Academic Papers

Entablado: the pedagogical value of setting Philippine oral traditions on stage

By Chaya Erika Go – 4th year anthropology undergraduate

The word ‘entablado’ –which in Filipino means a stage, coming from the same Spanish word which means a raised wooden platform- rings in my memory ideas relating to a school recital or concert, where students dutifully perform a well-rehearsed programme for their eager parents in the audience seats. Relating to the French word ‘tableau’, which means picture, ‘entablado’ conveys the same sense of a choreographed image, a pleasing picture made to be set on stage.

In the summer of 2009, I volunteered with Cartwheel Foundation, a non-government organisation (NGO) in the Philippines committed to providing indigenous youth and communities in the Philippines their “right to quality and culturally relevant education” (Cartwheel Foundation 2011). In partnership with a group of international musicians Cultures In Harmony (CiH), directed by William Harvey, Cartwheel organised a joint musical concert between members of Filipino indigenous communities, namely the Tala-Andig and Umajamnon tribes of Bukidnon province and the Ichananaw tribe from Kalinga province, and seven American musicians from CiH. The concert entitled “Reconnecting With Our Roots: A Cultural Exchange” was choreographed by well-renowned Filipino director and writer, Floy Quintos, and was held on June 21, 2009 at the Cultural Centre of the Philippines (CCP) located in the heart of Manila. Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (Little Theatre) was sold to a full house of over 400 guests, not counting Cartwheel staff and volunteers running the production backstage.

Author dressed in black (centre-right), with another Cartwheel volunteer, surrounded by men and community elders from the Ichananaw tribe

Entablado: As a cultural performance set on stage –and one of such grandiosity and national importance as CCP’s Aurelio Tolentino theatre- I am interested in examining the implications of the concert “Reconnecting With Our Roots” wherein oral traditions and aspects of performative culture belonging to Filipino indigenous communities travelled to Manila, were embodied on stage in the company of foreign bodies, and viewed by a seated audience in a theatre. As both Cartwheel and CiH undertake such projects in the name of education, the former serving Filipino indigenous communities and the latter serving to “bring people together through music” (Cultures in Harmony 2011), this paper aims to explore how this experience may be pedagogic for performers on stage, both indigenous-Filipino and American, and the seated audience. What kinds of negotiations are made between social activists, musicians and indigenous peoples when transporting oral traditions into the context of a stage? How is the inherent divide between ‘performer’ and ‘audience’ contested or enhanced in such spaces? Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed are used as analytical frameworks for the reflections in this essay. Ultimately, this paper also aims to be of practical use to Cartwheel’s advocacy and so will be submitted to the NGO as an anthropological review of its work to further inform its praxis[1]. […]

[Download the complete essay]

[1] Revolutionary educator from Brazil, Paulo Freire, expounds that the term praxis is not simply activism or verbalism, but refers to a synthesis of reflection and action (2009, 126).

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