By Junelie Anthony Velonta | Feature Writer
Vol. XCI No. 11
Dec. 6, 2019
Peace is often defined as the absence of violence. For the peoples who are constantly bombarded by threats, this is very much true. A peaceful day, for them, would be a day when the ringing blast of gunfire is not heard, or at least, the threat of guns firing is not present. Peace, for them, is safety.
Peace, however, is not one-dimensional. Some aspects of peace are lost when it is defined through the lense of violence and fear. While the concept may seem strange at first, peace could also be shown through the arts. In the movements, visuals, and music, there is a type of peace that is slowly spun like a thread, waiting for the audience to weave them into tapestry. As such, “Tales from Mindanao” aims to untangle this thread, awakening a forgotten type of peace deep within the Filipino spirit.
Performers enter the stage as the symphony of instruments culminates into the introductory speech. They simulate parts of their performance as they form groups, all perfectly to the beat. Both the symphony and the routines are halted as the greenhorn enters and interrupts. With every interruption the greenhorn makes, he learns the steps and routines. The music grows livelier with every note and motion until—silence.
Swaying to an unheard rhythm, the stage comes alive with the performer’s dances: like slow waves on a moonlit night. Ebbs and tides repeat as hands and feet move both in the birth and rebirth of steps, connecting to each other without seams and tears. Everything slows to an almost halt until—AHA! The music begins anew!
Perhaps, “Tales from Mindanao” shines best in its near pauseless transition from near silence to a blast of indigenous energy. Throughout the whole show, masterful emphasis was given to two aspects of Mindanawon culture: deep personal introspection and colorful, energetic celebration. Initially, both aspects stand almost opposite to each other. The silence emphasizing the resurgence of music. As the show moves on, however, silent introspection is inserted between routines full of energy and emotion. One thing then becomes apparent. Silence and energy do not clash; and, in their mutual existence, there is peace.
Identity in Movement
It is said that art could make a person cry, that it invokes emotions not encompassed by words. One such emotion was explored by “Tales from Mindanao.” It asks: How could you feel a longing for something that you could never achieve, but you know is part of who you are?
The middle part of the show is an exploration of this question. It does not attempt to answer it. There were no attempts to relieve this wordless and nameless longing. Yet, the show flaunts itself all the same. The movements and songs reflect the ancient Filipino culture and spirit—long thought to be dead within the modern urbanite lifestyles.
Every sway reaches deep into the watcher’s ancestry. As the steps start and end, it shows that no other people in the world are suited to them—that only those with the stature and blood of the Filipino could accomplish such wonders of the body. The audience is left in want. They knew that they, and only them can sway their hips that way, and move their legs like the performer’s do, for the same blood from generations upon generations ago flow through their very veins. They find themselves in the music, savoring every note and melody as if they were part of who they are. In that specific form, using instruments calling back to the ancient musicians, the beat flows in their bodies the same way that it flows in the performers. But they are left in their seats disappointed. For they choose the urbanite lifestyle, dressed in clothes patterned for the Western body, in a lifestyle far removed from the cultures their ancestors fought hard to keep. All they could do is see it, appreciate it. They watch as a portion of a culture that they could have inherited come alive in a splash of color and emotion, knowing fully that they could not live it. They know the music. They feel the dances. But they are all foreign to it.
Peace through Unity
There is harmony found in the union of music and movement. As the notes hit, travelling through the chilled air and echoing from the wooden walls, the stage too, springs to life in complement.The show climaxed with colors and music that was as alive as it would’ve been hundreds of years ago. Each step and sway appeal to the minutiae of the music. In the same way, the absence of movement often elevate the emotions of the music. In their mutual existence there is unity. That, however, isn’t overtly shown.
Ironically, it was the show that did sooth the pain it gave in the first place. While there was no attempt to heal the wounds the audience never knew they had, a resolution came. The culture was alive and shared. The knowledge that it won’t die just yet was enough to patch the pain.
In the end, it was the satisfaction that this pain has been patched that united the audience. The show began its end in festivities–a celebration of the fact that it is alive. As the performers began to bow, it was then the audience that performed back. Like the music to the dance, it was the almost unending applause that complemented such a sweet end. Peace through the arts was not some pretentious concept that only the wealthy snobs could pretend to understand. That peace was there. Everyone saw it. Without words, united only by what they saw and felt, most of the audience stayed even after the “curtains closed” perhaps trying to bring home a part of the show home–a part of themselves they only found right there, Peace. When the people clapped in rhythm with the closing music, some in their seats, and a few standing up. They were expressing their wish as a people: they want peace, they want the culture they never lived. For it to live on longer than their remaining lives, and what sliver of peace and the culture they felt and witnessed in the show made them realize that. In the end, a wordless peace was there, and it was within everyone all along.