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REVIEW: Dulaang UP's 'Kung Paano Nanalo sa Karera si Rosang Taba' is a fun, modern gem with a message of empowerment

By John Patrick Magno Ranara Published Mar 27, 2023 5:41 pm

Kung Paano Nanalo sa Karera si Rosang Taba, the newest stage play of the University of the Philippines’ official theatre company Dulaang UP, is a timely tale of courage and determination seen through the lens of a not-so-conventional heroine.

Based on a children's book by renowned Filipino playwright Dean Francis Alfar, Kung Paano Nanalo sa Karera si Rosang Taba aims to amplify the voices of the oppressed through the experiences of Rosang Taba (Kiki Baento).

Despite her status as a mere servant of a governor-general and his wife, Rosa had gathered the courage to challenge the commander of the Spanish forces, Pietrado (Victor Sy), after he lashes out a barrage of insults towards Filipinos, calling them lazy, boorish, and unorganized.

The piece is directed by José Estrella and written by Maynard Manansala and Rody Vera. From its compelling story to the praise-worthy acting prowess of its performers, here are all the reasons why you should sit down and immerse yourself in Dulaang UP's latest theatrical gem.

A powerful message on Asian hate and oppression

Kung Paano Nanalo sa Karera si Rosang Taba is a reminder that racism and Asian hate has long been plaguing our society and how the battle still continues when it comes to truly eradicating such insults towards people of color.

Sy, with his oozing arrogance and nefarious facial contortments, plays a convincing villain who you can't help but wish for his eventual defeat at the hands of the very people he underestimates.

A stellar plus-size lead

When it comes to stories that focus on women empowerment, it's a sad reality that they seldom feature female leads whose body types stray away from society's conventional, perfect, and beautiful standards. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Dulaang UP chose to adapt Alfar's children's book for a stage play, no matter how simplistic and straighforward its narrative may be. To show that having a plus-sized lead can be just as powerfully inspiring and monumental among its audience—and Baento completely owns her role under the spotlight.

The directors made the right decision in casting Baento to portray Rosang Taba. Much like her character, it is clear that she is fighter in real life who is determined to prove wrong anyone who underestimates her.

In the story, her adversary, Pietrado, is a seemingly unstoppable force of muscle, yet Rosang Taba challenges him to a race of all things despite her physical condition. Baento acted out the scene with much confidence in her delivery and much spunk in her movements that you'll find yourself believing in the impossible.

Rosang Taba's actions taught us that even if you are part of the oppressed, the marginalized, underserved, and historically-excluded, as long as you keep nurturing that small shred of hope, you can change harmful mindsets.

A fun, modernized take

Despite its deep and heavy themes—combating oppression, tackling fatphobia, and promoting women empowerment—Estrella, Manansala, and Rody Vera approached the story in a fun and lighthearted manner that even kids would enjoy and understand.

With the prevelance of dance crazes and pop songs, it only seems fitting that Dulaang UP has modernized their play to incorporate trending dance moves from TikTok and frequently integrating lyrics of popular songs into the musical performances, making for a fitting space where creative comedy and tradition intersect.

This is even more elevated by the performer's cartoonish portrayal of their characters. They know how to play their cards in terms of making the audience burst with laughter without sacrificing the gravity of the story's themes.

As fun and lighearted as it appears, Kung Paano Nanalo sa Karera si Rosang Taba remains to be a political production: how it reminds Filipinos of our tortuous battle to regain our freedom from our colonizers, how it acknowledges that stories about empowering women are still needed today, and how it highlights important messages hidden behind children's stories that need to be put on the table.

Kung Paano Nanalo sa Karera si Rosang Taba is set to run until April 2 at the UP Theater Main Hall Stage. Tickets are priced at P1,000, and UP Diliman students may avail a discounted price of P800. Discounts are also available for persons with disabilities and senior citizens, and for bulk purchases.