Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Laguna de Bay takes center stage

By Karen Lapitan
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: November 18, 2009

SCIENTISTS usually list causes and solutions—mostly in highly technical terms—when dealing with the swollen Laguna de Bay, but two university professors are trying to make people understand the issue better through theater.

Professors Dennis Gupa and Emmanuel Dumlao of the University of the Philippines in Los Baños (UPLB) came up with a theater production that aimed to spread awareness of the lake’s history and current situation.
In particular, they wanted to explain to high school and elementary students in Los Baños what went wrong with the Laguna lake.

“Sapagkat Hindi Delubyo ang Tawag Dito” was presented at the
UPLB College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) auditorium on Oct. 17 by the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), in cooperation with the CAS.
The play was based on poems about stories of the lakeshore people, written by Dumlao, a literature professor and Palanca awardee for poetry. Dumlao personally went to the areas affected by the recent typhoons to hear the stories and to understand what happened.

The lines of the poems were the actual lines thrown by the characters.
“We wanted to give the lake its character,” said Gupa, a humanities professor, who directed the play. “It’s like personifying the lake.”
The lines mainly explained the reasons Tropical Storm “Ondoy” stole many lives and property on Sept. 26:

“Pitik lang nang pitik, pare.
Sige lang, kasi wala kang pake.
Upos ng sigarilyo? Pitik lang.
Balat ng kendi? Pitik lang.”

(Just flick and flick, pare.
It’s OK, because you don’t care.
Cigarette butt? Just flick.
Candy wrapper? Just flick.)

“Tapon lang nang tapon, pare.
Sige lang, kasi wala kang pake.
Plastic at goma? Tapon lang.
Styro at bakal? Tapon lang.
Kasi wala kang pake!”

(Just throw and throw, pare.
It’s OK, because you don’t care.
Plastic and rubber? Just throw.
Styro and metal? Just throw.
Because you don’t care!)

“Pero, pare, huwag mong kalimutan
pag nagpasalamat sa ’yo ang ulan,
Lahat mong ipinitik, lahat mong itinapon.
Lahat ibabalik sa iyo ng alon.
Ibabalik sa ’yo ng alon.
Kasi wala kang pake.”

(But, pare, don’t forget
when the rain thanks you,
Everything you flicked, everything you threw.
Everything will be brought back to you by the waves.
Will be brought back to you by the waves.
Because you don’t care.)

Dumlao and Gupa wanted to show to the students the simple activities that people often do to harm the environment.

The lines were lifted from one of Dumlao’s poems, “Dahil Wala Kang Pake,” referring to the inconsiderate and irresponsible acts that affect the state of the lake and the environment in general.
Another poem, “Kung Pababayaan Natin,” highlighted sustainable development while criticizing a kind of progress that compromises the environment.

“Ano’ng halaga ng pag-unlad
kung sinasalanta ang komunidad?
Anong halaga ng kayamanan
kung kinikitil ang buhay?”

(What’s the price of progress
if the community is devastated?
What’s the value of treasures
when lives are lost?)

With only wooden benches and pillows held by masked characters, the play offered an atypical plot. “Those are normally found in our homes, and they give a certain connection to the audience,” Dumlao said.
There were no main characters or cameo roles. In most of the scenes, the characters held black pillows that spelled out the lake’s different pollutants. Sometimes, the pillows were thrown to the floor as the lake.

What happened in the Laguna lake should not be treated as a deluge but a consequence of one’s greediness, Dumlao said.

Gupa and Dumlao said they introduced a different approach to prick the conscience of the audience without being too boring. “We intended it to be a bit horrific,” Gupa said in explaining the masks and the musical scoring.

He said people had known the problem for many years, “but we need repetition to help people understand what we want to convey.”

Perfect timing

According to him, the theater production was conceptualized through the LLDA even before Ondoy came. The first target, Gupa said, was Muntinlupa.

“We were busy rehearsing the play when Ondoy hit many towns and cities around the lake, and we felt it was a perfect timing to tell people how much the lake has suffered,” Gupa said.

Gerry Carandang, public information unit head of LLDA, said the amount of water in the lake doubled after the storm, and its condition worsened because of the clogged floodways.

The Laguna lake is surrounded by six provinces and 12 cities, the majority of which are still submerged in water.

Dumlao told the students not to rely on anyone, especially politicians, in saving the lake. “They may be here during relief operations, bringing packs of relief goods with their names and photos on it. But they’re doing that not to save the lake, but for the coming elections,” he said.

Dumlao and Gupa planned to stage more productions for an environmental cause. “A lifetime is not enough for this kind of campaign, but we’re willing to do more so we can help,” Gupa said.


Delia Bandoy, a high school teacher at the Laguna State Polytechnic University (LSPU), said the play helped them explain to their students the reasons behind the flooding.

“We’re grateful that the LLDA chose our students to be part of the audience. Even us (teachers) were enlightened,” she said.
The LSPU is one of the schools in Laguna that were gravely affected by the swelling of the Laguna lake. Most of its students now hold classes in tents.

“Educating the youth about what is happening in the environment is a very tedious task. Capturing their interest should be the primary consideration. Thus, we came up with the idea of feeding them the information in a very creative and unconventional way,” said LLDA general manager Edgardo Manda.

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