Dateline Movies Goes To UP Playwrights' Theatre's Distrito De Molo

Distrito De Molo (2016)

Play Dates:

First Week

October 12 (Wednesday) – 7 PM ENGLISH
October 13 (Thursday) – 7 PM ENGLISH
October 14 (Friday) – 7 PM ENGLISH
October 15 (Saturday) – 10 AM & 3 PM ENGLISH
October 16 (Sunday) – 10 AM & 3 PM ENGLISH

Second Week

October 19 (Wednesday) – 7 PM FILIPINO
October 20 (Thursday) – 7 PM FILIPINO
October 21 (Friday) – 7 PM FILIPINO
October 22 (Saturday) – 10 AM & 3 PM FILIPINO
October 23 (Sunday) – 10 AM & 3 PM FILIPINO

Third Week

October 26 (Wednesday) – 7 PM ENGLISH
October 27 (Thursday) – 7 PM Filipino FILIPINO
October 28 (Friday) – 7 PM English ENGLISH
October 29 (Saturday) – 10 AM ENGLISH & 3 PM FILIPINO
October 30 (Sunday) – 10 AM ENGLISH & 3 PM FILIPINO

Genre/s: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Presented by Dulaang UP

Director: Tony Mabesa

Writer: Leoncio P. Deriada

Filipino Translator: Allan Palileo

  • Frances Makil-Ignacio/Stella Cañete as Visitacion
  • Adriana Agcaoili/Katte Sabate/Tp De Luna as Asuncion
  • Candy Pangilinan/Dolly De Leon as Salvacion
  • Ronnie Martinez/Monette Flores/Flordeliz Salanga as Maura
  • Carlo Cannu/Ron Biñas as Jacobo Marañon
  • Mark Dalacat/Ian Ramirez as Mateo
  • Neil Ryan Sese/Carlo Tarobal as Eric Avanceña
  • Missy Maramara/Micah Musa/Chloe Jenna as Lorena Avanceña
  • Ian Ignacio/Emmanuel Mante as Atlas
  • Leo Rialp/Jacques Borlaza as Guillermo Arroyo
  • Sue Prado/Chase Salazar/Liway Gabo as Laonsena
  • Brian Arda/Arvin Trinidad as Crispino Marañon
  • La Verne Perucho and Mark Mirando as Carpenters

Well, sembreak finally started a few days ago, albeit later than usual. While it looks like I would be hitting the hay much earlier than the previous weeks, and would be posting new content more frequently than before, it seems that life would always find a way to preoccupy me. Oh well, I guess you really can never escape from the terrors that are "research papers". Anyway, we are back again with another late play review. Thank you so much to UP Diliman for the invitations and the poster. And now, Dateline Movies reviews UP Diliman's latest feature of their twenty-fifth season, Distrito De Molo, an anthology that revolves around, well, the District of Molo.

What is the play about?

Set in the seemingly quiet place known as the the district of Molo, Iloilo City, and different parts of time, we get to see three various plays that tackle the themes of family, narcissism and obsession.

The first part, "Tres Hermanas De Molo", focuses on the private lives of three sisters. Visitacion, played by either Makil-Ignacio (Hamlet) or Cañete (West Side Story); Asuncion, played by either Agcaoli (Camino Real), Sabate, or De Luna (Gabriela An Oratorio); and Salvacion, played by either Pangilinan (The Women) or De Leon (The Merchant of Venice); under the guidance of their caretaker Maura, played by Martinez (...And St. Louis Loves Dem Filipinos), Flores (The Seagull) or Salanga (Mary Stewart) struggle to fight their dark pasts. After many revelations, such as those of Asuncion's friend, Mateo, played by either Dalacat (Titus Adronicus) or Ramirez (Ang Mga Anak ng Kaminero), and struggles, such as Vistacion's encounter with the sculptor Jacobo Marañon, played by Cannu (Arturo Ui) or Biñas (King Lear), can their familial bond be preserved?

