Wednesday, March 21, 2007


A street zarzuela with a Spanish colonial theme, performed by Kapampangan students, circa 1920s.
Zarzuelas, characterized by music and dance, were the favorite theatrical amusements of Spain beginning in the 16th century. Soon as our colonizers introduced their concept of theater, it naturally blended into our local moro-moro or kumidia tradition, with royal and religious elements coming into play. However, the zarzuela remained Spanish in form, and many Filipino playwrights wrote them using Spanish language, music, characters and themes.

Pampanga was the first province to try the vernacular zarzuela. As Mariano Proceso Pabalan Byron (1863-1904) observed after watching performances of visiting zarzuela troupes, “True enough, Spanish is sweet and soft; Kapampangan is hard and stiff. But is it only Spanish that can be set to music?”

And so, a whole legion of Kapampangan playwrights began experimenting with zarzuelas in the local language. The pioneering Pabalan wrote “Ing Managpi” (The Patcher), a play revolving around a “patched” or spotted dog and Sianang, the maid who helped patch up her masters’ domestic squabbles. Amado Gutierrez David provided the musical score for this play.

On 13th September 1900, the play made its debut at the Teatro Sabina and was met with thunderous acclaim. Teatro Sabina, Bacolor’s 1st theater, was named after the aunt of Don Ceferino Joven, the first civil governor of Pampanga during the American regime. A repertory of performers, Compania Sabina, often rehearsed at the spacious house of Don Mateo Gutierrez, father of Jose Gutierrez David, himself an accomplished zarzuelista. Don Ceferino put the Compania under the supervision of Juan Crisostomo Soto with Pascual Gozun as the stage manager.

Teatro Sabina supposedly had three water-filled wells dug at the rear to improve stage acoustics. VIPs had their own private entrance leading to their bleachers facing the main stage, while the hoi polloi sat at the sides, necks craned at an angle. On this venerable theater, renowned Kapampangan zarzuelas were stage including Crissot’s “Ing Paninap ng San Roque” (San Roque’s Dream, 1901) and “Alang Dios” (There is No God, 16 Nov. 1902). Pabalan also read his moving Kapampangan version of Rizal’s “Mi Ultimo Adios” here on 30 Dec. 1901.

Aside from Teatro Sabina, there was also a Teatro Trining in Guagua, where a 3-act zarzuela, “Ing Mangaibugan” (The Greedy One) by Jacinto Tolentino was staged in 1901. Naturally, a whole slew of drama troupes were established as interest in theater grew. Among these were Compania Paz, Compania Ocampo in Candaba, Compania Dramatica in Bacolor and Compania LubeƱa in Lubao.

The zarzuela tradition ended with the arrival of the great white American culture which taught that English should only be the language for literary use; anything else is inferior. It cannot be denied however, that in the long and colorful history of the Philippine theater, Pampanga led the way in shaping the golden age of the country’s performance arts with its pool of homegrown actors, playwrights and directors, who, with their boundless creativity and sheer talent, were always imitated but never equalled.
(29 June 2002)


Anonymous said...

the original mangaibugan manuscript is in my friend

alex r. castro said...

Lucky you! Hope you can share it with Kapampangans soon! The Center for Kapampangan Studies in Angeles City may want to have a copy with your permission. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Ola, what's up amigos? :)
Hope to get some assistance from you if I will have any quesitons.
Thanks in advance and good luck! :)

Titanons said...

Teatro Sabina was named after Sabina Joven (a spinster) who was the aunt of Ceferino Joven y Casas, the Civil Governor.

Blogger said...

ClixSense is the biggest work from home website.