Words by Hannah Angelique Bacani
Photos by Caitlin Rodil
Rody Vera as Junyee in Balag at Angud
Tanghalang Pilipino opened the curtains to its 32nd season with Balag at Angud, a play written by Palanca award-winning playwright, Layeta Bucoy and directed by veteran actor and director, Audie Gemora. The play is a musical that dramatizes the life of protest and installation artist Luis Yee Jr., otherwise known as Junyee. Beyond the remarkable music by Dodjie Fernandez and Upeng Fernandez, and spectacular set design by Toym Imao, what made Balag at Angud a spectacle is the story of Junyee’s journey as an artist–one that all aspiring artists can draw inspiration from.
Like most artists, Junyee struggled to earn his parents’ approval in his pursuit of fine arts. His Chinese father who regarded his son’s art as “trash” wanted him to take the path to business, where money is sure and secure unlike in the arts. But despite his father’s aversion to the arts, Junyee left his home in Agusan del Norte to chase after his dream of becoming an artist.
Far from home and alone, Junyee struggled to live and fend for himself. He took the job in a funeral home as a makeup artist to sustain his every day.
But soon enough, Junyee found himself as an apprentice of National Artist Napoleon Abueva at the University of the Philippines Diliman where he studied and majored in sculpture. There he became a part of movements against the then dictatorial regime, creating sculptures and other pieces that criticized the government. He eventually built his first installation (the “Balag“) a group of bamboo sticks drawn together and bounded by a rope, on which other students could hang their poems and words of protests. This then marked the start of his career and began yet another series of fateful events for Junyee and his art.
Bayang Barrios as the Muse
Junyee became known for his use of natural materials to create art that stood against many issues including environmental destruction and government corruption. He went from the boy whose art was called “trash” to the country’s pioneer in installation art and site-specific works. Balag at Angud highlights the struggles of an artist to pursue and believe in his art no matter what, despite the negative beliefs of others. It brings hope to all artists that one day, it can be them and their art that influences and inspires.
Balag at Angud runs from August 31 to September 16 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Little Theater.