ISA Pioneers in Theater-for-the-Scripture Workshop at Carmelite Parish
On Saturday, September 28, 2019 the Institute of Spirituality in Asia (ISA) hosted a lecture-workshop on “Creative Communication of the Word of God” at the Sagrada Familia Parish Church in Quezon City.
Fr. Sheldon Tabile, O.Carm., ISA Director for Academics/Research and Publications, welcomed the 50 participants ranging from the youth group to the officers and members of mandated organizations and ministries.
He pointed out, “We know that one of the problems of the youth today is depression, and we also know that this is a field d where the Scripture can help. We believe it is important to study the Bible so that we can convey it creatively and help parishioners to understand it.”
ISA invited Mr. Fredyl Hernandez, theater artist-educator, cultural worker and facilitator for community and youth, to be the speaker-resource person-module writer at the activity.
Mr. Hernandez is a senior artist-teacher of the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), a recipient of the Titus Brandsma Media Freedom Award of the Philippine Carmelite Province of Blessed Titus Brandsma.
Mr. Hernandez recalled that this was his third time to speak at ISA activities. The first was at the Mt. Carmel College in Agusan del Sur during the presidency of Fr. Tabile there, and the second was at the 19th Spirituality Forum held earlier this year in August with “Love, Power and Grace: Conversations on spirituality with the young people” as theme.
Outside of ISA, his most recent engagement was the Community Youth Theater component of the Rehearsing Democracy and Resiliency Human Rights Education and Advocacy Using the Arts partnership of PETA with the Diocese of Kalookan.
Drawing on the Theater for Development Program of PETA for community and youth groups around the Philippines, Mr. Hernandez worked with the participants at Sagrada Familia Parish to conceptualize how to act out three pre-selected materials in his module for the session: The Lord’s Prayer, the Gospel the next day (Lazarus and the Rich Man) and a hymn praising the Creator with the following chorus:
Itaas na ang mga mata
Sa Panginoong lumikha
Ng mga lupa at tala,
Ng gabi at ng araw.
Itaas na sa kanya
Mga himig at kanta
Lahat ay ialay sa kanya.
“Let’s familiarize ourselves with the music so that we may think of movements for it and for the objects that we will carry as we dance,” he urged the neophyte artists.
That morning he drew out the talents of parishioners Patricia Nicole Aying, at eight already a fourth grader instead of the usual Grade 2, and those as experienced as Roger Emperado, a member of the Knights of Columbus and an entrepreneur who crafts what he described as laminated tables.
From them Mr. Hernandez elicited spontaneity team work and creativity in working with minimal but meaningful props such as a statue of San Lorenzo Ruiz, youthful catechist-martyr, held high by a group of mostly-youth participants during what is called in secular television parlance as a visualized jingle.
That morning the resource person also wove-in theater production principles and practices into the participants’ planning, initial rehearsals, blocking, refinement of movements, dry run and finalization.
ISA Academic Assistant Joy Kialkial and ISA Research and Publications Coordinator Joe Marie Dela Torre helped replay the Lord’s Prayer and the hymn of praise during practice, and recorded the performance-level outputs.
ISA General Services and Maintenance Staff Susan Quilang who volunteers every Sunday at nearby San Isidro Labrador Parish also run by the Philippine Province of Blessed Titus Brandsma, pitched in to complete the required number of eight members of one of the groups.
On the part of Sagrada Familia, a parishioner undertook a “from the top” and a “follow subject (s)” i-phone documentation, as did parish priest Fr. Arnel Glodobe, O. Carm., at times from the choir loft.
As noontime came, everyone held hands, formed a circle of joy and welcomed the pledge of the Worship Ministry to integrate the three production numbers into parish activities in anticipation of Fr. Glodobe’s mandate and in response to a suggestion by Bro. Manny Barlis, O.Carm, a vocation product of nearby San Isidro Parish.
Fr. Glodobe and ISA Administrative Officer Sr. Corazon Untal, Carm.O.L. then presented Mr. Herrnandez a plaque of appreciation and a number of ISA publications, including Song of the Babaylan: Living Voices, Medicines, Spiritualities of Philippine Ritualist-Oralist Healers by Dr. Grace Nono, his co-graduate from the Philippine High School for the Arts.
Asked by Mr. Hernandez for comments, the participants said they were happy for the training, challenged but fulfilled by it, delighted to discover their talents (“at our age,” said the seniors), grateful for a new way to show Scripture, and sobered by the realization “how hard it is to work in show biz.”
The session was moderated by Dr. Carmen Alviar, retired professor from the University of Santo Tomas and ISA volunteer for external linkages.
Perla Aragon-Choudhury; 29 September 2019