Monday, November 21, 2016


TAKING CENTER STAGE. Compania Crispelita actors and singers set the mood for their performance with a rousing song number for the barrio audience of Lanang, Candaba. 1957.

Candaba, one of Pampanga’s ancient towns, represent the lowest point of Central Luzon. It is also a good distance away from the capital and commercial cities of San Fernando and Angeles, and from the 1930s to as recent as the 1950s, the town remained far removed from other Pampanga communities. Trips to Candaba were compounded by its marshy terrain, floods and the presence of Huk lairs in the area which made travelling difficult and hazardous.

 Candabaweños, despite this isolation, looked to the occasional fiestas for entertainment, as movies could only be watched in distant urban towns. In some places, the only tenuous link which they have with the stage is the obsolete moro-moro and the dying zarzuela. On this account, artistic and enterprising locals started putting up dramatic troupes, beginning in in the 1920s and which flourished till the post-war years.

 These theatrical groups or companies, went from barrio to barrio to show off their wares, a motley group of actors, musicians, directors, designers and technicians, to stage plays on makeshift stages before enraptured village crowds.

 One of the earliest groups, was the Compania Ocampo, organized in 1923 by Isaac C. Gomez and Doña Concepcion Ocampo y Limjuco of Candaba. Gomez, a prolific poet who even competed against Crissot, wrote his 5-act opus, “Sampagang Asahar”which dealt with the prevailing tenancy problems of the province. He became the resident playwright and director of the company for five years, and the group succeeded in restoring public interest in drama.

Compania Ocampo remained active in the mid 1950s, mounting regular shows often in the town plaza with komedyas and contemporary zarzuelas. Members then included Pons Amurao, Esting Tungol, Curing Mallari, Andres Balagtas, Flor Garcia, and the Manapuls. Providing healthy competition was Compania Paz, a zarzuela company founded by Judge Florentino Torres in the early 1920s.

 In 1961, the eminent writer Jose Gallardo of barrio Gulap, Candaba with Andres Balagtas revived the Compania Ocampo. After the demise of Reyes in 1967, Gallardo reorganized the theatrical group again under his own name. The Martial Law curfew imposed in 1972 made it difficult to stage evening performances, so the group was disbanded.

 In the mid 1950s, the artists of barrio Lanang, led by the noted Candaba poet Jose Pelayo, orangized themselves into a dramatic troupe known as Compania Crispelita. It soon became a village institution, with its travelling shows all around the province.

In December 1957, the company gave a command performance of their play entitled “Calbario ning Ulila” (Calvary of an orphan). The story touched the heart strings of Lanang’s drama fans, as the story was something they have seen in the group’s rehearsals, and, in many ways, actually lived—the tyranny of rich landlords, the oppression of peasants , and the final triumph of good versus evil.

 The show, directed by Agripino Suba and assisted by apuntador (prompter) Jose Pelayo, and Hugo Ocampo, drew crowds from neighboring barrios. Before an enthusiastic audience, the thespians could not, but give an inspired performance. Providing the musical background was a live band of musicians who also got their share of audience appreciation.

 “Our severest critics”, Director Suba said, “are in our own village and if we got their nod, that means we will be welcomed anywhere.

 The era of traveling theater companies is long gone, but the people of Candaba can take pride in the fact that, for a few decades, Candaba’s peripatetic theater groups broke barriers of distance and access to bring their art to their fellow Kapampangans. The era of companias may be long gone, but the legacy of performances of these Candaba artists, playwrights, poets, directors, musicians and stage hands, will always be remembered.

Drama in Candaba, The Sunday Times Magazine, 29 Dec. 1957,pp. 15-19. 

Cabusao, Romeo C. Candaba, Balayan ning Leguan. pp. 344-345. 

Zapanta-Manlapaz, Edna. Kapampangan Literarture: A Historical Survey and Anthology. Ateneo de Manila University Press, Quezon City, Manila. 1981.pp. 25-26 

Lacson, Evangelina. Kapampangan Writing: A Select Compendium and Critique. 1984

1 comment:

Hbeautytips8 said...

Great blog, i like your posts, and old photos.