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       The history of the community theatre movement in Mindanao is rooted in the philosophy of utilizing theatre for empowerment. It uses local materials and enables the members of the community to critically reflect on their realities as well as to collectively chart actions for social change. This is the basic guiding principle that lead to the formation of the Mindanao Community Theatre Network (MCTN) established in 1984 and in 1994, had transformed into MINDULANI.

       MINDULANI is culled from Ani sa Dulang Mindanao or a harvest of people’s theatre and culture. This creative harvest is rooted in the popular theatre movement in Mindanao during the decades of the 70s and the 80s. It is best characterized by the unity of cultural workers during the time when arts and literature were means to liberate the people from a culture of silence and repression.

       On the other hand, MINDULANI Inc. is also the organizational expression of cultural workers, artists and Arts Councils based in Mindanao – a broad-based cultural network that consciously strive to sustain the community theatre and cultural action work in the region. Likewise, it continues to draw wisdom from the sources of Filipino identity – the lumads (Indigenous Peoples), the Moro and the lowland settlers.

A. Our Core Values in Cultural Action Work

“Mindulani commits itself to harness the Creative Energies of our people and to promote the Recognition of Cultural Rights as well as the Advancement of Culture and Development Programs in Mindanao.”

            The Members of MINDULANI collectively commit to the articulated CORE VALUES of the network, namely:

  1. Affirm the appropriate use of a full range of arts activities,

  2. Enrich the traditional and indigenous arts and expressions in Mindanao; and

  3. Encourage the integration of the different art disciplines in the cultural action processes that respond to locally-defined needs and which ensure local control and participation in all aspects of ‘arts-in-development work’.

Our Collective Goals

       The network, in its 2nd regional Congress in 1998 had proposed to achieve its Mission through varied forms of cultural action. The arena of cultural work that the members of the network had engaged themselves in, include, but not limited to the following:

  1. Organizing cultural events and forum that actively promotes the greater awareness and understanding of the role of creativity as a tool for empowerment and in building a Culture and an Environment of Peace;

  2. Providing opportunities for contact and forging partnership and collaboration between and among artists, cultural organizations, support agencies and local communities to sustain community-based cultural action work in Mindanao;

  3. Help set up structures for capability building and to expand the gathering and delivering of information, which will help people study, plan and produce creative development work;

  4. Encourage the sharing of experiences and expertise to facilitate the shaping and consolidating of the individual and collective capabilities and strengths of the Mindanao artists, cultural groups and institutions;

  5. Launch and / or conduct regular and coordinated festivals and celebrations of people’s culture that assure the participation of the broadest number and culturally-diverse population;

  6. Lobbying for responsive culture and arts policy and flagship programs in the local and national levels; and

  7. Benchmark on culture-enterprise for equity and welfare of cultural workers and artists in Mindanao.

       By and large, the engagements of MINDULANI are anchored on broadening the base and impact of CREATIVE ACTION in the island.

      Creative activities throughout the world – including drama and dance, music puppetry, visual arts and craft-making, writing and storytelling and video – are currently used in health, structural development, education, skills training, therapy, rehabilitation and post-emergency situations.

       The members of MINDULANI are both inheritors and active builders of the traditions of cultural action and creative work in Mindanao. For more than two decades now, there are growing examples of the use of creative activities in literacy development and in the communication of vital health, hygiene or disaster preparedness in the island.

       In indigenous and rural communities, cultural action work has been directed towards protection of indigenous peoples’ rights, conservation and enhancement of bio-cultural diversities and harmony in cultural diversities. In urban and rural setting, creative actions are effectively useful in the promotion of better public awareness and education about human rights, participatory governance, environment protection, peace and development or humanitarian issues.

       There were also activities have a long lasting benefit for displaced people, among the “children-of-war” and for the members of marginalized indigenous communities. Creative actions in the grassroots have been boosting their self-worth, motivation and collaboration, restoring “a sense of being humane.”

       On the other hand and albeit limited in scope and scale, Creativity has also become an important means to augment income and develop skills where work opportunities are limited or have been disrupted.

B. Variations in Our Organizational Formations

       It is not only the nature of the intentions and impact of cultural work in the island that are considered multi-form and manifold. Equally diverse are the characteristics of the organizational formations that have been set-up by the cultural workers and theatre artists based in Mindanao. Most of the cultural organizations have been in existence for more than a decade now or are offshoots of cultural organizations that had been established during the past two decades or more.

