and beyond

Reactions to Marte were of varying intensity and ran the gamut from “It’s astonishing!” to “This play should never have been staged”. Having written at least four books now out in the market, I’m not a stranger to less than stellar reviews. Still, I was surprised by how the negative-to-harsh reviews affected me. Is my confidence crumbling? Is my thick skin no longer thick enough?

Then it hit me. I write prose fiction. With prose fiction, the book or story is marked in my head as DONE following publication, and becomes psychologically separate from myself.

Above all, it is static. Interpretations of the text may change, but the text, every time you flip the page, remains the same.

Not so with theater.

I sat through four out of six shows of Marte and each one of them was different. An actor forgets a line or adds a line, the lights are changed to enhance a scene, the director changes a blocking instruction. A prop falls, gets snagged on a costume, goes missing. A fantastic performance tonight may be middling in the matinee show the next day. And vice versa! With theater, until the very last curtain call, you can’t breathe easy, you can’t relax, because until then you are not done.

It was the most physically and psychologically demanding creative project I have ever worked on.

And I loved it.

My deepest gratitude to everyone who joined me (willingly or unwillingly) in this production journey.

Marte class picture.


On the way to (Tagaytay) CCP.




Pre-show warm-up in Buff aka Backstage Extension c/o Direk Nic Pichay.


With my family before the last show.




Full house!



And a proposal.


Love you Team Marte!


Further reading:

5 new plays–and 5 nerve-wracked new playwrights

Another Baptism By Fire At The 12th Virgin Labfest

Virgin LabFest 13 Revisited:

Ang Sugilanon ng Kabiguan ni Epefania

Ang Bata sa Drum

Mula sa Kulimliman

* * *

What now?

Onwards and upwards.


The Philippine Readers and Writers Festival 

August 26 to 28, 2016

Raffles Makati

Manila International Book Fair

September 16 to 18, 2016

SMX Convention Hall

See you around!

marte – opening week

And we’re off!

My endless gratitude to everyone who watched our first two shows on July 2.

My heartfelt thanks as well to the following people for lending their time and talent. Their passion is intoxicating.

Juliene Mendoza (husband of cast member Stella Mendoza, and who also stars in Jose Socrates delos Reyes’ Dahan-Dahan ang Paglubog ng Araw ) for taking our photos.

Set designer James Reyes. (It was the largest and most complicated set under Set D. “Maximalist” sabi nga ni sir James. Hindi biro itong pinagdaanan niya hahaha.)

Director George A. de Jesus III. (His ideas made my story better and stronger.)

The cast Stella Cañete Balucas Mendoza, Martha Nikko Comia, Jojo Riguerra, Kevin Posadas, John Mark Yap and Chino Macaraig. Plus a special appearance from Mara Paulina Marasigan (who also directed another LabFest play, Guelan Luarca’s Bait).

Stage manager Sabrina Manansala, projection/sound designer Joee Mejias and light designer Joseph G. Matheu.

And to the Virgin LabFest–Tuxqs Rutaquio, Nikki Garde-Torres, Rodolfo Vera, etc etc ETC — for the opportunity to present this little story to the public.

Early rehearsals at Silangan.


Photoshoot session.






Even more rehearsals.


Rehearsals and space adjustment at Teatrong Huseng Batute, the venue of the Virgin LabFest.






My books are also being sold for the duration of the festival. (Photo from Tuxqs Rotaquio.)






Photos below from Mark Arisgado, taken after the matinee show of Marte



Photos below from Trixie Dauz. (See Trixie Dauz Photography.)








My favorite shot from Trixie’s set.


I’d like to claim that the first two shows were a success, based on the comments of close friends and audience members who messaged me online and spoke to me right after the show–and also because the lights came on at the right time, the smoke machine didn’t malfunction–I’m probably not the best judge because I’m too close to this.

See you in the theater, and tell us what you think! We have four more shows to go.

July 7 – 8 PM

July 8 – 3 PM

July 13 – 3 PM

July 17 – 8 PM

Visit the CCP Box Office or Ticketworld Outlets. Tickets can also be bought on the day of the show–please line up for tickets one hour prior.

eliza victoria’s marte (virgin labfest 12, opens july 2016)

Eliza Victoria’s MARTE. Direction by George de Jesus III.

Tina, a factory worker on Mars, talks to factory neophyte Lorie about the cruelty and injustices she has witnessed–and lays bare her plans to leave the red planet.



