HIGHLIGHTS

  • Now on its fiftieth year, PETA was founded with the initial vision of creating a “national theater” in the Philippines. Working out of a theater in the old ruins of Intramuros, Manila, this non-profit organization rose to prominence with groundbreaking productions in Filipino, the national language, that were remarkable for their artistry and social relevance, at a time of resurgent nationalism and deepening political crisis in the country.
  • It is today an integrated, people-based cultural collective engaged not only in performance but also in training, curriculum development, national and international network building, and mobilizing communities using a participatory approach that is rooted in local culture and responsive to real issues in the larger society.
  • PETA took the lead in the Greater Mekong Sub-region Partnership, which mobilized, mentored, and supported a host of performing artists from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and southern China to effectively undertake advocacy-through-the-arts on issues that included gender, health, sexuality, and HIV-AIDS.
  • In electing the Philippine Educational Theater Association to receive the 2017 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognizes “its bold, collective contributions in shaping the theater arts as a force for social change, its impassioned, unwavering work in empowering communities in the Philippines, and the shining example it has set as one of the leading organizations of its kind in Asia.”

 CITATION

The power of the arts to raise awareness, shape identities, impel action, and change societies is a truth commonly acknowledged, yet it is not always evident. In the Philippines, no theater organization has been as committed and effective for so long in demonstrating this truth as the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA).

Now on its fiftieth year, PETA was founded with the initial vision of creating a “national theater” in the Philippines. Working out of a theater in the old ruins of Intramuros, Manila, this non-profit organization rose to prominence with groundbreaking productions in Filipino, the national language, that were remarkable for their artistry and social relevance, at a time of resurgent nationalism and deepening political crisis in the country. After Martial Law was declared, PETA stayed active, together with other groups, in staging theater as a medium for protest and conscientization even under a dictatorship. By the time democracy was restored in 1986, PETA had built a fund of experience, knowledge, and skills to respond to new and continuing challenges, staying true to its vision of a “people’s theater” directly engaged with the realities of the time.

PETA has grown way beyond its early traditions as a theater company. It is today an integrated, people-based cultural collective engaged not only in performance but also in training, curriculum development, national and international network building, and mobilizing communities using a participatory approach that is rooted in local culture and responsive to real issues in the larger society.

Operating as a collective of “artist-teachers,” and now with its own permanent home in the PETA Theater Center, PETA’s major units include Kalinangan Ensemble, its repertory and performing arm; the School of People’s Theater engaged in year-round training and community development; and a Special Programs unit that undertakes specific advocacies, ranging from women’s and children’s rights and the plight of domestic and overseas workers, to environmental protection, reproductive health, and electoral reform. Focused on the trifold goals of artistic excellence, holistic education, and social development, PETA has fostered people’s creativity in combining the traditional and contemporary; infusing this creativity into the pedagogical practices of the country’s schools; and advancing a people’s development agenda by empowering communities and releasing their creative energies to effect positive social change.

Two sterling examples illustrate the range and diversity of PETA’s development engagements. From 2005 to 2010, PETA took the lead in the Greater Mekong Sub-region Partnership, which mobilized, mentored, and supported a host of performing artists from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and southern China to effectively undertake advocacy-through-the-arts on issues that included gender, health, sexuality, and HIV-AIDS. Then in 2013, working with local partners in the immediate aftermath of super-typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda’s devastation, PETA launched the bold initiative Lingap Sining (Nurturing Through the Arts), a culturally-grounded, participatory program in Leyte province that creatively harnessed the arts in interventions ranging from emergency relief and psychosocial debriefings to disaster preparedness training and the building of more resilient, DRR (disaster risk reduction)-ready communities.

Over five decades, PETA has produced 540 original, translated, or adapted plays, reaching an audience of close to a million across the nation and abroad; it has helped form more than three hundred community-based culture collectives; and conducted training workshops that have involved 4,650 artists, school teachers, community leaders, and development workers. Still, these “artist-teachers” remain clear-eyed and steadfast about the future; PETA president Cecilia B. Garrucho asserts, “Our vision is to have a nation of fully-actualized citizens, creative, and able to find a way, a solution, even when it seems like there is none.”

In electing the Philippine Educational Theater Association to receive the 2017 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognizes “its bold, collective contributions in shaping the theater arts as a force for social change, its impassioned, unwavering work in empowering communities in the Philippines, and the shining example it has set as one of the leading organizations of its kind in Asia.”