bells of balangiga 2006 - first workshop

bells of balangiga 2006 - first workshop
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culling from memory: explaining what the small town of guinsaugon in leyte is like.

it's a little difficult trying to piece together stock knowledge of the war in the pacific and the present war in iraq, especially if you involve about 20 different minds from three generations and several different working backgrounds. try adding the latest from leyte, and you have quite a session, a lot more fun than flipping through a textbook or reading online.

along with staging the play, "bells of balangiga," pintig cultural group has scheduled three workshops to give the play's historic background. the first workshop this past saturday is titled, "Revisiting the Bells of Balangiga: History of the Philippines and U.S. Relations."

actors, support crew, and anyone interested in the philippines gave it a shot. they sat in a circle and took pieces of paper and wrote down questions regarding the play, the second world war, the spanish rule, the bells themselves - anything about philippine history.

from the circle, they took a chair out.

the person standing recites his question. everyone answers. this is where most of the knowledge is shared - and this is why the workshop was also a little confusing. expertly executed, but because everyone had to rely on stock knowledge, the end result resembles the underside of a quilt - messy, confusing, tattered, but if you step back and don't try too hard, the distinct pattern presents itself.

the play begins shortly after the spanish leave the town of balangiga on the island of samar, after the u.s. had acquired the philippines, puerto rico, guam and cuba for $20 million. president mckinley had just executed manifest destiny for the philippines, sending troops. u.s. soldiers were weak from war in china, homesick and rationing supplies. town leaders knew a little spanish, and did not hesitate to use this language to pretend they didn't understand the u.s. soldiers' motives in setting up shop on their coast town. this is the setting at the time when american soldiers seized the balangiga bells.

we went a little further - why did the u.s. go to the philippines? we thought the u.s. wanted a solid base in asia because they needed the untapped economic powerhouse, china. to do that, they needed to stop japan from raiding asia, another reason to take the philippines. poor philippines, so decimated and colonized by the u.s., she has a hard time digging in the landslid mud for buried relatives. she has a hard time saying no to corporations who would give them a little income at least for now. she still clings to her u.s. ties up until now, depending on remittances from relatives overseas. the estranged relatives (not all live in the u.s.) in turn swallow shame and ridicule and scrub floors or work nights and weekends and live on books and rock bands and food and culture and news and memories of home.

if i had to personalize the workshop, it made me consider a certain joint graduate program at berkeley even more. (now, how do i pay for that program again? ahahaha. ...)

as soon as the current question is satisfied, the person standing continues the game by yelling "GO!" everyone then plays musical chairs. i knocked down a person, yelled "YOU CHEATED!" three times to three different people, and laughed and panicked everytime. there's justice in my actions coz someone had to play madwoman. hehehe.

we played until we ran out of time.

the next workshop is scheduled this weekend, Saturday, Feb. 25: "Revisiting the Bells of Balangiga: Confronting Contemporary Issues: Immigration, Veterans Rights and Gender Issues." 3 p.m. Insight Arts, 1545 W. Morse Ave. Contact: 773-973-1521.
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