“kanser”: crisostomo ibarra’s (or dr. jose rizal’s) very personal agenda

A backward look into the past was like a glimpse to the present realities of life. Only characters changed and signs reappeared. In a society of deprived freedom and unwanted poverty, the soul continued to struggle and personal agendas were once again created.

When playwright Jomar Fleras first wrote the play “Kanser” 35 years ago for Bulwagang Gantimpala (now Gantimpala Theater Foundation), it became the “peg” of all Noli Me Tangere (Dr. Jose Rizal’s classic novel, originally written in Spanish until it was translated to Tagalog version) adaptations. He was only 17 years old at that time, but “Kanser” reached further heights- journeying deeper into the minds of every young Filipino student.

director franniel zamora
director franniel zamora

This time, the play was “modernized”- and director Franniel Zamora made it very PERSONAL.

Because if you would dig deeper into its true intention, Crisostomo Ibarra and Dr. Jose Rizal (the main character alongside with the writer-creator) really wanted it that way. Yes, it was a very personal agenda for them.

They both saw the evils in Philippine society, they both felt the plight of the poor, the injustices, the hypocrisy, the cries. It were their family members who got jailed and who died, it were their neighbors who provided them wisdom, their friends who fought and saved their lives… until reaching the climax of burying the wealth that caused all of it, under the sea.

History simply repeated itself. And with director Zamora’s new version of “Kanser”, the monument of Dr. Jose Rizal at the Rizal Park became the opening and ending scene of the play. As Pilosopong Tasyo spoke of words of wisdom to the young, the memory lived on. Reaching again the “selfie” mobile generation of high-tech proportions.

Visually, the play was engrossing and moving. At the end of the play, you would cry along with the characters who suddenly changed appearances but lingered within the vanities of your whims. They might just be ordinary people you’d meet across the street or at a park, but you’d never know, they’re the ones who fought for you and gave you a better life.

No one’s exempted- even kid boys or old folks- no one, just no one. When it came about fighting for the true justice in a democratic land, everybody’s brave enough to participate and contribute his own share of heroism.

The artistic lighting skills of Shax Shasoco made this play appear in a magnificent and powerful texture- it transcended you deeper into the past and the timing of the lighting melody was perfect.


actor joel molina as crisostomo ibarra
actor joel molina as crisostomo ibarra


actress cris pastor as maria clara
actress cris pastor as maria clara

Joel Molina, the handsome and enigmatic commercial model-actor who portrayed Crisostomo Ibarra in this new version of Gantimpala Theater Foundation’s “Kanser” was too good to be true as the man who struggled and became the perpetrator to every Filipino man to create something within his pen. As Ibarra, you’d almost see the true Rizal in him. Educated and with a very good stage posture, a spectator would simply love to embrace.

Ms. Cris Pastor as Maria Clara was very convincing. She reinvented an immortal Filipina character that had suffered greatly within. Her delivery of dialogues were so clear and penetrating.

One blogger-spectator just wondered why a giant crocodile caricature managed to steal so much scene from this historical play, when in fact, it was no longer needed so. It looked fun to young viewers seeing a giant crocodile, with head upside down displayed on the center stage, but looked so awkward and funny for a serious play like this. Haha.

To top it all, Dr. Rizal’s message had continued to guide us all. He taught us of right principles, proper convictions and great manners- even at the verge of war and under extreme pressure.

This is Dr. Jose Rizal’s very personal agenda- not an agenda for personal revenge- but, an agenda to save his fellow countrymen who all got blinded by the shining and magnetic attraction of wealth and material things.

And some people simply had to die to make the message clear.



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