A young artist’s journey ‘from the theater to the streets’

Photo by Jacinto Lingatong

June Cortes, a University of the Philippines Los Baños student, shares insights of his journey from the stage of Isko’t Iska to the streets of Bonifacio Day mobilization.


SANTA CRUZ, Laguna – “As an artist, it should be understood that art is not done for art’s sake only. It should bear the responsibility to enlighten and mobilize the masses through progressive art.”

This is the statement of June Cortes, a development communication student at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) in an interview with Bulatlat.

He played one of the major roles in Isko’t Iska, an annual play that has been a part of UPLB’s tradition since the ‘70s.

The play weaves together the struggles of the different sectors in society, addressing issues from education budget cuts to the struggle for genuine land reform for farmers and higher pay for workers.

This year’s Isko’t Iska highlighted the situation of activists in the Southern Tagalog region who continuously face trumped-up charges, especially on the Anti-Terror Law.

As a graduate of a science high school, Cortes said that Isko’t Iska provided a platform for his passion for the performing arts and the deepening of his engagement on social issues.

“I personally experienced this draconian law as did my character in the play. I have come to realize that we need to remain steadfast despite the intensified human rights violations in our country,” said Cortes.

Isko, the character he plays, mirrors the struggle of human rights defenders. Cortes acknowledged the challenges of portraying a character deeply entwined with the political state of the country, emphasizing the inevitable doubts about the future in the face of numerous crises.

Photo by Jacinto Lingatong

“The ending of Isko’t Iska challenged all sectors in society to participate in the struggle for freedom. I accepted the challenge and participated in the Bonifacio Day mobilization,” Cortes said.

Transitioning from the success of ‘Isko’t Iska,’ Cortes embraced the call to action embedded in the play by participating in the Bonifacio Day mobilization. He emphasized that art should not merely serve an aesthetic purpose but should also mobilize and awaken people to the social realities.

“It definitely was a fulfilling feeling to perform along with other sectors. I remember watching a flag dance performed by children from a peasant community,” Cortes shared.

“I interacted with people from different provinces and sectors in the Southern Tagalog region. I get to resonate with their struggles and of course the need to represent them well,” he added.

He expressed how he felt an uplifted spirit while he was in solidarity with the different sectors, emphasizing the continued challenge for the youth and the artist sector to use art to strengthen collective movements.

As a message to fellow artists, Cortes called for the recognition of the importance of the arts in the struggle.

“The youth should advance art from the city to the countryside, from the theater to the streets,” said Cortes. (RTS, JJE) (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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