Writer’s Recap: HTG’s Paroo’t Parito finds common thread in tales of Nueva Vizcaya

The theatrical group staged the tale of Nueva Vizcayan women and children who clung to their dreams to rise above the tribulations that came their way.

In an annual showcase of original tales all crafted by the institution’s own from page to set, DLSU’s acting troupe Harlequin Theatre Guild (HTG) returned with DuLa Salle 2k23: Paroo’t Parito, staged at the Teresa Yuchengco Auditorium last March 20 to 23. The four-act play was penned by Dr. Anne Richie Balgos, a former professor of the Department of Literature. 

Themed in time for Women’s History Month, Paroo’t Parito was an ode to the women and children of Nueva Vizcaya whose unwavering dreams resist the odds. It scaled down to fleeting yet emotionally rife moments in their lives and through these unveiled persisting national issues. To make for a more personal experience, the production was carried out in an unconventional black box theater fashion, with monobloc chairs and risers joining the action onstage, intimately encasing the show. 

Trudging through unwalkable paths

Set in the far-flung mountains of the province where the Bugkalot tribe resides, dreams are abound among the young students of Eskuwelang Pelaway in the opening act: Minkeva, Lakad Lang. An annoyed Limaya griped about the long hours of walking every time they go home. Her older brother, Alonzo, dismissed her complaints as he repeatedly called her a “reklamador” or a grumbler.

Breaking the two off, Teacher Dexter imparted to them the saying, Minkeva, a cultural maxim that means to keep walking. The siblings began their arduous journey in the mountains with the rest of the students. Melodies of playfulness and camaraderie filled the stage as the children cheerfully sang through the forest’s twists and turns. They talked about dreams unique to theirs—dreams that kept them going. 

But the students soon began to falter on the seemingly endless forest trails.  Weary and crestfallen, they contemplated on whether to press on: “Kapag tumigil tayo [sa paglalakad], titigil na rin tayo sa pagpapangarap.

(If we stop walking, we also stop dreaming.)  

Messengers of the heavens had taken control of Limaya and Alonzo to chastise the group for their disconnection from their land. Now crowned with twigs and draped in traditional garments, the siblings reminded the students of their roots, telling them to embrace being a Bugkalot.

The search for gold

Braving the forces of an abused Mother Nature were the adventures of a young boy and his friends as they reached for the skies and ducked against corporate greed in Paroo’t Parito’s second act: Balitok Ginto. Rock, an aspiring security guard like his father, looked up in awe at Gold Unlimited, the company that fed his family. Unbeknown to Rock were the personifications of the four elements of nature that continue to suffer from the atrocities inflicted on his home by Gold Unlimited: Nuppe, Danum, Puuran, and Luta. Though the company provided health cards to its employees, the health crisis it implanted to the community was unparalleled. 

As numerous kids passed away from the side effects of mining in their small town, a reluctant Rock denied Gold Unlimited’s part in the deaths—blinded by his father’s stories and the food his job brought to the table. But the company’s mining soon got Rock sick, as he also suffered from asthma. As the elements debated whether to save the kid or leave him as a symbol of the damage inflicted by corporations, Rock learned to accept brave change and grow from past beliefs.

Unerasable marks of departed souls 

Amid the dark and eerie ambiance of the funeral parlor, the third act Pencil Box surprised the audience with a comedic twist. Mother-daughter duo Jen-jen and Jon-jon burst out of the coffins, enthusiastically advertising their business, Libing Things. Tension arose between the two when the young Jon-jon expressed reluctance, complaining about getting bullied because of her embalmer mother and even comparing one of their coffins to a pencil box. Already grooming her daughter to be the next inheritor of their family business, Jen-jen asked her dear Jon-jon to help her out, causing the latter to storm off. 

But as more customers came in, Jon-jon reached her tipping point and angrily exclaimed that she never wanted to be a part of their business. “Karapatan kong maging bata. Karapatan kong mangarap,” she cried out to her mother.

(It is my right to be a child. It is my right to dream.) 

While Jen-jen understood and respected her daughter’s wishes, she explained the importance of working for the deceased. Despite the belittling remarks surrounding their line of work, Jen-jen pushed through because it is part of the healing process, a way to sympathize with those who are left mourning. Referencing the pencil box-shaped coffin once more, Jen-jen believed that humans and pencils are somewhat alike. “Patuloy tayong ginagamit at inaabuso ng oras. Ngunit lahat tayo ay nag-iiwan ng ating mga marka.”  

(We are continually used and abused by time, yet all of us still leave our marks.) 

Untangling the threads

Family members are inextricably linked to one another, every individual a mosaic of those they hold close. Through Gaddang weaver Salve, her daughter Teresa, and granddaughter Edythe–affectionately called Eteng–the final act Inala, Paghabi tested the household unit when the threads of their bonds once so tightly woven together began to fray.

Set early into the COVID-19 pandemic, Eteng entered her school’s virtual Little Miss United Nations pageant. She represented Saudi Arabia in remembrance of her father Mateo, an OFW settled there, whom she sorely missed. 

Neighbors flocked to the abode with true enough purposes though also sought to harass Teresa over Mateo’s whereabouts. The constant barrage of questions caused Teresa to recall her former beau’s abuses, his hostility first emerging at news of her pregnancy as he’d never wanted a child. Mateo’s departure was only a matter of time, as he’d abandoned the family some three years prior.

Deeply ashamed by the gossip growing around their family, Salve attempted to coerce Teresa into patching things up with Mateo, pleading, “Kapag nagbubuhol ang mga sinulid, gugupitin ko ba? Sisirain ko kaagad?

(When the threads begin to tangle, do I simply snip them? Ruin them right away?)

In confrontation, the three are made to decide whether to remain caught between these threads, or to delicately pluck each strand and weave these into a narrative of their own.

As the curtains draped over Paroo’t Parito’s successful four-day run, a new curtain call echoed throughout and across the four corners of the black box where stories of disparaging odds were told. The indisputable wit of Minkeva, Lakad Lang, the fantasy world of Balitok Ginto, the humoring candor of Pencil Box, and the generational trauma of Inala, Paghabi, each left a mark on everyone who has witnessed the four-act spectacle. These whimsical tales of conscious innocence tainted by harsh truths reverberated through audiences, hoping that these silenced, unheard stories will finally be heard.

Jaime Lallana

By Jaime Lallana

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By Jose Miguel Octavo

Maxinne Vianca Tomas

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