‘Inay Dalisay’s World Famous Lechon’ goes to the heart of Fil-Am maladies | Inquirer
 
 
 
 
 
 

‘Inay Dalisay’s World Famous Lechon’ goes to the heart of Fil-Am maladies

Graphic Design by Vee Caragay aka Little Honey Vee.

Graphic Design by Vee Caragay aka Little Honey Vee.

SAN FRANCISCO – If adobo is the unofficial Filipino national dish, with lumpia and pansit as its stereotypical pairings, then lechon, arguably, is the prime sacrificial offering at the numerous special occasions that Filipinos celebrate throughout the year.

Lechon is the centerpiece of the aptly titled comedy, Inay Dalisay’s World Famous Lechon, Bindlestiff Studio’s comeback production since the easing of Covid-19 pandemic restrictions and its first in-person main stage production since closing for maintenance in November 2019.

Playwright Oliver Saria wrote the play during the pandemic, inspired by the untimely passing of several of his close friends, as well as his own health struggles.

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Cast, (back row, left to right) Aaron Orpilla, Nic Feliciano, Reg Clay; (front row, left to right) Faye Lacanilao, Giancarlo Cariola, Sunshine Roque, Golda Sargento. (Photo: Paciano Triunfo)

Cast, (back row, left to right) Aaron Orpilla, Nic Feliciano, Reg Clay; (front row, left to right) Faye Lacanilao, Giancarlo Cariola, Sunshine Roque, Golda Sargento. (Photo: Paciano Triunfo)

The play shows the relationship that the majority of Filipino Americans have with food and  Filipino food ways. It offers possibilities of more healthful choices while eliciting some nervous, amused and joyful laughter.

Filipino food has been, on and off, on “renaissance” for years and the “modern Filipino food movement” continues to navigate its way through ever-changing and recently challenging times.

There are healthier options that Filipino cuisine has to offer, but the most popular are the kinds of Filipino food that would be unhealthy to eat every day.

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Inay Dalisay’s World Famous Lechon excels in finally confronting the proverbial elephant or, in this case, lechon in the room: Filipino Americans have the highest prevalence of diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, and heart disease among all Asian Americans.

Playwright Oliver Saria and director Aureen Alamario. (Photo: Paciano Triunfo)

Playwright Oliver Saria and director Aureen Almario. (Photo: Paciano Triunfo)

Inay Dalisay is the first production to finally tackle a longstanding issue in the Filipino community, but its comedic approach makes its message go down easily and digestible.

The play is a period piece set in the not so distant past of the early 2000s. Taking place in a high-end version of a “dirty kitchen,” it is a touching portrayal of a typical Filipino American family amid the great recession and housing foreclosure crisis of recent history. It has the familiar tropes of family relations, familial conflicts, generational differences, identity seen through the characters’ relationships with food, customs and traditions.

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Food ways brought over from the motherland are eventually practiced here to a more bountiful degree. Celebratory Filipino cuisine comprised of rich and heavy food, with lechon on top of the tier, is usually reserved for special occasions but here, in the so-called “land of milk and honey,” there seems to be no shortage of special occasions and excuses to have more. Moderation is out of the equation.

Lechon is seen as a status symbol, the more you can have of and share the mouthwatering roasted perfection of succulent fat-laden meat topped with oily crunchy skin, the merrier. But at what cost?

Inay Dalisay’ satirizes the all too familiar Filipino practice of “preventative medicine” during family gatherings by taking medications for diseases such as hypertension, hyperglycemia, and gout before indulging in the cause of these ailments.

The play also addresses issues of food injustice, unequal access to quality health care, and the effects of systemic racism on Filipino Americans and other minority communities that contribute to the detriment of health and well-being.

Directed by Aureen Almario, each scene shows and provides insights into the complex and intricate relationship that the characters have with food and health, informed by customs and tradition and relationship with family and significant others. Food ways, culture,\ and tradition run deep, and making changes for the better is quite the challenge.

A surprise character as the embodiment of the play’s subject doubles as a hilarious singular Greek chorus drives home the play’s serious message while bringing comic relief.

Inday Dalisay’s World Famous Lechon shows laughter is the best medicine; it provides a healthy dose and then some.

Inay Dalisay’s World Famous Lechon presented by Bindlestiff Studio; June 16 to 22, 2022 (Thursday to Saturday) at 8:00 p.m.

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TAGS: Filipino American stage production
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