Category Archives: News & Events

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
1112 Philippines

Trunkline: +632.725.6244
Fax: +632.722.6911 or +632.410.0821
Email: or

PETA rekindles interest in reading

 Vol. 8  No.6

Rekindling interest in reading is what the Philippine Educational Theater Association hopes to instill in its annual Children’s Arts Happening. The PETA Children’s Theater Program (PETA-CTP), along with Lampara Publishing House and Terre Des Hommes Netherlands, is launching “BUKLAT: Buhayin ang Aklat!”

The Storybook Theater Project will provide a space for children and child advocates for them to develop an appreciation for reading through performances, workshops, and forums. It also aims to popularize Filipino children’s literature.

For more than 20 years, PETA-CTP has been working extensively with children and young people in marginalized communities through theater—an instrument for their self-expression, creativity, education, protection and development.

The program engages children and young people in the process of developing stories, playmaking, capacity building and in developing community performances and sustained cultural programs in communities and shelters of children in difficult circumstances.

The Storybook Theater Project will take place on November 12-13, 2011 at the PETA Theater Center , #5 Eymard Drive , New Manila, Quezon City , Philippines .

Schedule of Workshops and Performances

NOV 12, 2011 (Saturday) 8AM to 4PM

  • Forum on “How To Encourage Reading Among Children” for Parents, Educators, and NGO Workers (16 years old and above)

A forum intended for child educators, teachers, and parents which aims to impart techniques on how to develop readership among children. The forum will also focus on why it is important for children to become avid readers. From choosing the right books to start with and how to engage children by reading aloud stories to them, adults will become avid fans of reading themselves.

  • Workshop on Basic Illustration for Children and Teen (10-14 years old)

A basic illustration workshop which will teach the rudiments of sketching characters, coloring, and detailing, for the young ones dreaming of illustrating their own books someday.

  • Reading as Characters (Voice Acting) Workshop for Children(8-12 years old)

An acting workshop which focuses on using the voice for telling storytelling and characterization.

NOV 13, 2011 (Sunday) 9AM to 5:00PM*

*There will be two sets of performances in the morning (9AM to 12:30PM) and in the afternoon (1:30-5:00PM)

  • Storytelling sessions with Saab Magalona, BJ Forbes, Ernie Cloma and Winner of Lampara Books Storytelling Contest
  1. Performances by:
  2. Anino Shadowplay Collective
  3. Teatrong Mulat ng Pilipinas
  4. PETA Metropolitan Teen Theater League
  5. Sipat Lawin Ensemble
  6. Artistang Artlets
  7. Kaibigan Cultural Group
  8. Anak ng Bayan (San Juan Theater Group)
  9. PETA MTTL Alumni

For more information, contact:
PETA Marketing Office c/o Joyce Lim at 725-6244 or +639175692216.
Or email us at; or visit

PETA ARTS Zone: Promoting positive child discipline through visual arts

Jerome, 15, fashions a closed fist and a leather buckled belt out of brown colored papers and old magazines. For this Filipino teenager, the closed fist in his cut-out symbolizes the physical pain and injuries his father inflicts on his mother. The buckled belt represents the cruelty of corporal punishment he and his siblings get from their father.

Jerome’s story is just one of the moving stories shared during the visual arts workshop of the Philippine Educational Theater Association’s (PETA) ARTS Zone Project or Advocate Rights to Safety Zone Project for Children. Through simple freehand sketches, collages, paintings and other interactive and multimedia activities, the visual arts workshop lets children aged 9 to 11 to use visual symbols to express their ideas and feelings.

This is part of ARTS Zone Project’s campaign to protect children from any form of violence and encourage them to share their thoughts on the effects of corporal punishment and what they see as effective forms of discipline. The project also allows children to articulate their ideas on how to create child-nurturing schools, homes and communities.

Through drama, workshops, creative writing, visual arts and music, PETA hopes to engage both children and adults in a dialogue to reflect and discuss effective ways of child rearing.   Through the performances and workshop activities, the project hopes to talk about the challenges of raising children, share experiences and lessons learned as well as explore options of effective child parenting and positive discipline.

The workshop is designed to engage the participants in a playful and interactive way. The integration of games, creative movements and group activities create a comfortable atmosphere that will pave the way for participants to freely discuss their own experiences and thoughts on child discipline.

The workshop has three activities.

The first activity lets them recall and share their happy childhood memories through exercises like the Dot Connect and Forming Images Exercise. The participants are asked to create as many dots as they can on a blank paper, and connect and color some of these dots to form shapes and images that will portray their happy memories.

Alma Quinto, one of the facilitators of the workshop, explains that the “Dot Connect Exercise is a playful way to draw and introduce the elements of art without them [participants] being intimidated by a blank paper, as the dots serve as anchors to make their creative journey of connecting them to create lines, shapes, and textures easier.”

Some participants recall having picnics or going out with their families, receiving gifts during important occasions, being praised by their loved one, and playing with friends as their happy memories.

The next activity is the Collage-Making Exercise where participants depict their sad childhood experiences by assembling different cut-outs of colored papers and pages of old magazines. This entails for participants to work in pairs. The duo shares one big cartolina where they will paste their cut-outs to form a collage.

Some of the unhappy experiences shared by the participants involve physical and verbal abuses by family members, prohibiting them from playing, and death of a loved one.

