A final curtain call for Floy Quintos, playwright of Pinoys in transition

Quintos, 63, died last Saturday, April 27, leaving behind an original work debuting in May, and an unfulfilled dream to rewrite one of his earlier works.

Palanca-winning playwright Floy Quintos wanted his final work to be a self-penned rewrite of one of his first major plays, 1991’s St. Louis Loves Dem Filipinos, about the 1904 World Trade Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri where Bagobos from Davao and Igorots from the Mountain Province were  put on display like objects of curiosity.

Unfortunately, he won’t be able to do it anymore. He died on Saturday, April 27.

But he did not go out without leaving a new original work. Grace is set to debut on the theater stage on May 25, almost exactly a month from his passing. It may not be the swan song the 63-year-old had in mind but it’s a fitting bookend nonetheless to his well-decorated and prolific theater career. The title alone provides an excellent finale. 

More notably, Grace, like St. Louis, is about a controversial part of the country’s history that’s a wellspring of important themes that reverberate through the ages.

“A lot of new research has come out recently,” Quintos said about his plan to rewrite St. Louis as his swan song in our late-March interview, one of the last he granted. 

“Ang ganda ng idea na it’s not really so much about colonialism but about the humanity of people to be attracted to other cultures. Ibang iba ang tingin nila sa tingin nating mga woke.”

It’s this same focus on humanity that he has brought to Grace, which is about the alleged apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to a 21-year-old convent novice in a Carmelite monastery in Lipa, Batangas over 15 days in September 1948. There were also the reported showers of rose petals falling from the sky into the convent garden. 

The play won’t divine what’s divine or supernatural, or what’s not divine or supernatural about the occurrences. Quintos was in no position to do that. Besides, the Vatican did it as early as 1951, in fact, and declared them to be untrue and, therefore, unworthy of belief. 

Reconciliation Dinner, 2023

Neither was the veteran writer keen on any of it. “I’m interested in topics about the Filipino psyche and where we are today,” he said. 

Thus, Grace will tell the very human stories of the two real-life women of the cloth in the middle of it all — Sister Teresita, the novice who claimed having the Marian visions, and Sister Cecilia, the monastery’s Prioress or Mother Superior. 

Described in its own press as “an examination of what it means to cling steadfastly to one’s beliefs in the face of suffering, to cling with extreme humility, patience, forbearance, and silence—qualities fast becoming obsolete in our age,” the play will dramatize, for the first time ever, a fictionalized narrative of what happened in Lipa as a platform to ask important questions about faith, truth, belief, power and authority, and resistance. 

“Sister Teresita and the rest of the congregation had to live with the embarrassment of being called liars, sometimes to their faces,” Quintos noted about the aftermath of the Vatican declaration dismissing the supernatural origins of the events in the convent. 

And that’s just the half of it. The other, earlier half of the story involved Sister Cecilia being thrown to a monastery in then-faraway Iloilo, where she was demoted to the position of housemaid, and Sister Teresita being asked to leave the monastery and give up the religious vocation, the one thing she wanted the most in life.

Not that the play is taking the nuns’ side. But neither is it backing the Church. 

Grace does not take a particular position,” Quintos said. “We cannot say that the Church is right and Sister Teresita  was wrong or vice versa. What we are saying is this is a Church of God run by men where things happen and decisions are made.”

Again, the humanity. The wounded hearts, the questioning minds, the suffering souls, the defiant spirits. All painted with  burnished grandeur. 

“Pinoys in transition from one state to another,” Quintos himself quoted theater critic Gibbs Cadiz describing his menagerie of characters. 

These are the Filipinos that people Quintos’ plays from St. Louis all the way to Grace. The corrupt elites of Evening at the Opera facing the consequences of their dastardly actions, the Maria Claria reborn as a woman of power of Sour Clara having to choose her place, the conflicted artists of Fluid grappling with truth and identity, the warring political voters of The Reconciliation Dinner struggling between the personal and the patriotic, and so many more rich, colorful characters, at once outsize and achingly life-like, who are caught in a crossroad. 

“Pinoys in transition from one state to another,” Quintos himself quoted theater critic Gibbs Cadiz describing his menagerie of characters. 

Grace was eight years in the making, perhaps the longest to develop and write among his works. It was, according to his longtime friend and collaborator Dexter Santos, particularly challenging to write, and not just because of the amount of research that needed to be done. “He really wanted it to be right,” Santos, the play’s director, said.

One can only surmise that part of the challenge was, unlike most Quintos fictional characters, the real-life Sister Teresita, who never spoke out against the Church’s negative verdict on her testimony, found deliverance in silence and stillness. 

Could Quintos, in his very last work, have found a new kind of artistic grace in Grace? 

Grace runs on weekends from May 25 to June 16 at the PowerMac Blackbox Theater in Ayala Circuit Mall in Makati. Tickets are available at Ticket2Me.net or thru 09175112110 for the June 1, Saturday, 3 pm show. 

The new lifestyle.