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Strange Case

I feel strange publishing an article regarding the show I’m in, The Strange Case of Citizen de la Cruz, without first publishing some of the “drafts” I’ve written in regards to working on the show. But since I’m not fully decided on publishing said drafts, there’s an urgency in making sure this write up/review of the show is seen.

I very much enjoyed what Eric had to say about the show, its relevance, and the points he’s excavated. Special thanks to him, for coming out to see the show, and setting some time aside to dissect his experience.

Haunting the men. L-R: Lee Robin Salazar, Christine Jugueta, Ryan Morales. Photo courtesy of Andrew Rose

Get comfortable. L-R: Alan Quismorio, Tasi Alabastro, Patrick Silvestre. Photo courtesy of Anthony Garcia

Lee channeling some Glengarry Glen Ross. Photo courtesy Paciano Triunfo

If you haven’t seen it yet, we’ve added two additional shows- this Friday the 19th and Saturday, the 20th. If you have had a chance to catch it, feel free to tweet about it using the #strangecase tag so we catch it.

A Strange Ambivalence:

Luis Francia’s The Strange Case of Citizen De La Cruz

by Eric J. Pido, Ph. D., Assistant Professor Department of Asian American Studies, SFSU

On the topic of nationalism and patriotism, Benedict Anderson once famously wrote that “few countries give the observer a deeper feeling of historical vertigo than the Philippines“. Settled by two different countries (some would say three), the Philippines and its people in almost every corner of the world are still coming to terms with an national identity unsettled by its colonial past. Feelings of patriotism for the country today are enmeshed with daily reminders of political corruption and social schizophrenia.

It makes complete sense then that Luis Francia’s play “The Strange Case of Citizen De La Cruz” evokes the same disquieting emotions. Amidst comical themes of sexual impotence and rumor, lies a disconcerting truth about contemporary politics. Rather than painting a picture with clean lines and happy colors, Francia’s work refuses to reconcile the unhappy ambivalence that comes with fighting for one’s beliefs and nation.

Francia’s work, originally written almost 30-years ago, takes place during a pivotal moment in contemporary Philippine history when then-

President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law. This decree opened the door to over 14 years of absolute rule. From 1972 to 1981, thousands of Filipinos were imprisoned, tortured, and disappeared. Political dissidence and intellectual freedom was eradicated and social paranoia forced friends to turn against friends. Quickly, a shroud of cynicism crept over the country. Francia’s play provides some insight into why this cynicism continues to permeate how Filipinos, not only see the Philippines, but also themselves.

The play’s protagonist Bayani de la Cruz represents the nation at the cusp of the People Power Revolution. A movement sprung from inequality, yet somehow uniting people from every social class in the country. Eventually, the movement, and the First Quarter Storm that precipitated it,  overthrew Marcos’ dictatorial regime. An impossible feat which inspired social movements throughout the world.

There is a poignant moment in the first act of the play. The seemingly well-intentioned Dr. Santiago reminds his best friend Bayani that the Philippine national heroes of today were once viewed as subversives and traitors in the past. The conversation encapsulates the vexing tensions confronting Filipinos who desire to be patriots by fighting governmental injustice. Now just two-weeks after the 40th anniversary of Marco’s declaration, Francia’s work continues to resonate.

Legislature, like the recent passage of RA Bill 10175 or the so-called Anti-cybercrime Law, continually casts a cloud over the victories won after the People Power movement. The RA Bill was passed under the guise of combating internet crimes such as hacking, identity theft, illegal spamming and online child pornography. The implications of this bill justifies prison sentences for Filipinos who post messages on internet viewed, loosely, as libel. The bill’s larger purpose clearly seeks to silence political critique and dissidence over the internet.

Francia’s play also speaks to the troubling connection between the Church and State. Captain Rivera, the only clear villain in the play, with the rosary dangling madly from his neck, represents the deep patriarchy obstructing the passage of the crucial Reproductive Health Bill in the Philippines today. This key legislature would guarantee universal access to methods of contraception, abortion, fertility control, sexual education, and maternal care throughout the Philippines. Yet, the Catholic Church continues to be the biggest obstacle standing in the way the RH Bill’s passage.

When Filipinos around the world look toward their homeland, they’re filled with an estranging ambivalence, a dizzying vertigo, which is profoundly articulated by Francia’s work. Mang Kiko’s character, the apothecary whose potions stir passions both for love and patriotism, is the most instructive in this way. Be careful for what you ask. Love and patriotism unsettles more than passion. It can also incite an entire nation.

What other people are saying:

“[Luis] Francia describes the events of [the Martial Law] period with authenticity and a talent to bring to the stage the horrors of the human abuse that took place in his country.” –Annette Lust,

“Wow, [a] really well acted show. That’s the second show I have seen at Bindlestiff, and I have loved both shows…” –Stephan Chase, audience member

“Poet, journalist, and critic Luis Francia’s work usually breathes slowly through the politics of Filipino nationalism… In his two-act play and world premiere, The Strange Case of Citizen de la Cruz, Francia has a sharper edge.” –Neha Talreja,

“What a great show! …Very powerful with its strong criticism of confiscated democracy and corrupted patriotism. The direction works wonderfully to balance the very hard scenes with some hilarious ones.” –Celia Bense Ferreira Alves, audience member

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