Writer’s Recap: Narrating the timeworn tales of the University in ‘DLS2K22’

After three long years, the Harlequin Theatre Guild (HTG) returned onstage with their annual DuLa Salle (DLS) production, Campus Santo: Lasallian Urban Legends. Running from March 9 to 11, the four one-act plays depicted the long-standing urban legends suffusing the University through a varnish of horror and sentimentality. 

The outdoor set design, coupled with the moody lights adorned at the Amphitheater created an ominous atmosphere that filled the audience members with excitement as the gala performance witnessed HTG’s deft command of the stage. The second day posed a great challenge to the guilders as renowned figures in the academe and media industry alike were invited to evaluate the production. And, on the third day, exceptional members were awarded for their contributions in different facets, ranging from directing to acting. 

Written by the theater guild’s very own playwrights, the production breathed life into the dead by utilizing different locations in the Manila campus: a laboratory, a chapel, an elevator, and a classroom. Each story strived to emphasize the weight of the bygone times and honor the histories of those who have passed. A patchwork of teachings and a cacophony of lamentations, Campus Santo is an evocative and frightening reminder that stories are perennial.  

Liyab ng mga istoryang natupok

Do ghosts aim to terrify? Or do they intend to offer a helping hand? These are questions the directors of Blue Team, Aaron Viray (IV, AB-PSM) and Ramon Palomares (V, AB-PSM), sought to raise with Laboratory: Burnout. Penned by Bryll Carilla (IV, BIO-MED), the narrative centered around two writers named Audrey and Elaine in pursuit of finding a scary story birthed within St. Joseph Hall to secure triumph in a writing contest. 

Steered by Audrey’s firm resolve and Elaine’s sensible yet apprehensive nature, the play coursed through their prospective entries to the contest via the accounts of students, employees, and professors who have allegedly encountered the paranormal. But Audrey, lost in the thrall of her ambitions, paid no heed to the lives of the deceased she was tarnishing to attain her principal objective: to petrify readers with their prose.

The tempest reared as Kenneth, an enigmatic spirit who knew more than he initially let on, fiercely unveiled the truth about Audrey’s characters and her writing partner: they are all figments of her desperate yet fatigued mind. And through Audrey’s wails, Kenneth bellowed, “Minsang nanalaytay sa aming katawan ang init ng buhay.”

(The warmth of life once coursed through our bodies.)

Thick with allusions to flames and exhaustion, Laboratory: Burnout conveyed a firm and poignant reminder that the deceased have once roamed the world as children, friends, and students. While stories of the dead hold potential for frightening tales, remnants of real people’s experiences are nestled at the core of folktales that have spanned across communities. As the lights dimmed and the characters trickled away from the stage, the play left the audience with one sobering thought: “Huwag tayong magpapalamon sa apoy.”

(Let’s not allow ourselves to be engulfed in flames.)

Paglaya at pahinga

In commemoration of those who were left and forgotten, Angel Serrano’s (III, AB-CAM) Elevator: In Loving Memory pays tribute to the restless lingering souls who tragically perished in an elevator. Directed by the Green Team’s Ace Ramilo (III, AB-POM) and Keanna Encarnacion (II, CAM-LGL), the story follows night-shift personnel Alex, Lea, and Shirley, as they uncover the chilling horrors that lie in the seemingly peaceful halls of the Br. Connon Hall, previously called the SPS Building.

Once thrilled and hopeful about her newfound job, the janitress Shirley eventually felt unease as she stepped foot inside the empty building. With the scent of fresh sampaguita accompanying the night breeze, the young woman expressed the heaviness that suddenly weighed on her heart, hinting at the presence of the departed beings that were left behind in this realm with no one to remember them.

Glimpses of the tormented souls that remain in the building are then manifested through the bodyguard Alex’s haunting encounters. The agitated ghosts let out blood-curdling screams of thirst and hunger, desperately begging for help as they were forced to relive the moments leading up to their eventual and lonesome deaths.

