Utilising the "Kasayahan ng Lahi"
(history of race), which is an allegory of present Philippine history written by historians who question Philippine history as dictated by imperial powers, this Opera/musical play charts the often conflicting issues besetting the Philippines today.
The central character is Imelda Marcos, whose worldwide infamy for her thousand shoes, her excesses and thwarted mission to 'free her motherland', uncovers her own identity crisis.
The play's heart lies in the complex issue of identity, juxtaposing mirth and merriment with destitution and despair, through traditional song and dance. The four powerful pillars of Philippine society - religion, business, the military and America as the imperial power weave in and out of the story, further complicating Filipino minds and creating a nation in crisis - of identity, culture, nationhood. Is there such a thing as 'nationhood' in the Philippines, of 7,107 islands with over 100 ethno-linguistic groups, as well as Hispanic and American legacies? What ties the Igorots
of the north to the Lumads
and Muslims of the south?
Starting with the celebrated image of Imelda singing a dramatic ballad on Malacanang Palace's balcony, whilst protesters below shout abuse, baying for her and her husband's blood, the play charts the Marcos era, the couple's increasingly powerful and ruthless partnership, untold wealth and increasingly bizarre pronouncements about 'coronations', beauty and freedom, whilst the population suffers indignity, poverty and repression.
Imelda comes full circle, from being exiled and reviled, to a homecoming when she is once again celebrated, almost electing her as president, but not quite.
In the meantime, the nation, in its quest for itself, is becoming proud of its polarised identity and culture. How else to show this than through its very diverse song and dance traditions.
3rd July 2008