“HUGIS PUSONG POOT” (HEART-SHAPED RAGE)
> 2017 > Laverton, Victoria > Script and Stage Direction
In line with Gabriela Australia’s 21st anniversary celebration, I have written, devised, and directed a short performance that essayed various understanding of rage and love in the context of migrant women’s struggle and movement in Australia. The 21 years of experience of the organisation Gabriela Australia in advocating the need to end domestic violence experienced by marriage migrants, as well as the forced migration of Filipinas to overseas destinations was the inspiration of this 30-minute performance of poetry, music, and movement. It also featured poetries written by the award-winning playwright and poet, academic, and well-known Gabriela Philippines member Ms. Josephine “Joi” Barrios-Le Blanc.
“PAGSASANAY SA HEYOGRAPIYA” (Migrante Melbourne’s Tipanang Pangkultura/Cultural Gathering)
> 2016 > Uniting Church, Murumbeena, Victoria > Script, Direction, and Production Design and Management >
(Photo by Yvette Zuniga)
My foray into Filipino Migrant Community Theatre started in 2012. However, the most recent project that I spearheaded was reinvigorating the Tipanang Pangkultura (Cultural Gathering/Event) of the Filipino organisation Migrante Melbourne in Victoria Australia. Tipanang Pangkultura is an annual project aimed at raising the consciousness of Filipino migrants on issues facing the community both here in Australia and back in the Philippines. This year’s Tipanan has a theme focussed on the Filipino migrants’ solidarity with the people in the Philippines as they try to attain peace, development, and long-lasting peace amidst the new administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. As an emerging cultural activity, the Tipanan recreated an imaginary classroom and space in studying Philippine Geography through musical performances, poetry reading, short skit, dance, and video presentation. The cultural performance was hosted by two imaginary lecturers as the entire show showcased talents from the Filipino community, who are not professional theatre actors but part of a growing network of organisations and individuals who support the causes and aims of Migrante, including its political ends to raising the level of welfare and cultural development of Filipinos here in Australia.
“ALUNSINA DESAP,” (ALUSINA’S DISAPPEARANCE)
> 2011 > University of the Philippines at Los Banos > Script
Alunsina Desap is a theatrical performance that I wrote in 2011. Directed by Ronald Binas and Jeremy Dela Cruz, it was staged at the University of the Philippines at Los Banos (UPLB) as part of the UPLB’s Department of Humanities theatre and teaching program. Alunsina Desap is a modern re-telling of a Filipino/Panay myth on why the sky and earth separated from each other during the moment of creation. However, the play also refers to other mythic characters and re-telling, including Bidasari, a Mindanao/Malay epic; sarimanok, a legendary bird of the Maranao people; and the Tagalog’s creation myth retold as the emergence of Malakas and Maganda from a bamboo node. But the main conflict of the story centres on a meeting of the Goddess Alunsina — after she flew from her husband’s anger as she was not able to fulfill the delicate task of cooking rice — with mortal characters (a humanities teacher, a mistress, a wife of a disappeared soldier, a woman-lawyer, and an activist) who found themselves in a time and space where the past, present, and future collide after a devastating earthquake. It is at this moment, of disappearance and being a desaparecido, that Alunsina discovered humanity through their weakest spots and at that point, she needed to decide whether to continue the task of creating the rest of the earth or not. A review of this play is found in this blogsite, written by a creative writing scholar, multi-awarded writer, and former colleague at the Univeristy of the Philippines, Prof. Vladimeir Gonzales.
“BAGONG CRISTO” (Aurelio Tolentino’s MODERN CHRIST)
> 2008 > University of the Philippines at Los Banos > Dramaturgy
(Photo by Dennis D. Gupa)
Bagong Cristo is an early 20th Century play written by a radical symbolist and free-thinker Aurelio Tolentino. As a playwright and revolutionary dramatist, Tolentino struggled to create an independent real and theatrical Philippines. The play was said to have been inspired by small and subterfuge revolutions between 1900 and 1940 as the Philippines was under American Colonialism. As this point was still reeling from the 1896 Revolt against Spanish regime, a few brave Filipinos were championing an eventual Philippine independence from this new colonizer and imperialist. Tolentino’s contribution to this liberation movement includes his play about a ‘modern Christ’ who is preaching the gospel of change on streets, during parliamentary debates, and in places of worship and strife of the then colonial state and order. Bagong Cristo also hid in front of the biblical and religious narratives of Christ’s martyrdom as this period was rife with American censorship and laws that forbid assembly, free speech, and radical performances. This play, therefore, belongs to a tradition of Filipino revolutionary drama that heavily uses symbols and references to disguise radical meanings between characters and allegories, as artists and heroes were censored and killed during that period in Philippine history.
The modern version of this play was also experimental as its director Dennis D. Gupa employed various theatrical tactics to draw out the complex narratives and texts of Tolentino’s oeuvre. These include the usage of historical and contemporary meanings brought by my dramaturgical analysis on that period of American colonial history and the present political realities of the 21st Century Philippines. Another notable approach in the play’s theatrical and performative gestus was through the use of mathematical symbols –from geometry, algebra to trigonometry — in creating embodied movements or dance, the stage design, and multimedia projections. It was guided by another dramaturg, Prof. Alleli Domingo of the Institute of Mathematical Sciences of the University of the Philippines at Los Banos. For an academic reading about the play’s interdisciplinary approach through mathematics and theatre, here’s a paper that was written by Prof. Domingo, which was read at a UNESCO conference in Bangkok, Thailand in 2012.
“OH! MY! GULAY!” (OH! MY! VEGETABLE!)
> 2008 > Tayabas City, Quezon Province > Story Concept, Script, & Dramaturgy
(Photo by Regina May Tiongson)
A Community Theatre set on the historical public centre of the City of Tayabas in Quezon Province, Oh! My! Gulay! is my first attempt to use applied drama techniques in the writing of a theatrical script. Together with colleagues from the College and Arts and Sciences at University of the Philippines at Los Banos, Social Workers from the group Sibikang Kabataang Pinoy, Inc. (SIKAP), and community extension experts from the College of Agriculture at UPLB, we developed a project aimed at increasing the awareness of the people in that community regarding the benefits of organic farming. OMG! was funded by the local government of the said city and involved community youth leaders of Tayabas. It is a simple story, a children’s story or musical theatre, about a young farmer’s dilemma between making his crops more sustainable or making profits as he encountered magical creatures: Pesticide, Fertilizer, Poverty, Sustenance, Health, several super vegetables, and a superheroine, Organiko. The story was a product of workshops and consultation with the young people of this community regarding their experiences about farming, community issues and beliefs, and their knowledge on inorganic and organic agriculture. These are some of the videos (1, 2, 3) of this project/community theatre.
“PAGBULAS NG SIBOL” (Frank Wedkind’s SPRING AWAKENING)
> 2007 > University of the Philippines at Los Banos > Story Concept & Dramaturgy
(Photo by Czaris Mendioro)
Pagbulas ng Sibol is a Filipino adaptation of Frank Wedekind’s Spring Awakening. The script was written by an acclaimed poet and literary scholar, Carlos Piocos III. Together with the playwright, I co-developed the story about young people facing the challenges of puberty in a post-Second World War II rural Philippines. This age of awkward growth and misplaced reconstruction in the lives of these characters is also a theatrical metaphor on education and disciplining, following Wedekind’s dark exploration of juvenile curiosities in his original play. But Pagbulas, also evoked experimentation, not only through dramaturgical expositions of its characters, its absurd theatricalities, and the choice of context and mood but also through the innovative use of space that its director Dennis D. Gupa utilised for this adaptation. A chemistry building site that was partially destroyed by a gutting fire was transformed into an open-air theatre and became a fitting world for Wedekind’s young men and women in search of meaning amidst a dark flow of transitioning.
Gibbs Cadiz, Philippine Daily Inquirer’s resident theatre critic, wrote the following review on 6/11/2007: It’s springtime for Frank Wedekind’s scandalous 19th-century play, “Spring Awakening,” as the play’s musical version (with exhilarating pop-rock music by Duncan Sheik) continues to conquer Broadway, and locally, as drama companies bite their fangs into its sullen, melancholy heart. Late last year, Tanghalang Ateneo staged a gritty adaptation of Han Ong’s “Middle Finger,” itself an updating of the Wedekind original. This March, for six days, the play underwent further transfiguration when the Department of Humanities of UP-Los Ba¤os produced “Pagbulas ng Sibol.”Who knew that a play of such sensuous, fearless strangeness could mark the debut of a fledgling drama group? UPLB’s fresh thespians, led by director Dennis Gupa, writer Carlos Piocos III and dramaturg Reagan Maiquez, set for themselves a high bar by transplanting “Spring Awakening” to the woodlands of Los Ba¤os during World War II. Suddenly, this story of youthful sexual tension and tragedy shed off its Germanic prep-school setting and became a paean to a lost generation of rural men and women who grew up too quickly in the shadows of a world-shattering conflict. Their adolescent thrashing and wailing now dovetailed with the crashing sounds of the Old Order crumbling away. Gupa’s expressionistic direction, alive with rich pictorial touches, made full use of the al fresco space on which the play was staged. His actors were raw but engaged to the hilt. When candles were left flickering on stage in the end, symbolizing the young lives flayed apart by adult ignorance and indifference, one came away lit with awe at what UPLB’s untested theater group had presented: a fully realized, mature drama that deserved its own run in Manila.