A couple of years ago, some friends of mine were raving about the University of the Philippines Press publication Last Order Sa Penguin by Chris Martinez (book #113 for 2009, #19 for the Diversity Challenge – Filipino), containing the script of a play with the same title.
I don’t read a lot of plays because I prefer prose, but I was in the mood for a short, light read so I picked up this book.
Last Order Sa Penguin (roughly translated for the benefit of my international readers: Last Order at the Penguin Cafe) is a two-act play about five friends nearing their thirties: the cheerfully gay Tuxqs, the problematic Harlene, the sex addict Tess, the social climbing Dyna, and the druggie Mario, who all meet up at the Penguin Cafe in Malate.
The story revolves around the conversations that take place in one night at the Penguin Cafe, which revolve around love, life, sex, relationships, society, and turning thirty.
It’s written in colloquial TagLish (a mixture of the local Tagalog and English), and is the second Taglish book I read this year, following Ricky Lee’s Para Kay B, which was discussed by my book club Flips Flipping Pages.
Taglish is the conversational language used within Metro Manila, making the play easy for me to read.
I also appreciated the humor of the play. The use of Taglish and the references to local pop culture and current events offer great entertainment value.
I think it also helped that I could imagine the characters, especially since some of the actors (the book contains a cast list) are familiar to me, and their character names are their actual names.
I had the pleasure of meeting Tuxqs Rutaquio (Czar’s friend, also the director of Last Order Sa Penguin) when my book club discussed the graphic novel Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni ZsaZsa Zaturnnah by Carlo Vergara (in the musical adaptation of the graphic novel he plays Ada, Zsa Zsa’s alter-ego) last year so I could easily imagine him playing the role.
Other characters, such as Harlene (Harlene Bautista), Nicko (Romnick Sarmienta), and Sweet (John Lapus) are also familiar because they’re in local show business, and I’ve watched them on television and film.
I liked the insight on turning thirty, on how life never turns out the way you plan it, and how you can always turn to your friends to sourgrape about it, hahaha.
I liked how it’s casual and satirical and LOL-funny all at the same time, and how the story plays out in a single night. It feels like a local version of FRIENDS (my favorite sitcom of all time), meeting up at the Penguin cafe instead of Central Perk, and at the end of reading it, I felt as if I knew the characters personally, like I just had drinks with them.
I wish they’d run the play again so I can watch it!
My copy: UP Jubilee Student Edition, trade paperback, local mooch
My rating: 4/5 stars
*cover photo courtesy of sxc.hu