The Festival of Our Lady of Peñafrancia is celebrated on a Sunday after the octave of 8 September. Housed at the Peñafrancia Basilica Minore, the image of the Peñafrancia is considered the patroness of the entire Philippine region of Bicol. In the essay, thePeñafrancia is described as a theatricalised devotion where devotees are transformed into a frenzied ensemble that normalises masculinity as a privileged norm. However, digging deeper into the festival’s peculiarity, the normalisation of masculinity is only incidental because the gendering, in fact, idealises and celebrates a figure of a woman. The idealisation and celebration of the woman-figure is asserted to have a precolonial root. In the end, it is argued that the Peñafrancia is a manifestation of a cultural community in which the pre-colonial lifeways of its members are recuperated through expressive bodily movements. At the same time, the legacy of Hispanic Catholicism is decolonised through rearticulating an indigenous past.
This essay is a descriptive narrative of my visit in Chavayan in August 2016. The trip was originally intended to observe the cultural performance palo-palo for a research project funded by the University of the Philippines through the Emerging Interdisciplinary Research Program. The palo-palo is loosely defined as a war dance mimicking the arm struggles of the Muslims and the Christians (Tiatco, Javier, and Landicho 2018). It is often performed during the celebration of the village pista (fiesta), “a complex phenomenon, thought of as solemn yet at the same time secular; a festivity where neither the state nor the Church is in the ultimate position of authority; a parade of holiness; and a procession of spectacle” (Tiatco 2016, 130). During my visit, the Chavayan fiesta provided an interesting performative encounter. According to Josephine Habana, an informant and a cultural worker, the celebration has been in existence since the time of their ninuno (first or older generation of ancestors). He mentioned that their activities are mere repetitions of what the locals have been performing since probably around the late 1800s. This narrative is a preliminary and expository account of the Chavayan fiesta which I intend to reflect upon sooner via the locus of iteration.
On the occasion of the 2017 National Arts Month in the Philippines, José Estrella directed Faust, a contemporary Philippine adaptation written by Rody Vera. This chapter looks at Faust as an allegory of the current Philippine political landscape. Specifically, it traces how the journey of Faust in search of the most ideal and perfect knowledge parallels the contemporary political affairs in the Philippines. The chapter reads the characters of Faust, Mephistopheles/Mephisto, Gretchen and the mangkukulam (witch) as relatable figures to Filipino audience, especially since they are presented as reminders that in an era of what many have identified as post-truth, someone will always emerge to tell the real story.
Cultural performance first appeared in the language of the academic community when Milton Singer published his book When Great Tradition Modernizes (1972), in which he proposed cultural performance as a unit of observation in an anthropological inquiry. Since then, cultural performance has become a useful tool to provide a frame for the understanding of the self, society and culture. This essay reflects on the concept of cultural performance in a preliminary attempt to historicize and to contextualize it using Philippine culture as a starting point. The first part is a descriptive illustration on how the term evolved from being a social scientif ic concept to an important subject in the humanities, particularly in the fields of theatre and performance studies. Included in this section is a proposal based on reflections by anthropologists, folklorists and performance scholars for a model illustrating some identifiable markers that signify an activity as a cultural performance. The second part is a paradigmatic schematization of the specifics of how cultural performance may be understood in the context of the Philippines. Using the phenomena of panata, pagtitipon and pagdiriwang, this paper argues that Philippine cultural performances are artistic communications in small groups performed publicly as a community gathering, even if the intentions of many performers are personal. The preliminary arguments found in this essay are based mostly on sporadic field notes in various locales in the archipelago.
Research has shown that heritage is a contested concept which not only creates unnecessary binaries but also perpetuates essentialized First World imagery of Asian countries. To assist in its reframing, this paper proposes critical ethnography. It is argued that through it, a more nuanced and community-based understanding of cultural heritage can be developed, thus allowing the articulation of modalities of cultural heritage and the formation of alternative imaginaries. To develop this point, the essay problematizes the heritage concept, examines how governing policies and tourism frameworks define cultural heritage vis-àvis its use in the tourism industry, and discusses the theoretical sources and intellectual legacy of critical ethnography. Cases from Batanes and Marinduque provinces, the Philippines, are reviewed to serve as background. With critical ethnography as a strategic method, the essay suggests that the semiotics of heritage tourism can be broadened and possibilities for social change in Asian tourism and hospitality established.
