Eugene Domingo: From 'Kimmy Dora' to 'Bona'

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Yay! My article on Philippine Educational Theater Association's upcoming staging of "Bona" was published in Philippine Daily Inquirer's August 20, 2012 issue.

The full interview is below. (The green parts are the parts that the editors had to cut out due to lack of space. Please support coverage of the arts by encouraging advertisers to place ads in newspapers!)
Peta's "Bona" opens Aug. 24
Eugene Domingo: From 'Kimmy Dora' to 'Bona'
By Walter Ang

TV and film comedy actress Eugene Domingo ("Kimmy Dora") will portray Bona, a role performed by Nora Aunor in the film version, in Philippine Education Theater Association's stage adaptation "Bona."

Bona is a diehard fan of Gino Sanchez, played by Edgar Allan Guzman ("Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me"), a contestant on a television talent search show.

Originally written as a teleplay by Cenen Ramones featuring Laurice Guillen (Bona) and Ruel Vernal (Gardo), National Artist for Film and Peta founding member Lino Brocka directed the film version in 1980 starring Aunor as a high school girl smitten by macho bit-player actor Gardo (played by Philip Salvador).

Movies headlined by Aunor have been adapted for the stage before.  Peta staged the 1976 film "Minsa'y Isang Gamu-Gamo" in 1991 with Aunor herself in the leading role. Tanghalang Pilipino staged the 1982 film "Himala" in 2003.  Both productions were directed by Socrates "Soxy" Topacio, who will also direct Peta's "Bona."

Layeta Bucoy was approached by Peta artistic director Maribel Legarda to handle the script. Bucoy has been gaining recognition in the theater industry over the years, given her multiple Palanca awards and steady stream of one-act plays that have created buzz for their subject matter, use of language, and surprise twists, such as "Isang Libong Tula para sa Dibdib ni Dulce" (obsessive love), "Ellas Inocentes" (sexual innocence) and ""Doc Resureccion:  Gagamutin ang Bayan" (politics). Last year, she adapted William Shakespeare's "Titus Andronicus" with director Tuxqs Rutaquio, her constant collaborator, into a contemporary Filipino setting.

"In this version, Bona is more empowered. She's financially independent. She's a call center agent," Bucoy says. "As a fan, she lays claim to empowerment as she believes that the inclusion of fan votes for a talent search affords her the power to choose tomorrow's next big star."

"At first, we tried to follow the plot points of the movie, but as the adaptation developed and the process, true to the nature of theater, became more collaborative, a lot of changes were introduced, though still anchored on the spirit of the movie."

Comedy drama
The resulting work is now a comedy-drama. Bucoy points out that the addition of comedic angles is not so much a catering to Domingo's comedic skills than it is a result of the "evolution of the adaptation resulting from the team's collective vision."

"The term 'bona' is used in gay lingo. 'Nagpapaka-bona ka sa pag-ibig' means you're being stupid, being too much of a martyr for love. When we look at Bona from this angle, what might be melodramatic or even tragic to some might be comical to others. The difficulty lies in choosing a perspective. Isn't it true that even when it comes to religious fanaticism, some of us may laugh at those who go into a trance while singing 'In His Time?'"

Bucoy also writes novels and scripts for television and film, which serves as a reference point and helps inform her work for the stage. "Usually, when I write a play, I deliberately try to squeeze the action, even for full length plays, into just a day and in only one or two settings. I find it challenging to compress a 'life' into just a half-hour performance."

"Bona's 'story' doesn't happen in just a day and in just one setting.  Stageability is one of my major concerns when writing plays. My mentor Nick Pichay taught me that audiences' attention spans wane when darkness fills the stage."

The production will use videos as a transition device between scenes but Bucoy didn't want the obvious comparisons to television's commercial gaps. "We wanted to make the content of the videos part of the narrative. Working with my soul mate Tuxqs Rutaquio has taught me to be conscious of how text is 'translated' on stage. Form has a lot of influence on both content and how content is communicated."

"With 'Bona,' using videos not only affords smooth scene transitions on stage, but it also enriches the very content of the material: Bona falls for a guy she first sees on television, desires to see on the big screen, and follows in cyberspace. The guy is inside a 'screen' or a 'monitor' as Bona herself is slowly revealed to be seemingly trapped inside a 'screen' monitored by those who dictate what kind of life should we live."

"Bona" runs Aug 24-Sept. 23, 2012 at Peta Theater, Quezon City. Contact 725-6244, 0917-5765400 or Ticketworld (891-9999). Visit

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