Southeast Asian lit, music and dance inspire UP’s latest Komedya

Putri Anak is a new Komedya produced by the UP College of Music and the UP Center for International Studies that explores Filipino pre-colonial and colonial heritage through oral literature, music and the San Dionisio Komedya performance tradition.

Named after the heroine around whom the three-act play revolves, it features a composite text from a narrative common among Southeast Asian cultures–the celestial maiden, a half-woman, half-bird being who was deceived by a mortal.

Putri Anak (or Princess Child) is based on a Maguindanaoan variant of the celestial maiden story about King Sulaymon’s son and Putri Anak.

It is a fictional account of two warring clans led by their leaders, Rajah Sulaymon and Sultan Magnaye, who are caught in a love triangle with Putri Anak. Centuries-old territorial conflict between their clans aggravates the rivalry. In the end, however, they realize that they must join forces to successfully ward off a common enemy and prevent an impending disaster.

The libretto is written by Enrique S. Villasis and Juan Ekis and follows the structured meter of the awit (12 syllables per line), delivered in the stylized manner of the dicho.

Photo by Trixie Dauz

The play was shown on 9 April 2017 at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (Little Theater), Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Five artists from different fields worked together on this Komedya that drew inspiration from the dances Tari Java and Bharata Natyam, as well as from the martial arts of Silat and Arnis.

Headed by musicology scholar Dr. Verne dela Pena of the UP College of Music, the production is among the components of the collaborative work “Interdisciplinary Research on Arts and Culture of the Philippines,” which is being supported by the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs under the Emerging Interdisciplinary Research (EIDR) Program. Dela Pena is also the composer. 

Photo by Trixie Dauz

Photo by Trixie Dauz

The other projects in the EIDR-funded initiative are the academic book “The Making of Philippine National Culture, 1880-1941” and “Saysay Himig,” a coffee table book accompanied by CD recordings and implemented in partnership with the UP College of Arts and Letters.

The original Filipino opera, Diwata ng Bayan, that was staged in February is also part of the program.