Follow TV Tropes


Context Theatre / APortraitOfTheArtistAsFilipino

Go To

1[[quoteright:400:]] ²[[caption-width-right:400:Posters for the two main film adaptations: (L) ''Ang Larawan'', the 2017 Tagalog film version, and (R) the same-titled, 1965 English version.]]²²-->''Contra mundum!'' [[labelnote:Translation]]"Defy the world!"[[/labelnote]]²²An English-language Filipino play written in 1950 by author Nick Joaquin. It debuted on stage in 1955.²²Set in the tragically beautiful, Spanish-colonial [[CitadelCity Walled City of Intramuros]] in the late U.S. colonial era, specifically in [[UsefulNotes/WorldWarII October 1941]], the play is named for the huge, classically-themed self-portrait by the great artist Don Lorenzo Marasigan [[TheMagnificent el Magnifico]], and the rest of the play revolves around his two youngest, unmarried daughters, Paula and Candida, as they debate whether or not to sell off the painting—and the incomparably grand, OldDarkHouse they live in—to pay their bills and support their father in his old age, with external pressures from all sides usually telling them to do the smart thing and sell them both.²²Adapted a number of times into film: two examples include a 1965 black-and-white English version directed by Lamberto Avellana, and ''Ang Larawan'', a 2017 Tagalog version in full colour, directed by Loy Arcenas, starring West End veteran Joanna Ampil and Rachel Alejandro respectively as Candida and Paula Marasigan, and Paulo Avelino as Tony Javier.²²Contrast ''Literature/WithoutSeeingTheDawn'', a novel by Stevan Javellana that's set in almost exactly the same time period (late 1941, just before the war in the Pacific), but this time in the Visayan province of Iloilo, and focusing on the other end of the social ladder—namely, rural peasant farming families, many of whom probably worked for landlords very much like the characters in this play.²²----²!!Provides examples of:²²* TwentyMinutesIntoThePast: The original play opened in TheFifties, and the first film version came out in 1965, both depicting a not-so-distant past in 1941. Subsequent adaptations are more firmly into the realm of PeriodPiece.²* AllGirlsWantBadBoys: Paula begins to fall for the rascally and wildly emotional Tony Javier, especially when he begins waxing about his ambitions to travel and study abroad, possibly taking her with him—something she's wanted in her youth, even if she thinks it's no longer possible now.²* AudienceSurrogate: Bitoy Camacho.²* BigFancyHouse: The Marasigan house, situated along Calle Real ("Royal Street") in Intramuros, where almost the entire play takes place. By this point, though, it's also an OldDarkHouse (see trope entry below).²* BigBadEnsemble: Pepang and Manolo are soon joined by Doña Loleng and her group of socialites, leading to a VillainSong, "Conga".²* BungledSuicide: [[spoiler:That "accident" Don Lorenzo had falling from the balcony? It was no accident—he attempted it after finishing the titular ''Portrait''.]]²* ChristianityIsCatholic: And a very old-school, [[GratuitousLatin Latin-speaking]], unapologetically Baroque kind of Catholic too. At the time Nick Joaquin finished it, the Second Vatican Council (a.k.a. Vatican II), which simplified, updated and modernised a lot of old Church traditions—most notably, it finally allowed Mass to be said in the vernacular—wouldn't convene yet for another decade (it would commence in TheSixties).²* CitadelCity: Intramuros. And yet the tragic ForegoneConclusion is that the walls will do absolutely jack shit to protect the city's colonial splendour from airborne American bombardment and Japanese house-to-house fighting towards the end of UsefulNotes/WorldWarII. [[note]]The citadel walls weren't significantly repaired until TheSeventies at least, and even today a lot of the beautiful old churches and buildings that used to occupy Intramuros have been left as ruins, or have been replaced either by slum areas or by more modern buildings, many of which are nondescript, ill-proportioned, poorly designed, or simply out of place. There are exceptions though—the Ayuntamiento, or old Legislative Hall, was rebuilt with reasonable accuracy, at least on the outside, after enduring over sixty years as a car park. It now houses the Philippine Bureau of the Treasury.[[/note]]²* CorruptPolitician: Very downplayed with the Senator Don Perico. He's not portrayed as ''corrupt'', per se, but he does admit he had to give up his poetry for politics because it wouldn't earn him a living. At least as a politician, he's made a tidy—if not necessarily completely honest—living for himself and his family.²* CreatorCameo: Ryan Cayabyab, who set ''Ang Larawan'' to music, briefly appears as one of the Intramuros townsfolk.