PI OMICRON FRATERNITY-ITS GOLDEN YEARS

 

HAIR-LOGOUP-PI-O-sealHair cast 2009 Broadway

 

 

 

 

[At extreme left is the HAIR Logo for the play; while at extreme right is the original American cast of HAIR while at center is the PI O seal]

What could be considered as the GOLDEN YEARS of the UP PI OMICRON FRATERNITY commenced when it started staging plays in the Nicanor Abelardo Theater in the late 1960s and into the early years of the 1970s. One of the contributors to this pioneering feat embarked upon by the fraternity, among the ranks of the fraternity’s roll of members then was Leo Mariomindo De la Torre Gozar of Batch 68 who is from Mindoro. Leo was then taking a course in Speech and Drama. Leo brought the fraternity close to his classmates and other students at the Speech and Drama Department, who included Tessie Tomas, Ellen Esguerra, among others. The moving spirit then, as I perceive, at the Speech and Drama Department was an Upsilonian, and one of its more competent professors, Prof. Behn Cervantes.

It was opportune indeed during that time, as the hang-out of fraternity brods at that time, was at the western end of the Palma Hall which adjoins the Speech and Drama Department.

And the fraternity was soon immersed in staging plays such as a presentation consisting of a trilogy dubbed as BANYUHAY which is an acronym for Bagong Anyo ng Buhay. It was the duo of Leo and a non-brod but who was acknowledged as a topnotch stage director then, Anton Juan, who made things happen and which made the UP Pi Omicron to be identified as some kind of a fraternity inclined towards the arts and are therefore a fraternity composed of “cultured” members. I actually was tapped as a member of the cast in one of the plays, actually a minor part, which is entitled PAUL DUMOL’S ANG PAGLILITIS NI MANG SERAPIO.

Indeed, most parents are animated to send their children to UP to make them both INTELLIGENT and CULTURED.

This is perhaps why during one’s initial education at UP, a stude is introduced into the realm of the HUMANITIES, with the likes of Professor Ricaredo Demetillo, as mentor, who is himself a poet and an art critic. It is said that through exploration of the humanities which covers literature and the arts, one is trained to think more creatively and critically.

Indeed, as in the words of the late UP President Salvador P. Lopez, the UP community is a community of intelligent people and undeniably, one of the attributes of intelligence is CULTURE. Also, in the University of the Philippines, its aim is to provide a well-rounded and general education to its students.

The peak of this run into the production of plays happened with the production by the UP Pi Omicron Fraternity of the love-rock musical play entitled HAIR. The show was a monumental success in the US as it sort of combined a mélange of the hippie culture then and the growing activism in the US which was geared towards opposing the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War. Indeed, it was a protest musical play!

When it was staged here in the Philippines particularly at the Abelardo Theater, the lyrics of the music were revised and crafted to adapt to the Philippine political scenario then. One stanza of a song which sort of highlights and addresses the growing militarization of the Philippines then, as revised, had the following lyrics but still retaining the original melody:

        “F.E.M. took the A.F.P., down unto Mendiola Bridge, Philippines;

        [F.E.M. is Pres. Marcos’ initials, Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, while A.F.P. is the acronym which stands for the Armed Forces of the Philippines]

        When he got there, what did he see…the youth of the Philippines in a rally!”

 It was a similar monumental success here in the Philippines, when the UP Pi Omicron Fraternity staged the musical play at the Abelardo Theater. In fact, newspaper commentators even wrote about the musical play in their columns. One topnotch newspaper columnist then, Mr. Joe Guevarra, of the Manila Times, commented about the perceived inhibition manifested by members of the whole HAIR cast which included APO Hiking Society’s Danny Javier, the beauteous Jane Laurico, Joey “Pepe” Smith, and other debonair looking male and pretty female members, in that part of the show where all of them are to shed their clothes off and would be shown dancing  with their birthday suits on ONLY. If my memory serves me right, the witty Mr. Joe Guevarra thus quipped that the Philippine version of the musical play should instead be titled “WIG” instead of “HAIR”. As was the prior practice, when this part is reached, the lights are dimmed and spotlights would just go criss-crossing the stage. However, when the news column of Mr. Joe Guevarra appeared, the members of the HAIR cast started from that showing date and until the whole period of the continuing run of the show, lustily danced naked while the lights were all on.  Joey “Pepe” Smith even made a jesting gesture at that NAKED DANCE portion of the musical play, which was supposed to symbolize an action of PROTEST, when he stood at  center-stage in his birthday suit at the stage’s very proscenium, holding on and caressing his pubic hair as he delivered the following spiel: “Sabi ni Mr. Joe Guevarra ng Manila Times sa column niya , ay wig daw ito!” [English translation: “Well, Mr. Joe Guevarra of the Manila Times wrote in his column that this pubic hair of mine is all wig.”]

The succeeding shows of the musical HAIR were always filled to the rafters and the tickets were even sold by scalpers at premium prices over and above the indicated ticket price. The showing of the musical play HAIR accorded a clear acknowledgement unto the UP Pi Omicron Fraternity, not only as an organization of “cultured” people who is inclined towards the arts but also as one group advocating activism and symbolic protest action.

The musical play was directed by a non-brod, Oskar Atendido, who is also one of Leo’s colleague in the UP Speech and Drama Department.   The showing of the musical play HAIR was the brain-child of Brod Felixberto “Jun” Olalia, Jr. of Batch 66 , and the Grand Omicron of the Fraternity in 1969.

After the success of HAIR, the UP Pi Omicron Fraternity experienced increased recruitment of new members and the increased recruitment was sustained and even leaped when Brod Ernesto “Popoy” Valencia of Batch 68 was appointed as UP Philippine Collegian editor in 1970 after he topped the Collegian Editorial Examinations of that year. I was eventually designated by Brod Popoy during his term, as CONTRIBUTING EDITOR of the UP Philippine Collegian. 

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