MUCH like the rest of popular culture where anything old can be new again, the zarzuela is now making a comeback.

Adapted from the traditional Spanish one-act musical play, the Filipino zarzuela is a play unique to our tastes, showing our seemingly inherent ability to incorporate our culture with another and make it our own. It is with this in mind that the Tourism and Performing Arts Society (TAPAS) has come out with the zarzuela “Dandansoy: Ang Gugma ni Dansoy kag Rosing (Dansoy’s Love for Rosing). “

Dubbed the “Visayan Romeo and Juliet,” “Dandansoy” follows the story of Dansoy, a poor farm worker, and Rosing, the daughter of a farm manager, who fall in love despite the disapproval of Rosing’s parents. In the end, Rosing’s parents send her to a convent, effectively ending the couple’s relationship. They part, heartbroken, but hoping that they would meet again someday.

Composed and performed by the Iloilo-based TAPAS, “Dandansoy” features Joseph Gebusion and Mary Luz Casas as the star-crossed lovers Dansoy and Rosing. The two actors certainly make convincing performances of their roles, able to pull off the lighter and more comic areas of the play as well as its poignant and dramatic climax. Also featured in the zarzuela is the Bacolod City National High School Rondalla, who, along with the actors’ compelling singing voices, made the performance a memorable one indeed.

Although seemingly written at the height of the zarzuela period, “Dandansoy” is in fact a modern musical play, composed by the aforementioned company, and is based on a true story. Written to suit the old Ilonggo folk songs, the story is a blend of the traditional and the contemporary, and puts a twist into the old formula of unrequited love. The ending, although sad, is nowhere near tragic. It even looks at the bright side where, while the couple are not together, they might be able to reunite one day. It is the hope for the future that makes this play indicative of our people and our culture—the very thing which the zarzuelas like “Dandansoy” aim to rekindle.

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The presentation of “Dandansoy” has actually been organized by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, together with the Department of Tourism and the Filipino Heritage Festival, Inc. It is one of the zarzuelas headlining the annual celebration of the Filipino Heritage Festival, aptly named “Viva Zarzuela!” in honor of the musical play that had been a major part of traditional Filipino music during the 20th century.

As a country rich in culture and suffused with colorful traditions, it is unfortunate that our heritage has become almost defunct. It is more unfortunate, however, that we as a people are not conscious of our own heritage, and how precious it is. It is for this reason that the month-long Filipino Heritage Festival has been organized.

The festival opened last April 30 at the Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte, and included a special performance by world-renowned classical pianist Cecile Licad. Also highlighting the celebrations are photography and textile exhibits, a fashion show of Filipino costumes and shoes, and a sagala, a regal procession honoring the discovery of the Cross of Jesus’ crucifixion. The sagala features designs by members of the Fashion Designers Association of the Philippines.

This year’s festival is the fourth to be organized as part of the celebration of the National Heritage Month of May, and highlights Filipino cultural heritage through events held on heritage sites throughout the country.

The National Heritage Month was born out of the Presidential Proclamation No. 439 signed on August 11, 2003, which declares the month of May of every year as National Heritage Month, and recognizes the need to create a consciousness, respect, and love for the legacies of Filipino cultural history among the people. R. E. G.. Daza

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