labfest playwrights have gone on to win in the annual Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards. Several VLF plays have also been adapted to the big screen, or included in the regular seasons of professional theater companies.


“VLF has contributed to Philippine literature and theater with diverse, thought-provoking and significant works in the one-act format,” said Rutaquio.

Fresh batch

This year’s fresh batch of VLF playwrights include Dustin Celestino (“Mga Eksena sa Buhay ng Kontrabida”), Rolin Migyuel Obina (“Mga Bata sa Selda 43”), Anthony Kim Vergara (“Ang Inyong mga Anak: Si Harold At Napoleon”), JV Ibesate (“Tulad ng Dati”), Lino Balmes (“Amoy Pulbos ang mga Alabok Sa Ilalim ng Riles ng Tren”) and Tyron Casumpang (“Marawi Musicale”).

The Staged Reading component will feature works by Jay Crisostomo (“Without the Drama”), Peter Zaragoza Mayshle (“Dolorosa”), Dominic Lim (“Asalto”) and John Lapus (“Bagyolanda”—yes, the actor, making his VLF debut as a playwright).

“Each of their works display personal views about themselves and the society we now live in,” said Rutaquio.

“Throughout the years, the VLF has evolved from a festival of veteran, emerging and newbie playwrights into one of the year’s much-awaited theatrical events. It has become a viable platform for the development of playwrights by not only ‘de-virginizing’ their plays, but providing an avenue where their voice is given top priority.

“Here, we encourage them to churn out plays according to their desires, without the trappings of commercialism, imposed themes or other concerns. It is hard to compare this generation of playwrights from previous generations because each has contributed and adapted to the development of playwriting through the years.”


Virgin Labfest artistic director Tuxqs Rutaquio

Exciting stories

Filmmaker Carlitos Siguion-Reyna is directing Sari Saysay’s “Ang Mga Propesyunal.”

“This is about three kids fantasizing, falling under the influence of, and realizing roles in society,” he explained. “A doctor, a journalist and a cop try to cope with the present political climate of fear and corruption, and a drive to speak out the truth despite the consequences.”

Siguion-Reyna recalled, “Last year, I mounted Dingdong Novenario’s ‘Nothing but Dreams,’ a comic but hard-hitting drama about racist attitudes internalized from a colonial past and acted out against our darker-skinned brothers.

“Despite the topical and thematic differences between the two materials, both pull no punches in exposing our sociopolitical divisions and dysfunctions. Both plays I’ve read come across as exciting, heartfelt stories from their playwrights. These materials become new to me if I can find my personal connection with them, and share my take with the audience through them. That bond is what gets me going.

“Experiencing stories and issues as heard through the writer’s voice and seen from his eyes, especially if these are individual instead of generic, is most fulfilling. I’m also inspired by the challenge of working on something untested and seeing the audience response to it, whether good or bad.”

Siguion-Reyna also has words of advice for aspiring playwrights: “Work from the heart. Share your individual voice and point of view of the world and its issues, as colored by your own personal experience. Let the creative team and the audience know who you are through your work. Most importantly, do something that obsesses you and that you’re passionate about. This last one is the surest way to keep the flame alive (without burning you out), to steer the play through the production process, and to see it through to the stage.” —CONTRIBUTED

The Virgin Labfest 14, presented by the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Writer’s Bloc, runs June 27-July 14 at various CCP venues (see below). Visit or call 8323704.

Director Carlitos Siguion-Reyna with the cast of last year’s VLF entry “Nothing But Dreams”


Venue: Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater)

June 27, July 6, 11, 15 (3 p.m.)
June 27, July 5, 10, 14 (8 p.m.)

Playwright: Dustin Celestino
Director: Roobak Valle

Playwright: Rolin Migyuel Obina
Director: Ian Segarra

SI HAROLD AT SI NAPOLEON” Playwright: Anthony Kim Vergara
Director: Ricardo Magno

June 28, July 1, 7, 12 (3 p.m.)
June 28, July 6, 11, 15 (8 p.m.)

“ANG MGA PROPESYUNAL” Playwright: Sari Saysay
Director: Carlitos Siguion-Reyna

Playwright: J. Dennis Teodosio
Director: Charles Yee

Playwright: Carlo Vergara
Director: George de Jesus III

June 29, July 4, 8, 13 (3 p.m.)
June 29, July 1, 7, 12 (8 p.m.)

Playwright: Ma. Cecilia dela Rosa
Director: José Estrella

Playwright: Juan Ekis
Director: Erick Villanueva dela Cruz

Playwright: JV Ibesate
Director: Olive Nieto

June 30, July 5, 10, 14 (3 p.m.)
June 30, July 4, 8, 13 (8 p.m.)


Playwright: Lino Balmes
Director: Tess Jamias

Playwright: Tyron Casumpang
Director: Ariel Yonzon

Playwright: Allan Lopez
Director: Chris Martinez

Venue: Tanghalang Huseng Batute (CCP Studio Theater)

SET E (VLF Revisited)
June 30, July 1, 7, 8, 14, 15 (3 p.m.)
June 29, 30, July 6,7,13, 14 (8 p.m.)

Playwright: Rick Patriarca
Director: Ian Segarra

Playwright: Adrian Ho
Director: Jenny Jamora

Playwright: Eljay Castro Deldoc
Director: Roobak Valle

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TAGS: carlitos siguion-reyna, Cultural Center of the Philippines, drama, festival, Little Theater, Play, playwright, stage, Tanghalang Huseng Batute, Theater, Tuxqs Rutaquio, Virgin Labfest, Writers' Bloc
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