The second part, "Atlas De Molo", places emphasis on self-loving body builder Eric Avanceña, played by either Sesa (Munting Heredera) or Tarobol (Duchess of Malfi), who goes on a honeymoon slash business trip to his now-deceased father's ancestral property, which he plans to demolish, with his wife Lorena, played by either Maramara (What Are We doing Here), Musa (La Ronde), or Jenna (The Wedding), and his odd encounter with sentient statue of Atlas, played by either Ignacio (Purgatorio) or Mante (Disney X).

The final part, "Venus De Molo", chronicles the turbulent working relationship between the rich Don Guillermo Arroyo, played by either Rialp (#R</3 J: A Multimedial Hallucination On William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet) or Borlaza (The Winter's Tale/Ang Kuwente ng Pagtataksil at Pag-Ibig), who is obsessed with obtaining a Venus De Milo statue for him to gain local fame, and his unpaid sculptor, who is building the sculpture, Crispino Marañon, played by either Arda (Passion of the Christ/Pasyon ni Kristo) or Trinidad (S.A.W.I.). During this time, the goddess Laosena, played by either Prado (Barber's Tales), Salazar (Ang Birheng Matimtiman), or Gabo (Tisoy Brown: Hari ng Wala) pays Crispino a visit, hoping to help him out with his predicament, because as evidenced by Don Arroyo's treatment of two carpenters, played by Perucho (The Female Heart) and Mirando (Teatro Porvenir), it looks like Crispino would not be receiving a compensation anytime soon.

What we think of the play?

Acting = (4/5)

Since a production such as this one has multiple actors for a single character, I would only be basing my opinions on the performances that I have seen firsthand.

For the segment "Tres Hermanas De Molo", we have the following actors and actresses: Frances Makil-Ignacio as Visitacion, Adriana Agcaoli as Asuncion, Candy Pangilinan as Salvacion, Ronnie Martinez as Maura, Carlo Cannu as Jacobo Marañon, and Mark Dalacat as Mateo.

And for this segment, it is the winning performance of Candy Pangilinan as the overly eccentric Salvacion that shines the most from the pool of acting talents in this play. Through Pangilinan, we are able to experience a humorous, and at some points, true to life portrayal of a woman trying to escape her problematic mundane life. While her role is mostly for comedic purposes, Pangilinan made Salvacion a witty and easily relatable character, and a very memorable one to an even greater extent. Also, her charismatic zealous nature meshes very well with the firm personality of Visitacion, and the equally enthusiastic character of Asuncion.

Of course, what would the segment be without its main protagonist, who in this case is in the form of Visitacion, who is portrayed by Frances Makil-Ignacio. Makil-Ignacio's performance as the overprotective and extremely conservative big sister, who is on the receiving end of her sisters' many personal struggles, is is an emotionally intense and sincere one. For those who are the eldest children in their family, you might relate a lot to Vistacion's tribulations, especially for those who are facing issues within their fellow siblings. In the part wherein Asuncion and Salvacion have departed for a city life of grander thrills, and Visitacion is left to be miserable at their absence, you really cannot help but smile at awe at the theatrical prowess of Makil-Ignacio!

Our last main character for the first segment, we have Adriana Agcaoli as Asuncion. Well, there is not that much to say about her character, given that her personality matches exactly that of Salvacion's, but there is something that is particularly distinct that separates this character from Salvacion, and that is tragedy. One particular scene that highlighted this characters aspect, which involves her, Salvacion and Visitacion discussing their past turmoils, and an eerie silence is heard when Asuncion admitted that she aborted a child of hers, as the child's father was killed during the Second World War. Not only did it make us feel either sympathetic or conflicted towards her decision, but it also made Asuncion a three-dimensional character, who faces real life human concerns, like us.

