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A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino: An Elegy in Three Scenes

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Originally published in 1966 - this is a recent reprint of the play in English.

116 pages

First published January 1, 1966

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About the author

Nick Joaquín

78 books381 followers
Nicomedes Márquez Joaquín (1917–2004) was a Filipino writer and journalist best known for his short stories and novels in the English language. He also wrote using the pen name Quijano de Manila. In 1976, Joaquin was conferred the rank and title of National Artist of the Philippines for Literature. He has been considered one of the most important Filipino writers, along with José Rizal and Claro M. Recto. Unlike Rizal and Recto, whose works were written in Spanish, Joaquin's major works were written in English despite being a native Spanish speaker.

Before becoming one of the leading practitioners of Philippine literature in English, he was a seminarian in Hong Kong – who later realized that he could better serve God and humanity by being a writer. This is reflected in the content and style of his works, as he emphasizes the need to restore national consciousness through important elements of Catholic Spanish Heritage.

In his self-confessed mission as a writer, he is a sort of "cultural apostle" whose purpose is to revive interest in Philippine national life through literature – and provide the necessary drive and inspiration for a fuller comprehension of their cultural background. His awareness of the significance of the past to the present is part of a concerted effort to preserve the spiritual tradition and the orthodox faith of the Catholic past – which he perceives as the only solution to our modern ills.

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Displaying 1 - 13 of 13 reviews
Profile Image for K.D. Absolutely.
1,820 reviews
July 27, 2011
The famous local English play A Portrait of an Artist as Filipino (An Elegy in Three Series) was written by Nick Joaquin in 1951 and was first published in a book form in 1966. It has been staged several times with either radio talents, professional actors or amateur actors including students in high school classrooms. In fact, in my book’s 1966 edition’s Foreword, written by another famous Filipino artist, Lamberto V. Avellana, he said that this work did not need any foreword as it had been dramatized over the radio, staged in practically all barangays throughout the city (Manila) and has been filmed by Manuel de Leon, an incorrigible patron of Filipino art. However, revisions had been made to suit the limitations of those radio/stage plays and movie. Fortunately, my edition has the original play: full blown, uncut, free from dictates of half-hours of radio, the two hours of stage, and the one-and-a-half hours of screen.
The play is about Manila before the outbreak of World War II. The Marasigan family composed of the dying Don Lorenzo el Magnifico and his two spinster daughters, 43-y/o Candida and 40-y/o Paula are still living in their old ancestral house located inside Intramuros, the walled city located inside the city. The house is already in its decayed state and the two daughters are now collecting bills. Candida has a talent on catching rats so she applies at the Bureau of Health as a Chief of Rat Control but she is suspected by the government people as a government spy. Paula, on the other hand, knows how to play the piano and speaks Spanish so she displays poster in front of the house for interested students. However, both plans go kaput. Their only hope now is to sell the famous painting that their dying father painted and given to them as a gift called “Portrait of an Artist as Filipino.” The characters in the painting are Aeneas carrying at his back his father Anchises as they flee the burning Troy.
However, instead of the actual faces of these Greek mythological characters are the actual faces of young and old Lorenzo. So, it is like the young Lorenzo carrying the now old himself. An American painting collector is interested to buy it for $1,000 which during that time translates to P2,000 and is enough for Paula and Tony Javier, their lodger, the to go to Europe and see Spain, Italy and France.

The play is divided into 3 scenes:

THE FIRST SCENE – Candida and Paula meet again, after more than 10 years, Bitoy a son of one of their papa’s regular visitors during Sunday’s terulias. Tony arrives and is followed by members of media who are asking to see the painting. They want to borrow the painting (that reminded me of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde) for exhibition in an art gallery but the sisters do not agree.

THE SECOND SCENE – The Marasigans are visited by the an old-time friend family headed by Senator Perico. During the visit, the elder Marasigans, Manolo and Pepang, are also there. They all want the sisters to donate the painting to the government, the two to live with their elder siblings while getting pension money from the government and for Don Lorenzo to be taken to the hospital. Again, the sisters do not agree.

THE THIRD SCENE – The portrait is gone. Why? Who took it? Who is Tony to the sisters? How do the sisters feel for each other? They’ve been living together all their lives but do they really love each other? Is Don Lorenzo, who has not been seen since the start of Scene 1, really inside the bedroom? Is he still alive or already dead? What will happen to the three of them if they will not leave the house and the Japanese comes to invade the city?

