Commentary

Floy Quintos’ The Reconciliation Dinner: ‘Have we really moved on?’

'Pwedeng dilawan, pinklawan, pulahan'—After 5-year hiatus, the playwright is back to update the question

The Reconciliation Dinner
Jojo Cayabyab, Frances Makil-Ignacio, Stella Canete-Mendoza, Randy Villarama in 'Reconciliation Dinner'

Acclaimed playwright Floy Quintos and director Dexter Martinez Santos would like to call the second staging of their recent collaboration, The Reconciliation Dinner, the reloaded version.

The Reconciliation Dinner

The cast as the Medinas and the Valderamas, led by Frances Makil Ignacio and Stella Cañete Mendoza: Prized relationships on the line

“A year after the elections, have we all just accepted what happened, have we all really moved on? Is the fire still within us?” Quintos tells TheDiarist.ph on Monday, about six days before the opening at the Power Mac Center Spotlight, Circuit Makati. It runs May 13 to 28.

After a limited one-weekend run in November, 2022, at the UP Theater Main Hall Stage at UP Diliman, by Dulaang UP, what was touted as Quintos’ comeback play after a five-year hiatus has thrilled his legion of loyal followers with the intensity of perhaps how the religious would feel about the Resurrection.

The last play he wrote, The Kundiman Party, tackled the spread of fake news, disinformation, and how social media poisons the minds of Filipinos. It was staged by DUP in 2018 and later brought to PETA-Phinma Theater.  At the time, he called it his swan song.

But after the last national elections, he came up with The Reconciliation Dinner.

“It is also Divine Providence that it is going to be staged a year after the elections,” Quintos adds. He updated the play by adding 10 minutes. The original version ran for one hour and 20 minutes.

“When we incorporated a timeline, the first time they rehearsed, we felt we needed to update some scenes, the development of what’s happening now. Nakikita mo, there’s the US [Joe] Biden relations. There’s the gradual acceptance of the status quo,” Quintos tells TheDiarist.ph.

‘We’re just holding up a mirror before the audience after a year’

“We would just like to acknowledge, just bring it out there. We’d like to remind everyone, hindi ito dapat kalimutan. We’re just holding up a mirror before the audience after a year,” he adds.

The story follows “the lives of close family friends”—the Medinas and the Valderamas—who are forced to confront their personal differences amid the looming political turmoil in the Philippines.

The Medinas are loyal supporters of the Marcoses and Dutertes, or who are usually labeled as “pulahan.” There’s Dina, played by Stella Cañete Mendoza, as the supportive wife to Bert, played by Randy Medel Villarama. They have a daughter, Mica, played by Mica Pineda.

The Reconciliation Dinner

Stella Canete-Mendoza and Frances Makil-Ignacio: ‘At what price, unity’

Mica has a boyfriend, data analyst Ely, played by Nelsito Gomez.

The Valderamas are the “pinklawans” or those who supported the candidacies of former Vice President Leni Robredo and Sen. Kiko Pangilinan. They are former “dilawans,” or those who voted for and championed the legacies of the Aquinos, from President Cory and martyr Ninoy to President Noynoy.

There’s Susan, played by Frances Makil Ignacio, the wife of Fred, played Jojo Cayabyab. They have “a gay” son, Norby, played by Phi Palmos.

The play opens with a supposedly intimate dinner at the Medinas’ in 2016. As the synopsis read: “It was a get-together no different from all their past dinners, until tension ensued with a fervid conversation about then-president Rodrigo Duterte’s policies and leadership style. Red flags swept under the rug, both families agree to keep the personal away from the political for the sake of preserving the friendship they have built over the years. The dinner ends with dessert, a ceasefire, and a civil war waiting to happen.

“The succeeding years under the Duterte administration further reveal both families’ opposing views. Social media timelines turn into arenas for direct and indirect political ‘bardagulan’ that slowly but incisively tarnish their relationships.

“Now at the cusp of the most polarizing national elections in recent history, the families’ political colors have been made Facebook Official. Lines have clearly been drawn, inevitably leading to more digital tirades and more emotional dents. But before entirely severing ties, just as the dust from the elections had settled, a personal tragedy found a way to get the Medinas and the Valderamas all together again. The play culminates with a reunion—a reconciliation dinner—to heal, move on, and leave the remnants of the war behind.

“With prized relationships on the line, how far are they willing to sacrifice their principles and ideals? And at what price?”

The artistic and production team is composed of lights designer John Batalla, set and costume designer Mitoy Sta. Ana, sounds designer Arvy Dimaculangan, video and poster designer Steven Tansiongco, dramaturgs Marvin Olaes and Davidson Oliveros, and assistant director Mikko Angeles, stage manager Rico Angelo Blanco. Photographers are Jojit Lorenzo, Vlad Gonzales and Dino Dimar.

Take note that the actors and artistic team are almost the same people in the previous “Quintoshian” plays, such as The Kundiman Party, Angry Christ, Ang Huling Lagda ni Apolinario Mabini, Ang Nawawalang Kapatid, and Collection. All of them were staged at the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater by DUP and the UP Playwrights Theatre.

Whereas the limited run of The Reconciliation Dinner in November was staged by DUP, this rerun is independently produced by couple Stella Cañete Mendoza and Juliene Mendoza.

Santos tells TheDiarist.ph,Yun ‘yung masarap if you’re doing original Filipino works and by independent producers, there’s an opportunity to update the material. We are very thankful for that because it’s not every day, hindi naman every day papayag ang producers to do something like this.”

“At the end of the day with all the concerns and issues, there’s a conscious effort from us to represent them, the Valderamas and the Medinas as humans, pwedeng dilawan, pinklawan, pulahan, but they are human beings. They have flaws. We look at their humanity,” Santos adds.

“This is a comedy and audiences, both first-timers and those who’ve seen the first staging, will have a good time, but after laughing in the theater, the questions remain with them. Have we really moved on? At what price, unity? Masaya ba tayo sa nangyayari ngayon sa ating bansa?”

The play will have 12 shows running in three weekends, with 3 p.m. and 8p.m. performances every Saturday and Sunday at the Power Mac Center, Spotlight Blackbox Theater, Circuit Makati. Ticket information https://www.facebook.com/TRD2023

Read more:

Bold, inventive, fearless theater is Tanghalang Pilipino’s Nekropolis

F. Sionil Jose: ‘How can culture grow if there are no critics?’


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