“Some of the participants equate discipline as being beaten by their parents to teach them and because they love them. Some were very honest and open in telling their experiences of abuse and neglect at home due to family conflicts, abandonment and marital problems,” says Quinto.

After the first two activities, the workshop facilitators discuss children’s rights and the corresponding responsibilities. The first two activities allow the participants to reflect as an individual, as a pair, and ultimately as a group on ways to overcome the negative experiences they have encountered, to learn to express their feelings and concerns to others especially the adults, and to learn to forgive.

As a last activity, the participants are grouped into five to produce a collaborative painting. Each painting should depict how they could exercise their rights while doing their responsibilities to actively contribute in creating a safe and nurturing environment for children at home, school and community.

Quinto stresses the importance of visual arts as an effective medium in tackling difficult issues and open possibilities by accessing and connecting with the creative spirit of children. “Visual arts is an effective medium because it can engage the participants in a way that is not preachy and stiff, and offers more layers of meaning from the symbols and images created.”

The PETA ARTS Zone Project’s visual arts workshops were made possible through the support of Terre des Hommes-Germany and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Theater as a tool to enhance communication ability, participation of children, youth

By Abigail Guanlao-Billones

(An abridged version of the paper the author presented at the International Symposium of Kijimuna Festa 2011: International Theater Festival for Children and Young Audiences held in Okinawa, Japan on July 25-29, 2011.)

The first time I facilitated a theater workshop with ECLIPSE in 2004 for a group of children working in the sugarcane farm (Batang Hurnal), I observed that a lot of them were timid and shy and had difficulty expressing their ideas and translating these ideas through body movements and other means of artistic expression such as music and drawing. At first, they struggled so hard in telling their stories, as they felt insecure they could speak Tagalog. They were able to express more comfortably in smaller groups using their native language, Cebuano. They particularly loved physical games but lacked the flexibility to move and stretch different body parts. We tried to simplify exercises based on the given capacities of the participants. We added more games in the three-day workshop program and also had an afternoon of bonding with the kids as we bathed in the river where we had to trek 40 minutes going there and 30 minutes going back. At the end of three days, the participants were able to showcase simple series of performances from tableaux improvisation exercises. The stories narrated their situation in their families, working as Batang Hurnal and their aspirations and dreams. At the end of the workshop, the kids told us that they would like to continue doing theater workshops because they wanted to play more. They said they were happy because they were able to tell their stories and perform before an audience. They would like to share their performance and their stories to more children and more people.

Faculty Experience Paper, Billones, Abigail, 2004

These are the actual situations that drove the PETA Children’s Theater Program (PETA-CTP) towards working with Filipino children in difficult circumstances. PETA began trailblazing its work with disenfranchised Filipino children with the objective of integrating theater/arts in various programs addressing child protection and development. In 1990, some PETA artist-teachers formed themselves as the Children’s Theater Collective and began working with child rights advocates, teachers and government workers conducting workshops and engaging these groups in developing performances reflective of the plight of street children and children victims of physical and sexual abuse, child labor and child trafficking. This partnership also grounded the PETA artist-teachers to the harsh realities confronting children and their families in various communities- poverty, marginalization, injustice and government and social neglect.

Through the years, the Collective transformed into partnership programs with child-focused non-government organizations (NGOs). Concepts such as Context-based Child Development, Children’s Rights, Resiliency and Child Participation were integrated in the workshops and activities of the program.  At present, the Children’s Theater Program enhances the development of creativity and community cultural consciousness through sustained artistic development and capacity building and engaging youth leadership in developing performances and cultural programs for children.  Partnership programs and activities are developed based on the following thrusts: 1) Theater for Children’s Rights Advocacy; 2) Creative Pedagogy Training for Youth Leaders and Adult Guides; and 3) Building Resiliency/ Theater for Psychosocial Processing.

Theater for Children’s Rights Advocacy allowed PETA to directly work with the children and youth beneficiaries of partner NGOs. Quality engagement and participation of children and young people were observed in the process of developing stories, play making, capacity building, and developing sustained cultural programs in their local communities.

How do these engagements/program partnerships aid children and young people to concretely communicate their messages to fellow young people? How do we translate advocacy statements to stories that children can easily relate to and understand? In consultation with the children and partner NGOs, themes for their respective plays were identified and served as basis for story development. Story Development Workshops served as the basic collective step towards play making.

For Tim Dacanay, the lead facilitator in developing the Story Development Module, the module is results oriented.

“It assures the facilitator of a complete story structure at the very start. Children and youth participants were introduced to concepts such as character, plot and theme. Wild mind exercises gave the young writers freedom to write, but still within the story structure. Tools such as the ‘story spine and extended story spine’ aided development of stories,“ according to Dacanay.

These workshops were integrated with Acting Improvisations and Production Workshops facilitated with other PETA facilitators and directors. From the simple Beginning-Middle-End tableaux exercise, participants improvise their dialogues and characterization through series of acting and movement exercises. Partner NGOs adult guides and PETA facilitators provide education and focused group discussion among the participants to enhance and sharpen their understanding on the issues (e.g. child trafficking, child labor, adolescent reproductive health, etc.) and be able to integrate this in their respective stories. After these workshops conducted with the partners, eight new works were authored by children and youth participants. Five of which were successfully mounted, performed and toured in the partners’ respective communities.