²* DancesAndBalls: ''Tertulias'', of which there used to be a lot on Friday nights at the Marasigan house [[note]]not to mention at the other houses Bitoy's been to, on other days of the week[[/note]], are basically soirees—social gatherings of colonial high society, even if they don't necessarily have to involve dancing.²* DeliberatelyMonochrome: The 1965 film.²* DramaticIrony²* DuringTheWar: Not the play itself (though it does occur just before the start of the Pacific Theatre of UsefulNotes/WorldWarII, and by this time the war in Europe ''has'' been ongoing for two years), but when conversing with the Marasigans, Senator Don Perico occasionally rhapsodises about his youth during the Philippine Revolution of the 1890s, in which he and Don Lorenzo fought. (Though it's less talked-about, presumably they also fought in the Philippine-American War, which was the Revolution's sequel.)²* TheFilmOfThePlay: Both 1965 and 2017 films to the original 1950s play; the latter is also this with respect to the 1997 majority-Tagalog musical.²* TheFlapper: Susan and Violet, the vaudeville dancers at the Parisian theatre where Tony Javier plays the piano—while the RoaringTwenties is long past at this point, their mannerisms, vivacity and liberal (even loose) morals evoke a flapperish image.²** Also somewhat in the character of Elsa Montes, who claims to have "brought the conga to Manila".²* FoolishSiblingResponsibleSibling: The Marasigan siblings all think themselves responsible and the others foolish: Manolo and Pepang, who send the money for the upkeep, see their younger sisters as being too sentimental to sell off the house and/or their father's portrait in order to help him, but Candida and Paula at least care for their father, whilst observing their older siblings cannot even be bothered to send ''enough'' money to support him—having splurged the rest on gambling and society events, in the manner of the stereotypical spendthrift Filipino.²* ForegoneConclusion²* TheForties: More specifically, see below …²* GenteelInterbellumSetting: The very genteel, Hispano-Filipino version of this, set explicitly in October of 1941—two months shy of Pearl Harbour, three months before the start of the brutal Japanese occupation, and three-and-a-half years before the extremely destructive American "Liberation" of Manila, which almost completely levelled the colonial metropolis (as if the countless rapes and skyrocketing death toll suffered by the citizenry weren't enough).²** "Interbellum" in the Filipino context may not necessarily refer to the period bracketed by the two World Wars, since the American Philippines saw little direct action in UsefulNotes/TheGreatWar despite already being a colony then. The earlier war in this case would be the Philippine-American War, which allowed the Americans to colonise the (consequently stillborn) Republic in the first place. No wonder the entire period between (1898–1946) is often summarised and stereotyped as "peacetime". [[note]]A more specific definition of "peacetime" would cover the period between the ''end'' of the Philippine-American War—which was formally over by 1902, but saw hostilities stretching as far as 1910—and the start of WWII in the Pacific, beginning in the Philippines proper with the Japanese arrival in early 1942.[[/note]]²* TheGhost:²** Don Lorenzo, who never leaves his bed for the duration of the play, until the very end. (In ''Ang Larawan'', his entry into the final Marasigan ''tertulia'' being thrown by his daughters is shown, but only lasts a few minutes.)²** Also the nameless American buyer that Tony Javier has purportedly found for the portrait.²* GorgeousPeriodDress: Especially true for more recent productions like the 2017 film. It's a perfect excuse for the cast to don ornate, gauzy ''ternos'' (Catholic-lowlander Filipiniana dresses with shawls), respectable ''barong Tagalogs'' (embroidered untucked shirts), and snazzy, light-hued sharkskin suits.²* GratuitousLatin: The logical conclusion of the characters' double exposure to Latin via Western Classical education on the one hand, and pre-Vatican II Catholic tradition on the other. A lot of this features in the dialogue as a consequence.²* GratuitousSpanish: Expected of an ex-Spanish colony among its colonial elites.²* TheGreatDepression: Appears to have reached America's only large colony in the Asia-Pacific, since Bitoy at the start of Act II reminisces that TheThirties were a hardscrabble period, and that like most people, he had to get by on odd jobs to survive.²-->'''Bitoy''': […] "''I grew up during the hard, hard, nineteen-thirties, when everybody seemed to have become poor and shabby and disillusioned and ill-tempered. I drifted from one job to another—bootblack, newsboy, baker's apprentice, waiter, pier-laborer.''"