“Until it has been officially proclaimed that a state of war or insurrection against the authority or sovereignty of the United States no longer exists in the Philippine Islands it shall be unlawful for any person to advocate orally, or by writing or printing or like methods, the independence of the Philippine Islands or their separation from the United States, whether by peaceable or forcible means, or to print, publish, or circulate any handbill, newspaper, or other publication advocating such independence or separation.”
- Law Against Treason, Sedition, Etc. Act No. 292 Section 10
The Filipinos were at war with the Spanish and the Americans. Not long after the Americans won in the Spanish-American War, the Philippine-American started. The Philippines only wanted their independence. Writers began to produce scripts that talked about war and their anti-Spanish/anti-American feelings. There were hidden messages everywhere. From character names, to costumes, to love themes, to staging of the scenes and mannerisms of characters. Playwrights wrote about freedom and independence, oppression from America.
The Sedition Act, passed on November 4, 1901, made any form of advocacy of Philippine independence a crime. The playwrights of the time clearly violated this and were sentenced for it.
July 7, 1902 – Tanikalang Guinto is first performed. The play talks about love and oppression. Ligaya (light, spirit of independence) is forbidden to see her love Kaulayaw (sweetheart, Filipino hero) by her uncle Maimbot (greedy; the American government). Maimbot then gives Ligaya a golden chain which symbolizes his control over her.
May 8, 1903 – Hindi Aco Patay (I Am Not Dead) is presented at a local theater. The play talks about the love between Karangalan (honor) and Tangulan (defender, patriot) and their opposition to Macamcam (the American government). Tangulan and Macamcam battle it out and Tangulan dies. However, he screams out “I am not dead!” The scenery then changes to a rising sun on the Katipunan flag, symbolizing freedom. A fight breaks out in the theatre audience between the white men and the brown men.
May 10, 1903 – Tanikalang Guinto is found seditious and the author is sentenced to two years in prison and is fined $2000.
May 14, 1903 – Kahapon, Ngayon at Bukas (Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow), by Aurelio Tolentino, talks about Filipino oppressors from yesterday (the Chinese), today (the Spanish), and tomorrow (the Americans). Inangbaya (the Philippines) and her son Tagailog (the Filipinos) conquer all of them. The scene then proceeds with the taking down of the American flag and stepping on it, causing another riot between the white and brown men.
July 5, 1903 – Hindi Aco Patay’s author who was in hiding is found, arrested, and sentenced to two years in prison. Several actors from the play are arrested as well.
May 8, 1904 – Author of Tanikalang Guinto is out on bail and writes another play, Isang Punlo ng Kaaway (An Enemy Bullet). He is then arrested a second time.
March 6, 1906 – Tolentino is sentenced to two years in prison and a $2000 fine.
This chronology is only of three plays, but there were several others. Some of which only the author, actors, and production company were arrested. And some where the whole audience is arrested as well.
In 1907 when the first Philppine Assembly was formed, the seditious plays ended. The plays changed from talking about war to talking about elections. The seditious plays definitely started a trend. Playwrights always talked of political issues at the present time.
Although these political theatre productions about war that started in 1902 were only started to help Filipinos unite and bash on their oppressors, it soon became part of their culture. Political theatre was popular and continued on for many years. They still talked about love and families, poverty, oppression, and revolution, but just talked about different political issues of the time. Symbols and hidden meanings were still used as well.
The plays of the early 1900s were later on revived during the late 1900s.
Posted by Francine