REASSURANCE. Krisel (portrayed by Jhopany Daug) insists for his brother to get out of the drum in one of the play's scenes.

Review and photos by Angelo Lorenzo

A large metallic barrel (drum) may store water for cleansing, but when used for abusive punishment in the guise of parental discipline, it entraps and drowns innocence.

Like many children, Roro struggles to keep his innocence as the titular character in Dominique La Victoria's one-act drama "Ang Bata sa Drum."

The play was given life by The Xavier Stage in its run from July 23 to 25 at the XU Little Theater. Set for three evening runs during the week of the university-wide org trip, it was presented as part of the theater company's Angat sa Sining mentorship program.

Although the play's subject matter shared a common ground with the previous productions by TXS, its authenticity relied much on the poignant dialogue between two juvenile siblings as they discussed their desire to stay together despite their arduous circumstances. 

The play opened in a rural household where grade-six pupil Krisel (played by Jhopany Daug) arrived home from school and found out that her younger brother Roro (played by Gabriel Bacungan) has been kept inside a drum as punishment. Their father (implied to have been constantly under the influence of alcohol) caught Roro stealing from him to buy a spider for child's play. Their mother was working miles away from them so the two children were left under the supervision of their father.

Despite Krisel's insistence for Roro to go out in the while that their father was not at home (he was probably out drinking again), the boy shared that he preferred to stay inside to avoid his troubles — both in school and in his relationship with his father. Through this, he eventually found refuge in the space within the drum.

As their dialogue progressed in their home (composed entirely of wooden props and straw strings where clothes hung for the set design), the siblings began to fear separation after Krisel shared that their mother will take her and send her to a high school in the city. Offsprings of a failed marriage, both Krisel and Roro were raised in a broken family.

MENTORSHIP. Director Tat Soriano (rightmost) introduces the child actors' names after the play. Gabriel Bacungan, who plays the character of Roro, is the kid in the white shirt.

Although juvenile in age, the siblings dealt with pain relatable to the experiences of some individuals in any age group. As shown in the play, this pain stemmed from parental (or paternal) abuse, family separation, and social isolation. Having exposed to these woes, the children clung on to their innocence to fuel their hope to reunite someday. For Krisel, it was her promise of saving her brother from the hard grips of their father. For Roro, it was in finding comfort within the drum and the longing for his sister's presence.

In the case of the children, the essence of innocence was not exclusive to the unfamiliarity of the issues or the lack of experiences of pain. Innocence was choosing to believe that there could be hope amid the abuses, separation, and isolation. It was in holding on to this hope that Roro saw a ray of light despite being immersed in darkness within the drum. The voice and companionship of his sister represented the object of this hope even as the lights dimmed onstage in the final scene.

"The characters have tried so much to put together the pieces of their brokenness," director Tat Soriano stated in the playbill. Mentored by Xavier Center for Culture and the Arts (XCCA) director Hobart Savior, this was the first time that Soriano had directed a one-act play staged by TXS. The play was staged with free admission.

With its recognition in the Palanca Awards (3rd prize in Filipino plays) in 2017, La Victoria's "Ang Bata sa Drum" is immersed in themes that are foundational for academic or literary discourses — focusing on Filipino children who earnestly cling to their innocence when social circumstance pulls it from them.∎

THEATER FAMILY. The cast and crew, together with The Xavier Stage artistic director Hobart Savior (third from left), invite the students from the audience to join the theater company during the premiere night. 

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