"Family members of OFWs should watch this!" was one of the first thoughts that entered my mind when I realized that Care Divas is not simply the musical comedy I was expecting to see. I honestly had no idea what the story line is all about because I wasn't able to attend the press con a few weeks ago due to a sked conflict. I also didn't get a chance to read any press release prior to trooping down to Onstage Greenbelt 1 last Sunday.
I am so glad I came to watch the second to the last show of Care Divas' run. Sure, the talented actors on stage made us laugh with their funny dialogues (kudos to playwright Liza Magtoto!) but the characters' stories touched our hearts deeply.
The story is about five gay friends who are caregivers in Israel. Despite the hardships some of them experience with their employers, the group manages to get together as performers doing small gigs to unleash their creativity.
Shai (Vincent de Jesus), the group leader, often hears her mother's voice badgering her about money and how the family back home seems to need it more and more. How sad and yet, how true. I've heard stories of real families of OFWs who spend money like crazy when the remittance arrives each month and then say it's not enough and they "need" more -- which is the reason why the OFW couldn't afford to stop working abroad.
Kayla (Ricci Chan/Jerald Napoles) is unlucky with her employers and, after getting fired from her last job, becomes an illegal worker who is taken advantage of by her new boss. Then there's Chelsea (Melvin Lee), a patient and loving caregiver to her "Daddy" Isaac (Paul Holme who also brilliantly played the roles of the old men cared for by the other caregivers), a kind old Jew who makes sure his employee at least learns a few words in his language. Thalia (Dudz Terana/Jason Barcial -- who, I think has the most funny punchlines) and Jonee (Buddy Caramat/Phil Noble) complete "The Nightingales". They all live in a flat with their housemate Nona (Angeli Bayani who sings really, really well) .
The story is set in the backdrop of the Intifada (Palestinian uprising against Israel rule/occupation) where the five friends ironically care for old people they're not related to instead of their aging parents. They all practice the world renowned brand of warm Pinoy nurturing while also adapting to the foreign land's culture. There, they learn Hebrew and silently battle the orthodox view on gays while they keep their real selves intact. They are also very wary of losing their jobs as they might become illegal migrants.
Individually, they deal with different kinds of employers but, as a group, they strive to bring out the side of themselves that are beyond the limits of what others think they are or what they are capable of doing. Their dream of hitting the big time, performance-wise, tested their friendship and brought various challenges along the way. Still, it is through this journey of finding their own places in the world where they become the true care divas they really are.
Although Care Divas has ended its run, I hope PETA and Repertory Philippines would stage it again in the near future. More Filipinos need to see it, especially families of the OFWs who keep toiling abroad and battling loneliness just so they could provide their loved ones more chances of a better life.
If I have extra hands, I'd raise more than two thumbs up for this show. It is hilarious and heartwarming, yet sometimes heartrending. Congratulations to the rest of the cast and chorus; Director Maribel Legarda; Musical Director, Composer, Lyricist, Arranger Vincent de Jesus for the meaningful songs; Set Designer Leo Abaya and his assistants; Costume Designer John Abul and his associate; Lights Designer Jonjon Villareal; Choreographer Carlon Matobato; Fight Choreographer Jack Yabut; and the rest of the production and technical staff.
Care Divas, like other Filipino productions, once more showed how much talent abound in our country. It shared the plight of OFWs in an eye-opening and heart-pinching, but entertaining, way and that's a rare combination that the team pulled off successfully.
Special thank you to Tita Toots Tolentino for always giving me a chance to witness these kinds of great productions. I am very grateful :)
* Photos with watermarks used with permission from Jory Rivera. Thanks so much! :) More of his Care Divas photos here