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Hero Z and the Kids

A child in the audience was waiting for the action packed entrance onstage of some masked and costumed superhero with a letter z painted across his body. Instead, what he got was a musical of scenes of local community conflict relayed in contemporary colloquial Taglish, with gripping action, truly hilarious humor, heart-wrenching romance and breath-stopping suspense interspersed with Broadway level musical performances. I mean it. Bayani Loves Hero Z really was an excellent play. I was blown away when they opened the act with “Salot, Salot”. I thought, “Whoa! This is some serious art. They’re not joking around here.” This is not some adaptation of a play written by some long dead Western playwright. It’s not even interpretations of already existing songs with altered lyrics. This is all original, and it was truly excellent. (That’s the second time that I used the word, excellent. You better believe me now.)

If you don’t have any faint idea of what I’m talking about, this is about “Bayani Loves Hero Z”, a musical play which was shown in the UNC Sports Palace for some consecutive days just last week. If you happen to know an elementary pupil or high school student, try to ask him/her about it. There’s a good chance that he/she was there because their teacher told them to. That was probably the reason why I was impressed beyond expectation. I was thinking that it was going to be some adaptation of some children’s fantasy tale; because it was required viewing for school children.

I had to google the synopsis. The story was about four characters who were representations of Andres Bonifacio, Jose Rizal, Sultan Kudarat and Apolinario Mabini with contemporary names. (I express appreciation for the representation of Muslims and PWDs.) They go through events that are allegorical of Philippine history set supposedly in the time of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is a noble expedition to bring history, patriotism and passionate participation in societal development to Filipino school children. I just hope they got it.

When the children and the rest of the audience got settle on the seats and bleachers, it did not take long before groups of elementary pupils sporadically made yelling and hooting sounds in chorus as if they rehearsed it. I guess, kids will be kids. It was all in clean fun. But then, it got to the point of bordering to annoying. Before the play started, someone from the production spoke. It was sort of an introduction. Among the things he said was an exhortation to the audience not to shout or yell because it was not a concert. He even taught us how to applaud and give a standing ovation. He concluded with an appeal for “matalinong panonood”. To his credit, he was respectful throughout his short speech.

What do kids do when they are about to watch some performance in an auditorium, gymnasium or some audio-visual room. They make noise. They talk. They yell. They scream when the K-pop boy band is about to come onstage. That’s what they do because that’s what they have been exposed to. For them, stages are for concerts. Appreciation for performers are expressed by yelling and screaming; the more hysterical, the more appreciative. You can’t expect them to be sitting prim and proper on the bleachers or monoblock chairssoftly clapping for a good performance because that’s how audience of a play do it. I suppose, even if these kids had some sort of theatrical plays at school, they still would be screaming in support of their schoolmates. I admit that the yelling was out of place in a theatrical presentation. But what can we do? They’re kids.

I say it again, this is something noble; one worthy of acclaim and highest appreciation. But, for the audience to grasp the point, they have to have an understanding of Philippine history and the artistic stylistics of interspersing elements of the past with contemporary popular culture, similar to how Martin Scorsese did with Romeo and Juliet with DiCaprio and Danes in the lead roles. But a great bulk of the audience were just starting to study or still studying Philippine history. So for them, the characters were just a group of friends who were struggling with problems with the lockdown and an abusive political leader. I’m sure they enjoyed the jokes and courtship sequences. I do understand the educational value; and I also understand why the administrators encouraged pupils and students to watch. Maybe, the play would have been more appropriate as required viewing to college students. But considering the K-Pop and Taylor Swift adoring GenZ kids, I still have my doubts.

Proverbs 1:4: “To give prudence to the naive, to the youth knowledge and discretion.”


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