July 2 (Saturday), 3 pm and 8 pm
July 8 and 13 (Friday and Wednesday), 3 pm
July 7 and 17 (Thursday and Sunday), 8 pm

• Ricardo Novenario’s “Daddy’s Girl,” directed by Nicolas Pichay
• Rick Patriarca’s “Hapagkainan,” directed by Chris Martinez
• Eliza Victoria’s “Marte,” directed by George de Jesus III

(Full list after the poster.)

Tickets are now available. PhP 350 for three one-act plays.

Buy your tickets: Ticketworld (online), Ticketworld OutletsCCP Box Office


Continue reading eliza victoria’s marte (virgin labfest 12, opens july 2016)

i will have a play in the virgin labfest, and other shiny writerly updates

Virgin Labfest XII

My one-act play Marte has been chosen as part of the main line-up of the upcoming Virgin Labfest. Very exciting news; I have seen great plays in the fest, and now I’ll be able to be a part of it! I can’t wait to see this little thing come to life onstage.

See the full list below, which was culled from an unprecedented 197 entries.

Virgin Labfest 12
Established in 2005, the Virgin Labfest is a laboratory festival of new plays by emerging and established Filipino playwrights and held annually at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). The Virgin Labfest aims to provide Filipino playwrights a venue to present their unpublished, unstaged, untested and untried works to theatergoing public. The Virgin Labfest is a yearly project of the Manila-based playwrights group Writer’s Bloc, Inc., acclaimed theater company Tanghalang Pilipino, and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), in cooperation with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).


Eliza Victoria’s “Marte”
Carlo Vergara’s “Mula sa Kulimliman”
Herlyn Alegre‘s “Bahay-Bahayan Tagu-Taguan”
Guelan Luarca‘s “Bait”
Ricardo Dingdong Novenario‘s “Daddy’s Girl”
Kanakan Balintagos‘ “Loyalist”
Ma. Cecilia dela Rosa’s “Ang Mga Bisita ni Jean”
Alexandra May Cordoso’s “Ang Sugilanon ng Kabiguan ni Epefania”
Jose Socrates delos Reyes’ “Dahan-Dahan ang Paglubog ng Araw”
Rick Patriarca’s “Hapag-Kainan”
Dominique La Victoria’s “Ang Bata sa Drum”
Oggie Arcenas‘ “Si Jaya, Si Ronda, Si Barbra at ang Mahiwagang Kanta”


Maynard Manansala‘s “Dalawang Gabi”
Juan Miguel Severo’s “Hintayan ng Langit”
Eljay Castro Deldoc‘s “Si Maria Isabella at ang Guryon ng mga Tala”


Layeta Pinzon Bucoy‘s “Mac and Naty”
Job Pagsibigan‘s “Mrs. Victoria”
Vincent A. DeJesus ‘ “Changing Partners”
Adrian Ho’s “Run, Marga, Run”
Jonathan Tad Tadioan‘s “Dinuguan”


Alex Dungca’s “Nang Maligaw ang mga Halimaw”
Dwein Baltazar’s “Ang Debutante sa Bubongan”
Jerome Ignacio‘s “Perfecto Gomez”

Here’s from the fest’s first write-up on Market Monitor:

Of the playwrights whose works were picked for the main line-up, five are “virgins.” Of these, the most notable is Eliza Victoria, who first gained attention—at least, from the literary community—for her Palanca award-winning poetry collections “Reportage” and “Maps,” and for her National Book Award-winning novel Dwellers.

Read more here.

Wounded Little Gods giveaway

My thanks to all those who joined the giveaway, and congratulations to Mays T. I also chose another winner (Pamala G) from those who participated in my survey from way back. Thanks and enjoy reading!

Copies of the book have also been delivered to Fully Booked and Precious Pages bookstore branches. Here’s a photo from Budjette Tan as proof.

WLG in Fully Booked

It’s coming soon to other book stores near you. If you want a copy now, do email/alert



The tenth volume of the Philippine Speculative Fiction series is now available in the following online venues, so please grab a copy.

