Gearing up for 50th anniversary: PETA expands cultural engagement in Asia
After more than seven years of cross-border work in the Greater Mekong Subregion, the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) is expanding its cultural engagement in Asia .
Lea Espallardo, Program Director of the PETA Mekong Partnership Program, said the Mekong experience showed the importance of cross-cultural engagements and sharing just as it highlighted the power of arts as a creative catalyst for peoples development and social change.
“There is a strong interest and clamor among arts-based groups to strengthen networking among Asians, as expressed by many of PETA’s partners and networks in many international events,” said Espallardo. “Frustrations are building up on the lack of structures and more sustainable mechanisms for a solid networking that will create and provide platforms for meaningful sharing, exchanges, and collaborations among Asian arts communities.”
This year, PETA expands its regional coverage beyond Mekong and will develop a more comprehensive Asia Program that will cover many facets of its work, namely: 1) theater for artistic excellence and development (TAD); 2) theater in education (TIE); and 3) theater for development (TFD). But primarily, it will have strong leaning/focus on TFD as its niche in the Region.
PETA will develop a five-year program that will focus in sustaining and developing partnership that will pursue relevance and excellence in theater making. It will further explore innovative means of using theater in different educational settings catering to schools as well as diverse groups of people with different needs.
“PETA’s Five-Year Plan for its Regional/Asia Program aims to highlight and strengthen the ‘Asian Face, Asian Voice’ as a creative strategy to respond to glocal (global and local) challenges brought about by globalization,” Espallardo added.
She further noted that “in the recent years, ‘special interests’ over Asia have tremendously grown with the rise of India and China gaining significant voice in the global economy. This, Espallardo noted, brought drastic and dynamic changes in the regional and international relations as well as in development interventions.
“Economic and political superpowers have set their eyes and their hands on certain strategic countries of the Region to influence its directions for growth all in the name of economic development and global trade,” said Espallardo. “Much has been said about its positive effects on Asian economies. Much have also been experienced about its impact on the lives of its peoples.”
She said that as Asian artists, “”we have been witnesses to the worsening social ills of poverty and unsustainable development, widening gap between rich and poor, constant threats to peace and security, economic paradigms that threaten environmental sustainability, political and identity-based conflicts that resulted to millions of migrants, refugees, and drastic increase of vulnerable groups.”
“In many countries of Asia , there are serious humanitarian crises that need to be addressed and yet many of the interventions made are still tied up to cater to the political and economic agenda of the global ‘giants’,” Espallardo said.
“There is a relative dearth of efforts among Asians countries and peoples to understand this trend from a deeper and critical perspective. We often find ourselves to be not so familiar with histories, developments, and challenges of our neighbors that might have direct effects in our lives and the societies we live in”.
With the increasing clamor among creative communities from Asia to genuinely connect, share, and unite on a common goal, this then provides an indispensable foundation to organize and consolidate a strong cultural force in the region that will demand for self-determination and assert a strong voice on how people should live a life of justice, peace, harmony, and build a sustainable future for the next generation.
Against this backdrop and drawing from its 45-year experience of educational theater and cultural work, PETA reaffirms and declares its continuous commitment in pursuing partnership work beyond its national boundaries. It will continue to initiate creating platforms for sharing and networking with other fellow artists, cultural workers, and development stakeholders from the Region to start a meaningful dialogue and exchange that will lead to actions and contribute in genuine peoples development and societal change.
PETA has committed to continue creating more impact and expand in planting the seeds of new creative cultural paradigms that will bring meaningful change in the local, regional, and global grounds.
“This strategic thrust will manifest in our education program, performance work, partnership building and solidarity work. Our Asia program will be our main strategy to creatively address challenges of rapid development and globalization by strengthening the so called ‘Asian face, Asian voice’. This will start from the engagement in networking and recognizing the work that we and other creative communities in the Region are doing,” she said.
But while the Program hopes to establish a network of creative, cultural communities in Asia , it does not aim for a homogenized region.
“It will not be in our intention to create a dominant voice/cultural force in Asia ,” said Espallardo. “We want the creative communities become credible and powerful voices of change that need to be heard. We want the Asian creative communities to take the lead in asserting for a more consolidated, progressive, and a united cultural force in the region with strong recognition and high respect for cultural diversity as powerful force for unity and creativity.”
The Asia Program is also PETA’s offering as the theater company gears up for its 50th Foundation Anniversary in 2017.
The PETA Mekong Partnership Program, meanwhile, will now be part of the Asia Program. Its field office in Bangkok is now closed as it moved back to PETA’s headquarters in the Philippines with the following contact details:
PETA Asia Program
The PETA Theater Center
No. 5 Eymard Drive, New Manila
Quezon City, Metro Manila
Fax: +632.722.6911 or +632.410.0821
Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org