Now more than ever, Vergel and I make time for the finer things. Among our favorite weekend activities as a couple are art shows, concerts and theater. For outside company, we gravitate toward like-hearted couples who not only enrich our cultural experience but also deepen our understanding and appreciation of everything—of life itself.
We feel it not simply natural but necessary in old age to choose our company for the standards against which we measure ourselves, and realize that it’s the sort of company we’d like to keep to the end. Good company, along with the hopeful and consoling constancy and beauty of art and music, helps in making sense of and enduring this new and strange socio-political world.
Drama and song
Tops in our entertainment preferences are musicals that offer both drama and song. For patriotic theater, Butch, a mean verse-maker himself, in Filipino in particular, and Bingbing are favorite company. We accept this couple’s invitation to anything, and one recent Sunday afternoon we find our foursome at a play by Peta—“Charot.”
Vergel and I had no idea what it was about, didn’t even know what charot meant. But in all the years we’ve been watching plays and musicals in Filipino, we’ve learned to trust Butch and Bingbing and Peta.
For us to go all the way to Quezon City from our homes in Makati together, we must, indeed, love Peta and each other’s company. The long way going and coming gives us time to catch up with each other, and for even less personal conversations. The day becomes even more satisfying when Maribel Legarda, the lovable director, and C.B. Garrucho, long-serving president of Peta, join us at some midway stop for a quick bite and good wine and chat before they go back for their evening show.
That day we learned a new word. Charot is gayspeak imbued with the power to erase and dismiss what was just said as a lie or a joke. Once again the gay community has come up with a word that needed to be invented for these times of fake news. Charot might make it even easier to lie, since you can take it right back. Alas, it doesn’t have the antidote to undo the harm done by an oft-repeated lie.
Because of the spur in my left foot, we are now seated in orchestra, where our husbands’ white hair is a spotlight that sets us apart from a full house of millennials. Onstage we see actors who disappear into double or triple roles, holding his or her own in each, excellent actors who are excellent singers, as well. Only typical of Peta plays, there are no big stars and no small roles, only a social message delivered loud and clear.
“Charot” is a political play where we see a microcosm of endearing Filipino characters, their differences in stature and perspectives and levels of understanding of political issues portrayed with wit and humor. Their different motivations for voting are as touching as they are familiar, and sometimes pathetic. On the surface, there are no apparent political personalities involved, but we all know better.
It may also seem a simple choice between yes or no in a referendum on Federalism and Charter Change, but we also know the complex things at stake. Even before anything else we see on stage the clear division between Filipinos today as informed by class, age and subcultures.
This modern play allows the young audience to interact—to use their cellphones, for instance, to join an online poll conducted in real time. I’m sure the producers tried their best to be neutral. Us? We’re just relieved by the resounding no to charter change and federalism.
At the open forum, I cannot forget one 23-year-old who came to the mic to say that he had never voted before but that, after watching the show, he would for the first time—in May. I felt proud of the young audience, who seemed not only aware of what’s happening but asked intelligent questions, finding it only right for them to get involved. In every historical conflict, after all, it’s they who stand most to gain or lose.
I was never prouder of Peta, their producers, directors, writers and actors. “Charot” (which runs until today, March 17, a matinee at 3 p.m. and night show at 8 p.m.) is a must cultural experience; it should be taken around the country.