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.”

 

 RESPONSE

(The response was delivered by PETA President, Cecilia B. Garrucho)

Vice President of the Philippines Maria Leonor Robredo, former President Fidel Ramos, trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, members of the Magsaysay family, fellow awardees, ladies and gentlemen.

In 1967, PETA staged Bayaning Huwad, a Filipino translation of Virgina Moreno’s The Straw Patriot, directed by PETA founder Cecile Guidote. For me, as a young person then, the play was a powerful lesson about Philippine history and heritage. It was my very first time to watch a play where the actors spoke in Filipino. I sat there overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of our own language. I remember asking, how have I become a total stranger to my language and to my culture? That play changed the entire direction of my life. I felt that, as a Filipino, I have finally come home.

Inspired by the play, I joined PETA. We were taught very early on that whatever we learned as artists, we were to share by teaching others, especially non-theater people. We were to use our art to serve. We went in small teams to barangays all over the country. The purpose was always to draw out the creative power of ordinary folk – women in poor communities, students and public school teachers, child workers in sugarcane fields, farmers, workers, and fisherfolk. It didn’t matter whether they were literate or not. The PETA workshops’ main goal was to give people the creative tools to be able to tell their stories that tackled ways to solve their common problems that would bring about healing from trauma and that spoke of their dreams and aspirations.

As actors, we would bring the stories of the people we met to life on stage so that their voices could be heard. It was then that I finally came to understand the power of theater to transform lives, both mine and of others. I tell my story of personal transformation simply because it is a most common one. PETA’s other artist-teachers have similar stories to tell. These inspired them to embrace a vision larger than themselves, to use theater to help transform the lives of people.

So, armed with this commitment, the artist-members plunged into years of trailblazing work, adding more productions to PETA’s list of original plays. Collaborating with many sectors, PETA developed and refined its pedagogy of people’s theater. This we shared with groups across the country, with our partners in the Mekong Region and Asia, as well as with migrant Filipinos and many other groups in Europe, North America, and Australia.

Fifty years have passed. We continue to do what we do because with the stories we discover in the communities, we see potential for a better society to be realized. With every play we put on stage that inspires young people to reflect, to ask questions, to give way to imagination, understanding, and insight, we see the possibility of a generation of Filipinos who could embrace the task of building a better future for our society.

And because theater is an art that involves so many, allow us to thank those who contributed to our cultural work throughout PETA’s 50 years. We remember our members and staff who have passed away. We thank all the PETA alumnae, current members, and staff, many of whom are here with us tonight. Please stand to be acknowledged. We thank our board of trustees, past and present. Our many partners – too many to mention, but they know who they are – who understood and supported our work. Our appreciation also goes to Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, PETA visionary and founder. And we share this award with all theater groups, who, despite limited resources, keep theater alive in this country. Most of all, we deeply thank the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation for recognizing that arts and culture have an important role to play in building a nation.

This award inspires us to create more stories for our people, so that through the power of theater and arts, we can move forward with hope to create a just, peaceful, and inclusive society. Maraming salamat po.