NORMAN Boquiren’s Mayang Bubot sa Tag-araw — one of the main plays in this year’s Virgin Labfest (VLF) theater festival — tackles the problems encountered in an Ayta community, focusing on how the Indigenous People’s community values ancestral land and livelihood.

It follows two Ayta children whose friendship is tested as they choose different paths. One follows her mother as she seeks the American dream, while the other remains with the community, working against oppression.

The story draws inspiration from the playwright’s experience during immersion activities with community advocates for Indigenous People (IP).

“Ito ay sinulat ko para ibigay sa [IP community] (I wrote it as an offering for the IP community),” Mr. Boquiren told BusinessWorld in a Zoom interview on May 27. He noted that the script went through various changes over three years of visits to the Ayta community.

“‘Yung lupaing ninuno provides para sa kanila. Sila, bilang katutubong Ayta, alam nila na sila ay parang mga isda na inalis mo sa tubig kapag inalis mo kami sa lupang ninuno (The ancestral land provides for them. They, as native Aytas, know that they are like a fish out of water if they are removed from their ancestral land),” Mr. Boquiren said.

“[In the story], may pagta-traydor (there is a betrayal) that happened within the community,” he added, which involves issues that arise when the rich buy ancestral land.

The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA) states that native title to domain and rights shall be recognized and respected. Section 4 of RA 8371 states that: “All areas within ancestral domains, whether delineated or not, are presumed to be communally owned and, pursuant to the indigenous concept of ownership, could not be sold, disposed nor destroyed.”

Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Virgin Labfest, the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ festival of new, unstaged one-act plays, is going online this year, with live streamed performances and readings, among others. This has meant that the productions behind the various plays have had to adapt to an unfamiliar digital environment.

This has been a daily challenge for the artists behind Mayang Bubot sa Tag-araw, who have had to figure out how to block scenes and help actors connect with co-actors in the virtual world.

Isa siyang malawakang at matagal na pangangapa,” the play’s director Mark Mirando said. (It is a long process that we are still groping through.)

Mr. Mirando noted that as a director for documentary theater, part of his job is visiting the communities and talking to people for dramaturgical data, but the quarantine has made this impossible. Instead he turned to Mr. Boquiren and fellow advocates who shared their experiences and insights with the production team.

Mr. Mirando said that the experience with this play has made the production team realize the value of physical connection. “Sobrang halaga niya sa proseso ng pagtutulay ng kwento sa teatro (It is very important in the process of bringing a story to the theater).”

As outsiders, Mssrs. Boquiren and Mirando hope to tell the story of these IPs without romanticising and get the audience to understand the struggles of the IP communities

“No to developmental aggression, protect the IP [community],” Mr. Mirando said.

Opaline Santos, Ji-Ann Lachica, Janna Cortes, and Irish Shane Legaspi make up the play’s cast.

Mayang Bubot sa Tag-araw will stream live on June 12, 5 p.m., and June 23, 2 p.m.

Aside from the plays and staged readings, viewers can also catch the VLF Playwright’s Fair online, with this year’s playwrights talking about their work on June 11-14, 17-20, 25-27 at 8 p.m. Meanwhile, the Virgin Labfest 2020 Writing Fellowship Program will culminate in an online staged reading of the fellows’ works on June 28 at 2 and 5 p.m.

For more details and show schedules, visit and, or join — Michelle Anne P. Soliman