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Buhol-Buhol / Entanglement

Contemporary Theatre in Metropolitan Manila

Sir Anril Pineda Tiatco

This book proposes entanglement as a useful idiom for understanding the contemporary Manila theatre. Drawing on its Tagalog counterpart, buhol-buhol, entanglement is conceived not only as a juxtaposition among elements, but also as a process of muddling and snaring. Taken together, these affirm the entangled character of contemporary Manila theatre in overlapping representations, histories, relationships and genres, while at the same time marking some problematic limitations in the treatment of chosen subjects by Manilan artists. The reason for this is that while these entanglements render Manila theatre far more complex than the accusations of mimicry and inauthenticity frequently leveled at Filipino culture, artists are often caught up in a more intractable buhol-buhol than they are willing or able to recognize. Four figures of buhol-buhol are identified in this book: pista (fiesta), kapuluan (archipelago), patibong (trap), and nangingibang-bayan (overseas-worker). In conceptualizing these figures of entanglement, the discussions start by illustrating their materiality and performativity before proceeding to reflections about how these are directed towards the complexity of Manila theatre.

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Chapter One: Introduction: Conceiving Entanglement in the Vernacular


Chapter One

Introduction: Conceiving Entanglement in the Vernacular

In 2011, the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) staged an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s King Lear billed as Haring Lear. The production had a restaging in Taiwan in October 2014 for an international theater festival. When I saw the play at the PETA Theater Center the first time, I thought it was an interesting take on the Shakespearean classic particularly having an ensemble of all-male performers. Adapted by National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera and directed by Nonon Padilla, the piece has a strong remark on imperialism and colonialism – particularly their offensive and oppressive characters. More importantly, the piece has a strong nationalist stance. Specifically, the singing of the national anthem at the end of the piece signaled a particular glimpse of the “once-upon-a-time” – tyranny of martial law declared by then President Ferdinand E. Marcos in 1972 and other forms of authoritarian regimes that have dominated the country.

During a casual conversation with a friend from PETA after having been invited by the company to talk about the concept of the contemporary in Philippine theater, I was asked about my own take on this adaptation vis-à-vis this question of the contemporary. First, she asked me if this production aimed at engaging with World Theater even if the piece is thematically portraying social dilemma surrounding an anti-globalization stance. Second, she asked whether or not the piece could represent the contemporary theater scene in the Philippines, particularly...

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