The members of the Inigmata theater group of ECLIPSE were mostly Batang Hurnal who were now in a scholarship program in high schools and universities in Ormoc Leyte. They decided to produce a play tackling adolescent reproductive health; based on their research in schools that one of the major problems confronting the youth is teenage pregnancy. One of the stories initially developed through the Story Development Workshop is the play “Si Kristine at si Paul” (Kristine and Paul). This play about family relations and teenage sex is being toured in various high schools and universities in Leyte .

Children become key players in story development and improvisation. Eventually, they assume as directors and managers of their community performances and tours. PETA’s Children’s Theater becomes both an artistic expression and developmental process for children as it allows theater to be instrumental to their self and artistic expression, learning life skills, capacity building, processing life experiences, advocacy of children and youth concerns in the community, participating and organizing towards addressing community issues and problems affecting children and young people.

In the current work of PETA-CTP, the use of art and creative methodologies were appropriated within the bounds of 1) age/ capacities of children and young people; 2) culture and language; 3) social, political and economic contexts of target beneficiaries. In so doing, the program has been successful in using arts and theater as a bridge towards developing the children’s imagination, faculty for communication and creativity. Moreover, the theater production and community tour have been effective as a strategy for community advocacy and education as they develop children and youth advocates’ self confidence and expression, enhance skills in performing, learn and internalize the issues through constant exposure and processing. They also enhance children and youth direct participation in the advocacy of the issues confronting them. Adults slowly recognize children and youth participation as an important element in community organizing and development.

These engagements have given birth to stories that embody the imagination, hopes and dreams of children. Theater provides the means of dialogue between the artists and the children, between the children and fellow children, between the children and the community. As the plays are performed with their audience, their stories have the power to move and transform people’s hearts and minds. The performance itself becomes a vehicle for children’s voices to be heard and empowers children to speak for themselves.

Gail Guanlao-Billones is the Director for the Children’s Theater Program (CTP) of the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA). Being one of PETA’s Senior Artist-Teachers, training and working constantly with children and young people have kept her adept with PETA’s work and advocacies concerning marginalized Filipino children- street children, children caught in abusive environments in the home, school, community & media, child labor and children amidst disaster & war conflict.      

Sonoko Prow: Blending traditional techniques to create social performance pieces

Veteran actor and butoh artist Sonoko Prow is an extraordinary artist who blends her diverse training in theatre, butoh, martial arts, yoga and meditation to create her own performing vocabulary.

And she uses these traditional techniques not just to create another art form, but to generate performance pieces that empower people.

A founder of Khandha Arts’n Theatre Company in Thailand , Sonoko collaborates with artists from different disciplines and with communities.

She holds workshops for children and adults, helping them hone their artistic skills. But with her art as a tool for social advocacy, Sonoko teaches them about self-awareness and self-empowerment as well.

With Khandha Arts’n Theatre Company, she collaborated with many renowned artists and with artist communes and groups, both local and international.  She engages with various artists from various disciplines and freely shares her own ways of creative expression.

At the 5th Mekong Performing Arts Laboratory 2010, Sonoko staged her auto-biographical solo performance “Paradigm Paradise”.

A piece retells Sonoko’s life through contemporary dance and drama. It is a powerful account of a dark past: a dysfunctional family with shifting surrogate parents, an abusive guardian, a love-hate relationship with an alcoholic mother, and a frantic escape from a gunman out to kill her.

But she never lets fate rule her life. And her decision to change her perspective in life brings forth miracles.

In 2009, Sonoko performed in “Mae Nam: For A Little Less Noise” during the Mekong Arts and Media Festival 2009, in Phnom Penh , Cambodia.

During the same year, she represented Thailand at The Power of Age, Butoh and Contemporary Dance Festival in Budapest , Hungary , doing the solo dance performance  “Breath of Mountain”. She was also a guest artist of the Batarita Company in “ Full Moon” during the same festival.

For Sonoko, her art is an avenue for self-development, raising one’s level of consciousness that ultimately leads to self-realization.

She quips: “The world is not dark and negative per se. It is a projection of our own. Since we are the ones who created the projection, we can also change it.”

Performing for children, health and gender justice

“Our work reflects our identity. The image that reflects from our dance piece—we can use to reflect our society,” says Purtiruk Songklib, a member of New Dance Theater in Thailand . He is a mong the growing number of artists from the Greater Mekong Sub-Region joining the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) Mekong Partnership Programme’s community of social performers. From the theater artists of Thailand to contemporary dancers of Vietnam and China- they all gather together to share traditional and contemporary techniques and learn new artistic forms.

But beyond honing their artistic capabilities, the Programme is tasked to turn their creative energies into a potent tool for social advocacy. “Before joining PETA, I always thought of the artistic perspective,” says Nguyen Hoang Tung, an actor from the Youth Theater in Vietnam.

Crossing National Boundary

It was in September 2004 that PETA crossed its maritime borders to embark on a pilot Programme among performing artists in the culturally diverse yet largely impoverished Greater Mekong Sub-region.

The Programme has since established projects that have facilitated crossborder exchange, capacity building and partnership among the Mekong performing arts communities. It has explored ways of using the creative environment for learning and advocacy.

At the onset, the PETA Mekong Partnership Programme partnered with the Rockefeller Foundation to mobilize performers around the issues of gender, sexuality and HIV/AIDS. Beginning in March 2009, PETA has forged partnership with Save the Children-UK’s Mekong Cross Border Project and later with Terre des Hommes Germany to promote the rights of children in the region.

