New Yorker in Tondo is a play about a run-of-the-mill girl from Tondo named Kikay. She visited New York and returned a very different person. Her new attitude, mannerisms, outfits, and ideas stun her family and friends. This causes emotional unrest between all of them. She convinces her mom, Aling Atang, to change into what looks like a high-society matrona and insists everyone call her mom, Mrs. Mendoza. She enrages her secret fiancé Tony with her “change of heart.” Thus causing Tony to seek an engagement with their other childhood friend, Nena, to the dismay of Totoy, the rowdy kabarakada who has secretly liked Nena ever since. As you can imagine there was plenty of squabbling and fistfights among the four friends. The play ends with a new love emerging between Nena and Totoy and the relationship between Kikay and Tony rekindled.
“New Yorker in Tondo” used to be one of the selections for our Filipino class in school. Seeing it years later presented by Little Boy Productions brings new life to the classic play by Marcelino Agana Jr. I watched it on the morning of August 27 with spritely and energetic little children! They comprised 80% of the audience that night. I could feel the happy and boisterous vibes from the kids.
After getting reminders for viewing etiquette, the play finally began and the crowd’s restlessness slowly abated. Jane Frias, clad with a matrona’s outfit and impressive pearls, opened the play as Aling Atang. The audience was hushed by her motherly fussing and doting as all eyes were on her and her adorable charm. I also enjoyed how Seth Bacalso presented Tony’s emotional side. This showed when he was talking with Nena about their secret relationship and when he was irked with Kikay’s tactless and cool attitude when he was on the verge of telling her that the engagement was off. Totoy, played by Alden “Bata” Reambonanza, was a hilarious character and the audience loved the comedic chemistry between him and the rest of the cast. One of the play’s elements of surprise was when Totoy unwittingly revealed his interest in Nena, who is portrayed by Penny Gavino Reambonanza. She played up the cheeky side of the character in an oh-so-cute white and pink dress! The audience responded to this (actual real-life husband-and-wife) tandem of “Bata” and Penny and their characters’ triumphant newfound love at the latter part of the story. And of course, the New Yorker in Tondo herself, Kikay, starred by Chloe Palang. She expressed Kikay’s complex character and showed two sides to the coin: the haughty, liberated woman who prefers to be called Francesca and the Tondo girl who they all knew, Kikay. The moment Chloe set her black stilettoes on stage, I could feel all eyes growing as big as saucers. The strong and confident character this lovely lady portrayed as Francesca was the spark that caused all the emotions in the play to ignite. After the big confrontation, the simple side of the character was finally revealed and the audience saw the girl that Tony loved. A happy ending that begot the resounding applause it deserved! In a sense, Kikay represents a part of us that aspires for progress and shifts in outlook, yet mistakes foreign ideas and culture as such.
New Yorker in Tondo, under the direction of Bart Guingona, was a delight to see and experience! Aside from helping students get a better feel of the story, it also gave people of all ages and from all walks of life, a very important lesson. Like what Little Boy Productions producer Hendri Go said, “It shows that no matter which path you take in life, your roots will always be a part of you. You may be different now from whence you came but your origin is the foundation of what your are now.”
Cast of Characters:
- Kikay (Chloe Palang)
- Aling Atang (Jane Frias)
- Tony (Seth Bacalso)
- Totoy (Alden “Bata” Reambonanza)
- Nena (Penny Gavino Reambonanza)
Go out and watch a play.