‘Nanay Mameng, Isang Dula’: Staging the reality of the urban poor

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Text and Photos by Anjon Galauran

 

“Bago niyo sukatan‘yang lupa namin, sukatan niyo muna ako ng ataul,”

These were the fearless words once uttered by 86-year-old urban poor advocate Carmen “Nanay Mameng” Deunida against demolition squads wanting to drive off informal settler communities.

Her firms stand and action for urban poor rights despite her age has earned Nanay Mameng respect from countless human rights advocates, media and civilians alike.

Nanay Mameng is the Chairwoman Emeritus of the urban poor group Kalipunanng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay).

 Urban poor rights advocate Carmen "Nanay Mameng" Deunida during a speech (Photo courtesy of Tudla Productions)
Urban poor rights advocate Carmen “Nanay Mameng” Deunida during a speech (Photo courtesy of Tudla Productions)

As tribute to the urban poor leader, cultural workers and artists will be staging a play featuring her life story this February 2015.

The biographical play “Nanay Mameng, Isang Dula,” will portray Nanay Mameng’s early years of separation from her family, her married life (which ended in domestic violence) and her participation in the urban poor struggle.

The play is written by Amanda Echanis and produced by the Urban Poor Resource Center of the Philippines (UPRCP) and KADAMAY together with the Sanggunian ng mga Mag-aaral ng Miriam and Institutional Network for Social Action.

A reflection of the urban poor struggle

Play director Edwin Quinsayas explained that the team wanted to create a play reflecting the struggle of the urban poor. Quinsayas said that Nanay Mameng herself does not want any recognition solely on her behalf.

“Ang lagi niyang sinasabi, ayoko talaga ‘yung naglulunsad ng programa sa akin, ayoko na binibigyan ako ng tribute [She always said, “I do not want a program about me, I don’t want ceremonies giving me tribute],” Quinsayas recounted.

“Ang dapat ipakita talaga ‘yung buhay ng maralita, ‘yung pakikibaka ng maralita, and that’s precisely what we are trying to do, ‘yung buhay niya, salaminin dun sa buhay ng mga maralita [What should be shown is the life of the poor, the struggles of the poor and that’s precisely what we are trying to do: her life shall mirror the life of the poor],” Quinsayas explained.

Behind the scenes rehearsal of the play "Nanay Mameng, Isang Dula"
Behind the scenes rehearsal of the play “Nanay Mameng, Isang Dula”

Quinsayas described Nanay Mameng as a person with unmatched passion for serving the urban poor sector.  He even recalled Nanay Mameng as uttering, “Hangga’t buhay ako, hangga’t nakakatayo ako, hangga’t kaya kumilos ng katawan ko, lalaban at lalaban ako, makikibaka ako [As long as I am alive, as long as I can stand, as long as I can move my body, I will fight. I will struggle].”

“Hangga’t buhay ako, hangga’t nakakatayo ako, hangga’t kaya kumilos ng katawan ko, lalaban at lalaban ako, makikibaka ako.”

The play is the second one staged about Nanay Mameng’s life. The first play was a musical, while this second showing in February is a straight drama.

Quinsayas said the second staging will tackle more of Nanay Mameng’s life.

“Dito naka-focus kami sa buhay ni Mameng, paano siya naging isang Nanay Mameng, bilang leader ng urban poor [We focused on Nanay Mameng’s life, how she came to be the urban poor leader she is known now],” Quinsayas said.

Further, as the team wants to integrate the life of the community surrounding Nanay Mameng, viewers ought to expect the play to reflect society’s ills.

“(And dula ay tungkol sa) pagbabalik-tanaw niya sa partisipasyon niya sa pakikibaka at yung buhay ng komunidad na na-inspire niya at nag-inspire rin sa kanya para mag-survive rin siya doon sa kanyang karamdaman [The play looks back at her participation in the urban poor struggle and her life in the community that she inspired and that also inspired her to survive her illness],” Quinsayas said.

Edwin Quinsayas directs the play during a rehearsal
Edwin Quinsayas directs the play during a rehearsal

Nanay Mameng underwent a few surgical operations, as she is suffering from early stages of vascular dementia, an age-related illness which causes difficulty in speaking and physical movement.

Nanay Mameng, a humble fighter

According to actresses who will play her role, Nanay Mameng’s determination to live and to struggle despite her deteriorating condition spurs them to persevere the same way.