Thus far, the Programme has reached all six countries comprising the Mekong region- Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and China‘s Yunnan Province—with varying degrees of collaboration and assistance. It has supported about 27 performing troupes across the region, trained some 200 performing artists and 400 children and youth, reached out to 180 adult artists and media practitioners, and has put on shows for an estimated 80,000 audiences.

The Laboratory

The Mekong Performing Arts Laboratory is a key component of the Programme. It is an ambitious and bold experiment in combining various performing arts and disciplines with advocacy theater to create fresh works with seven cultures at play, including that of PETA’s home country, the Philippines .

The Laboratory is an inter-cultural exchange and capability building programme component that provides interactive processes for artists to learn various social issues and explore ways to present them onstage. It is a three-week intensive training course designed to help artists understand how theater may be used for advocacy and how they can strengthen their artistic and organizational capacities for campaign.

“Creation of successful advocacy art is very much grounded in the understanding of the issue and its translation into a fine aesthetic expression,” says Maribel Legarda, Laboratory Artistic Director.

Each Laboratory culminates in a showcase-recital of the new works performed before an audience numbering from 300 to 4,000. Outstanding works could merit support for future public performances, including community mobile tours.

In all, five Laboratories have been conducted in the Greater Mekong Sub-region, bringing together different mixes of disciplines and practitioners such as artistic leaders (directors, playwrights and choreographers), performers (actors, dancers, musicians, puppeteers), and managers. Scholars and development workers have also joined the Laboratories.

Technical and Financial Support

Through the Arts for Advocacy Fellowship, the PETA Mekong PartnershipProgramme extends financial and technical support to performing artists and groups engaged in advocacy (e.g., community mobile performance tours), education (through productions and events), and outreach exchange programmes (e.g., repertory theater guidance, artist exchange projects).

Over six years, PETA has provided assistance for the following new bodies of work:

  • Thirty- nine new short performance piece developed in the Laboratories.
  • Twenty six full-blown productions performed before various audiences.
  • Four short plays about women piloted and performed in Thailand . Four new works were written and translated into three languages. These works were read in play reading sessions by artists and students.
  • Four murals on the theme of domestic violence and relationships painted by Cambodian and Thai artists.


For Mao Kosal, former executive director of the social circus group, Phare Ponleu Selpak of Cambodia , measuring the impact of performances on audience behavior is always tricky. “Normally the audience would not understand, but we try to give them the message. Audiences always accept the show…but if you interview the community, they do not know how to say. They just say, ‘good show and with education,” Kosal says.

Measurable changes, however, have been noticed in the community. “Around the center, there were a lot of problems in this poor community,” Kosal explains, adding that there used to be a lot of brothels, street gangs and problems related to drug use and violence. Now the community has changed, he explains, not because of formal education but because of education through art.

In the Rapid Appraisal of the PETA Mekong Arts Programme in 2007, Dr. Rosalia Sciortino, the incumbent Regional Director of the International Development Research Centre, concludes: “PETA has been successful in overcoming the challenges of integrating differences into a pluralistic, yet united, Mekong art community core.” This holds true today as participating groups continue to interact in various ways, learning from each other’s differences. The network has served as a crucible to sharpen perspectives, hone skills and form a movement of artists for the vast and diverse Mekong region.

(This article was first published in “Spaces To Be”, a publication produced by Terre des Hommes Germany.  Reposted with permission.)

Building Creative Communities: PETA’s theater for advocacy work in Mekong

“Alongside centuries of cross-cultural interaction among the peoples in the Greater Mekong Subregion, there were conflicts and diseases that caused social disintegration. There were economic activities that created wealth and modernity as much as isolation and poverty.”

Building Creative Communities: PETA’S Theater for Advocacy Work in Mekong compiles the experiences of Mekong creative communities in addressing gender and sexuality issues. It tackles the spread of virulent diseases, particularly HIV/AIDS, and how the subregion’s cultural strenghts are harnessed in a bid to curb them.

The 246-page book summarizes the five-year work of the PETA Mekong Partnership Program, which in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation, facilitated inspiring encounters with Mekong artists and groups in the Greater Mekong Subregion.

It serves as a documentation of the experiences of artists and groups who joined the annual Mekong Performing Arts Laboratory conducted from 2005 to 2010.

Lea Espallardo’s article provides an overall view of the Mekong Performing Arts Laboratory, including the difficulties encountered and the realization of the program’s aim of linking Mekong artists during and beyond the Laboratories.

Vannaphone Sitthirath and Rowena Basco-Sugay chronicle the experiences of theater groups in Laos , Thailand and Vietnam as they transform the stage into an arena for creative education on the issues of gender, sexuality and HIV/AIDS using various art forms.

Johanna Son’s article tells how Cambodia ’s Phare Ponleu Selpak captivates the audience as its young members perform circus tricks to convey pressing social messages.

Narumol Thammapruksa’s article on the play entitled Mong shows how two artists of different cultural backgrounds jointly create a play, and transcend the cultural barriers to put across the same message to different audiences.

The Butterfly series, another article by Narumol Thammapruksa, tells the use of modernized shadow theater by The Wandering Moon Performing Troupe and Endless Journey in encouraging the public to think about the right of women to their own sexual pleasure.