For our last three actors for this segment, I would have to summarize my takes on their performances in this paragraph, because we still have a long way to go. Martinez had very few lines to truly make an impression as the three siblings' caretaker. I actually wasn't aware that a man was playing the role. If that is not good acting , then I don'y know what is. However, his delivery in the part wherein he claimed to have seen a ghost is hilarious. Cannu's single scene as a sculptor initially hired by Visitacion to create a sculpture of a demon was actually quite memorable, in part due to his strong delivery. Dalacat's small and limited presence gave some levity to an already lively play, especially in the parts where he seemingly brings the flowers from Asuncion's aborted child's grave to Asuncion. Wait, Asuncion asks Mateo to bring her flowers, which are growing on Asuncion's now-deceased offspring's resting place, so as to remind her of that child? That really is heart-wrenching.

For the second part, "Atlas De Molo", we have Carlo Tarobal as Eric Avanceña, Missy Maramara as Lorena Avanceña, and Emmanuel Mante as the titular, self-aware statue, Atlas.

For Tarobol's performance as a self-absorbed, self-indulgent bodybuilder who thinks he is the manliest man around, it is nothing short of amazing. Easily embodying the role of a suave, and somewhat perverted, businessman who is obsessed with his self-image, combined with some musclebound charm, Tarobol delivers a ravishing performance that keeps things energetic, amidst a somewhat lackluster second part, which we will be talking about later on.

When I think of the Greek Titan Atlas, I imagine a macho and strong powerhouse, who at least has loincloth covering his "below-the-belt" portions. Well here, we get a competitive, slightly smart, and an endearing portrayal that is delivered to us by Emmanuel Mante. With a strong vocal delivery from Mante, this portrayal succeeds at making a parable-ish iteration of the Titan we all know by name, which is basically what the second act is, a parable. The only problem is that his costume is really distracting, and you will know why later on.

While we did not see much Maramara's character, given that the story is much more enticed on Eric's encounter with a personification of Atlas, Maramara makes for an endearing character.

All-in-all, the acting performances are indeed awe-inspiring. Seriously, their voices can be clearly heard throughout the theater. I am not even sure if they do have microphones hidden in their costumes.

I would be discussing the performances for the third part in our "Ending, Originality and Story Fulfillment" section, mainly because it is basically the ending of the entire play. In the meantime, let us get to the "Production Value and Cinematography".

Production Value and Cinematography = (4/5)

There is only a single set that is used throughout the entire play, and that is just a room with many squares, and a couple of doors. Hey, I am not expecting something grandiose. I am merely commending the simplicity in terms of theatricality, which is a breath of fresh air from the usual big-budget non-sense that we regularly experience in the cinemas.

I have to commend as well as the special effects for the play, including the lighting. The lighting properly reflects the mood in every scene. The scene with Visitacion acting as if she is experiencing insanity at its finest, with the lights turning red, just to amplify the mood, is indeed great. The concluding part in "Atlas De Molo", wherein Atlas and Lorena sang a song, as a cavalcade of psychedelic visuals flooded the stage was, interesting, even if it does seem out-of-place and nonsensical.

The costumes applied for each part perfectly capture the era that a certain story took place, with the best costume probably being that of Laonsena's, which literally just screams "goddess" at first glance. However, one costume that I felt was funny for all the wrong reasons, was that of Atlas, whose lack of pants, or shorts, or a loincloth, kind-of distracted me from the rest of the segment. Not only that, but it reminded me a lot of The Thing's design in FANT4STIC, and Doctor Manhattan's look in the Watchmen movie. On the bright side, they did capture the look of Atlas, somewhat accurately.

Also, there have to be some problems, as told by my younger sister, with regards to the microphones used by the actors and actresses, as in some cases, the microphone would be inactive, and the performers would have to settle for slightly-audible deliveries.

Story, Dialogue and Flow = (3/5)

The overall theme for the play is none other than the gravest among all the seven capital sins, pride. Each arc tackles the subject matter in uniquely distinct styles and ways. Given that this a theatrical production separated into three distinct stories, let us properly review each tale individually, but I might as well keep things slightly brief.

"Tres Hermanas De Molo" examines average life in a post-war Philippines, specifically the 1950s, and how one's ego, which in this case is in the form of attempted ignorance of one's personal trials. Through the script, accompanied by the performances of the actors and actresses, we get to see a very funny tale, and a story that begs people the question, "Is it better to escape from all of your problems, or to face them head-on and fight as if your life depended on it?". With so much energy, as well as some particularly noteworthy humorous elements, Tres Hermanas De Molo is undeniably the most emotionally striking among all the segments.

