Ang iba't-ibang timpla ng pag-ibig.

The four one-act plays

Maganda ang Hapon, Maselan ang Gabi

Kuya is delighted that his best friend finally has a girlfriend... until he finds out that the lucky girl is his younger sister.

"Maganda ang Hapon, Maselan ang Gabi" is the newest play in the Love CAFE line up, replacing "Cancerous Kang Carrot Ka" as the play on Affection. It will be staged for the first time this February 28.

Alikabok sa Kusina

A comic strip artist must tell her writer what’s plaguing his relationships with other girls, even if it may be at the cost of their own friendship.

The English version of this play, "Dust in Your Place," won a Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for One-Act play in English in 2012.

Bangko

A couple break up only to find themselves, twenty minutes later, stranded in the same waiting shed on a stormy evening.

The English version of this play, "Newspaper Dance," won a Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for One-Act play in English in 2008.

Pusang Gala

A boy plays Good Samaritan to a girl who contemplates suicide, only to be placed in a situation where he might contemplate suicide himself.

Writer's Q&A on Love CAFE

What is Love CAFE and how did it come about?

Love CAFE is a cycle of plays that come from my reflection on C.S. Lewis' "The Four Loves." Charity. Affection. Friendship. Eros. C.A.F.E. Not in this particular order, but in an order you remember easily.

A play cycle is simply a series of plays that share common elements, such as content and form. Love CAFE as a working cycle was not conceived until 2011. All I had at that point was "Cancerous Kang Carrot Ka" and "Newspaper Dance." The main principle connecting "Carrot" and "The Flood Play" was the light stageability of it. Only two characers were needed, a boy and a girl. The set was simple and easy to acquire from possibly any performance venue; all the two plays needed were either a bench or a table and two chairs. As for costumes, lighting, music, and sound effects, the plays could do without.

My stand behind the play cycle back then—and up to now—is that a good play can stand well on its own with just three things: good actors, a good director, and a good script. The rest is just embellishment.

After I wrote "The Dust In Your Place" in 2011, I realized the possibility of writing a play cycle and applied the principle on the script as well.

"Pusang Gala" was the only play written specifically for the cycle until "Maganda ang Hapon, Maselan ang Gabi" replaced "Carrot."

Love CAFE is the closest thing I have as a life project. It is not only in the sense of the time I have poured into it (I have already spent eight years and counting), but also in the sense that it involves the different aspects of my life as Young Adult Writer, Playwright, Teacher, and Social Animal (as a Husband, Son, Brother, Friend, Enemy, Stranger, etc.). When a work takes this much from you, that is clearly a sign that it's a life project. If any of my works will represent me then, not only as a playwright but as a person, right now it's Love CAFE.

For whom did you write the Love CAFE plays?

As a Writer, it is very clear to me that whatever I write must have an audience. As a Playwright, it is also clear that not only will I have a target audience but target performers as well. Who are they? This is where my being a Social Animal comes in: I write Love CAFE for my students, my fellow yuppies, my colleagues in the academe, and for those who are supposed to care for the young the most: the parents of my students.

Why did you write the Love CAFE plays?

Love CAFE is a response to today's entertainment culture that, I believe, has warped the concept of love, and reduced it to mere sex and sentimentality. Having such limited alternatives to the discussions of love, many of the youth (and adults) today have ended up treading the delusioned path of reel love and coming back from that path embittered. Worse, the cynicism gets perpetuated.

The approach I take in Love CAFE is to deal with relationships that are distant from what pop culture has to offer, but no less intriguing. While romantic love garners the most crowds, the other types of relationships are equally electrifying even if generally underrated as topics. Why shouldn't a friendly, or even a charitable relationship be as exciting as a romantic one? Incidentally, those are the specific plays that garner the interest more than the single romantic one in the collection, "Bangko."

Could you tell us more about the genesis of each play?

"Cancerous Kang Carrot Ka" was initially inspired by a political cartoon that satirized people's extreme health consciousness, leading to the inevitable conclusion: with such a consciousness on health, nothing would then be edible. But the characters' banter ended up very endearing to me that I tried writing sequels for them. They ended up being epic failures and I currently keep the sequels in a folder in my computer called The Hall of Shame.

"Newspaper Dance," or "Flood Play" as we call it, was written next, as a response to the numerous squabbles and breakups I've witnessed in my college and yuppie years. The reason behind these dramas was very fascinating. How could loving couples get so heated up about small things? I interviewed a lot of my friends in relationships (I was single at that time) and did many revisions in an attempt to balance the sides of both the girl and the boy. I've been accused of being sexist with regard to this play, but for those who have paid close attention to the girls' nuances, she does actually have a point, and the guy is a bit of a jerk. But I believe I could have written this better. This play won 3rd place in the 2008 Palanca, despite some of my reservations about it.

"Dust," also a Palanca winner, 2nd place in 2012, is the easy favorite in the four plays. The genesis of this play, however, is a bit murky in my memory. One possible genesis of this are the times in college that I have been paired up with the girls I was with, geographically. It's an interesting observation on how easy it is to pair two people of the opposite sex as a couple, when romance is not the only trajectory of a relationship. Another possible genesis is my fascination of the "Tristan and Isolde" legend, of two would-be lovers who (in the version that I read) would not consummate their love for each other because of loyalty and fidelity to Isolde's husband.

"Pusa" was the hardest to write for a number of reasons. By the time I started writing "Pusa," I had already read C.S. Lewis' "The Four Loves" and conceded to follow that pattern. It was only after reading "The Four Loves" that I consciously decided to make a play cycle. "Flood Play" was obviously Eros, leaving "Dust" to be Friendship and "Carrot" to be Affection. "Pusa" had to be Charity.

I wrote an earlier play, "Kuya Esau" but upon consulting my mentor Dr. Paul Dumol, I realized that while "Kuya Esau" was Charity, it worked well as story, but not as a play. By the time I realized that, I had already gotten directors for the plays, and I had to immediately replace "Kuya Esau" with something. Thankfully, I had an experience back in high school where my teacher, exasperated, told the class, "Thank you, boys. Tinutulungan niyo akong maging mabuting Kristyano... Love the unlovable!" And that became my peg. I conceived the most annoying, irritating character I could come up with, without leaving the sphere of reality (I had to look for two annoying pegs and merge them together), and make another character who could take up the challenge. When this was first played, the problem was that some actors played the annoying characters too well that even the audience got annoyed.

In the recent runs of Love CAFE, it became more and more evident that the first play dealing with Affection was getting left behind by the other three, both in terms of statement and content. "Cancerous Kang Carrot Ka" became out of place. I believed that Love CAFE needed a play that explicitly wrestled on the topic of Affection, and that it shouldn't be confused with the other forms of love. Hence, the characters became relatives. As the intended performers were meant to be young people, just like the other plays, I could not do a parent-child play. Instead, I opted for a brother-sister relationship with one of them playing the parent figure. As I wrote, it became more and more clear that despite of a brother and sister occupying the stage, it was really a story of two children brought up differently by their parents and them having to deal with that fact.

Who are you in these plays?

Some people suspect that I am playing one or both of the characters. However, I'm just part of the audience. I've gathered material from observations of strangers, friends, and colleagues, and hypothesized a bit for the dramatic situation. I believe that I am most removed from any real-life drama similar to what the plays show.

What are your plans for Love CAFE?

I hope the love spreads. As my wife told me at one point, love can be learned and love can be taught. Love CAFE was written as a cycle of pedagogical plays. As more opportunities appear for productions, I hope for more parents and teachers to offer venues and dates, more young people to act, direct, stage manage, etc. because the involvement provides a more intimate form of learning.