Pornrat Damrhung’s article provides the first assessment of the Mekong Program and its pivotal role in transforming the Mekong creative spaces into an arena for social advocacy.

The final article written by Rowena Basco-Sugay and Beng Santos-Cabangon gives a more formal and comprehensive assessment of the Mekong Program based on a set of indicators.

Most articles tackle how the art groups were formed or how the plays were conceptualized and created. They reveal the sense of mission of many of the artists and how their efforts paid off.

The book is now available and can be ordered at

PETA Rocks Shakespeare

For many educators, teaching Shakespeare has been the curricular equivalent of serving children ampalaya (bitter melon). Young Filipino’s know that it is “good for them” but refuse to take a bite.

Luckily, teachers and parents can now help students conquer their fear of Shakespeare. Much like how mothers cleverly sneak vegetables into their family’s daily diet, Shakespeare can now be made more exciting and appetizing for the youth.

LEARNING STARTS WITH CONQUERING FEAR. For its 44th Theater Season, Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) produces modern, educational and entertaining plays and events that can help students and non-students to rediscover and understand Shakespeare.

PETA kicks off its Theater Season with “Hu Art Daw?” a design contest that allows young artists to create an original icon that will best represent PETA’s hip, young, vibrant and fun Shakespeare Season.

What better way can students shake off their fear of Shakespeare than have their chance to re-invent the Bard outside his usual big frilly collar and stuffy pose? PETA encourages professional and amateur artists to draw their own version of Shakespeare that will appeal to the youth.

The winner of PETA’s “Hu Art Daw?” design challenge will become PETA’s official icon for its 44th Theater Season and shall appear in all of PETA’s posters, flyers, merchandise and other marketing collaterals.

Shakespeare, As You Like It

With the popularity of rap and hip-hop among teenagers at an all time high, and with Shakespeare being a master of rhythm, PETA creates an original play that takes rap to breakdown Shakespeare.

Ron Capinding’s “William” uses poetry, word play and lyricism to tell the story of a group of High School students in a Metro Manila school studying Shakespeare.

William’s” characters represent usual High School stereotypes: there’s Erwin, the shy boy in class; Sophia, the not so smart pretty lass; TJ, the bad boy athlete; Richard, the eager student leader; and Estela, the honor student. As much as these students are part of different cliques, all of them struggle to understand Shakespeare and his works. Some find his poetry difficult to understand, others are simply bored with the subject and most simply don’t find meaning in studying Shakespeare. Their lack of interest in the subject resulted to grabbed research and reports from the Internet, which enraged their rather passionate English teacher, Ms. Martinez.

Punished due to their “insolence to Shakespeare”, Ms. Martinez requires them to present a scene of a Shakespearean play, which allows them to rediscover how Shakespeare characters and stories are parallel to their life situations.

“William” opens on August 12 at the PETA Theater Center with shows every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 10:00am and 3 p.m. until September 25, 2011. PETA’s Artistic Director Maribel Legarda directs “William”.

After “William”, PETA produces a concert where Shakespeare’s sonnets are turned into modern-day songs performed by our well-loved musical artists.

PETA then welcomes the New Year with fresh translation of Shakespeare’s King Lear. Considered by many as Shakespeare’s best work, PETA’s “Haring Lear” is translated by National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera, directed by Nonon Padilla with set design by National Artist for Theater Design, Salvador Bernal.

Haring Lear” opens Jan 27 at the PETA Theater Center with shows every Fri, Sat and Sun at 10:00am and 3:00pm until March 4, 2012.

Aside from “William” and “Haring Lear”, PETA will have more performances of the hit musical “Care Divas” on December 2-4, 9-11, 2011.

With PETA’s line-up of performances and events, students and non-students can now rediscover Shakespeare as he gets a fresh and modern re-cut. Enjoy timeless tales of love, betrayal, friendship and trust from the master storyteller of all time – Shakespeare!

Contact Details:

For inquiries and ticket reservations, please contact: PETA Marketing and Public Relations Office at (63 2) 725-6244, (63 2) 410-0821-22, (63 917) 576-5400 or

Cambodian social circus group PPS leaves awed audiences informed

PETA Mekong eNews

As tightrope walkers make their balancing act on high wire and a contortionist aims an arrow and blows up a balloon using only her feet, audiences are left gasping.

But while they may be doing ordinary circus tricks, the Cambodian members of Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS) are no ordinary performers.

They are social performers, says PPS artistic director Khuon Det.

For him, circus is a good medium for social advocacy. Cambodians love circus so wherever PPS goes, the group attracts huge crowds, he says.

“We entertain but at the same time we impart important social messages,” Khuon Det says shortly before his group performs in a packed Patravadi Theatre in Bangkok .

In “Distant Haze”, PPS uses the spectacle of circus and dance drama to retell the horror of the Khmer Rouge regime that left about two million Cambodians dead.

For about an hour, PPS members juggle objects resembling unexploded ordnance left behind during the carpet bombing of Cambodia . They cross a high wire, sans balancing poles, to portray people’s frantic escape from the five-year brutal rule.

A delicate balance of form and content is needed to turn the spectacles into captivating social performance pieces.

The social advocacy aspect is Khuon Chanreaksmey’s primary job as a social awareness manager of the group.

To better enhance both aesthetics and content, PPS joined the PETA Mekong Partnership Program in 2005. Established in September 2004, the Program facilitates cross-border exchange, capacity building, and partnership among the Mekong performing arts communities.