Flipside –…/philippine-speculative-fiction-volume-…

Amazon –…/…/

Kobo –…/philippine-speculative-fictio…

Google Play –…/Dean_Francis_Alfar_Philippine_Spe…

iTunes –…/philippine-speculat…/id1100520266

Weightless Books –…/philippine-speculative-ficti…/

This is the landmark tenth volume of what’s been called “one of the most important projects to come out of the contemporary writing generation”. PSF is credited as the springboard for the thriving Philippine speculative fiction movement, which defines, explores, and sometimes blurs the boundaries of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and all things in between.

Philippine Speculative Fiction X is proud to present a representative range of exemplary stories from Filipino writers, including both renowned veterans and exciting new voices in the field.

Contributors include:

Alyssa Wong
Sarge Lacuesta
Joel Pablo Salud
Eliza Victoria
Jose Elvin Bueno
Victor Fernando R. Ocampo
Cyan Abad-Jugo
Kenneth G. Yu
Andrew Drilon
Kate Osias
Gabriela Lee
Joseph Montecillo
Renz Torres
Vincent Michael Simbulan
Francis Gabriel Concepcion
EK Gonzales
Alexander M. Osias
Noel Tio
AJ Elicaño
Lakan Umali
Razel Tomacder
Raymund P. Reyes
Richard Calayeg Cornelio

Edited by Dean Francis Alfar & Nikki Alfar

There will be a launch on Saturday, May 7, at 2 p.m. at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Shangri-La Plaza Mall. Please join us.

a happy dagger whittles down ‘romeo & juliet’ to its bare essentials: swear not by the moon (langgam performance troupe, january 2016)

How else can you make the doomed love story of Romeo & Juliet new? Baz Luhrmann brought the young lovers to the modern age while retaining the original lines from Shakespeare’s play; Chris Melohn incorporated social media and dance; the Hypokrit Theater Company brought them to New Delhi and spiced up their story with elements of Bollywood.

In Swear Not By the Moon, the Langgam Performance Troupe does two things: they reverse the gender roles, and they change the space, restricting fair Verona to a loft bed.


Romeo & Juliet is perfect for a theater experiment in gender role reversals as the two lead characters already challenge the ideas of what their gender can and cannot do in their day and age. Romeo, unlike the men from his family, is sensitive, pines for his love, shies away from violence and confrontations. Juliet, unlike her nurse and the Lady Capulet, is bold (“Then have my lips the sin that they have took…You kiss by the book”) and is not afraid to take matters into her own hands. The gender bender highlights these supposed feminine and masculine qualities found in each character. (Note Joel Garcia’s [as Juliet] booming voice as he tells the nurse to pick the cords up, and Jacq Nacu-Garcia’s [as Romeo] whiny tantrum when she finds out that she will be exiled; note also that these actors are an actual married couple!)

In a way, the gender bender is not that bold of an idea (it has been done before), but coupled with the restrictions in space, it makes for an interesting theater experience. By moving away from the traditional proscenium stage, Jenny Logico-Cruz and team has to restrict the number of actors (you can’t have 10+ actors bumping into each other on that loft bed), distilling the ensemble characters into only two actors. Note how the characters are categorized: the friar and the nurse–counsel and kunsintidor both–is played by the same actor (Anna Karenina Salgado, who I think is fantastic, in her first professional play), while another actor (Neil Raagas) plays the poor casualties of the feud: Lady Capulet, Mercutio, Tybalt, Paris, with the actor employing the same body language, the same languid, cat-like body movements. On a continuum, this runs Tybalt to Paris, with Paris the most cat-like of the four, draping the entire length of his body on the incredulous Juliet.

All of the actors wear white–blank slates–allowing the performance to carry the play, as the actors are unable to hide behind scenery, costume, props, or even hair.

The unique stage design also gave rise to smart lighting and blocking decisions. (In a play where Mercutio and Tybalt is played by the same person, you have no choice but to be creative with your lighting and blocking!)

The stars of Verona.


Romeo & Juliet meet at the party.
Romeo with Juliet’s corpse.

My main critique would be some of the actors speak the lines so quickly that I can’t understand them. (Which could be a downer for audience members who are not familiar with the original script.) Other than that, it was a great three hours of raw theater.



swear not

Langgam Performance Troupe on Facebook

kung paano ako naging leading lady: the musical


Created by: Carlo Vergara

Music & Lyrics and Musical Direction by: Vincent de Jesus

Directed by: Chris Martinez

Produced by: Dalanghita Productions

Last year, I saw Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady, a one-act play about a maid working for superheroes, and loved it to bits. Brilliant comedic timing, excellent pacing. Now the one-act play has been expanded to a three-hour-long musical, currently running at Onstage Greenbelt. (It’s first run was in the PETA Theater in Quezon City.)

