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August 2, 2011

The PETA Story

PETA began with a dream...

...the democratization of the Right to Culture... not by force but by ART. The dream is rooted in a conviction that theater, the meeting ground for all the arts, must be applied as an instrument for education and a catalyst for social change.

Cecile Guidote-Alvarez
Founder's Message
Lifted from the Theater Center Inauguration Booklet

PETA is the story of how a small core of theater enthusiasts grew into a large, motley but tight cast of characters with a shared, aesthetic, ideological vision and mission: theater in the service of the common good. PETA was a collective endeavor, a joint effort. (Funnily, peta is Spanish for "joint")

A hive of incessant activity and creativity, it took in undecided seminarians and bourgeois colegialas alike, striving undergraduates, rehearsal onlookers, street children and even movie stars. Roles were fluid; a playwright wrote plays but helped out where needed. PETA had no divas. There was a lot of learning from one another and folks discovered themselves. PETA was a hangout, a family, a tribe, a think tank and dream tank, a school in every sense, Lino Brocka's alma mater, and a university of life. But it was also magnanimous factory of theater with a track record of more than 300 plays that shaped the company's and indeed the country's theater history, contributing to the establishment and evolution of a People's Theater Aesthetic in the language, outlook, and spirit of the Filipino.

Its purpose was clear: perform and educate. Develop a theater that was at once indigenous and alternative, performing plays in Filipino. But beyond language, alternative meant non-conventional, innovative, and experimental in form and technique. It also meant mirroring society, telling truths and challenging norms. It meant exposing a host of under-addressed or controversial social and political issues in venues ranging from traditional arenas to street rallies. Alternative meant elevating, enlightening, empowering. PETA was and is a spearhead of that alternative-culture movement that has used theater as a means to generate social change.

Faithful to developmental themes that take on particular relevance in Developing Nations, where injustice, indigence, inequality, and ignorance reign supreme, the essence of PETA was to simultaneously seek to educate through theater: through performances, informances, and workshops.

On home turf, being at the forefront of a decentralized National Theater Movement, and therefore instrumental in the founding of hundreds of drama groups in the archipelago in schools, parishes, communities or through sectors, PETA through its Integrated Arts Workshop has done much to sow seeds of social change by working on the community level. It has helped groups all over the country organize, think for themselves and express their realities. This outreach work has also reached out to overseas workers.

Nationalistic and appreciative of other nationalisms, PETA has through the years been a vehicle for the survival of cultural diversity in an era of globalization that tends to uniformize. Relentless in its simultaneous need to share and learn, PETA has vigorously participated in international and interdisciplinary gatherings of cultural workers.

PETA's prime has come. Its highly developed and structured pedagogy, its vast experience in community work, its artistry, and its amazing resourcefulness and creativity that has sustained it through lack of funds, poor logistics, political oppression, exile, colonial mentality, and any number of dire straits, never fail to impress.

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