On the other hand, the wistful janitress Lea called out to her brother’s spirit, still in mourning years after his sudden and tragic passing. The enlightened heroine, through Shirley, prepared to face reality and let go of her grief and guilt that remained after his death. Because of these prayers offered by the living, the ghosts once confined were able to pass the bridge to the afterlife—ultimately attaining the peaceful rest they have longed for.

Sugal sa kadiliman

99.9 Radyo Animo was home to five promising students, Uno, Daniel, June, Nikki, and Elijah, whose ambitions drove the course for the attainment of insurmountable fortunes. But this also led to their untimely, yet expected, demise. Written by Nina Lim (IV, BS-CHE) and directed by Kay Tolentino (AB-CAM, ’22) and Reina Tejada (IV, PSM-MGT) of the Red Team, Classroom: Devil’s Coin unveils the consequences of those hungry enough to sign a pact with the devil.

A budding musician whose only wish was to gain the acceptance and support of the public, Elijah chose to gamble his soul upon hearing the clangs of the coins that were said to have originated from the supernatural. Years of unbridled success came along the passionate musician’s way, though unbeknown to those around him, whispers of the devil plagued his mind and grew louder with each passing day.

Just desserts were eventually served when the devil, portrayed by and as a woman in the play, arrived to claim what was owed by those who dared to wish upon her coins. In a moment of utter chaos, it was revealed that everyone else had gambled with the devil as well. But unlike Elijah, the others’ desires were grounded in selfishness and greed, and their hearts filled with hidden contempt for one another.

In a climactic twist of events, Classroom: Devil’s Coin delivers a warning that one may have difficulty accepting—that distinct demons looking to sink their claws into the weak-willed exist in everyone’s life.

Masidhing liriko ng yumao 

Forgetting our roots is far more terrifying than the existence of ghosts, the Purple Team Directors Patricia Villafuerte (III, AB-CAM) and Lian De Leon (II, AB-OCM), asserted. Set against the backdrop of The Chapel of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Vernice Batilo’s (II, BS-PSYC) Chapel: Stained Ghosts endeavored to convey the anger and anguish that laced the stories of Filipinos during our history’s period of colonization.

In the middle of an argument that revolved around their beliefs toward spirits and history, Amy and Dean were sent back to Japanese colonial rule. A flurry of events unfolded before their eyes—those that exemplified Filipinos’ unyielding grip on religion and those that showed the callous conditions Filipinos had been subjected to. As Dean, who initially exuded an air of indifference, began seeing things in a new light, she ended up being taken away by the people from the past—a bittersweet conclusion to her newly-acquired truths.

The narrative sought to immortalize the painful ridges of the past through the unwavering repetition of a unifying tune carried out by different characters, “Hindi ka ba naniniwala sa dilim? Mga sigaw nila ako’y naririndi!” Likewise, the play’s conviction was alive in the notches of Amy’s character, and her distinctive headband containing the words ‘Rise! Resist! Unite!’ which reflected her unfaltering grit and beliefs in thoroughly comprehending our past to understand the present. A pledge of remembrance, Chapel: Stained Ghosts was symbolic in nature, expressing that unless our past is told correctly, the bellows of the departed will continue to reverberate until time immemorial.

(Do you not believe in the dark? Their screams grate on my ears!)

Ang inaasam na pagbalik

A fitting return to live theater, DLS2K22 Campus Santo welcomed the Lasallian community back on campus by reconnecting them with the rich history of Lasallian urban legends that have endured throughout the decades. DLSU Harlequin Theater Guild’s artistic trainer Mr. Raffy Tejada expressed that these urban legends’ coexistence with the community is part of the unique Lasallian culture being nurtured in the university deserving of recognition and acceptance.

As the first major live performance carried out by DLSU HTG after the pandemic, Campus Santo is a beacon of hope in reigniting on-campus performing arts. Tejada wished the students to partake in this celebration and for the organization’s artists to recall that theater serves a deeper purpose of expressing one’s principles and beliefs through the medium of artistic performances.

Crysha Juliana Dela Pena

By Crysha Juliana Dela Pena

Cristina Jarito

By Cristina Jarito

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