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Written and submitted for the Nueva Ecija Academic Journal (NEAJ)

Araquio: A Komedya of Faith


by Florante C. Ibarra and Regidor G. Gaboy
The Stage Play
As an avenue for displaying the strong sense of faith, Araquio is performed as a theatrical
presentation comparable to the Zarzuela during the time of the Spaniards. Since then, when the
month of May comes, the feast of the Holy Cross is highlighted by this komedya in some towns
in the southern part of Nueva Ecija.
In Penaranda (earlier known as Mapisong) for instance, practitioners believe that this theatrical
genre existed when the first brass band of the town, was established in 1880s. Residents of the
different neighboring villages like Papaya, Manikling, Callos, Ilog Na Munti, and Pias were
visiting the town to watch the presentation.
In a small barrio of Sto. Tomas, the feast of the Holy Cross is celebrated every first Sunday of
May with the araquio serving as the highlight of the fiesta. The presentation usually starts with a
mass held in the St. Thomas Aquinas Church in the barangay. As a tradition of the araquio
performance, all characters or personajes and hermanos/hermanas (male/female sponsors),
the director and the teachers of araquio as well as the audience are required to attend the said
mass. Elder devotees of the Holy Cross believe that the parish priests initiated this activity so
that the mass would become part of the tradition and that people in the barrio would attend
mass regularly.
The Script
The araquio is an outgrowth of the movement of the komedya from Manila to the
provinces. Along with this development was the emergence of scripts written by Filipinos,
among them, Ambrosio Santiago of Alua San Isidro and Leon Estanislao of Sto. Tomas,
Pearanda of Nueva Ecija.1
Written in archaic Tagalog verse form ranging from six to twelve syllables per line, the
play includes conventions like stylized delivery of the verses, marching for entrances and exits,
formations, choreographed fights, songs, instrumental selections, and artificial effects.
The major characters are divided into two religious groups, Christians and Moors.
Christian personajes are headed by Queen Elena and King Constantino. Blanca and Laida are
the queens faithful handmaids whereas Alberto, Fernando, Arsenio, Rosauro, and Leonato are
the kings brave soldiers. Princess Ordeliza and the Emperor, on the other hand, lead Moorish
troop. Their warriors include Sagmar, Godimar, Dublar, Meramolin, and Engras.2
The secondary characters include the giant, Jews, sick woman, mother of the sick
woman, angel, priest, Moorish warriors (Satur, Malvir, Rosalino, Arseo, Alfeo, and Emir),
mantinidor (announcer in the tournament), and guards of the Roman Empire.

The Pantot, Struggles and Fight Scenes


The story revolves around the search of the Holy Cross and is performed as a devotional
theater. Its production components include dicho or style of delivering the verse form,
choreographed sword fights, march formations, songs, dances, and music played by a band.
Pantot, the dances of the araquio, are included in every change of scene to enlighten
the atmosphere presentation. Instrumental music, which is played by a band, is an integral part
of the play and its role is more than incidental. It accompanies the pantot which the devotees
of the barrio perform as ritual dance. Both males and females, as their form of panata or
devotion to the Holy Cross, perform it while the brass band is playing waltzes or pasodoble.
Music is used to heighten the emotion of the story. In addition, vocal music with
instrumental accompaniment is used for a change of scene or when the next scene is not yet
ready. The search of the Holy Cross in performed on the eve of the bisperas. As a tradition,
this is done in the backyards of all hermanos and hermanas. Each hermano or hermana
prepares his or her backyard for the search. Small leafy branches and dried twigs are used as
improvised mountain wherein the three small crosses are hidden.
The fight scene between Christians and Moors during the search is one of the highlights
of the play. The Holy Cross will be found in the last backyard and as a general rule of the play,
Christians will dig up and get hold of the Holy Cross. Some hermanos and hermanas include
money as a reward or recompense to the characters who participated in the search.
Vindication and Glory
Baptism is held in the final scene of the play. All defeated Moors are converted into
Christians. At this point, the director of Araquio opens the floor for hermanos and hermanas
for next years presentation. They act as godparents of the newly baptized and converted
Moors. To act as sponsor is in a form of voluntary basis.
The Araquio presentation ends with a turnover ceremony of the responsibilities of the on
going hermanos and hermanos to the in-coming hermanos and hermanas for next years
affair. During the ceremony, the new sponsors are presented to the public. The four ladies who
have acted as Queen Elena, Princess Ordeliza, Blanca, and Laida will turn over the Holy Cross,
the crown, the scepter, the cape, and the white flag to the in-coming hermanos and
hermanas. On the other hand, the out-going sponsors give a token of appreciation to the
personajes of the Araquio. The money that they receive during the two-day performance is
divided among the personajes of the Araquio. (Ibarra, 2003)
Seemingly Losing Culture
No one can tell the exact date of the first presentation of araquio. Residents believe that
devotees of the Holy Cross present the komedya every year so that through their panata, they
will always perform their duties as faithful servants of God.
In Pearanda alone, aside from the barangay Poblacion, araquio continues to thrive in
its five barangays to celebrate the feast of the Holy Cross or even their patron saints on the
May. These are Sto. Tomas, Callos, Sinasajan, Las Pias, and San Josef.

