STAYING true to its promise of presenting “untried, untested and unpublished plays,” the ninth Virgin Labfest did not disappoint with its nine one-act plays written by up-and-coming and established playwrights staged at the Cultural Center of the Philippines from June 26 to July 7.

Em Mendez, who studied BS Psychology in UST, is now on his second consecutive year in the fest. Mendez presented his one-act play, “Ambong Abo,” a tale of a copra farmer from Bicol struggling to adapt to New York after his daughter petitioned him to be a U.S. citizen.

Ambo begins to hallucinate about the legendary characters Magayon, whose grave was said to have turned into the Mayon Volcano, and Handyong, Bicol’s legendary hero who killed the deceptive serpent Oryol.

Meanwhile, Ambo’s eldest daughter Magda, who has remained in Bicol, continues to wait for the return of her father who has been in New York for 15 years. However, Ambo goes missing and is found three days later petrified in Central Park, staring blankly at a dead snake. Apparently, Ambo died believing he was the son of Magayon and Handyong.

“Pamamanhikan” by Villanueva Nerri tells the story of two friends, Ester and Ibyang. Ibyang tries to comfort Ester, a farmer’s youngest daughter, as she is faced with a dilemma after admitting she is a lesbian and has a girlfriend.

Carlo Vergara, the creator of “Zsa Zsa Zaturna,” presented “Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady.” The play is set in a world where superheroes exist and tells the story of Mely, a domestic maid of one of the superhero groups.

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The lone full-length play, “Pramoedya,” written by Benjamin Pimentel recounts the life of the late Indonesian author, Pramoedya Ananta Toer. One of the most controversial and celebrated icons in Indonesia, Pramaoedya is presented as writing his Buru novels charting the history of Indonesia even when he is exiled in a desolate island. He narrates the story of Minka, the hero of his novels, to his fellow prisoners that becomes their sense of comfort in their depressing confinement. Fides Mirasol, a Filipino journalist, tries to trace what Pramaoedya has accomplished but finds herself in a personal crisis in the process.

George de Jesus’ “Kapit,” Herlyn Alegre’s “Imbisibol,” Eljay Deldoc’s “Owel,” Dominique La Victoria’s “Chipline,” Liza Magtoto’s “Isang Daan” and Jimmy Flores’ “Kudeta! Kudeta!” completed the roster of one-act plays featured.

Three plays from last year’s festival were also presented—Aizel Cabilan’s “Pagsubliby,” Guelan Luarca’s “Kuneho” and Em Mendez’s “Unang Regla ni John.”

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