Introducing GAPOK: Tanghalang Mulong Sandoval’s new short play on urban poverty

Written by Terence Krishna Lopez for Sining Kadamay’s theatre arm Tanghalang Mulong Sandoval, Gapok is a short play about an urban poor family confronting their conflicts one morning as the community is facing demilition from state forces and a private corporation.

 

Photos from GAPOK’s Official Facebook Page

“Gapok” which can mean brittle, fragile or weak is used as metaphor to describe how the lives of the urban poor are treated by the government and its private partners. Often, for the state and these private corporations, the urban poor are eye sores that must be swept away from the margins where they live to relocation sites that are far away from their sources of livelihood and basic social services. On the other hand, their shanties become the literal translation of the word “Gapok.”

The play is conceptualized as an on-site performance. The site of the performances being the literal urban poor communities in Quezon City, Caloocan City and Rodriguez, Rizal.

Against the backdrop of the government’s inhumanity and the continuing forced eviction and violent demolition of urban poor communities, “Gapok” happens one morning. Lourdes and her two sons Joseph and Jessie are in a heated argument about a decision that may change their lives in the community. And as their confrontation inside their shanty escalates – the state forces and demolition teams arrive, the community prepares to set up a barricade. In an instant, the family has to face the result of the ongoing eviction. As state forces start to shoot, and as the people stand their ground and chaos ensues outside, the situation inside the shanty gets more tensed and a bomb is about to explode. A tragedy is about to arrive. Jessie, Joseph and Lourdes decide.

The play touches different issues that the urban poor families deal with everyday, through the conversations inside the family’s shanty such as lack of livelihood opportunities, inaccessibility of basic social services, etc.

 

Objectives of the play

The play aims to:

  • Strengthen advocacy of urban poor issues amid glaring physical and economic violence perpetuated by the government and its private partners through inhuman labor practices, low wages and continuing evictions
  • Help educate and raise awareness among the urban poor, students and professionals on the conditions and struggles of the urban poor sector in order to foster solidarity.
  • Utilize theatre as a means of organizing and mobilizing urban poor communities
  • Generate funds for the continuing community-based cultural work of Sikad and its performance arm Tanghalang Mulong Sandoval

 

 

The Creative team

Playwright and co-director Terence Krishna Valdez Lopez studied BA Development Studies in the University of the Philippines. He is a cultural worker, writer, and the head of the Cultural Development program of Urban Poor Resource Center of the Philippines. He is also the coordinator of Sining Kadamay/SIKAD. He is a founding member of Art Action Network, a network of independent theatre practitioners aiming at devoting skills and time for marginalized sectors’ advocacies. He is also one of the movers of “Cinema is Incomplete”, a free film screening and conversations program that has screened over a hundred films including the works of Lav Diaz and Mes de Guzman among others. He is also currently in pre-production on his two other plays that tackle urban poor issues and struggles- “Bago Matapos ang Gabi,” (Before the Night Ends) and Ningas.

Co-director Edwin Quinsayas is a theatre actor, director and contemporary dance artist. He is a founding member of Art Action Network and a member of Sikad. Among Quinsayas’ directorial works are the two productions of Nanay Mameng, isang dula; Pitong Sundang a dance theater staged in the University of the Philippines, Polytechnic University of the Philippines and Ateneo De Manila University and Leksyon sa Eleksyon which was with Miriam College’s Institutional Network for Social Action (INSA). He is currently the board secretary and company member of Chameleon Dance Theatre.

The show’s lights designer is Kristine Razo Malagueño who has illuminated shows of Tanghalang Pilipino, Ballet Philippines, Sinagbayan and Art Action Network among others, as an apprentice of renowned theater veteran Katsch Catoy Jr. Among her works with Catoy were the celebrated La Revolucion Filipina, Mabining Mandirigma, Pahimakas sa Isang Ahente (Death of a Salesman), August: Osage County and Nanay Mameng, isang dula.