This chapter presents the genealogy of protest performances on the Philippine stage and proposes the revolutionary rhetoric of creating an assembly is transformed into an active protestation in the process. This genealogy has created a radical figure of solidarity between the performers and the audience members by renewing a sense of community through dissent against forces of oppression. This community is forged inside the auditorium with artists commonly hoping for it to be extended outside the theatre. In the formation of a community, the stage has invited the audience into transcendence in the rehearsal of social responsibility through the presentation of the everyday social life of the Filipino people, particularly those involving abuse, repression, and oppression. In the end, the stage signals recognition of what Judith Butler calls the precarity of each other and recognition of the other as other and not as an object of one’s enjoyment, work, and possession.
The essay is a general overview of the Philippine Performance Archive on Cultural Performances. The first part is an introduction and a presentation of the archival project with emphasis on the concept of cultural performance, concretized within performance studies paradigm using Philippine society and culture as context. The second part is a discussion of how data in the archive were documented and collected using focused ethnography as primary methodology. The method is argued to be the distinguishing mark of the project from other digital archives. Also, this section provides a detailed exposition about the significance of understanding local performance vocabularies and how these terms are translated into the archive through semantic framing. In the end, it is asserted that the Philippine Performance Archive on Cultural Performances functions not only as a repository of resource materials on the study of Philippine cultural performances but also as a performative cultural memory and a pedagogical tool.
The essay inquires a general question: what is the relationship of theater and human rights? A preliminary reflection is provided using the different activities staged at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) on the occasion of Pista Rizalina (Fiesta Rizalina) in September 2017. The festival was named after Rizalina Ilagan, a student activist-artist abducted by the military during the Martial Law era under President Ferdinand E. Marcos. To date, Ilagan’s body has not been found. The festival is a commemoration of the victims of human rights violations encountered by thousands of Filipinos since the Martial Law era of Marcos. In the end, it is argued that performing human rights at the CCP is a tool to transmit traumatic experiences for the understanding of those who did not suffer violence, oppression and tyranny (i.e. today’s younger generation). The relationship of theatre and human rights is asserted to be a rehearsal for a community where the other is encountered with care and responsibility.
This essay is a preliminary discussion of the palo-palo, a cultural performance of the Ivatan community in the Batanes group of islands in northernmost Philippines where performers strike “opponents’s” sticks to reenact a battle of two opposing camps. The first part is a descriptive narrative of the palo-palo performance. The second part is a preliminary analysis and theorization of the palo-palo’s origin by arguing that the performance could have been based on and/or inspired by the komedya, a Philippine traditional theatre form introduced by the Spaniards during colonization which has roots in the socio-historical conflict of the Christians and the Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula in Southwest Europe. Generally, the localization of the form is argued to be paradoxically an embrace and repudiation of the foreign.
This book proposes entanglement as a useful idiom for understanding the contemporary Manila theatre. Drawing on its Tagalog counterpart, buhol-buhol, entanglement is conceived not only as a juxtaposition among elements, but also as a process of muddling and snaring. Taken together, these affirm the entangled character of contemporary Manila theatre in overlapping representations, histories, relationships and genres, while at the same time marking some problematic limitations in the treatment of chosen subjects by Manilan artists. The reason for this is that while these entanglements render Manila theatre far more complex than the accusations of mimicry and inauthenticity frequently leveled at Filipino culture, artists are often caught up in a more intractable buhol-buhol than they are willing or able to recognize. Four figures of buhol-buhol are identified in this book: pista (fiesta), kapuluan (archipelago), patibong (trap), and nangingibang-bayan (overseas-worker). In conceptualizing these figures of entanglement, the discussions start by illustrating their materiality and performativity before proceeding to reflections about how these are directed towards the complexity of Manila theatre.