²* HappilyFailedSuicide: [[spoiler:Downplayed, and stretched out over the course of a year, but Don Lorenzo very gradually recovers his good disposition after the failed attempt at jumping from his balcony. He gets better as old family friends like Bitoy visit him (even if many of them only come because of the portrait), and during the La Naval ''tertulia'', finally gets up from bed to be received by his children and all his old guests and friends.]]²* HaveAGayOldTime²* HonorBeforeReason²* ImpoverishedPatrician: The Marasigans, and painfully so. They used to be among the crème de la crème of colonial Filipino society—living in Intramuros and all—but their status will not help them pay the utility bills now. (Note also that Paula and Candida have no servants around to do their bidding or help care for their father or manage the house, as would be almost certainly the case back when they had wealth; their older siblings who have moved out, naturally, have their own servants, explicitly so in Pepang's case.)²* JustBeforeTheEnd: "The end" in this case being UsefulNotes/WorldWarII, or the Japanese/Pacific side of it, anyway, sparked by the would-be invasion of Pearl Harbour in December 1941—a mere two months after the play's October setting.²* LatinLand: Many Latin Americans would feel quite at home in Intramuros, what with the airy, storm-prone tropical atmosphere, the [[CitadelCity ancient, heavy fortifications]], the GratuitousSpanish, the [[ChristianityIsCatholic old-school Catholicism]] (complete with a penchant for lavish fiestas), and the [[SlobsVsSnobs unequal and hierarchical social structure]]. Justified since Intramuros was the ''original'' Manila[[note]]well, colonially speaking, it was founded in 1571, but the ''truly original'' Manila was a precolonial rajahnate that existed as far back as [[TheLowMiddleAges the late 1200s]] and was formerly called "Seludong"[[/note]], and in Spanish times it was open only to the highest classes of colonial society, mainly Church leaders, government functionaries (including the Governor-General), military officers, and peninsular Spanish families.²* LastStand²* LetThePastBurn: [[spoiler:Paula slashes and burns the portrait. In so doing, she sets herself and Candida free.]]²** BurnBabyBurn: Overlaps with this, since [[spoiler:the object actually being burnt is a ''painting'', not the house itself … though it's a ForegoneConclusion that the house, and practically all of colonial Manila with it, will be completely obliterated by American shelling by 1945 anyway]].²* LiteraryAllusionTitle: To Creator/JamesJoyce's ''Literature/APortraitOfTheArtistAsAYoungMan''. The parallel seems too close to be coincidental.²* MajoredInWesternHypocrisy: It's no surprise that Don Lorenzo studied in Europe in his youth, in the 1890s, before the Philippine Revolution (crossing paths explicitly with RealLife master artist Juan Luna). It would've been common for the Hispanicised, elite, ''ilustrado'' (intellectual; literally, "enlightened") class to which he belongs.²* MeltingPotNomenclature / AerithAndBob: With all characters being Filipino nationals, all the names are some derivative of Western—primarily either Spanish or English—but there are a mix of names still in use today (Paula, Lorenzo, Tony, Susan, Violet, Elsa, Patsy, Charlie, Pete, Eddie, Cora), and some more outdated names (Candida, Perico, Aristeo, Alvaro—which also double as {{Preppy Name}}s). Some of the names mentioned, while also Western-based, are likely uniquely Filipino nicknames (Bitoy, Pepang, Loleng, Upeng).²* MissingMom: The Marasigan matriarch, who has been dead a while.²* AllMusicalsAreAdaptations: Was adapted (and translated) into the majority-Tagalog ''Ang Larawan'' ("The Portrait"), which debuted on stage in 1997 and was adapted into a film in 2017.²* TheMoralSubstitute: The producers of the 2017 film adaptation touted this as such in comparison to the numerous [[RomanticComedy rom-coms]] and horror movies being churned out by mainstream film studios.²* NostalgiaFilter: Since it portrayed a bygone period just before the Japanese invaded the country.²* ObstructiveBureaucrat: The Bureau of Health and Science [[note]]colonial precursor to the modern Philippine Department of Health[[/note]] pays no heed to Candida's offers to go rat-catching for them. None of their officials take her seriously; they end up calling security and chasing her out, thinking she's become insane or some sort of threat—at least, the way Candida tells it, anyway.