Tradition tells that to be given a role in Araquio is an opportunity to display ones sense
of faith. Likewise, to be chosen by the elders to perform in the said komedya is a commitment
which should not be ignored. For unknown reasons, some believers say that turning down the
invitation to perform in such group may bring unfavorable circumstances to the person.
While there is a yearly presentation of Araquio, there is a seemingly gradual decrease on
its audience. Younger generations, seem to be more interested in waiting for a Variety Show
sponsored by the Panguluhan ng Fiesta rather than joining the procession or trying to
understand the essence of the said komedya.

The Synopsis of the Orihinal entitled Sta. Cruz de Mayo


By Leon Estanislao (1880)
Queen Elena of the Roman Empire confers with her generals about the plan to crown
Constantino as the new king of Rome. Before the coronation, Moorish troupes try to obstruct
the coronation of Constantino by bringing war to the Roman Empire headed by King Mahencio.
However, Queen Elenas generals, Fernando, Lucero, and Rosauro defend it for the
Queens son. When Constantino sits on the throne, Emperor Mahencio of Turkey sends his
ambassador Godimar to Rome to ask Constantino to step down from the throne and surrender
his crown and scepter. Otherwise, the Moors shall kill all Christians in Rome. Constantino
refuses King Mahencios order, instead, he declares war with the King of Turkey to defend his
kingdom and his people.
Before leaving the Roman Empire for the war against Emperor Mahencio, Christian
soldiers pray that God protect them and give them strength and courage to win the battle. A
voice of an angel is heard saying that they have to remove the sketch of an eagle on their flag
and alter it with a cross. Through this they will beat their adversaries and victory will be
assured. Meanwhile, an angel appears to Constantino and orders him to go to Jerusalem and
search for the Holy Cross on which Christ died and was crucified.
On their way to the search in Mount Moriya, Christian soldiers smell a delicate scent of
fragrance coming from the ground which they are digging. They find three small crosses of
exactly the same size. To identify which of those is the Holy Cross, Queen Elena places the
cross on the chest of the sick then the ill woman gets cured. Meanwhile, King Costruas, eldest
brother of King Saladrino, hears the news that the Christians have found and got the relic of the
Holy Cross. King Costruas leads his soldiers to Mount Tigris while Queen Elena rushes home
to Rome.
On her way home, Queen Elena accidentally meets King Costruas troop. They rob the
Holy Cross from her. Princess Ordeliza is not satisfied with what the Moors have accomplished.
Still, she demands for the life of King Constantino for the completion of her vengeance.
In Turkey, King Costruas and Princess Ordeliza celebrate their triumph over Christians
for they have now with them the relic of the Holy Cross. Their last plan is to kill King
Constantino and Queen Elena. Meanwhile, the Moors capture Arsenio. He has been
imprisoned, tortured, and sentenced to death by beheading in front of other Christian slaves.
Another messenger is sent by King Bloodbath takes place between the Christians and the
Moors. In the final battle, Ordeliza surrenders to Fernando with whom she is secretly in love.

King Constantino wins the fight and King Costruas together with his soldiers is captured.
Arsenio is released and the emperor of Turkey steps down from the throne and surrenders his
crown to King Constantino.
In the final scene, all Moors get baptized in the name of the Holy Cross so that their
souls will be cleaned and their sins will be forgiven. The story ends with the veneration of the
Holy Cross through songs and prayers.
References:
1 Nicanor G. Tiongson, Philippine Theater: History and Anthology Volume II-komedya, (Univeristy of the Philippines Printing
2Ester Timbol, Novo Ecijanos Mark the First Araquio Festival, Manila Bulletin Today, 15 February 2001, p.D1.

The Authors:
Dr. Florante C. Ibarra and Dr. Regidor G. Gaboy are faculty members of the College of
Education Central Luzon State University.

PHOTO
(Sir Mon, if there are photos from your file similar to the formation below, such would be a
good replacement to this photo)
Female Personajes
(Queen Elena, Princess Ordeliza, Blanca, and Laida performs Pantot Dance in honor of
the Holy Cross