Ampalaya Monologues Review

The idiosyncrasy of heartbreaks in the form of spoken art

Manila. In the midst of trickling sweats and debilitated patience just waiting even an inch for this traffic to move, I was tapping incessantly on my left knee with uncontainable worry that I might miss this event, and I can’t afford to after the struggle of convincing myself to get up and go. But the bubble of my excitement that this was my very first spoken word event to attend to had burst and reigned over these adverse circumstances and gave me enough moment to breathe that maybe this day will not end as disastrous as my beginnings of April ’17.

I’ve been fascinated by spoken artists after my preluded obsession with Plath, Bukowski, and Lord Byron. Seemingly satisfied with a brief knowledge on its history and relative social media platforms, it did not cross my mind to try watching them perform. Well, until the circumstance finally presents itself.

On the Performatura week of CCP to celebrate the very first Performance Literature festival, they welcomed its fruitful continuity with the theme “SA LOOB AT SA LABAS NG BAYAN KONG SAWI” — and fortunately with the accessibility of everything and anything, I learnt that there will be a spoken word event included. People rummaging at the pre-supposed isolated corners and grandiose stairs of CCP that still held its mythical eeriness, watching the performance artists blessed the place with their art of alluring unconventionality and movement discourses as they perform the reality imposed by the theme.

It’s very astounding seeing this much art in a small comparative place.

It’s very refreshing for a theme that pertained metamorphosis and revolution.

Yet Ampalaya Monologues or Bittergourd Monologues: a metaphor for the relative feeling of bitterness that spreads like wild ivy at isolated brick walls after prevalent breakups — gave us a way to stop for a minute and relax. See the other side of performance arts in the millennial goggles of media and amusing decadent.

For nine spoken presentations of heartbreaks, internal emotional struggles, and romanticised bitterness, the audience with their held breathes and twitching hands carrying DSLRs and smart phones were always waiting for the right motion for the clicks to ensue on the artists to open their mouths and perform. The whole house became a microcosm of hypostatized social media of this century: words of emotional vanity, the technological empowerment, and its sense of detached pathological companionship towards same sentiments — and this are what we called Now.

I’ve listened and watched them perform like I was in the 1920s circa of alcohol ban and Speakeasy bars proliferated the city with its art and illegal beverages. Contemporary expressions filling the speaketh tongues of the artists, to make sure everyone will understand the meaning behind the précis of the audience’s emotions. Four performances captured my attention with its totality and different diaspora compared to the others: A person who changed his self for his ‘experimenting’ boyfriend, the odes of a third-wheel in the form of a soloist monologue, a promdi who keeps on failing to find her perfect match with blind dates and ends up in a camouflage evolution, and the last but will never be the least, a sculptured woman who forms her lyrical abhorrence to the men who thinks so lowly of her. There’s a consequential clapping of praises and nodding of heads as a universal gesture of consensual understanding. Yet in spite of the collective outputs, I can’t help but felt that something seems odd.

I had a fair share of sentimental stupidity and panoramic ardour but watching them perform were like a water wall of misapprehension and confusion in the perspective of third person’s stranger dilemma. I can’t feel the whispered golden rule of ‘audience of one’ as I saw everyone started crying and laughing at jokes and conversations that probably were not meant for me.

(I felt old writing that observation.)

It was like entering someone’s dream and I was excluded by the fact that this was not my story; this was not a secret my ear supposedly to catch on. I was merely a watchman of other people’s lives.

Yes, I laughed at the circumstances of their quirky performances and emphatic towards other artists’ story they had told, but something was scratching my questioning mind through one-sentence contemplation: Theatre should always be a side of belongingness, isn’t it?

Diversity was there yet it lacked. Heartbreak is a wide mirage of possibilities and plethora of encounters but majority of their monologues have similar taste of bitterness it became redundant on my foreboding tongue. And language, yes. Contemporary and interactive theatrical conversations were used but words seem to forget its music. They became blatant words in a very literal sense that it just tells me the story — I am here not for you to mirror my story in a passive way, I am here for you to show me my narrative and let me come to my own realisation.

But again, I was there to watch the artistry of performance depicting the world — theatrum mundi at its finest; and it did. This is our reality and its modernity never fails to make the people see that this is who we are now. A mirror of today’s society.

They opened my mind to discover the wild and huge world of the thespians and monologues — how am I only seeing a little bit of it and it made me hungry for more.

The performance might not be for me but catering the #hugot pop culture and seeing it as an art is something a lot of people will relate to. Great evidence that you can morph everything into art.