²* OldDarkHouse: The Marasigan house. Its literal darkness becomes a crucial plot element, since Candida and Paula constantly worry about the electric company [[note]]yes, even back in the 1940s, Meralco was already the sole provider of Manila's electric power—as evidenced by its full name: '''M'''anila '''E'''lectric '''R'''ailroad '''a'''nd '''L'''ighting '''Co'''mpany[[/note]] cutting off their power, since they're several months behind on payments. At one point, when Paula tries the lights and they don't work, she thinks for a second that what she and Candida had feared has come true at last—at least, until Candida looks out the window, and notices the entire Walled City is in darkness, forgetting a practice blackout was scheduled that night.²* OldMaid: Paula is 40, Candida is 42, and neither are married, having focused instead of caring for their father and their ancestral home. (In the Philippines, it used to be common—especially in large families—for the youngest to forgo marrying and setting up their own families, in order to look after their ageing parents.)²* {{Paparazzi}}: Not quite as stubborn and aggressive as some more modern examples, but Bitoy's work friends Pete, Eddie, and Cora, the trio of journalists that come to the house hoping to get down some words and photos of Don Lorenzo's ''Portrait''. Certainly they seem to embody this trope from the Marasigan sisters' perspective.²* PeriodPiece: At the time it was first written, the play wasn't set in the distant past, less than a decade separating time setting from publication—but the war's wanton destruction to body, soul, and environment upended so much of Filipino life, culture and society in such enormous and irreversible ways, that even as early as 1950, it's likely the GenteelInterbellumSetting before 1942 suddenly felt like a very distant and different era altogether. Certainly it ''looked'' very different physically after all the notable buildings were burned down or shelled into oblivion.²* PosthumousCharacter: [[spoiler:Paula, Candida, and Don Lorenzo, from latter-day Bitoy's postwar perspective.]]²* PurpleProse: In true, Baroque, Nick Joaquin fashion, several characters burst into this. Bitoy's own framing monologues are only one example.²* RomanticismVersusEnlightenment: In its own way, the play fights on the side of Romanticism, with its extolment of the way things used to be, before the war's physical—but also cultural, social, and moral—devastation.²* ShoutOut: To ''Literature/TheAeneid''. The titular portrait, while never meant to be revealed directly (at least on stage—the 1965 film reveals it, but in [[DeliberatelyMonochrome black and white]], whilst the 2017 film only shows it indirectly or blurred), is described as depicting Aeneas carrying his decrepit father Anchises on his back as they flee the burning Troy. Don Lorenzo used his own likeness for both father and son—the former based on his current old age, the latter based on himself in his youth.²** There's a lot of references to Greek and Roman mythology and literature in general, typical for an educated, Europeanised, upper-class Filipino family of the time.²** Don Perico once mentions the RealLife Juan Luna's most famous painting, the ''Spoliarium'', which features (dead) gladiators.²* ShownTheirWork: The ''La Naval'' procession through Intramuros was painstakingly and accurately recreated for ''Ang Larawan''.²* SmartPeopleKnowLatin: The peppering of Latin phrases by both the Marasigans and many of their high-society friends (the page quote is provided by Senator Don Perico) only serves to highlight the extensive quality education available to most of their circle, which often included studies abroad—most often in Europe, as was common in the privileged ''ilustrado'', or intellectual, class.²* TakeAThirdOption: [[spoiler:Instead of deciding to keep the portrait for longer, or selling it off per Tony's wishes, Paula decides to destroy and burn the portrait, freeing herself and Candida of the spell of guilt it has plagued them with since their father first painted it.]]²* TakeOurWordForIt: Don Lorenzo Marasigan ''[[TheMagnificent el Magnifico]]'' is known by all of Manila society as a famous ''ilustrado'' (intellectual), an amazingly talented elite Filipino painter, and friend and rival of the RealLife master artist Juan Luna, and yet the only artwork of his ever mentioned explicitly in this play—the eponymous, double-headed self-portrait—is never even shown directly or completely, on stage or on screen. Verges on InformedAbility, though Don Lorenzo's talents are not meant to be in question.²** The 1965 film shows the portrait, but of course, it's DeliberatelyMonochrome, as is the rest of the film.²* TheCavalry: Don Lorenzo's old friends - Don Alvaro, Doña Upeng, Don Miguel, Doña Irene, and Don Aristeo - all attend Candida and Paula's party during the ''La Naval'' and help them face Manolo and Pepang.²----


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: