G. Crisostomo is a young writer from the Philippines. She is into
playwriting and fiction. Her play titled "Emergency"
won first place in the Charlie de la Paz Memorial Awards given
by the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA). The
award is given to new and original plays written by potential
writers who have not won any major or national awards.
Situation of Theater in the Philippines
Theater in the modern-day Philippines setting reached an incomparable
height compared to the previous decades. Filipino artists have
created original plays that depict realities in the present day
society through three-dimentional characters and realistic sets
and costumes. Audiences were given not just entertainment but
an awareness of social issues, and even multi-media presentations.
Local production of foreign musicals also had a strong following
from middle and upper class audiences.
In a review made on the theater scene, the year 2000 was described
as "The Year of Theater Awareness". People were
lining up to the theaters, be it at the Cultural Center of the
Philippines in Manila, the William J. Shaw Theater at Shangri-La
Plaza Mall in Mandaluyong, or at the Rajah Sulayman Theater in
Intramuros. Theater was found to be a welcome alternative to movies
New and young batch of theater artists also gave theater a good
boost by introducing new innovations in marketing and publicity.
"Luna: An Aswang Romance" written by Rody Vera
and produced by Gilda Cordero Fernando was a hit among theatergoers.
It was packaged as an innovative blend of fashion, theater, folklore
and music. It is a story about forbidden love between an earthbound
male and a female belonging to a family of vampires. The success
of "Luna" can also be credited to private sponsors as
well as government support. The said production was a grantee
of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
Another example of an innovative production is "Bilog",
staged by Dulaang Talyer. Written by noted playwright Nicolas
Pichay, it made good use of unconventional devices like multi-media
presentations, pop music, dance and street dialogue.
Skill and talent have also been passed on from mentor to their
wards. Successful young artists from relatively new theater companies
have been mentores by prominent and established artists in the
teater scene. For example, artists behind groups like Trumpets,
New Voice Company (NVC) and Actors' Actors (AAI) credited their
training to Zenaida Amador and her 30-year-old Repertory Philippines.
In 1999, two musicals had audiences trooping to ticket booths.
The Atlantis' production of the award-winning "Rent",
a very '90s perspective on sex, drugs, and dying young had the
Music Museum filled with SRO audiences. Playdates were extended
for anther month. In the same way, SK Entertainment's "Rama
at Sita", an original Filipino musical based on the classic
Hindu epic, had theaters filled to the rim. Its good points include
having pop singers in its cast as well as having spectacular costumes
and stage design.
In children's theater, the production of "The Little Mermaid"
by Trumpets was triumphant in costume and production design. Teatrong
Mulat, a group based in the University of the Philippines and
specializes in children's puppet theater is another group to watch.
Last year, the famous production of "Miss Saigon"
ran for six months at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
Its production also caused a controversy among local theater groups,
wherein foreign productions were said to be given preferential
treatment. Critics also attacked its stereotypical portrayal of
Theater productions in the year 2000 also made strong statements
on women and women issues. New Voice Company's production of "The
Vagina Monologues" was a big hit precisely because it
placed women in the spotlight. It had audiences lsitening to three
women sharing their thoughts and sentiments, baring wounded yet
courageous souls whose spirits have been damaged by wrongful treatment
of their bodies.
"Luna: An Aswang Romance" also had a female protagonist
in its lead, played by TV/movie actress Chin-Chin Gutierrez. She
was to choose between fighting for her love for a man and be disowned
by her vampire family.
Tanghalang Pilipino also stage "Paglayang Minamahal"
which is a new zarzuela set in the Philippine revolution written
by George de Jesus and directed by Chris Millado. It also had
a female protagonist in the person of a female serveant who secretly
loves her master and saves him during the revolution.
"Larawan," which is wtitten by National Artist
Nick Joaquin, also had women in its lead cast. Two spinster sisters
were helplessly swept by the tides of war and modernity.
Government support for theater is also crucial in its success
and development. Last year, the National Commission for Culture
and the Arts (NCCA) organized a nationwide theater festival called
"Sandiwaan". Focusing on collaborative theater productions,
the festival also saw artist from various theater groups and other
artistic fields come together to stage new productions. Designed
as a competition, the different artists in every identified region
pooled their talents and produced a theatrical production as their
region's entry. The four best productions, one per major island
group and the national capital region, was toured in identified
For this year, the NCCA had launched two contests on playwriting.
One is the "Epic Playwriting Contest 2001" which will
award the best full-length plays based on the Hudhud epic of the
Ifugao. The competition aims to promote the hud-hud which was
listed in UNESCO's oral masterpieces of intangible heritage. The
other competition is the "Timpalak Teatro Bulawan" which
will award the best one-act play written in Filipino with focus
on the promotion of positive Filipino values. Both contests was
extended untul November 30, 2001.
Classics also found its way in local productions. University-based
Tanghalang Ateneo staged Ibsen's "The merchant of Venice"
and Shakespeare's "The Twelfth Night." Dulaang
UP stage "Othello" and "Richard III."
As if to create a balance, local classics were also staged by
theater groups. Gantimpala Theater Foundation stage "Noli
Me Tangere" and "El Filibusterismo,"
"Ibong Adarna," and "Florante at Laura."
Despite prevailing influences of western thought and modern ideals,
Filipino playwrights strive to write new plays that will depict
the Filipino experience. PETA toured its perennial favorites,
"Ang Hatol ng Guhit na Bilog," and "Summer
Dreaming." It also stage "The Libby Manaog Files,"
which depicts a woman's batter for her reproductive rights. "Ang
Dalawang Buhay ni Plaridel" gave new light on the nor-so-known
life of the hero Marcel del Oilar. It also made a good statement
on nationalism in the light of globalization. "Comedy
Club" was series of 10-minute plays which ran for three
days a week for four consecutive weekends in March 2001 at the
Rajah Sulayman Theater in Intramuros, Manila. The plays were written
by resident playwrights and addressed various socio-polistical
issues as well as gender-related issues.
The growth of theater in the Philippines can be credited to the
unified efforts of theater groups in the development of theater
as an art form. The Philippine Legitimate Stage Artists Association
or Philstage is one active organization that advocates popularization
of the theater. It seeks to encourage the public to watch stage
productions, drum up government support and pool resources in
the light of dwindlling sponsorship. Member theater companies
includes Musikat, Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit, Gantimpala
Theater Foundation, Actor's Actors Inc., Ballet Manila, Repertory
Philippines, PETA, Tanghalang Pilipino and Trumpets.
Regional theater groups have also made their presence felt. In
Mindanao, where conflicts often break out among the island's cultures,
there exists a thriving theatrical group called Mindulani. All
the group's plays explore problems, concerns, and dream of what
the group refers to as the tri-people of Mindanao - the Lumads,
the Moslems and the Christians.
Llamas, Cora. "The Year of Thear Awarenes". Sanghaya
2001 Philippine Arts and Culture Year Book. Manila: National
commission for Culture and the Arts. 2001 Guerrero, Jose Claudio
B. Philippine Art: Exploring a Nation's Psyche in the Quest
for Unity. Country Paper, ASEAN Youth Camp 2001.