By RICA AREVALO
Rodolfo “Rody” Vera was first commissioned to write the screenplay of Maria Rosa Henson, the first comfort woman to come out and voice the atrocities of World War II under the Japanese soldiers. Theater director José Estrella was looking for a material for the UP Playwright’s Theatre and picked Nana Rosa.
Rody then adapted the screenplay to the stage and it was not easy for him.“The process was productive but a bit turbulent in the sense that, the production process was taking a direction that needed a lot more time to do and write—and I just don’t have enough that in the time frame they needed to mount it,” he says.
“But the process was equally enlightening and helpful to me,” recalled the 58-year-old playwright.“ The dramaturgs and José, the director, kept asking questions, pursued the details and researched more on the topic. It compelled me to rewrite, revise some of the views I had.” This is Jose and Rody’s fifth collaboration.
“With theater, I get to try out devices—storytelling, structural, even language a lot more. Many times I fail—but it’s something that theater can afford because it can revise midway, it tries to find solutions in repeated rehearsals,” he stressed.
For Nana Rosa, Rody was more interested in understanding the decisions she made in life. “These are historical decisions. I want people to understand why they decided to do things the way they did it because it makes us see deeper layers in our humanity,” he muses.
A typical day for Rody would be playing computer games and browsing through Facebook before writing. He also has a knack for gardening and likes hitting the gym, if time permits.
The Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature Hall of Famer advises the young writers never to rely on inspiration.
“It comes and goes. And not all the time, it urges you to write,” he confessed. “Sometimes it just makes you want to do things without finishing them. So better just do it and let inspiration come and see what you’re doing.”
He has written around 60 plays and has become one of the country’s prolific writers. He also wrote award-winning screenplays like Chito Roño’s Signal Rock, Lav Diaz’ Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan, and Jun Lana’s Die Beautiful.
Nana Rosa will run until March 17, 2019 at the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, 2nd floor, Palma Hall, UP Diliman, Quezon City.
Why should people catch it? “I want young audiences to realize they may have overlooked this part of our country’s history,” says the Cinemalaya 2012 Best Screenplay winner for Loy Arcenas’ Requieme. “I want them to get interested in getting to know more about it. A few comfort lolas have left us. Most of them have passed on without seeing the fruits of their struggle.”
Rody’s mother is also a survivor of World War II. “Fortunately, she did not experience what Lola Rosa had experienced, but she almost died, too, surviving the terrible massacre at La Salle in 1945. In a way, I think this encouraged me to write about Nana Rosa,” he reflects.
Why are writers important in nation building?
“Writers are memory keepers. What’s a nation without a memory? That’s what they use to build upon things. While we look to the future, we build on the past,” he admits. “And writers determine what this nation will remember, too. Sometimes the nation wishes to completely forget. Some want to cover reality with lies. Writers write to keep memory alive and relevant, at the same time, try hard as they could to maintain the truth in them.”
This year marks the 80th year anniversary of the start of World War II. “What happened to Nana Rosa happened to us—male or female. We all suffered historically. And we bear that, whether we like it or not,” muses the 2014 Gawad Urian winner.
“Each courageous voice is important in this time of fear and darkness. Nana Rosa’s courage to face the truth, her truth—is what we all need today.”
For Nana Rosa tickets, contact, Nico Varona at 09175198879/ firstname.lastname@example.org or UPPT at 926-13-49 / 981-8500 loc 2449.