       All of them, in varying levels and degrees of intensity, have help in shaping the culture-of-creative diversities of the people in Mindanao. The common denominator of the groups’ engagements is their engagement in the creative process of theatre performance – from Community Immersions and Research-Writing to Cultural Organizing, Mounting, Performance Tours, Evaluation and Forward Planning.

C. The Diversity of Our Cultural Outputs: Themes, Performance Traditions and Production Processes

       As a distinct contribution to the tapestry of Philippine drama and in preparation for the national plan to put up an institute for culture and arts, the Mindanao dramaturgy has to be consciously studied, enhanced and popularized.

       Over the years, Mindanao has witnessed the production and popularization of several landmark plays – monumental and representative. These ranges from the Dramatization of Mindanao Epic and Folk narratives, the Morality plays of Galenzoga and Gaspar, to the exciting theatrical explorations of contemporary issues (environment, children, women, human rights, etc.) and even adaptations of national and foreign classics by the existing repertory companies based in Mindanao.

       There are criteria set by cultural intellectuals and by practitioners in defining these monumental plays. They are plays that are drawn from the lives of Mindanaons, expressive of their dreams and aspirations for a better social order. It uses an indigenous form, language, atmosphere and mood, which is distinctly Mindanaon.

       On the other hand, there are continuing initiatives made by several artists in exposure and integration visit to indigenous communities. Artists looking or searching for materials have mostly motivated these visits. As this activity is a continuum of the different experiences of the Mindanaon artists in trying to imbibe the wisdom of the ‘guardians of the earth’, these experiences has defined trends and or tendencies that also shape their production processes:

  1. The settler artists draw inspiration from the indigenous people’s lives and traditions;

  2. The settler artists immerse in indigenous communities and contribute their craft in packaging what the communities want to be communicated to the other communities or to the wider Philippine society;

  3. The indigenous communities themselves after dialogue with the settler cultural workers, communicate their story in a manner that the broader Philippine community could understand and could relate.

       (Below is a typology of active cultural organizations and programs that all together have woven the colorful Mindanaon Dramaturgy.)

       It is in this context that cultural workers and theatre artists in Mindanao find their niche in the field of development work. They take on the challenge to strengthen the sense of pride and collective identity of the tri-peoples of Mindanao – the Lumad, the Moro and the Settler Filipinos. This can be achieved in partnership with a strong civil society in Mindanao, by enhancing the culture-creating capabilities of the grassroots, in revitalizing the spirit of harmony in diversities and in strengthening a culture of peace.

Typology of Cultural Organizations in Mindanao

Nature of Organizations Initial List of Cultural Groups and their Base
Repertory Theatre Companies:
School-based, Community-based and Semi-Professionals Groups
Sining Kambayoka, Marawi City
Sining Kabpapagariya, General Santos City
Sining Theresian, Tandag Surigao del Sur
IPAG, Iligan City
Kariala Music Traditions, Iligan City
Kalambagohan Repertory, Cagayan de Oro City
SINAG, Butuan City
Kaliwat Theatre Collective, Davao City
Young People’s and Children’s Theatre Program Kahayag Community Theatre and Dance Co., Marbel
Kathara Theatre and Dance Collective, Davao City
CINE Children’s Theatre, Tagum City
KABIBATA, Davao City
Community-based and/or Multi-sectoral Cultural Programs Various Cultural Programs in Mindanao:
Sector-focused Cultural Programs
Parish-based Cultural Events
Secular Community Celebrations / Festivals
Programs on Theatre-in-Education: MINDULANI in consortium with the
Heritage Associates
Summer Institutes for Teachers and Cultural Workers  (MSU Marawi and General Santos)
Mobile TIE in Basic Education (Davao City)
Learning Centers for Heritage and Innovative Education (CINE, Tagum)
TIE Programs in the Tertiary Level (Notre Dame, Midsayap)
Theatre in Adult Education and functional Literary (Various Sites)
Indigenous People’s Cultural Organizations and Folkloric Cultural Troupes Sining Pananadem, Marawi City
Tambuli Cultural Troupe, Tawi-Tawi
Talaandig Youth theatre Group, Bukidnon
Cultural Institutions, Arts Councils and Networks EDCADS Inc.
Marawi Arts Council
Koronadal Arts Council
Iligan Arts Council
Sentrong Bayan Ng Sining At Kultura, Davao City
Local Government Unit’s Cultural Affairs Offices Iligan Cultural Affairs Office
South Cotabato Cultural Affairs Office


About the Author:
Nestor T. Horfilla chairs the Committee on Dramatic Arts of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. He is also the Executive Director of MINDULANI, a network of Cultural Organizations in Mindanao, and serves as the Artistic Director of Kaliwat Theater Collective.