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April 13, 2014

Project Sta. Fe of Tanghalang Pilipino (Part II of II)

drama therapy with womenDay 3 (March 27, 2014) was  the workshop day for the mothers and women of Sta. Fe.

Some of the women started coming in to register at 8am. By 8:30am there were already 27 participants. Some were obviously shy at the start, but evidently curious, if not determined, to discover what the experience would bring to them. But there were a couple of confident, outspoken, and comical ladies who were instrumental in “breaking the ice”. By 9am, there were already 29 mothers/women in the room.

The first set of the morning activities were meant to make the participants get to know one another, to release their inhibitions and to develop trust for all others, including the facilitators.

It was amazing how everyone, even the oldest among them, 70-year-old Nanay Serlita, who gamely participated in the release games, including those who had their little babies in their arms. There were a lot of smiling, uncontrolled loud laughter, especially, because of jokes meant to make fun of the facilitators. The laughter made them feel good, relaxed, empowered. Then, they started talking to one another and to the facilitators. They candidly answered more questions about their personal lives, the storm and how they feel at that moment.  They started joking around laughing at themselves and the co-participants.

The release of inhibitions made it easy to conduct the next exercises. With the introduction that we, the facilitators, were so glad to be with them, and so inspired to see women who underwent some difficult experiences, smile and laugh and show strength of character, we asked them to honestly look into how they see themselves, how they feel about themselves, their most important concerns, their dreams and aspirations, and to think of a symbol that can represent their image of themselves.  Using art papers, they were asked to draw, cut out, or tear the paper and create a symbol of themselves and their dreams.

90% of the women drew houses.  The rest drew bancas, trees, tricycle, all for livelihood. They were asked to share their symbols in small subgroups.  Afterwards, they assigned a spokesperson to share their symbols with the other  groups. The group sharing turned a bit serious as they expressed their common dreams for their children, their husbands, and the entire family.

elder partcipantThe next game was a game on developing strong motivation to do things―from simple movement from one spot to another just to get one imaginary simple but important object, to getting something very important to one’s life―even as they encounter some human obstacles.  They were to do everything to reach their goal even as assigned co-participants used their bodies to block them and to keep them from getting near their desired object. That was a lot of fun for them and no one gave up until she got what she wanted.  It did not matter if she was already crawling on the floor. Nanay Serlita furiously attacked and pushed her opponent until she got what she wanted. In the end, she victoriously held her hand up high with her desired imaginary object.We all applauded her and all the rest who succeeded in getting what they wanted to get, albeit imaginary.

The collective moment of victory was a good time and the right mood to have lunch, one activity that one of them said they hardly experience regularly.

The afternoon was dedicated largely to verbal conflict exercises which were intended to an even more intense virtual verbal and emotional experience of fighting for a cause, or fighting to survive. The preliminary exercise was for each pair to argue on some basic and familiar problems within the family.  Then, the major conflict exercise was a crucial argument between pairs of women on what to do to move on with life after Yolanda. In each pair, one must argue that there is no more hope after Yolanda, the other one must convince the other that here is hope and they should do everything to begin to live again. All the pairs were asked to begin the argument all together at the same time. In a moment, the entire room was filled with screaming women convincing their partners never to give up on life no matter how harsh the realities might be. After a while, we told them to stop the simultaneous arguments, only for each pair to repeat the process, one at a time, with the rest intently listening to the ” verbally warring” pair. What ensued were a series of inspiring scenes replete with realities that confront all of them and concrete actions they must take to restore their dignity as human beings, as mothers and wives.

The day ended with each one sharing their personal realization that there is life after the storm, and they can make things happen again, they can restore what they lost, and gain even much more as they commit to doing concrete actions together, as they keep believing in themselves and one another and keeping their faith in God stronger than ever.

For us, artists-faciltators, the day ended with both a sense of satisfaction and anxiety, satisfaction for what seemed to be our successful way of releasing their pent-up emotions and confronting and overcoming their fears, but anxiety, over the challenge of ensuring that a follow-through assistance program for the mothers and women and their families can be put into place.

But, there was not much time to dwell on the challenges and the feelings of inadequacy and helplessness. We had to prepare for the other workshop on the following day, for the high school students from the different schools of Sta. Fe.

In the morning of Day 4, March 28, 2014, the young students started trickling in at about 8am. By about 8:30am, there were 25 of them inside the room,  We immediately felt the difference between the general behavior of this group of physically active young people and the previous day’s sluggish, almost lethargic movements of the mothers.

children participants 5

 As we predicted the night before when we were planning the revisions on the syllabus for the young participants, it was much easier to motivate the students to move, dance, sing and act. We designed the morning exercises in such a way that we do not only release their inhibitions, (which turned out to be easy), but also, help release their hidden artistic potentials.

True enough, there were  number of female and male participants, who, early on, displayed some exceptional skills in singing, dancing, and acting. Therefore, we decided to spend the entire morning for both individual and group movement or dances, and singing solo or duet or with the entire group. Before the end of the morning session, every single participant was uninhibitedly joining all the sessions. We achieved our first objective of freeing them from fear of expressing themselves, physically, musically, verbally. They were all having fun. It was an easy escape to the realities of what they went through and what they must be able to for themselves, their families, and for their communities.

But, we were there not just to make them escape from realities, no matter how harsh they are.

A child remembers her experienceThe next important objective was for them to fearlessly recall their experiences during the storm, confront the debilitating fear and move on with renewed courage. This was initially achieved through an input on the actor’s primary responsibility of knowing himself/herself and touching base with his/her innermost feelings, whether positive or negative, as a prerequisite for achieving the highest sense of truth in acting. With this as motivation, the participants were requested to share with the rest of the group and the facilitator their personal experiences before, during and after the Yolanda incident. And most of them, bravely and unselfishly related their harrowing experiences. There were two participants though who had a relatively difficult time continuing with their sharing. These are the two sisters who lost their father and a brother in the storm. The father and son braved the bad weather to fish both for food for the family, and some to sell for some income.  They failed to return; their bodies were found in separate places the following day. The two sisters, however, went on to finish their stories. And words of comfort from the facilitators and the other participants, the two girls, after a while were again smiling and participating in the activities.

After the verbal sharing, the facilitators (Tad and Marco) recalled with the participants the morning session and commended them for their creative use of their bodies for self-expression. The next exercises given were movement-based activities that combined self expression through individual expressive movement to create shapes in a space, to sculpturing the body of a partner and others in the group to create specific environments or places, at first, unrelated to their traumatic experiences with Yolanda.

Then, slowly, and with calculated caution, exercises lifted from principles from Forum Theater were introduced to the participants to motivate them to create images, using their bodies, of Sta. Fe before, during, and after Yolanda. Using the three tableaus then, they were motivated to improvise dialogues appropriate to the sculpted bodies. The end result was a depiction of how they saw Sta. Fe before, the storm, during the storm, and the final image of Sta. Fe that they would like to achieve in the near future. In this entire process of “shaping” and “verbalizing” their recalled feelings in the past, present, and their wishes for the future, every single young person was involved physically, emotionally, psychologically. Two groups presented their showcases, products of their own active participation, and reflective of a new found sense of freedom and heartfelt fervent hope for a new life and a brighter future.

giving certificates to children

The facilitators ended the session with the participants expressing their gratitude to one another, their commitment to work together and help one another, and their sincerest wish for a better future for a new generation of the people of Sta, Fe.

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One Comment on “Project Sta. Fe of Tanghalang Pilipino (Part II of II)”

  • list of insect books for children says July 5, 2014 at 11:36 am

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