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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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This book would not be possible without the help and support of so many people. Some may not even be mentioned here. My sincerest apologies if your name is not in this list. Rest assured that you have my gratitude.

I must commence by expressing my heartfelt thankyou to the theater artists in Manila, Philippines who occupy most of the pages of this book. Their theater works have given me so much to think about buhol-buhol (entanglement) and contemporary Manila theater.

My profound gratitude is given to Paul Alexander Rae (University of Melbourne), my supervisor at the National University of Singapore (NUS) while finishing my doctoral degree in theatre studies. His valuable insights from the first day, his overwhelming guidance and undying patience paved the way for me to be a humble “servant of the academia.” Paul has given me the best opportunity to develop my own critical ideas not only about Manila theater but also about theater in general.

I am also thankful to Jacqueline Stacey and Felicia Chan of the Research Institute for Cosmopolitan Cultures (RICC) at the University of Manchester. Jackie and Felicia have challenged me to “sing my own music.” Their guidance and support during my stay in the United Kingdom helped me restructure the direction of my research agenda.

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