BOOK REVIEW: Ampalaya Monologues

by Rose Cruz Churma

Ampalaya Monologues was originally conceptualized as an event that features a collection of “bitter-to-better” love and life stories written by the author but told through monologues and spoken word poetry by other performance artists.

In 2017, a compilation of the monologues was published by Summit Books and a book tour was launched. The book tour included appearances in major book launchings and related events such as the Manila International Book Fair, the Philippines Readers and Writers Festival, the Cebu Literary Festival and others.

According to the author, he has not been in any official relationship yet—at least as of the publication of this book. But he has the shoulders that friends and family can cry on when confronted with a broken heart.

He is the buddy willing to listen when you need advice on romantic relationships, a love quote or need to vent after experiencing bitter disappointment in a relationship that has gone sour.

He decided to write about these stories into short pieces that he and other performance artists can adapt on stage as monologues. Its popularity among the younger crowd has been phenomenal—the pieces can relate.

The monologues are in Taglish—the way folks in the Metro Manila and other big cities in the Philippines talk. English sentences are liberally peppered with Tagalog phrases and Tagalog (also called Filipino as described in the latest Philippine constitution) words are Anglicized. For one who is not used to Taglish, reading this can be difficult—but easier to understand when read aloud.

This collection contains 27 vignettes. The one that caught my attention was titled “No! Hindi Pwede” because the initial sentences were in English which I felt would be easier to read for one who is not used to reading in Taglish:

Ano? Nagising ka na lang isang araw and suddenly straight ka na? Saan napunta ang kabaklaan mo? Shinampo mo tapos nawala na parang dandruff?”

(What? You just woke up one day and suddenly, you’re straight? Where did your queerness go? You shampoo-ed it then it’s gone like dandruff?) This story turns out to be hilarious but also bittersweet. The sentences also show how Taglish could appear as text and how it may sound when spoken aloud.

The series was so popular that in 2019, the book was adapted into a television series by called Ampalaya Chronicles. Some segments can also be found on YouTube—which may be easier to access than reading the book.

The author, who is part Lebanese, is a multi-medium storyteller, spoken word poet, theatre artist, author, and host.

Although Mark Ghosn is best known for creating the hit show Ampalaya Monologues in 2015, Ghosn is mainly regarded as a theatre actor. He was part of several theatrical productions in the Philippines including the hit plays such as the annual Virgin LabFest WFP Readings (2015-2018). 

He has also written and directed plays as part of the Karnabal Festival (2014-2016). In 2016, Ghosn was awarded the Gawad Rizal for his contribution to the Philippine theatre scene.

He also became the first spoken word artist to enter the Philippine Top 50 on Spotify with a collection of spoken word and music collaborations.  In 2022, Ghosn became the main host of a podcast entitled Ampalaya Stories, produced by Oomph, the digital arm of Viva Entertainment.

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ROSE CRUZ CHURMA established Kalamansi Books & Things three decades ago. It has evolved from a mail-order bookstore into an online advocacy with the intent of helping global Pinoys discover their heritage by promoting books of value from the Philippines and those written by Filipinos in the Diaspora. We can be reached at kalamansibooks@gmail.com.

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