The linambay refers to the Cebuano-Visayan version of the Tagalog moro-moro or komedya— characterized by four major devices in staging: the batalya, the love angle, the trickster or fool or clown, rhyme and of octosyllabic or dodecasyllabic meter scheme. The last recorded productions of the linambay in Central Visayas were in Bohol 1976 according to Dr. Ulysses Aparece, and in Cebu 1986. The Gantuancos of Carcar, Cebu were one of the primary sponsors of the staging. The Visayan people called this linambay because of its movements associated with the kuradang (crab). The Spaniards yield the staging to express their conquering of Mindanao in pursuit of converting the natives into Christians. The performance revolves around the war between Moorish/ Muslim and Christian kingdoms. Most of the time, the production of the komedya or moro-moro in the Tagalog region was performed as a panata (vow/pledge), almost a religious commitment for various reasons. Most of the plays were written by the Regis and the Gantuanco families in Villadolid, Car-car, Cebu. Much of the content of the linambay revolves around love stories in fantasy land, resembling the landscape of Philippine metrical romances.
The Staging of Linambay in Villadolid, Car-car
The linambay is staged during the traditional nine nights of the fiesta novenario. Both artistic and production teams pulled-up their sleeves in preparation for this grand event. Preparations required about three months of weekend rehearsals consisting of 50 to 100 cast members from the community of Car-car. The linambay relies on resources contributed by different sectors of the whole community. Diputados, a subparish or barrio association which was established by prominent land owners of Villadolid like the Gantuancos, make decisions about the fiesta program and the staging of linambay, where members raise and allocate funds for the fiesta expenses. The actors of the linambay were adopted by elite families volunteering during the night of the novenario. The families fed them and provided the materials and resources they need for the production.
The linambay captivates the people through its spectacular elements like the batalya or the march, the three kings and many princes and princesses wearing shiny satin clothes of capes and dresses, humongous creatures that appear like tigers, lions, bears, dragons and other monstrous creatures that devour men, apparitions, fantasies and miracles. Costumes, especially for the royal characters, were ostentatiously colorful and lavishly adorned by shining and dangling elements called bitay-bitay or libetos. Most of the costumes were fully plaited with sequins. Audiences most often remember the magical scenes involving animals and fantasies as well as the romantic subplots of the plays.
Roles in the linambay can be roughly divided into three categories: the leading roles, the supporting roles, and the supernumeraries featuring soldiers and servants. Due to the lack of technological equipment like lapels and boom mics, the actors had to project their voice clearly and audibly for the audience. The actors’ faces were expressionless. In the linambay, the dissolution of personalities into flat characters enhanced the play’s expressive power, for the actors represented ritual figures rather than individualized characters.
Musicians also had to be hired for the production. Villagers playing the violin, guitar, bass, and banjos provided accompaniment during the ensayo. A band was hired for the presentation itself. The normal fee for the band was 50 pesos for the nine nights of the performance.
There is informality to the audience and casual disorder. One will find people eating, talking, or cooking a meal, children asleep or running around. People drift in and out of the crowd as the play progresses.
Can the Linambay be revived?
Since the narrative thread owes much to the genre of folklore and fantasies, the linambay can be open to incorporate any select choice of developmental themes. The use of contemporary staging devices to portray battles, love stories comedy, while retaining a rhyme and meter scheme is very much possible as well. It would be interesting to conceive and produce a creative and contemporary reconstruction of the linambay. What would be the significance of a continuous pursuit of the linambay in the Visayas? It would be the performing arts version of the architectural mode of creative and adaptive reuse. This involves, retaining some essential elements of a past tradition while fusing it with modern elements in an adaptive and creative manner. Its revival, which should incorporate present day themes and artistically appropriate modern methods of performance and staging will be a perfect example of revitalization of cultural heritage, thus making the linambay still resonate with the lives of contemporary Visayan people.
Gantuanco, Emilia and Criselda. 2014. Personal Interview. May 16.
Labad, Lutgardo. “Bohol and Cebu Linambay research, NCCA”. 2014
Mojares, Resil B. 1985. Theater in Society, Society in Theater, Social History of a Cebuano Village, 1840-1940. Quezon city, Ateneo de Manila University Press.
Tiatco, Sir Anril P. 2014. "The Philippine Komedya and the Recuperation of the Cosmopolitan: From Colonial Legacy to Cross-Cultural Encounter." Modern Drama, 57 (1). pp. 94-121.
Tiatco, Sir Anril P. 2009. "Postscript to University of the Philippines Komedya Fiesta 2008: Prelude to a Discourse on National Theatre". Asian Theatre Journal, 26 (2). pp. 281-302.
Tiongson, Nicanor G. 2010. "The Philippine Komedya: History, Indigenization, Revitalization". Philippine Humanities Review, 11. pp. 15-52.
Words by Emmanuel Jones Mante
Photo from L.Reyes, "20 in 20: the UP Diliman Month through the years."
Gantuanco, Emilia and Criselda. Personal Interview. May 16, 2014 ↩︎