The Theater Experience: “New Yorker in Tondo” by The Little Boy Productions

I really enjoy watching stage plays as I was into it during my school years since grade school. As a former cast of school stage plays myself, I long to see Eugene Domingo in-person playing her best role as I have seen her with her ultimate acting caliber on the big and small screens alike. A Marcelino Agana, Jr. masterpiece, “New Yorker in Tondo” came to life in Cebu City by The Little Boy Productions.

The Theater Experience: New Yorker in Tondo by The Little Boy Productions | Cebu Finest
Aling Atang (Jane Frias), Tony (Seth Bacalso), Nena (Penny Gavino Reambonanza), Totoy (Alden Reambonanza), and Kikay (Chloe Palang) at the “New Yorker in Tondo” played at the CAP Art Center on September 8, 2012

The Theater Experience: “New Yorker in Tondo” by The Little Boy Productions

I have seen quite a lot of plays here in Cebu City and to tell you honestly, we have the edge to make it huge in success.

Let’s talk about New Yorker in Tondo

Note: It is from what I have known and what I have gotten while watching the play. My points might be inaccurate but I will give you the Official Plot after my review.

It’s a story of a young woman, named Kikay, who went to the United States to study Beauty and Hair Science (they own this small parlor in Tondo) and came back to the Philippines a year later. This gave a shock to her mother, Aling Atang, from the dramatic and drastic change of her daughter who now transformed from a playful and down-to-earth girl into this New Yorkish lady.

Aling Atang was bombarded with these lavish welcome home parties here and there, and her slight transformation, too, as Kikay wanted to her to dress and speak like an Americana.

When Tony, a childhood friend of Kikay and to whom she was engaged before leaving Tondo, visited their house to meet Kikay, Aling Atang is already a stranger to him. He didn’t recognize her fiancee’s mother as he was greeted by this woman with lots of makeup and glittering clothes. Aling Atang, on the other hand, was so embarrassed about this as her friends in the market laughed.

She also hated the idea of acting differently inside the house as Kikay wanted her to change (she was told that visitors should call her ‘Mrs. Mendoza’ with an American accent) and her daughter telling her to call Kikay through her Americanized name.

Meet ‘Franchesca’ Mendoza

The Theater Experience: New Yorker in Tondo by The Little Boy Productions | Cebu Finest
Kikay (preferred to be called, Franchesca) and Tony

This then young girl, who played with her friends Tony, Nena, and Totoy near the Mango tree in their backyard, changed into this socialite “Filipino-who-acts-and-speaks-like-an-American” Franchesca, who went to the United States to study and now considered New York her new home.

She acted differently to her friends, as Totoy teased her of acting very strange in front of them; Nena started to hate Kikay for humiliating and underestimating them, and forgetting about their past as friends: those playful friends who swam at the mud paddle and climbed into the Mango tree at the Mendoza family’s backyard.

Franchesca told them practices she wanted them to learn and do, too: waking up quarter or exactly twelve o’clock at lunch, enjoying spring, seeing the beautiful scenery of Manhattan, and loving the praises of Americans of being considered a ‘French lady in New York’, because of her new name and, drinking liquids like juices and wines using the right glass (since Aling Atang served their visitors orange juice in short glass ‘cups’).

The Theater Experience: New Yorker in Tondo by The Little Boy Productions | Cebu Finest
Kikay and Tony quarrel and recalling their past as an engaged couple.

Revelations on the play

Kikay and Tony were engaged before she left Tondo and studied abroad. However, when she returned to the Philippines, (now she wanted people to call her Franchesca), she told Tony that “we were young then,” and asked Tony to “forget about it and move on. We have changed,” she said. That made Tony very angry and was insulted when Franchesca told him to look for someone else who fit for him, a woman in Tondo.

She’s no longer the Kikay he used to know. She’s Franchesca, a woman of New York. For her, Kikay is already dead.

When the humiliation happened, Tony announced that he was now engaged to Nena, which made Kikay insulted as well, for it has been only a year when she was gone and her boyfriend already had found another woman. That gave Totoy a shock, too. He had a crush on Nena. The four of them had a fight around the house and realized that what had happened was a mess. Nena hated Tony for making their relationship a secret and she went to Totoy for comfort.

While Kikay asked an apology to Tony for acting so differently and told Tony that “I am still Kikay” and she still loves him.

The Theater Experience: New Yorker in Tondo by The Little Boy Productions | Cebu Finest
Kikay, Nena, Totoy and Tony had a big fight in the house.

The Official Plot of “New Yorker in Tondo”

The New Yorker in Tondo is a famous Filipino one-act play by Marcelino Agana, Jr. Written in 1956 and first produced by the Drama Guild at Far Eastern University, its plot deals with the plight of a young Filipino woman named Kikay who lived in the impoverished Tondo district of Manila and went to live for a while in New York City.

After her trip, she returned to her home where her family is shocked at how much she has changed. She now has unmistakably American mannerisms, attitudes, and possessions. Kikay’s mother, Aling Atang, tries to talk to everyone in fractured English, while her childhood sweetheart, Tony, visits her though he is engaged to a tomboyish girl named Nena who dislikes Kikay’s Americanized ways.

The two women have another mutual friend, Totoy, who is secretly in love with Nena, which is revealed when she and Kikay have an argument. The play ends happily, with Kikay getting Tony and Nena getting Totoy, while Kikay comes to realize that she was much happier the way she was, so she goes back to her old ways and returns to Tondo.

A satire of the acculturation of emigrants to America, Agana wrote the play to encourage Filipinos to take pride in their country, culture, and customs. The Philippines had suffered under colonialism from the Spanish and the Japanese, especially during World War II.

The play was so popular that it won first prize in the 1956 Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. It remains a popular play among Filipino theater companies but is largely unknown outside of Filipino, despite its universal message that money and status do not bring happiness and that home and family are the most important things in one’s life.

The Theater Experience: New Yorker in Tondo by The Little Boy Productions | Cebu Finest
Nena and Totoy were featured on a promotional poster at the theater hall entrance.

Little Boy Productions brings “New Yorker in Tondo” to life

Little Boy Productions, a Cebu-based theater production company established in 2001 successfully showcased the “New Yorker in Tondo”. With the play director, Bart Guingona, the Agana masterpiece captivated the crowd with laughter and life realization and good acting as well.

Cast and Crew

Director – Bart Guingona
Costumes – Sal Malto/Hadji Godinez
Music – Waray-Waray (the version of Eartha Kitt) and A Fine Romance (the version of Ella Fitzgerald)
Kikay – Chloe Palang
Tony – Seth Bacalso
Aling Atang – Jane Frias
Totoy – Alden Reambonanza
Nena – Penny Gavino Reambonanza

Congratulations to the Little Boy Productions and its staff members for a job well done. Hoping to see another beautiful show in the coming years.

The Theater Experience: New Yorker in Tondo by The Little Boy Productions | Cebu Finest
he cast of “New Yorker in Tondo” during the curtain call.

ALSO READ: The Fabulous Fifties Café in Crown Regency Hotel Cebu

Check out Little Boy Productions on Facebook for future theater play productions and events. You can also check the Official CebuFinest Facebook page for more photos from this event.

Disclaimer: This post was originally posted on this website last September 9, 2012. was so honored to be invited to watch a theater stage play from the Little Boy Productions in 2012. The New Yorker in Tondo was played as a main featured presentation at the CAP Art Center here in Cebu City after the Cebu Premiere Screening of “Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa”.

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