Well written local play in English. The structure is solid and the storytelling is flawless. The chronology of events including the revelations in the Third Scene is engrossing that you’ll read until the end so you’ll find out the final fate of the Marasigan family. The use of the Old Manila, the old glorious Manila when $1=P2, is really captivating that you can’t help but us: “what have they done wrong?” It is also multi-faceted: it tackles the issues of national sovereignty, the class systems, i.e., the indifferent rich bourgeois families versus the mass proletariat, the role of art and culture in the building of the nation, the role of mass media in social awareness, etc.

First local play in English that I read from cover to cover and I can’t help but admire it. I hope to watch this play sometime soon.
Profile Image for Michael.
16 reviews5 followers
February 25, 2013
As a true Manileno, Manila is the usual setting of Nick Joaquin's stories. This time he sang a nostalgic song about the Manila of old, the Manila we barely knew or imagined. In this play, Joaquin sang of its ancient grandeur which is now sadly lost and devastated by the waves of modernism.

This story is abundant of critical themes: clash between tradition and modernity, battle between old and new, a Filipino as divided being and struggling in his hybrid soul, art for art's sake, and the concept of national identity.

Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Rise.
298 reviews31 followers
December 1, 2015
Ang huling dula sa serye ng apat na "Entablado Klasiko", mga de-kalidad na salin sa wikang Filipno ni Bienvenido Lumbera at nilimbag ng Ateneo de Manila University Press. Kuwento ng magkapatid na Candida at Paula, mga dalagang napaglipasan na ng panahon at nakatira sa isang lumang bahay sa Intramuros kasama ang kanilang matandang ama at kilalang batikang pintor na si Don Lorenzo Marasigan. Ipininta ni Don Lorenzo ang isang larawang may pamagat na Retrato del Artista como Filipino (A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino), isang napakasimbolikong litrato tungkol sa alaala ng lumipas na gustong takasan ng mga tauhan. Lahat ng nakamamalas ng retrato ay nagbibay ng sari-saring interpretasyon nito bagamat lahat sila ay tinatamaan ng di maipaliwanag na mensahe ng larawan. Halos lahat ng tumitingin dito ay nakakaramdam ng galit. Tila ito nang-uuyam na konsensiya ng isang artista. Gustong bilihin ng mga banyagang kolektor pati na ng gobyerno sa napakataas na halaga ang retrato subalit ayaw ibenta ng dalawang magkapatid. Maganda ang pagkakasalin at masasabing ang dulang ito, bagamat may ilang pariralang hindi gaanong matatas, ay natural na natural sa wikang Filipino.

Mapapanood sa Youtube ang pelikulang halaw sa orihinal na Ingles at dinirehe ng pambansang alagad ng sining na si Lamberto V. Avellana: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J933j...

Mapapanood rin ang napakagaling na musikal na halaw ni Rolando Tinio at nilapatan ng himig ni Ryan Cayabyab: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjRqg...
Profile Image for Joyzi.
340 reviews422 followers
October 15, 2008
It's a great mystery how I was able to write a movie script with only reading the first half of this play.

Well that's the magic of google and goodreads.

And really why on earth students have to read and even made movie adaptation out of this one, is really beyond me.
Profile Image for Therese.
9 reviews
April 3, 2021
I'm no Literary Intellectual TM, but I have to say... there were some pieces of dialogue thrown around here that slapped me really hard in the face. I'm eighteen, and I'm one of those terrible eighteen-year-olds: the high-minded ones, horrified by what they see around them and afraid of compromise. It was quite terrifying to read this play, since it's all about compromise. The negotiation of past and future, of security and passion. As someone who lives more so in the past and in the future rather than in the present, I'm kinda' scared that I'll end up becoming like some of these characters one day.

(Before I read this, I heard that Lino Brocka staged a production of Ang Larawan with Charito Solis as Paula, Lolita Rodriguez as Candida, and Phillip Salvador as Tony Javier. That was fun to imagine while reading the play.)
Want to read
November 24, 2019
hi anyone have this book? please can you send me i need this so much roemarieannperiabras@gmail.com
Profile Image for Mar Sacil.
19 reviews
August 25, 2021
Their art (with their memory and soul) is the only thing they have. There is still hope.
Profile Image for Yves.
3 reviews1 follower
June 20, 2023
One of the best opening lines/passages to a book. Nick Joaquin truly paints a vivid portrait with his colorful use of language.
1 review
January 21, 2018
This drama, "A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino: An Elegy in Three Scenes" is a good drama that was created by Nick Joaquin and was created way back in the 1950's. I like this drama beacuse it contains lots of values.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Displaying 1 - 13 of 13 reviews

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