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March 8, 2014

Help Us Live Again

yolanda“Help us live again!”

This is the heartbreaking but challenging call of the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda, the killer storm that swept away homes, trees, crops, livestock, buildings, and human lives in many areas of Southern Philippines in November 2013.

One of the many communities that was greatly affected is the small island of Sta. Fe  in Northern Cebu. The community is populated by approximately 27,270 people. 95 percent of their houses and other infrastructures including government buildings, hospitals, schools, and commercial stores were swept away by the raging waters. Like in other affected communities, many of their children are now orphans, many parents lost their husbands or wives and some or all their children. Some, until this time, are still looking for their loved ones. Many unidentified dead bodies were buried in mass graves and it will take a long time before they can be identified.

The survivors are now experiencing complex human emotions. Some feel lucky to have survived, but the trauma brought about by the harrowing experience still haunts them in their dreams. Some feel guilty that they survived because they failed to save their loved ones. To many, there is now a debilitating fear of the ocean, which before was their source of livelihood. Some still experience untold depression over the loss of their beloved and they have lost the will and the inspiration to live. Some have developed suicidal tendencies. Others are hoping to get back on their feet. Many, if not all of them, have been begging for help, saying, “Help us live again!”

In connection with the effects above, a team of theater actors [from Tanghalang Pilipino (TP), the resident theater company of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), who, aside from performing, also conduct dramatic arts classes for children and adults] have decided to give their share in helping rebuild lives.

Sandosenang Sapatos

The artists-trainors will go to the affected communities, starting with Sta. Fe, and eventually to the other communities in Cebu, Leyte, and Iloilo to conduct drama therapy for the victims of the tragedy, particularly, the women and children. (At an appropriate time and with available funds, Tanghalang Pilipino also intends to bring its children’s theater musical, Sandosenang Sapatos, a play on the undying love between a father and his little daughter to the communities, to serve as an inspiration to the survivors to move on with their lives inspite of the loss of loved ones). This is being done in cooperation with the Office for Women and Gender Concerns (OWGC) which is under the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP). A team of Filipino-Germans based in Hamburg and Munster, Germany, and some concerned private citizens in Belgium are also raising funds for this project.

Drama TherapyThe theater activities will include creative and expressive sessions that will allow the participants to become aware of their personal emotions, thoughts, feelings, desires, and to freely express, share and discuss them with their co-participants and the facilitators. There will be theater games, body movement, poetry, songs and sounds, play improvisations that will culminate in a performance for the entire community. The showcase will have a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning can be their dramatization of their lives before the storm; the middle part can be what they went through during the storm; the ending, on how they will proceed to “live again.”  The workshop can take the form of Forum Theater where the audience can freely participate in shaping the play, as it is being performed, or the open forum with the audience can be conducted after the performance.  A team of counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists from OWGC/AMRSP will assist in facilitating the forum and in conducting counselling and other therapeutic and healing sessions when necessary.

This program is one way by which TP is assuming its social responsibility, by assisting in the difficult but necessary task of healing psychological wounds and trauma through the power of theater―all toward the bigger goal of positive human development and societal transformation. Being TP’s Artistic Director, I head the facilitating team. I have been doing Drama Therapy since 1988. I have earned my Master’s Degree in Education, specializing on the use of theater arts in developing self-concept and self-confidence. Moreover, I have conducted art workshops all over the Philippines, Asia, and for Filipino migrants in Europe.

Two other facilitators are the senior resident actors of TP: Jonathan Tadioan and Marco Viaña. Both have been conducting acting workshops for children and youth for about 4-8 years already. Munera Garcia is the project assistant, logistics coordinator, and finance manager of this project. For the other future workshops for the other communities, the other resident artists of TP’s Actors Company will also be tapped as facilitators.

actors company

The entire company has gone through an intensive training on Forum Theater under CCP Vice-President Chris Millado, Ms. Bing Magtoto of New York University, and I through a workshop sponsored by UNICEF. The initial project of the company was the Forum Theater on AIDS-HIV awareness conducted in three sites in Pasay. The product of this workshop, a play entitled “Melanie”, is now touring other communities.

The team, coming from Manila, needs financial assistance for air tickets, inland transportation expenses, food and accommodations, workshop materials, communication expenses, and modest honoraria.


For any kind of support, please feel free to send inquiries to You may also call 8321125 local 1620 or 1621 if you wish to send donations, or simply deposit to the Tanghalang Pilipino Foundation Inc. BPI (peso) Account #3131-0387-46 Vito Cruz Harrison Branch (dollar Account # 3134-0125-19BOPIPHMM).

Photo credits: Tanghalang Pilipino Foundation, Inc., The Road to MFT, and Dramatherapist

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