The production designer is Rowena Bayon, a Fine Arts alumna of the University of the Philippines-Diliman and also a PHSA graduate. She designed the two productions of “Nanay Mameng, isang dula,” “Pitong Sundang” and the 2013 Virgin Labfest entry “Pamamanhikan,” among others. She is a founding member of Art Action Network.

All-around musician and world-music band Talahib’s percussionist Domeng Molina is the show’s sound and music designer. He has worked as an actor and musician for progressive groups Musicians for Peace and Sining Bugkos. His most recent work in theatre was “KM @ 50” staged early this year at the UP Theater.

The play’s Production Manager is Jaime Hernandez. Jaime is an artist and is the current manager of Talahib People’s Music. He also manages the advocacy restaurant Coconut House.

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The Organizers

Tanghalang Mulong Sandoval is the performing arm of Sikad or Sining Kadamay, a cultural organization advocating for urban poor rights through the arts. It is based in urban poor communities. Sining Kadamay has four collectives: Music Collective, Rap Collective, Creative Writing Collective and Dance Theatre Collective

Art Action Network is a network of artists who are working with grassroots organizations for their advocacies through art productions. Among its advocacies are the promotion of rights of LGBTs, urban poor and peasant sectors. Art Action Network is the team behind the successful play “Nanay Mameng, isang dula” staged in the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (2014) and in Miriam College (2015).

 

Tanghalang Mulong Sandoval’s GAPOK will be staged on February in the following areas:

*February 12-13 at Sitio San Roque, Agham Road, QC
*February 19-20 at Camarin, North Caloocan City
*February 26 at Payatas, QC
*February 27 at Kasiyahan Street, Barangay Holy Spirit, QC

For more details, visit the official Facebook page of Gapok.

 

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Nightmares of Eviction in Tanghalang Mulong Sandoval’s GAPOK

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Eviction and demolitions in urban poor areas are not very hot topics in television nor in social media. What most netizens pay attention to in this scenario is the warring sides of police and informal settlers throwing rocks and bottles of urine while fires of arson blaze at the communities and both smoke and debris blur the cameras to conceal the bloody aftermath. Rarely do we hear stories of what really is destroyed in demolitions, of what is really lost in the process of achieving “development”.

Perhaps it is only timely that a theatre group can finally reflect the not-often told narratives of families affected by eviction and demolition. The recent chaotic events in Agham Road QC inspired Sining Kadamay’s Tanghalang Mulong Sandoval in staging GAPOK.

A short, on-site one-act play, GAPOK is about an urban poor family and their community facing eviction. The play had a second preview last January 8 in the Back To The 90s Bar at Tomas Morato.

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A 15-minute presentation gave a huge scoop on things to come. A mother and her two sons are arguing whether they must join the barricade or enlist themselves in the ongoing relocation. It heats up as the two brothers go at each other’s neck for their failures and doomed aspirations. And in the middle of this fight and the brewing chaos outside, they must choose: should the family fight back, or must they compromise with the forces pushing through with this eviction?

The preview itself is full of heavy drama, and the performances (while still flawed in some aspects) are mostly powerful, with pathos that evokes several tragic heroes from Shakespeare. The dialogue echoes Sining Kadamay’s previous play NANAY MAMENG, and actual quotes from victims of demolitions in Malabon and Agham. Even the onsite approach provided an ironic stance on the dilemma of three members of a family torn apart by the situation.

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While timely and relevant, Sining Kadamay, Tanghalang Mulong Sandoval and Art Action Network also took a bold and empowering move to stage it for the actual people experiencing the conflict. GAPOK will be staged on February in the following areas:

*February 12-13 at Sitio San Roque, Agham Road, QC
*February 19-20 at Camarin, North Caloocan City
*February 26 at Payatas, QC
*February 27 at Kasiyahan Street, Barangay Holy Spirit, QC

For more details, visit the official Facebook page of Gapok.