Artist and musician Tao as Nanay Mameng
Artist and musician Tao as Nanay Mameng

“Mukha lang siyang dalaga, eh 86 na kasi siya, nakakahiya kasing mag-give up, kasi hindi pa rin siya nag-gi-give up. Nakakahiyang mawalan ng loob [Nanay Mameng is 86 years old but she looks as vibrant as a young woman. It is shameful for one to give up, when she herself has not given up. It is shameful to lose heart],” said Tao, as she preferred to be called.

Tao is a musician and actress who has appeared in a number of plays. She played the role of Zelima in “Orosman and Zafira,” and she was also part of the play “Marisol.” In “Nanay Mameng: Isang Dula,” she will play the role of Nanay Mameng in her early years.

Cultural worker and musician Tess Dioquino will play the role of Nanay Mameng in her late life
Cultural worker and musician Tess Dioquino will play the role of Nanay Mameng in her late life

Cultural worker and musician Tess Dioquino will play the role of Nanay Mameng in her older years. According to her, Nanay Mameng is a source of inspiration and strength.

Dioquino described Nanay Mameng as an exceptional leader.

“’Yung despite ng pagiging leader, ‘yung pananatiling napakababangloob. Napakabait na tao, mapagkumbaba, malumanay, pero yung hindi siya papatalo ‘pag inaapi na yung mga tao. ‘Yung talaga ititindig niya yun, ilalaban niya ng patayan [Despite being a leader, she remained modest. She is a very kind person, humble and gentle, but she will never be bowed down when the poor are being oppressed. She will stand for them, she will fight to the death],” Dioquino enthused.

Shaking foundations

Co-director Noel Taylo said plays such as “Nanay Mameng, Isang Dula” are a very potent form of art, a weapon capable of transmitting important narratives across to its audience.

Taylo narrates that he himself became involved in cultural and community work after he was struck by a play.

“Ako personally, apolitical ako eh, pero nung nakapanood ako ng isang konsiyerto ng mga progresibo, ‘yun ‘yung naging source ko na maging involved sa community work, it’s so powerful kung maiintindihan mo [I used to be apolitical but once I watched a concert of progressive content, it became my drive to be involved in community work. The play is so powerful if you will be able to comprehend its meaning],” he said

Taylo is now involved in sharing his talents as an artist, holding workshops among the urban poor, farmers, trade unions and indigenous tribes.

Play co-directors Noel Taylo (back) and Edwin Quinsayas (front)
Play co-directors Noel Taylo (back) and Edwin Quinsayas (front)

Quinsayas said the play wanted to “shake the foundation of stereotypical beliefs on the urban poor.” Quinsayas added that while they do not expect 100% of the audience to be changed by one play, they want to stir discourse.

“Hopefully sa minimum, magkaroon sila ng kagustuhan na magtanong, umalam, makipag-talakayan, and sa maximum, sumama sila, mag-volunteer sila [Hopefully, the audience would want to ask, know and discuss at the very least. At most, they would want to join or volunteer],” he added.

Actress Tao meanwhile said the play could serve as an eye opener for many to become engaged with societal concerns.

“May mga parte sa mga eksena na hindi kumportable kasi masasampal ka talaga ng katotohanan [There are scenes that will make the audience uncomfortable, they will feel slapped by the truth],” Tao shared.

“Yung kahalagahan ng pagpapakita na nagpapatuloy yung pakikibaka. Nandiyan si Nanay Mameng na labingtatlong president na yung naabutan niya, walang pagbabago [What is important is to show that the struggle continues. Nanay Mameng bore witness to the rule of 13 Philippine presidents, yet there is still no social change],” Dioquino said.

Outtakes from the rehearsal of the play
Outtakes from the rehearsal of the play

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“Nanay Mameng, Isang Dula” will take the stage on February 13, 14, 20, 21, 27 and 28, every 3pm and 7pm at Dr. Paz Adriano Hall (Little Theater) of Miriam College in Quezon City. For tickets and other inquiries, you may contact 09475874497 or 09772039710. Proceeds of the play will go to Nanay Mameng’s medication.

The play is co-presented by the Council for Health and Development (CHD), Confederation for Unity, Recognition, and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE), United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and Philhealth.

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