"Atlas De Molo" tackles pride through the eyes of a man who focuses solely on maintaining a sexy body image, which basically means that he believes in everything that is the opposite of "mind over body", set in a much more contemporary era. While the script truly reflects the times of today, similar to how "Tres Hermanas De Molo" reflected its decade, complete with various expressions that most modern audiences would understand, the execution for this segment feels lacking. Don't get me wrong. They do have a very interesting concept, although a bit familiar one. It is always intriguing to watch a story about inanimate objects suddenly coming to life, but here, it is more or less just an endless barrage of sexually explicit jokes and dialogue. Yeah, yeah, I know the main character is meant to be obsessed with bodily beauty, but the fact that this second part made use of too much juvenile humor, despite some slightly clear character depth, simply strips "Atlas De Molo" of its thematic punch, resulting in a rather shallow and vulgar misfire. The ending for this segment was also confusing, although I have to admit it is artistically neat.

Now with all that said and done, it is time to head to the final part, "Venus De Molo"!

Ending, Originality and Story Fulfillment = (4/5)

For the third part, "Venus De Molo", we have Leo Rialp as Guillermo Arroyo, Sue Prado as Laonsena, Brian Arda as Crispino Marañon, and La Verne Perucho and Mark Mirando as the carpenters.

I have to say, Arda's performance as a quirky underpaid sculptor, who sought the assistance of the goddess Laonsena, is really good. Arda has this certain vocal strength to him, as well as an energy that an above average actor has, and both of his performance here is a truly impressive one.

For Rialp's work as the frugal and abusive employer of Crispino, who is so obsessed with gaining fame in the local community through a sculpture, that his ego drove him mad by the end of the segment, is indeed strong, and while it is not a villainous portrayal that is worth all of your hatred, it is still a convincing one. 

Lastly, we have Sue Prado's portrayal of Laonsena. She is indeed filled with loads of charisma that fits the bill of a typical on-stage goddess. However, there are parts wherein I cannot hear any of here lines, most probably due to the microphone interference which I mentioned earlier, which also possibly happened during the carpenters' scene. This claim is evident in the scene that involved Laonsena casting a spell to make Don Arroyo insane, but it is still a very entertaining bit of the play.

The core story of this segment focuses on Don Arroyo's unquenchable need for fame, which is again an evidence on the recurring theme of pride. While at first I did not seem to grasp the tale's flow (My understanding of deeper Tagalog is not that good), I was able to finally understand the very essence of this concluding chapter, and it is fairly decent. It just goes to show that for every bad deed that we do, there is always something that is equally bad that is set to come for us.

Overall Evaluation = (4/5)

Despite the second part's decision to substitute wit and meaningful humor with sophomoric gags, the overall experience was nevertheless entertaining, supported by strong performances from its cast, and some heartfelt tales.

TOTAL = 19/25 (Pleasant Entertainment)

Distrito De Molo continues the never-ending tradition of Dulaang UP's aim to entertain audiences, with powerful performances and colorful stories to fulfill that goal, even if in some parts is lacking in depth or emotional resonance.

And that concludes our review of Dulaang UP's most recent feature, Distrito De Molo. Be sure to save enough money to buy a ticket or more for their upcoming production, Faust, which is under their Revelations series of plays, and a personally highly anticipated work, coming soon on February 15, 2017, and it ends on March 5, 2017. Wow, I cannot believe that they are going to make a play about Faust. Yeah, I know others have done it before, but last year, we studied about this story, and I really wanted to watch a stage adaptation of it, so this could be my chance. We personally thank once more Dulaang UP for the invitation, the souvenir program and the complimentary poster! And now, before we officially close this post, here is a bloopers reel from the Tres Hermanas De Molo photoshoot. Stay tuned for more Dateline Movies!


All promotional images are courtesy of Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas.


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