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I. An Overview: The Luzon Theater Network

       Luzon is the biggest Philippine island and is home to six (6) of the eight (8) major Filipino ethnolinguistic groups and hundreds of local dialects. Within the island, one can notice the strikingly distinct and rich cultural diversity among its populations.

       The Luzon Theater Network is the fruit of almost a decade-long effort of linkage-building among theater organizations in Luzon. And while its counterpart in the Visayas and Mindanao have had regionwide network activities and programs in the 80’s and the early 90’s, the Luzon Theater Network had its first regional activity only in 1995-The First Lusong ’95 Theater Festival. The event saw different regional theater groups, such asDap-ayan ti Kultura iti Kordilyera from the Cordillera region, Teatro Amamugis from Central Luzon, The Barasoain Kalinangan Foundationfrom Malolos, Bulacan, ARTIST-Korido, from Southern Tagalog andKaboronyogan Bicol Cultural Alliance and CBTG from the Bicol region, converging in an enormous showcase of the full splendor of Luzon theater.

       With some bitter medicine and voluminous golden lessons earned from Lusong ’95, theater organizations saw the need to develop local aesthetics as the basis for theatre work in the sub-regions. Thus, the succeeding years engendered productions and other projects in the major ethnolinguistic groups, such as ARTIST, Inc’s Sanaysining Summer Arts School, which is not only a regular venue for Luzon theater workers to document their experiences in cultural work, but also a process that provided continuity to other network activities, exchange performances cum workshops and local productions and festivals.

       Continuous linkage-building gave birth to widening the network’s scope as new tie-ups were established with more theater groups inevitably leading the way for the Lusong’98 2nd Luzon Theater Festival. If the First Luzon Theater Festival was the “getting-to-know” level, Lusong ’98 would be aptly dubbed as the “getting-to-understand” phase, which provided the network an opportunity to take a closer look at how cultural work in the region is being undertaken given the diverse realities in their respectivie locales.

II. “Los Veteranos”

       The Luzon Theater Network has been working with various theater groups these previous years. The following is an overview of organizations with a long history of linkage with the network.

       The Barasoain Kalinangan Foundation (BKFI) was founded in 1978 by a handful of young students and professional theater artists. In 1988, the group was transformed into a foundation, establishing its own theater school through its laboratory workshops under the tutelage of TV, movie and stage actor Joonee Gamboa. In the same year, BKFI was recognized by the Bulacan Provincial Government and was given the responsibility of the administration of the Nicanor Abelardo Auditorium situated at the provincial capitol compound.

       BKFI’s major works include Tatlong Maria (entry to 1992 Unang Tagpo National Theater Festival), Ano’ng Araw Ngayon? and M.H. del Pilar: Pasyong Dapat Ipagalabamong others. The group mounts original Tagalog and adaptation plays using various theatrical forms while utilizing simple and affordable production materials. BKFI’s programs include lab workshops, a national productions tour, which will go on until November of 1999, documentation of Bulacan culturethat  includes lecture series and actual demonstration. The group is also active in the Linggo ng Bulacan preparations, which takes place every September. This year, BKFI mounts the play Ang Awit ni Francis B. as its contribution to the annual celebration.

       The Community Based Theater Group-Bukawel Performing Arts (CBTG) started in 1985 as a church-based diocesan program with an initial core-group membership of 25 from all the sixteen (16) municipalities of the province representing multi-sectoral groups. Its objective was to train and develop local talents for stage production. The main thrust was alternative education towards social tranformation.

       In 1994, the Bukawel Performing Arts was conceived to address a major problem, which was the unavailability of performers during emergency performances. Due to the huge size of the province, organizing a group in nearby areas for easier contact seem to be the most feasible solution. (Bukawel is a kind of shell abundant in the area. In the program, Bukawel is the acronym for Bukas at Wastong Edukasyon sa Larangan ng Sining-Open and Truthful Education thru the Arts).

       CBTG’s major works include Pasyon ng Bayang Pilipino, Court of the Last Resort, Ang Lupa ay Atin and Juan Adre among others. Theater productions are based on the group’s aim to depict the different realities and conditions of the people and thus, equipping the communities to better understand issues and their conditions so they could actively participate in the struggle for social transformation. The group has already lined-up a Luzon tour of their production Si Bulusan Nan Si Agingay, a CBTG Theater Festival, a regular theater season, workshops/seminars and a continued alliance and network-building as part of their work program until the end of the year 2000.

       The Arts Research and Training Institute in Southern Tagalog, Inc. (ARTIST, Inc) is a Los Baños-based non-government organization founded in April 1987 to address the various needs of different sector and community-based cultural groups in the Southern Tagalog region through arts education and training, research and production works showcasing regional forms and themes. ARTIST, Inc. currently has  five performing arts ensemble, which showcase the organization’s research and works: Korido Theater Ensemble, Kalantog for music, Higantes for visual arts, Munting ARTIST, which is composed of children, and the Teen ARTIST, which comprises high school students.