“It’s a good thing we have joined PETA,” says Khuon Det. “We learned a lot from PETA, both on social issues and techniques how to create a story.”

“Distant Haze” is a product of the two-week 5th Mekong Performing Arts Laboratory 2010 conducted by PETA Mekong Partnership Program in September, says its managing director Lea Espallardo.

This year’s Laboratory focused on story building with child protection as its theme, Espallardo adds.

The Bangkok public performance serves as closing stages of the Laboratory and features other participating groups from Laos , Myanmar ( Burma ), and Thailand .

After the show on October 25, the social circus artists returned to Cambodia with a new performance piece that will surely leave audiences awed and clued up.

7 performances conclude 5th Mekong Laboratory

Photos by Dud’z Teraña, Saosoong Theatre and Crescent Moon Theatre.

PETA Mekong eNews

The 5th Mekong Performing Arts Laboratory concluded in weeklong public performances in Bangkok, Thailand.

Four performance pieces developed by Mekong artists during the two-week Laboratory in the Philippines opened the theater event that ran from October 25 to 29.

Shown at the Patravadi Theatre were Shueshu’s Diary by Wandering Moon Performing Group and Endless Journey (Thailand), Mandalay Marionette Theater’s “Raindrops from the Sky” (Myanmar), Khao Niew and Kabong Lao’s “Broken Dream” (Laos), and Phare Ponleu Selpak’s “Distant Haze” (Cambodia).

Thailand group Saosoong Theater’s “Perfect Child” ran from October 25 to 29 at the Democrazy Theatre Studio.

“The Rice Child” of Thailand’s Crescent Moon was shown from October 26 to 27 at the Crescent Moon Space, in Pridi Banomyong Institute.

The public performances have support from Save the Children through the European Union and with additional support from Terre des Hommes.

Mekong artists bring spotlight on child abuses

A circus performer from Cambodia aims an arrow at a heart-shaped balloon using her feet during rehearsals.

By Dennis Atienza Maliwanag

BANGKOK, Thailand—A circus troupe does breathtaking tricks, shadow theater groups and puppeteers mesmerize the audience. Sure they entertain, but theirs are no ordinary performances.

Artists from Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand are gathered in this city to bring the spotlight into the various issues faced by children in the Greater Mekong Sub-region, said Lea Espallardo, program director of the Peta Mekong Partnership Program.

Seven performances tell stories of trafficked and abused children through puppetry, shadow theater, circus, physical theater, satirical play, and dance drama, said Espallardo, a Bangkok-based Filipina from the Philippine Educational Theatre Association (Peta).

The public performances, set to run until Friday in Bangkok, serve as closing stages of the two-week intensive training of Mekong artists held in September in the Philippines on children rights and protection issues conducted by the Peta Mekong Partnership Program, she said.

Espallardo said the activities have support from Save the Children-UK through the European Union and with additional funding from Terre des Hommes. Read Full Story

Puppeteers of Khao Niew and Kabong Lao from Laos.

Call for applications for Arts Network Asia (ANA) grants 2011

Artists, cultural workers and arts activists interested in collaboration, networking, dialogue and exchange in Asia are now welcome to apply for the Arts Network Asia (ANA) Grants 2011 scheme.

ANA supports projects that are carried out by Asian artists, residing in Asia and projects that are to be initiated and implemented in Asia, engaging with Asian artists and arts communities. Projects that encourage provocative exchanges and collaborations between and among various cultures and communities within Asia will be considered. ANA pays attention to the contemporary experience of Asia including its relationship with traditions. This includes urban expressions, contemporary arts, contemporary arts and its relationship to traditional arts. These collaborations and exchanges with diverse cultures can be within the same country or the same city. ANA would look into the potential of local-regional-global complementation.

ANA supports projects in multiple disciplines such as performing arts, visual arts, film/video/new media, literature, critical discourse, arts management and technical arts as well as hybrid interdisciplinary projects. In considering proposals, ANA will include the following as its criteria for selection: (1) Independent and process-oriented arts projects, (2) Sustainable, long-term development programme (3) Artistic merit of the project and its positive impact on the arts communities (4) Visibility of the project e.g. physical events, project website/blog, (5) Presence of other sources of funding and (6) Proposed project should be implemented from February 2011 onwards. The ANA grants range from US$1,500 – 7,500 for each project.

Applicants are required to submit one-A4 page project proposal plus a 200-word bio/profile in PDF format via the ANA website              ( The proposal should include information on the content, philosophy and intention of the project. The deadline for the submission is 1 October 2010.

Past projects supported by ANA can be found on ANA website, these can be reviewed for reference. If there are ANA Peer Panel members residing in your country, they can also be consulted for guidance and assistance.  Peer Panel names and contacts are available on ANA website.

For further information or inquiries, please contact Manuporn Luengaram, Manager or fax on +65-6737-7013 or contact Tay Tong, Director:

About Arts Network Asia (ANA)

Arts Network Asia (ANA) is a regional and independent network of artists, cultural workers and arts activists from Asia and an enabling grant body, working across borders in multiple disciplines that encourages and supports artistic collaboration, dialogue, exchange as well as develop managerial and administrative skills within Asia. ANA is motivated by the philosophy of meaningful collaboration, distinguished by mutual respect, initiated in Asia and carried out together with Asian artists and arts communities.

