REVENGE and bitterness on the one hand, and loss and guilt on the other.
The Philippine Educational Theater Association, together with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, the British Council and The Japan Foundation, merges two stories, centuries apart, into a third one that tells of redemption, forgiveness and resilience as it transcends time and space.
The Tempest Reimagined, well, reimagines The Tempest of William Shakespeare and intersperses it with stories of survivors of Typhoon “Yolanda,” which swept the Philippines in November 2013.
A fisherman, Jaime, acts as narrator.
The duke Prospero engages the help of the spirit, Ariel, in causing a tempest that would break a ship apart. It is no ordinary ship; it is one that contains his sister Alonsa and her companions on whom he wants to exact revenge. They plotted to throw him out of power 12 years ago just because he was too wrapped up in his books to actually rule. Alonsa and the queen of a neighboring city put Prospero and his daughter Miranda on a leaky boat which they set off into the unknown.
It was a miracle father and daughter reached the island alive; they have been living on it ever since.
On the same island are trapped four survivors of typhoon Yolanda, each with harrowing stories of destruction and loss. They confront their memories of that terrible, terrible day when the water rose and swept everything along its path. Talk about how they were caught unprepared even as they, being fishermen from Leyte, are supposed to have been used to typhoons all their lives. Discuss how the term “storm surge” was never explained to them. Remember what they were doing and how they felt amidst the storm. Come to terms with how they are gripped with terror at the softest sound of rain or thunder.
Ponder why they may have survived when thousands died: What made them any better, worthier?
They also behold the “gods”—representatives of the private sector, the national government and the local government—who so pointlessly discuss the matters of providing aid in terms of shelter, fishing boats, sanitation kits, and functioning kitchens and bathrooms.
The survivors try to elevate their issues to these gods but they get so taken up with blaming each other that the issues are never resolved.
These experiences are not imagined. They are culled from the accounts of actual people who participated in PETA’s Lingap Sining Project. Established in 2014, it is “geared towards developing safe schools and resilient communities using art- and culture-based approaches.”
Finally the characters from Shakespeare and from Yolanda meet. The four survivors first chance upon Miranda and her newfound love, which turns out to be Ferdinand—her cousin and Alonsa’s son whom everybody thought perished in the storm. They build a home for the lovers, despite the fact that they have just lost their own homes recently.
Prospero laments how he has lost everything. Even Ariel the spirit, whom he bids to do whatever he wants, desires to be free from him. He has also lost Miranda, his daughter. He feels alone and rejected; hatred and bitterness fill his heart.
But what of loss, the Yolanda survivors tell him. Tell us about losing everything, says the man who witnessed his home—and 15 members of his family—swept by the water. He narrates how he sat on a waiting shed for many, many days after the tragedy, saying nothing, doing nothing, just staring out into the distance contemplating his grief.
In the end, Prospero forgives those who have wronged him. They are not evil, after all—just people who have made bad judgments. He reconciles with his sister Alonsa and gives away Miranda in marriage.
The storm people also come to their own resolutions. The man who lost everything finds himself marrying one of the other storm survivors, a teacher who wishes she could do more to help other people recover from the typhoon. A double wedding ensues; everyone dances.
It is not, however, a purely happy ever-after. The characters retreat, knowing there will be more storms, stronger ones, coming their way. They will prepare to face them better.
Sometimes we conjure our own tempests because of our own naivete or, to use a fashionable term, frailty.
At other times, the tempests come anyway despite our best intentions. They take on a life of their own, whack us on the head when we least expect it, make us re-evaluate who we are and what our negotiables and non-negotiables are.
Oh, some storms do kill. They throw others onto the sea or crush them with their power. For the rest of us, the pounding eventually stops. It does not rain forever. When the heavens quiet down, when the water recedes, when the wailing stops and when the debris settles, our tempests leave us with a fresh, just-washed feeling that gives us clear vision and emboldens us to begin again. We become stronger, wiser—and blessed with greater capacity to forgive and love.