One of the country’s highly regarded theater companies, the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), is celebrating its golden year in the industry this month. Known for mounting plays that imbued empowerment and development, the company’s early productions were assertions of their radical views of creating and performing plays in Filipino.

Cecile Guidote-Alvarez / Image: vimeo.com

Founded by Cecile Guidote-Alvarez on April 7, 1967, the vision then was for PETA to engage in the development of people and society. When Guidote-Alvarez was forced to go on a political exile when Martial Law was declared in 1972, the new breed of artist-teacher-leaders continued to steer the company towards a People’s Theater committed to social change. Most of their plays were staged at the historic Dulaang Rajah Sulayman, an open-air theater designed by National Artist Leandro V. Locsin. By the 90’s, it boasted of a solid record of some 300 plays written, translated, adapted, published and performed, which shaped the company’s theater history, enriching it through theater forms and techniques that expressed local, national and universal themes.

Among PETA’s earlier plays were: Bayaning Huwad, Larawan, May-i,May-i, Hanggang Dito na Lamang at Maraming Salamat, Juan Tamban, Pilipinas Circa 1907, Ang Buhay ni Galileo, Macbeth, Canuplin, Macliing, Minsa’y Isang Gamu-Gamo, Ang Paglalakbay ni Radya Mangandiri, and 1896.

Joel Lamangan / Image : InterAksyon.com
Maryo J. delos Reyes / Image: mubi.com

In 2005, PETA moved to a permanent home, The PETA Theater Center. A landmark in Philippine Arts and Culture, the center now serves as a physical base for the entire gamut of PETA undertakings, from professional theater repertory performances, year round workshops and its community and outreach programs. In this new abode, it continued to mount out-of-the box, cutting-edge productions with relevant issues that engaged its urban audiences. Its modern repertoire ranged from fresh adaptations of world classics like Haring Lear, Arbol de Fuego (Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard), to staging iconic children’s theater productions like Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang, and Batang Rizal. Most recently, the company has also explored the use of modern pop music to maintain the connection with its evolving audience, like Skin Deep, William, Care Divas and its phenomenal musical hit Rak of Aegis.

As a kick-off of their whole month anniversary celebration, there will be a morning ritual and blessing of its original home, the Rajah Sulayman Theater, on April 7 (Friday), followed by a concert at the PETA Theater Center.And for the rest of the birthday month, there will be workshops and other activities.

Aside from the founder, other theater and film luminaries who are considered alumni of the theater company, and are still active today include Maryo J. Delos Reyes, Joel Lamangan, Soxy Topacio, Rody Vera (the writer of the internationally award-winning film Die Beautiful), Nanding Josef, CB Garrucho, Bodgie Pascua, Lutgardo “Gardy” Labad, to name a few. And of course, the legendary national artist, Lino Brocka.

Lino Broca / Image: Moneymax.ph

To know deeply the reasons why PETA is still relevant today, we asked some active members of the group, RB Andres (Senior PETA Artist-Teacher-Member), and Bong Billones (PETA School of People’s Theater Director), the TOP 8 Reasons why the company has lasted for 50 years. And here are their answers…

  1. Creativity and imagination are limitless. As long as humans are alive and functional, PETA unleashes creativity and imagination which can be potent tools for expression, critical thinking, and solving problems.

  1. Theater is a mirror of life. PETA produces a cultural space where an individual and the society examine themselves in a mirror, reflecting on social-political-economic-cultural challenges that confront us, and further provides possibilities to act on those challenges.

  1. Theater is fun and an evocative educational process. PETA lets people joyfully experience life-long learning on persons, places, and ideas that we may not know of, or that we may not be deeply familiar with.

  1. Theater is a form of self-expression. PETA provides a venue for people to express freely and more effectively, enabling them to communicate their feelings, thoughts, and actions to others, improving relationships and the world around us.

  1. Theater empowers. PETA believes that each individual has a gold mine within one self, a creative power which when unleashed will be able to capacitate herself/himself and can engage others towards positive change, transformation, and development.

  1. Theater is a collaborative process. PETA lives as a family and community of writers, directors, actors, singers, movers, dancers, choreographers, visual artists, production designers, lighting designers, stage managers, production managers, marketers, publicists, stage hands, curriculum developers, workshop facilitators, among others, collaborating on any theatrical production, workshop, festivals. conferences, and other events. PETA’s audiences and workshop participants complete such collaboration wherein it also learns from them.

  1. Theater is people-oriented. PETA acknowledges the creative power of one self, recognizes, respects, and defends human rights, as well as the environment.

  1. Theater is culture-sensitive. PETA evolves from the depth and wealth of the people’s history, and engenders a strong cultural identity united by the recognition and respect for local and international cultural diversity.
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