The Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) continues to create art and reach audiences through the digital space this quarantine. This time, PETA is bringing the spotlight to one of our oldest, but often overlooked, traditions in the Philippines: storytelling.
PETA began to produce online content during quarantine in mid-March, beginning with its online workshop series, Let’s Get Creative, before branching out to other activities like live music jams, live streams, webinars, and a more immersive online workshop for kids called Let’s Get Creative PLUS.
This time, PETA launches another initiative called Storytelling Sundays, which offers free performances for families during quarantine. These performances will be streaming live from PETA’s official Facebook Page and YouTube Channel, encouraging audiences to have a communal experience of watching a show together, while teaching children Filipino values through literature.
Storytelling Sundays was launched last May 17 as a tribute to Rene Villanueva, who was a notable writer not only for theater but also for children’s books. “He was one of the key writers for Batibot, our version of Sesame Street,” says PETA Artistic Director Maribel Legarda who remembers Rene so fondly. “He was very involved with PETA and I think this would be a wonderful platform to be able to give tribute to this man who passed away too soon.”
The first episode of Storytelling Sundays features two performances of Rene’s stories directed by Legarda. Hosted by She Maala. First is a Palanca award-winning short story for children Nemo, Ang Batang Papel narrated by Ian Segarra with shadow play animations by John Moran, and Ang Mga Zimbragatzee ng Planetang Zing narrated by Norbs Portales with live creative sound by Ada Tayao, illustrations by Mikou David.
The second episode of Storytelling Sundays will stream on May 24, features Bodjie Pascua, who many of us grew up knowing as “Kuya Bodjie” from the television series Batibot. He will be reading a very relevant story by Jeanette Patindol called Tight Times about families having less food to eat, fewer things to use, and fewer places to go. He is joined by a young storyteller, 10-year-old Frances Villadarez, winner of the 2019 Lampara Storytelling Competition who will be reading Segundo Matias Jr.’s Sikat ang Mommy Ko!.
While Storytelling Sundays appeal to children and the youth, older audiences who grew up with the well-loved classics Batibot, Hiraya Manawari, and more, will also enjoy PETA’s online series as a light-hearted but nostalgic piece that celebrates our own culture and heritage of storytelling.
“Even adults, kids at heart, are more than welcome to come and listen,” says Legarda, noting that up and coming artists can learn the basics of performing through Storytelling Sundays. “It’s also for them to understand what storytelling is, how important it is, and what the elements are in making a story.”
The last episode for streaming for the month of May features Felinda Bagas’ Girl in a Box directed and performed by Ian Segarra on May 31.
As we go through the third month of quarantine this COVID-19 pandemic, PETA finishes up the month of May by bringing Storytelling Sundays as one of our sources of comfort and learning.
Through this series, PETA hopes to honor all sorts of storytellers through various art forms. In the same manner that quarantine has given us the space and time for reflection, PETA revisits the origins of our artistry as Filipinos, where storytelling is essence and key to the works of theater that we know and love today.