ANA was found in 1999 by Ong Keng Sen, Artistic Director of TheatreWorks (Singapore).

It was hosted and managed by TheatreWorks (Singapore) from 1999 to 2003. Five Arts Centre (Malaysia) hosted the network from 2004 to 2006. Since 2007, ANA has been hosted and managed by TheatreWorks at 72-13, Singapore.

The ANA is supported by The Ford Foundation.

For more information, please visit

PETA Mekong holds 5th Performing Arts Laboratory in Philippines

PETA Mekong eNews

Fourteen performing artists from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam are arriving in Manila as the PETA Mekong Partnership Program kick-starts its annual Laboratory in the Philippines.

This year’s participants of the 5th Mekong Performing Arts Laboratory 2010 are composed of artistic and managing directors, playwrights, choreographers, actors, and puppeteers.

A representative from Save the Children UK is also joining the three-week intensive training designed to hone the participants’ artistic skills and impress upon them the need to transform their creative spaces into an arena for social advocacy.

“The theme for this year is child protection as exploitation of children is among the pressing issues confronting Mekong, a sub-region which like the Philippines is struggling to achieve its Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty,” said Lea Espallardo, director of the PETA Mekong Partnership Program.

“Children and women who live in extreme poverty are often those who experience violence, exploitation, abuse and discrimination. They easily become marginalised and are denied essential services such as health care and education reproducing cycles of poverty,” Espallardo said.

On the creative aspect, the Laboratory, to be held from September 7 to 22 in Manila with a field visit and workshop in the central Philippine province of Bohol, will focus on story development.

The training will focus on developing stories and scenarios using contemporary dance, traditional puppetry, shadow theater, circus, physical theater, and spoken drama.

The activity will culminate in public performances from October 25 to 27 in Bangkok, Thailand, she said.

The performing arts groups joining the activity are the Youth Theatre of Vietnam, Kabong Lao from the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the Mandalay Marionettes Group from Myanmar, the Phare Ponleu Selpak of Cambodia, and Thailand’s Crescent Moon Theatre, Khandha Arts, Saosoong Theatre, and The Wandering Moon.

“The Laboratory is an inter-cultural exchange and capability building programme component that provides interactive processes for artists to learn various social issues and explore ways to present them onstage,” Espallardo explains.

The Laboratory is a key component of the PETA Mekong Partnership Program, which began operating in Thailand in 2004 as part of the Philippine Educational Theater Association’s outreach program in the Mekong Sub-region.

The 5th Mekong Performing Arts Laboratory 2010 is sponsored by Save the Children UK’s Cross Border Project through the support of the European Union with additional contributions from Terre des Hommes-Germany.

Mekong Youth Empowerment Training: Utilizing the Arts to Promote Children’s Rights, Dignity

PETA Mekong eNews

Theater could be a potent tool in promoting children’s rights in multilingual and multiethnic Mekong Sub-region.

From March 22 to 31, the PETA Mekong Partnership Program and Save the Children UK’s Cross–Border Programme jointly conducted The Mekong Youth Empowerment and Leadership Training through Integrated Theatre Arts.

Twenty-four children, youth leaders and advocates from Cambodia , China , Laos, Myanmar , Thailand , and Vietnam joined the 10-day training aimed at providing participants with knowledge/perspective, skills and attitude on child rights and child protection work as young leaders in their community through the participatory arts processes.

The child participants are considered as vulnerable as many of them are children of migrant workers and refugees and are victims of trafficking and other forms of child abuses that are prevailing in the largely impoverished Mekong Sub-region.

“Utilizing the arts to communicate messages on resilience, dignity, and the rights of children is a powerful tool for engaging culture and changing social norms,” said Save the Children UK.

“The children and youth leaders responded to the training by recognizing the emotional resonance dramatic performance can provide,” it said, noting the enthusiasm displayed by participants in employing theater arts as a method for engaging children, parents, and communities.

Freelance artist-teacher Cris Anthony C. Gonzales from the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) noted the difficulty of working in a multilingual and multicultural environment.

“I had experiences in the past working with multilingual, multicultural workshops – relying on the translators to assist me in explaining the message to the participants. At the most, three translators are working at the same time. But the Mekong Youth Leadership training is bringing in eight translators to work for six countries, posing a great challenge for me,” said Gonzales.

“But with my fascination on human communication processes, the seemingly big obstacle posed by language barrier became an opportunity for me to observe how a group of young people deal with the language obstacle and overcome it at the end of the training,” he said.

“Being a cultural worker, I was inspired to provide the group with a space where they can discover and explore the different means of expression—for them to experience to be more creative and use their imagination (think out of the box) without relaying too much on language translation (hence storytelling through visual and movement popped into my mind),” said Gonzales.

“I would like to partake in their journey towards discovering the potentials of art and theater in constructing meanings from personal and group experiences. Hopefully through the workshop, the group can use these different forms of expression in finding and asserting their unique voice and dreams,” he added.

Save the Children-UK recognized that while the group of leaders was well versed on child rights, discussing them through new formats allowed them to connect and internalize the information in new ways.

“Working with our regional partner, the Philippine Education Theater Association, the young leaders first approached their own understanding of child rights through the reflective lens of art based activities,” it said.

“In addition to technical training in performance arts such as acting, mime, art installations, and shadow theatre, the children and youth developed their leadership and organizational capacity,” the international nongovernment organization said.