       ARTIST has mounted numerous theater productions including May Dalaw (entry to 1998 International Theater Festival in the Philippines), Juego de Prenda, Suntok sa Buwan, Sa Liyab ng Libong Sulo (entry to 1996 Ikalawang Tagpo National Theater Festival) and Dasalan at Toksohan under its PARAGOS Mobile Performance Season. Known for using the audience participation format in its performances, ARTIST transforms unconventional venues into more flexible theater structures wherein the audience could be part of the performance in an attempt to break the wall that separates audience from the performers. Because of this, the theater productions of ARTIST have been and are being performed in various communities in the region.

       This Los Baños-based organization has been regularly holding its SANAYSINING Summer Arts School, Lakbaysining Mobile Arts Training, Faculty and Instruction Development Program (FIDP) and a host of other training courses in and around Luzon. In the past two years, ARTIST, Inc. has also been playin an active part in drafting and developing the theater curriculum/program of the Philippine National High School for the Arts located in Mt. Makiling. ARTIST, Inc. is currently acting as program/project secretariat for the Luzon Theater Network, Laguna/PASILAG Network and the Los Baños Makiling Network.

       OBON DI MALAYAD, Inc. (ODM) was informally organized in 1978 at Lubon, Tadian, Mt. Province with the name Lubon Bagnas Cultural Troupe. This Igorot group of performing artists aims to help preserve and develop the aesthetic heritage of the Cordillera people through theater productions based on the oral literature, chants, verses, music and dances of the people. It has been continuously mounting plays based on the them of  past and present conditions of the indigenous people with the hope of contributing to the improvement of our present life.

       ODM has an active link-up with organizations such as the NCCA, Luzon Theater Network and ARTIST, Inc. The group was also one of the participants in the Lusong ’99 Luzon Theater Festival and Conference held in Los Baños with the production entitled Boka Id Kayos as their entry.

III. New Blood

       Teatro Sandaang Pulo (TSP) was formed on April 29, 1997 and was formally founded on December 12, 1997 in Alaminos, Pangasinan. This school-based theater group received training grants from ARTIST, Inc. with the help of Cong. Hernani Braganza.

       The knowledge gained from attending ARTIST’s Sanaysining ’97 equipped them with renewed vigor and the necessary skills in strengthening the group and since then, had been regularly holding its meeting, trainings and recruitment of new members as well as performing in and around Pangasinan. TSP has mounted several major productions such as Sigaw ng Bayan and Bayan ko.

       Tanghalang Gattayaw is a youth theater group based in the Bukal National High School in Liliw, Laguna. The group adopted the name Gattayaw, the name of the town’s founding father. It was conveived on July 1991 with the goal of resurrecting the Liliw culture as well as educating the youth on various issues in our society.

       Gattayaw’s major works include Pustiso sa Baso, Pitong Taon, Baliw and White Lady? White Lady!. The group has participated in the Pista ng Dulaang Laguna 1992, 1993 and 1998. This group specializes in youth-oriented plays and can easily mount a play in just one day due to its members’ capability of quickly memorizing the lines. They are also active in other cultural events in Liliw and has been giving workshops for the out-of-school youth in their locale.

       Tanghal Sining is a relatively new theater group based in the Los Baños National High School. Composed of students from the First up to the Fourth year level, the group is currently undergoing continous training and has started its recruitment for additional members. Tanghal Sining considers Alamat ni Maryang Makiling, an entry to the Lusong ’98 Luzon Theater Festival and Conference, as one of their major works.

IV. Events for 1999 – 2000

       While the Luzon Theater Network does not actively involve, at the moment, all theater groups in the region, it is currently working with a handful of groups who endear themselves with the task of promoting theater work that forms strong ties with their respective communities. Partnerships undertaken in the previous years proved that resource-sharing among network members could yield strategies for sustainability. Courses of actions based on what each group needs, what each group can offer and what the network can do as a whole towards promoting a sustainable theater work in the region came up during the Lusong ’98 Theater Festival and Conference discussions. These are:

  • The First Luzon Theater Research Workshop and Conference
  • Publication of Lusong Update
  • SANAYSINING Summer Arts School Program
  • Pedagogical Research on the content and method of basic theater courses in three key areas of Luzon namely Cordillera, Bicol and Laguna.
  • Exchange performances cum workshops
  • Lusong 2000: The Third Luzon Theater Festival and Conference.

       The Luzon Theater Network believes in the importance of a unified cultural work in order to achieve a true Luzon theater identity which serves the people in the communities. It is with this belief that the Luzon Theater Network intensifies its efforts in widening its scope, consolidating its members and strengthening its bonds with the communities that theater artists serve.