A number of companies have become the gatekeepers of the Original Filipino Musical (OFM), such as Trumpets, Spotlight Artists Center, and Musical Theatre Philippines. These companies are strongly influenced by the mega-musical genre, and draw on a range of Filipino source material, including a gay comic book superhero (ZsaZsa Zeturnah, ze Muzical), an eighteenth-century Philippine comedia (Orosman at Zafira), and a novel by the nineteenth-century Filipino writer and nationalist José Rizal (Noli me Tangere).
Training actors in English-language theatre since 1967, Repertory Philippines is one of the major producers of musical theatre in Manila. Since the launch of Atlantis Productions in 1999, these two companies have dominated Filipino musical theatre. Part of the companies’ vibrancy comes from their occasional battles to license productions of the same British and American musicals.
Generally, this book is a reflection of the relationship between religion and theater. Particularly, it looks at the relationship of Catholicism and performance or the embodied world of theater in opposition to the written text. In investigating this relationship, two inquiries are identified. First, it is proposed that performance may be looked at as an analogy for the understanding of Catholicism. Second, the link between Catholicism and performance is ontological. In other words, this book is an inquiry on Catholicism “as” a performance and an assertion that it “is” a performance. To illustrate the as/is in the relationship of Catholicism and performance, three Catholic rituals or cultural performances in the province of Pampanga are used as examples: pamamaku king krus, libad nang Apung Iru, and kuraldal nang Apung Lucia.
In this essay, entanglement is proposed as a conceptual idiom for the understanding of contemporary Manila theater where pista (fiesta) is used as model and Rizal X as example. Contemporary Manila theater via Rizal X is argued to be part of an intricate entanglement: representations, shared histories, relationships and genres, which are all activated during a pista. Rizal X is used as an example because it strategically puts entanglement in an affirmative position. More specifically, Rizal X is treated as a microcosm of the pista because it has entangled representations, histories, relationships, and genres in the same way that the pista performs such entanglement. Nonetheless, the idea of entanglement often carries a negative connotation. Despite the promise of entanglement as a possible idiom towards the identification of an ontology of contemporary Manila theater, entanglement has its own limitations, especially since many artists unintentionally overuse entanglement (i.e., pastiche, fragments) in their theater. Because of such complication, there is a tendency for theater works to unintentionally editorialize their chosen subjects. In conducting a close reading of Rizal X, it is envisioned to illustrate the limitations of entanglement as a discursive concept for the understanding of contemporary Manila theater.
A collection of essays, this book attempts to continue the conversation on theater studies and performance studies in the context of Philippine scholarship. In the discussions, the trope of entablado is used as a central idiom. First, entablado refers to its literal meaning, as a space where a performance takes place. The space of the performance, however, is not only confined within the walls of an auditorium. It may also be in a street, a foyer of a huge cultural landmark, a river, or a school auditorium. Also, the space may not necessarily be a location exclusively for an artistic performance. It may be a space where people gather for the Divine, for entertainment, for a political protest, or for an academic conversation.Second, entablado is used here as a signpost for both ambivalence and exact possibility. The ambivalence is in the concept’s determinism, which, like entablado, has Hispanic origins, that seems to be suggestive of a need for an academic discipline in Philippine academia where the starting point is the space of entablado (theater and performance). As stated in the introduction of this book, theatre studies and performance studies as disciplines are emerging fields. By this emergence, there is an implicit invitation for the recognition of these disciplines as independent fields. In this regard, the entablado is a linage to the more traditional discipline of literary studies in which the stage is read as a cultural text. At the same time, it is also a departure from the literary paradigm to read the entablado as a cultural performance. This is where the possibilities of striking, initiating and beginning take place. The possibility of independence is implicit in the chapters, that there is something in the analyzed performances where the entablado (as a space) becomes a site for knowledge production and consumption. In particular, the possibility of the Filipino entablado as a starting point for socio-cultural and art theory may finally commence. Therefore, the possibility of entablado establishing a new paradigm in the humanities and the human sciences is not trivial but necessitates a reconceptualization of discipline: theater and performance studies.