Allowing participants to explore their ideas, arts training breaks down fears and empowers people, it said.

Gonzales said the participants were “able to find their voice and expression using the language of arts and theater.”

“Despite the language barrier, both the participants and facilitators were challenged to be more creative, tolerant and united in pursuing the group’s collective goal—a theater performance as final showcase. The 10-day training was indeed an enriching experience for the whole group,” he said.

Towards the end of the training a youth leader from Cambodia remarked: “This training has made me brave…I have learned methods to work with abused children and with orphans and vulnerable children who are very quiet. There are ways to communicate, actually there are a variety of ways, I just didn’t recognise them.”

Weaving Culture, Weaving Lives: The 2009 Mekong Arts and Media Festival in Phnom Penh

Photos by Ludovic Gueriaud and Phoonsab Thevongsa

By Pornrat Damrhung
PETA Mekong eNews

(Abridged version)

During the first Mekong Performing Arts Laboratory in Manila in 2005, I asked the question why Manila-based PETA was chosen to run a program that deals with the peoples and cultures of the Mekong sub-region, which covers such ethnically and culturally diverse countries as Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Towards the end of 2009, the fifth year of PETA’s handling of this program, the answer to that question has become much clearer to me. PETA has been using its special blend of talent, skill, and experience to develop artists to work in the communities they are part of.

They provide hands-on help in building a network of artists from across the Mekong sub-region that is multicultural, transnational, creative, energetic, interactive, and starting to show signs of being self-sustaining.

My participation in the 2009 Mekong Arts & Media Festival showed that not only does PETA have a long history of organized advocacy theater and strong management skills, it also has more things to offer to participants from the Mekong sub-region that they can use in their own work, and which indeed they have done during the last five years. The fruits of their labor and collaboration with artists and others from Mekong and beyond were ripe at the 2009 Festival in Phnom Penh.

As a fitting opening, the festival began with a parade of young artists, showing through their classical music and dance, and guiding a gigantic naga (Sanskrit and Pāli word for a deity or class of entity or being, taking the form of a very great snake—specifically the King Cobra, found in Hinduism and Buddhism) and two big elephant puppets, along with a real and famous Phnom Penh elephant parading through the Cambodian capital. The artists also showed circus talent and exciting music for the general public. The whole festival was interspersed with various art exhibitions, circus shows, classical dance pieces, and international events from six countries bordering the great Mekong River and other countries from Asia.

All the youth programs were run by young people who brought leadership skills given them by their work with PETA in the last five years, while artists from different countries shared new techniques and knowledge, and collaborated with these young people on stories, arts and experiences.

The Festival brought the city of Phnom Penh to life in great spirit, and energized the streets and the people with joy through the power of the youth. Most of the local kids attending the Festival came from the Phare Ponleu Selpak in Battambang.

As I worked in the formal Festival conference and observed the other activities, I saw and listened to diverse artists and scholars from Japan, Cambodia, China, Myanmar, and Thailand as they showed their work and shared their innovative ways of creating and collaborating with their communities.

Around 270 delegates came to this festival to perform and share their art, knowledge and progress in their thinking and form; many were involved in the previous laboratories. Many of them learned from the laboratory the importance of good management to create an environment for creating dance, theater, and puppet performances that would inspire society, provoke questions even as they entertain audiences.

After working for five years with PETA, the confidence and abilities of these artists-cum-managers have matured considerably. Most of the young artists – especially those from Phare Ponleu Selpak – have become full-grown teenagers or young adults and are now strong circus artists. During the festival, these artists inspired each other and most clearly learned from and shared with each other.

I now realize the benefits of PETA’s involvement in the Mekong Partnership Project better. PETA works through others. It also gives opportunities for young artists to grow and learn from senior artists about channeling inspiration and creativity with discipline and management to do arts projects that are both fun and suit their local audiences.

Most aspects of the projects deal with young people as artists collaborating in workshops aiming to promote self-esteem, empowerment and health education needed in communities along the Mekong river. They also share ways of fundraising and managing the organization to promote and clarify the needs and works of the artists and their communities, helping to make other people become aware of their work.

Pornrat Damrhung is an Associate Professor at the Department of Dramatic Arts of the Chulalongkorn University in Thailand. She is alo a stage director.

It was wonderful to see the various peoples of the Mekong sub-region mingling together through the support and care of PETA which also saw the value of opening up the festival to artists from Singapore, Indonesia, and Japan. We know that creating a self-sustaining partnership takes time, and PETA has laid the foundations of doing just this.

The hard question “why PETA for the Mekong?” has also another answer. The program and the participants benefited from the activities and the laboratories and the festival provided them a distinctive blend of PETA’s passion for the arts, its sincere and deep concern for others, its practical set of managerial and organizational skills, and its outsiders’ look and international perspective.

When we are seated together in a room, we don’t know and don’t deal with who is part of and not part of the Mekong sub-region, since we all are part of a common working process aiming to improve the lives of those in the Mekong area through better creativity, organization, and inspiration.

*This is an abridged version of an article with the same title that forms part of a publication summing-up Peta Mekong Partnership’s five year work in the Mekong Subregion.

The Festival was made possible with support from The Rockefeller Foundation, Save the Children-UK through the European Union, and Japan Foundation with additional scholarship support from Terre des Hommes-Germany, Heinrich Boell Foundation, Center for Community Health Research & Development, and World Vision.