Indirectly, Kaliwat’s policy advocacy program helps seek the sustainability of the indigenous people’s capability to preserve or recreate their artistic traditions. The policy advocacy program serves to link communities to other communities “through: a) theatre performances by Kaliwat that depict the issues of the communities; b) facilitating the intervention of other relevant NGOs and government agencies to support community-desired programs and projects ( e.g. Department of Agriculture, Forestry, etc.; c) facilitating dialogue between communities and relevant government agencies towards resolving community issues and towards legislative action; and d) promoting and popularizing friendly legislations through theatre performances in communities. (Kaliwat Experience Papers)
Kaliwat has likewise developed a direction in arts work that could lead to an “arts tradition” that is founded on a comprehensive, holistic perspective of culture and development, with theatre as the primary path or tool. In 1996, Kaliwat, together with the IPA/Lakewood Parish and people’s organization MESALIGAN in Lakewood, Zamboanga del Sur, developed the concept of Cultural Resource Management. Thus Kaliwat facilitated the ” conduct of various creative skills workshops and management trainings to enhance and manage existing cultural resources (food production, instruments-making, beadwork, furniture-making, etc.) Taking it a step further, the program expanded to include environmental protection measures, establishment of a village school incorporating a “learning farm”, co-management of thed literacy program including the training of para-teachers, expansion of linkages with groups outside of the municipality on the mining issue, reforestation, piloting of communal bio-intensive gardens and fruit tree orchards, and the establishment of various alternate livelihood programs, among others. (Kaliwat Experience Papers)
Describe what your process was in creating your performance last summer (Alleluia mentioned a piece that had a kind of rock-n-roll influence / something about refugees(?)) What inspired it? What audience was it intended for? What has been the audience response? Do you think the piece could be presented in the US with the same response? Why or why not?
Have you done the work in different locations? How is audience response different in different places?
Three weeks after a bomb exploded at the Davao airport in March 2003, Davao artists gathered in music, poetry and dance to celebrate and call for peace. Just two hours into the long artful celebration, I began to brew what was to become Arnel Mardoquio’s Salima in my mind. Feeling ecstatic, I blurted out bits and pieces of my thoughts to close friend and development worker Lyndee Prieto. War was going on and artists had to do something about it.
Two days later, I met with librettist/playwright Arnel Mardoquio, musician Popong Landero, and development worker Lyndee Prieto armed only with five keywords; music, evacuees, journey, child and peace. Popong added a sixth – what would become one of the most important features of the production that was being cooked: collaboration.
Three months later, fourteen artists of the Earthmusic Foundation, Inc. spent three whole days and eight afternoons together arguing, laughing, counting beats, searching for musical notes, telling life stories, discussing politics and philosophy, and drinking Tanduay, gin or beer while Arnel’s tragic but hopeful Salima was quickly taking shape.
Salima is based on actual interviews of evacuees in Pikit, North Cotabato conducted by Arnel. It was then performed before the remaining evacuees of Pikit, North Cotabato to validate the integrity of the story and determine the impact of the show. The evacuees told us that while they didn’t understand the songs written in Bisaya, the music clearly depicted the images of war, terror and helplessness that they suffered. Many of them cried.
Since then, Salima has been performed in at least fifteen other areas with audience ranging from children to adults, reaching approximately sixty thousand. Everywhere, the audience response was the same. The show generated thunderous applause, tears and immediate positive feedback from audience who stayed behind to talk with the performing artists.
If the storytelling (not the lyrics) is translated in English, or provided with subtitles, I think the US audience will appreciate it as much as the Filipino audience did. Salima provides a video backdrop of powerful images of the war in Pikit. Combined with the songs, the concert theater will definitely grab the hearts of any non-Filipino speaking audience.
What benefits have you gotten from working the way you do / doing what you do? What have you learned?
First and foremost, I believe that every single small step taken towards peace is always a leap of faith. You can never gauge the extent of your work’s impact on a single human being. You can only hope that it affects a person enough for him/her to pursue his/her own path to peace. When you see a person cry or laugh or smile as s/he watches your show, you get the feeling of satisfaction that at least one person has understood and has sympathized with the story and the cause of the play. And we have to keep doing what we do if only for that single emotive response.
Second, productions that tackle social issues help gather all sorts of people, and convince the unconvinced around a common cause. Having performed and toured productions that tackle very significant social issues, we were able to involve various parties such as the religious sector, the non-government organizations (NGOs), the academic institutions, local government, and the business sector.
Third, what is very peculiar about music and concert theatre productions is that the form itself, being popular, generates more acceptance and wide audience mobilization. Therefore, this increases the percentage of people we can affect and convince with our cause.
Fourth, a collaborative work of art such as Salima, which gathered music artists of various generations, genre, and political persuasions proved that genuine democracy and genuine peace is possible. Communication and generosity are at the heart of peace and democracy.
Any conflict can be settled through constant communication. Every living creature is generous at the core. Generosity means giving each other space, giving each other time, and sharing internal and external resources.
Fifth, all philosophical and pedagogical differences are wiped out when we break into song or dance. Art is a NECESSARY part of life, for art not only reduces conflict, but promotes spiritual well-being. The six basic necessities of life are food, shelter, clothing, education, health, and ART. If government poured all of its resources into these six basics of life, what a wonderful world it would be.
What inspires you?
A house built on ashen ground. A baby born in an evacuation center. An empty can of sardines turned into a toy truck. A fish caught in a river that runs red. Laughing on empty stomachs. A prayer amid the sound of guns and bullets. A full moon over graveyards. A song.