VLF 2020: What pushes women to the battlefield

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A PLAYWRIGHT who is participating in the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Virgin Labfest (VLF) theater festival for the first time, is presenting a play that portrays women involved in war.

In Daryl Pasion’s Papaano Turuan ang Babae Humawak ng Baril, a man returns home to his pregnant wife after an encounter with the New People’s Army. The sweet homecoming turns sour when the wife is confronted with her husband’s impossible request.

Directed by Erika Estacio, the play is set in a fictional village and presents the experiences of farmers who live near army detachment areas. After the couple — played by Lhorvie Nuevo and Eshei Mesina — reunite, the conversation escalates into an argument between the couple about their current situation.

Ang kwento ay tungkol sa dinaranas ng mga magsasaka na nakatira sa isang maliit na baryo kung saan may nagkakampo na mga militar at kung paano sila naiipit sa mga bakbakan ng mga rebelde at mga militar (The story is about the experiences of farmers who live in a small village near military camps, and how they get caught up in the attacks between the rebels and military),” Mr. Pasion said in a Zoom interview with BusinessWorld on May 25.

Mr. Pasion said that he decided to write about the issue out of frustration.

The New People’s Army, better known as the NPA, is the military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Established in 1969, it operates in rural areas around the country, often clashing with the military. In 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Proclamation No. 374, declaring the NPA as a terrorist organization.

Makikita natin sa mga balita na mababaw ‘yung nagiging diskursyo pagdating sa bakbakan ng mga rebelde at militar (We can see in the news that the discourse is shallow regarding the attacks between rebels and the military),” said the playwright, adding that news reports often focused only on the number of deaths and where the attacks happen.

In writing his first play, Mr. Pasion referred to studies of locations with a military presence and news articles. He also interviewed his mother about their relatives who worked as farmers in Nueva Ecija.

Afterwards, he had it read by female friends, including a journalist from Davao who covers stories on farmer’s experiences, to gain a woman’s perspective since the story center’s on a woman’s point of view.

Napaka-defamiliarizing noong image [of women in war]. Gaano kasahol ‘yung lipunang ginagalawan ng babae para magawa siyang itulak patungo sa karahasan? (The image of women in war is defamiliarizing. How worse is a society where women are forced into violence?).”

Thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Virgin Labfest, which focuses on new, unstaged one-act plays, is going online this year, with live streamed performances and readings, among others.

Papaano Turuan ang Babae Humawak ng Baril will stream live on June 13, 3 p.m. and June 24, 8 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 https://www.facebook.com/culturalcenterofthephilippines/ and https://www.facebook.com/thevirginlabfest/, or join https://www.facebook.com/groups/VLFTambayan/. Michelle Anne P. Soliman