El Gamma Penumbra

If you are Filipino, chances are, at one time or the other, you have probably caught an episode of ABS-CBN's Pilipinas Got Talent (PGT). One of the more interesting performances I have seen is that of El Gamma Penumbra, a shadow play group hailing from Tanauan, Batangas.

During the first round of eliminations, El Gamma Penumbra performed to "Tara Na, Biyahe Tayo!," a theme used by the Philippines' Department of Tourism years ago. It was amazing how they showed various scenes from the Philippines. Given their unique talent (as compared to all the singers and dancers), El Gamma Penumbra did make it to the semi-final round of PGT.

Last night, El Gamma Penumbra performed to "Babalik Ka Rin," in honor of Overseas Filipinos. After showcasing various spots in the Philippines in the elimination round, the group now brought the audience to different places around the globe -- to Egypt (with the pyramids and a camel), to Australia (complete with the Sydney Opera House and a kangaroo), to Brazil, to Africa, and a host of other countries before coming back to the Philippines, complete with fields and a nipa hut. I like the group's performances, not only for their sheer creativity and ingenuity, but more for the messages that they bring -- that we should travel around the Philippines, which is such a beautiful country and that no matter where we (or Overseas Filipinos) roam, the Philippines will always be the true home we come back to.

The judges and the audience enjoyed their performance so much, prompting Ms. Kris Aquino to say that the new Secretary of the Department of Tourism, Mr. Mon Jimenez, should take them around to promote the Philippines. Not a bad idea.

The art of the shadow play has actually existed since way back, with several countries having their own shadow play troupes. In China, for example, the shadow play dates back to the Han Dynasty. Other countries with shadow play troupes include: Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, and Australia.

As for the group's name, penumbra, is one of the three distinct parts of a shadow (usually cast by celestial bodies) -- umbra, penumbra, and antumbra. Penumbra is like a gray area -- where some (or all?) of the light source is obscured. Penumbra loosely translates to "almost or nearly shadow."

To El Gamma Penumbra, good luck and may you make it to the PGT grand finals! May you eclipse the rest of the performances with your shadows.

If and when El Gamma Penumbra makes it to the PGT grand finals, I wonder what shadows they will create by then?

[By Angelica Viloria | Sunday, September 11, 2011]


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