Urban poor performing group stages war on drugs documentary theater

“Sa Digma ng Halimaw is a collaboration not only between us theater practitioners but more importantly, with them who have told us their stories and allowed us to retell them- they are the heart of the play.”


Come September, Tanghalang Mulong Sandoval, the performance programme of urban poor artists group SIKAD will be kicking-off its staging of “Sa Digma ng Halimaw” (the monster’s war) a documentary theater about Duterte’s war on drugs.

SIKAD or Sining Kadamay is the same group responsible for the plays “Nanay Mameng, isang dula” in 2014 and 2015, “Gapok” (brittle/fragile) and the staged reading of Chris Millado’s Martial Law classic “Buwan at Baril sa Eb Major” in 2016. The former is about the life and times of urban poor icon Carmen Deunida and was staged in Polytechnic University of the Philippines and in Miriam College, while the latter was a short play that zeroed in on an urban poor family’s struggles in the midst of an impending demolition. Gapok was performed in different communities in Caloocan City and Quezon
City and was also staged in University of the Philippines-Manila. The staged reading of Buwan at Baril was performed in St. Vincent’s School of Theology in commemoration of Martial Law.

In the upcoming Sa Digma ng Halimaw, the group under the artistic direction of Edwin Quinsayas tackles the war on drugs through the point of view of people directly affected by it in the form of documentary theater. According to Quinsayas, “Documentary theatre is a form of theatre in which interviews, sworn statements or texts from other related documents are used as the material for the script.” For “Sa Digma ng Halimaw,” the scripts come in a form of a series of monologues of mothers of victims, a daughter whose parents were killed on the same day, a social worker, and of
survivors. “So far, we have seven stories we are working on but it’s a work in- progress so there can be more. We plan to stage the monologues as separate stand-alone pieces, as a full-length play and we are also exploring monodrama,” Quinsayas added.

From ‘them’ and with ‘them’

The media has extensively covered the war on drugs since day one, informing and showing the world images and narratives of the almost daily carnage that is already at more than 20,000. Last August 16, it was teenager Kian delos Santos first death anniversary. It can be remembered that his death sparked massive protest actions from different sectors. Kian’s death was among the many high- profile stories about the victims of the said war.

However, for Tanghalang Mulong Sandoval, there remains a vast number of unexplored angles and stories. For Tey Lopez, who is among the playwrights involved in the production, telling the stories of the victims according to their mothers, daughters or friends who knew them, outside the limits of what the media can show, spells a lot of difference. “When we tell their stories word for word, according to how they say it, we can see further how much deeper their pains are, how much braver they are and more importantly, how much more they want to fight this war,” Lopez said.

Among the monologues is that of a daughter remembering the love story of her parents, how sweet they were at each other and how her father loved her mother so much. She remembers teasing them for being too corny for their age. And then one day, they were both dragged in view of everyone in the community, and later their bodies found in two separate sites. She recalls fighting the funeral home personnel for her right to touch her parents’ bodies.

Another monologue is that of a mother whose only son was killed while drinking with his friends. Trembling, she arrived at the crime scene, braved the frenzy of police officers and neighbors surrounding his son and made sure the policemen do not find any gun on his child’s hand. Until now, she talks to her son when she is alone at home, wishing she can still sing with him their favorite Barbara Streisand song.

Tanghalang Mulong Sandoval is also involving the ‘sources’ themselves in the process of the production and in the actual show. For the group, it is important that the audience sees the faces behind the monologues, at least some of them. Quinsayas said that, “Sa Digma ng Halimaw is a collaboration not only between us theater practitioners but more importantly, with them who have told us their stories and allowed us to retell them- they are the heart of the play.” Right now, some of them are taking part in the devising of the performance. “They are giving us so much and it is so great to have them on the set and to see them so empowered and willing to tell their stories in any way they could,” Quinsayas added.

Sa Digma ng Halimaw will preview on September 22, 2018 and will run until December 10th in different venues. It is in cooperation with Rise Up for Rights and for Life. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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