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Putri Anak: The Quest for the Recovery of Southeast Asian Myth, Music, and Drama in a Philippine Spanish Colonial Genre

1 September 2017

In this presentation, I discuss the musical play Putri Anak: Isang Bagong Komedya (Putri Anak: A New Komedya) premiered April of 2007 with music by myself, libretto by En Villasis and Juan Ekis and direction by Jina C. Umali. Written in the form of komedya, the production was an attempt to maintain the structural and distinctive dramatic components of this theatrical tradition among Christianized Filipinos from the 18th century but infuse it with Southeast Asian literary, music and dance elements. 

Also called moro-moro, the plot of the traditional komedya revolved around the conflict between Christian and Muslim kingdoms. These plays featured brass bands, marches, stylized movements, heightened speech and choreographed battles and conclude with the eventual conversion of the Muslim protagonists to Christianity. 

Instead, Putri Anak adapts a storyline based on a Maguindanao celestial maiden narrative akin to maiden myths found all over Southeast Asia (e.g. apsara). 

The music was inspired by the traditional and hybridized Southeast Asian music forms where gongs are used in tandem with western instruments (military drums, brass and woodwinds) common in the traditional komedya to reference musical styles soundscapes that mark popular theatre forms, rituals, and ceremonies in the region. 

Putri Anak was intended to be “a komedya free of religion-based discrimination and violence and a komedya that celebrates Asian culture, heritage and artistic expression, a theatre of peace and unity for present-day Filipino audience“ (from Putri Anak Press Release).

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