The Filipino version of National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin’s English drama Fathers and Sons — Mga Ama, Mga Anak — returned to the stage under the direction of veteran film and stage director Joel Lamangan at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).

Joaquin’s three-act play about inter-generational conflict, which was a stage adaptation of his famous short story, Three Generations, was translated into Filipino by Jose Lacaba and National Artist or Literature Virgilio Almario.

The story revolves around the once-powerful “Caretela King” Zacarias Monzon (Robert Arevalo) and his estranged son Marcelo (Fernando Josef), who nurses the wounds of an abusive childhood.

A self-made man who rose from poverty, Zacarias became drunk with power and whipped his wives and children.

But nowadays with the rise of the automobile, Zacarias’ business declines. He is left alone in his house with only his daughter, Nena, and his new wife, Bessie, to take care of him.

Marcelo promises himself he will not be like his father, but he becomes exactly like him, even using the whip as he tries to settle scores with Zacarias as the latter slides to decrepitude and defeat.

“This is probably Joaqiun’s most important work,” said Lamangan, who performed in the original 1977 performance of the Filipino version. “Students must recognize his works because he is a national artist.”

Arevalo delivered a great performance, but it was Celeste Legaspi as Marcelo’s wife, Sofia and Cris Villonco as Zacarias’ lover Bessie, who held the audiences most of the time

Villonco played the prostitute who takes care of the dying bitter old man while Legaspi played the Zacarias’ liberal wife, Marcelo’s step-mom.

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How Joaquin resolves the conflict of the generations though forgiveness and reconciliation makes Mga Ama , Mga Anak something of a biblical tale amid the pressures of contemporary realities.

As Bessie says in the end, “After all, we all need someone to get through the night.”

The play ran February 24 to March 9. Nikka Lavinia G. Valenzuela

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