It is a tremendous achievement in production design, and exhibits economical use of stage space. There are a LOT of scene changes, but each one is made convincing on a bare stage, with the lights, rotating platform and vertical mesh doors used to great effect.

I loved loved loved the music and lyrics. The opening number (Paulit-ulit/Paulit-ulit na lang/Ganyan ang gulong ng buhay/ng isang damit/Di nagbabago, paulit-ulit/Tuwing nalalabhan naluluma ito’t kumukupas/Parang ako) gave me chills, and I knew I was in for something special. (Just listening to the snippet on SoundCloud is making me want to watch it again! Kudos to Vincent de Jesus.)

I also loved the performances. I was especially blown away by Mely (Frenchie Dy) and Viva (Natasha Cabrera), and adored Senyor Blangko (Nar Cabico, definitely a scene-stealing performance) and the Computer (Kakki Teodoro).

I will watch this musical again, if given the chance, but I think the story can still be tightened. I found myself shifting in my seat several times, not bored but mostly confused by what the story is trying to tell me. Where are we going with this? The musical tackles bravery and identity, important themes for sure, but there is an equally important social commentary that got lost in the shuffle.

(Spoilers! Read only if you’ve seen the musical.)

Continue reading kung paano ako naging leading lady: the musical

virgin labfest 9 revisited

The Virgin LabFest has been in my radar for years, but I never got the chance to watch any of the plays until now. The LabFest, established in 2005, is a laboratory festival of new plays by emerging and established Filipino playwrights held annually at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).

The Virgin Labfest aims to provide Filipino playwrights a venue to present their unpublished, unstaged, untested and untried works to the theatergoing public. The Virgin Labfest is a yearly project of the Manila-based playwrights group Writer’s Bloc, Inc., acclaimed theater company Tanghalang Pilipino, and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), in cooperation with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).


1. BETANG – Joanna Katanyag
2. BAGO ILIBING – Maynard Manasala & U Z Eliserio
3. LAST TEN MINUTES – Joy Icayan
5. ANG NAGHIHINGALO – Raymund Reyes
7. THE MISSING PEACE – Carlo Vergara
8. ANONYMOUS – Liza Magtoto
9. SA LILIM – Reya Laplana
10. WENDY WANTS TO BE A HOUSEWIFE – Ricardo Novenario

ISANG DAAN – Liza Magtoto
IMBISIBOL – Herlyn Alegre

Tanghalang Huseng Batute
(CCP Studio Theater)
Roxas Blvd., Pasay City


The LabFest staged three of last year’s one-act plays on June 29. My sister and I had tickets for the matinee show; our thanks to Carlo Vergara for providing us last-minute extra tickets so my sister could watch with me.

It was a fantastic three hours. Congratulations to writers Liza Magtoto, Herlyn Alegre and Carl, to the directors, and to the amazing cast.

In Isang Daan, various individuals driven by their own agenda fight over a small road that will soon become part of a major highway named after a politician. (Of course.) The Mayor, a feisty woman in a red evening gown and red stiletto shoes, street-smart and obnoxious (she calls her staff gender-offensive terms, like “Sexy” and “Pogi”), is a standout performance for me. I’ve never seen a characterization like that before, and I enjoyed watching the character come to life onstage. (My apologies for not getting the actor’s name! I love you!)

Imbisibol is about Filipinos staying illegally in Japan, a tragic play sandwiched between two comedies. At the center of it is a Filipina now of legal status in Japan after marrying a salaryman who spends more time in the office than at home. She starts recruiting Filipinos to work in Japan, young inexperienced men and women who take forever paying her placement fee. She is shrewd and sometimes mean because it is necessary to be hard to survive. I found myself thinking about this story when I woke up the next morning, long after the lights died onstage. Affecting and effective, painful in its truths.

I first encountered Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady as a comic book, so I was a walking spoiler alert, haha. It was great to see this story onstage! The strength is in the cast of three (this is the one-act play in the set with the least number of characters) and their brilliant comedic timing.

Virgin LabFest 9 Revisited

Virgin LabFest 9 Revisited
With a cast member from Isang Daan.

Virgin LabFest 9 Revisited

Virgin LabFest 9 Revisited

Virgin LabFest 9 Revisited